In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
May, 2007
Regional Report

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These conundrum gates are lush with jasmine, but they don't direct traffic well at all.

Pondering Gates

On a recent walk through the French Quarter, gates both open and closed invited a look at the gardens inside. If a fence exists, its gate should match it in materials and size. But some gates simply deserve attention and create whimsy in the landscape.

Not all gates need a fence to be effective in garden design. Their purpose when not utilitarian can be simple beauty, framing the "secret garden" and teasing the visitor to look inside the shrubbery. A gap in the hedgerow may even sport a gate that doesn't open at all, but implies a greater space beyond. Adding a gate to nowhere or even a mirrored window frame adds depth and interest to any space and makes a small garden look bigger.

Material Messages
Wrought iron gates imply formality, uniformity, and property worth containing. It is the material more than the design that sets off whatever garden lies within. Similarly, picket fence gates lend a neat and finished air to the garden. Because they are usually short, wooden pickets act as a skirt to the garden, surrounding it like rick rack on a hem. Solid gates telegraph secrecy and hidden surprises, whether they are made of dog-eared fence boards or bamboo canes. A gate without apparent charms, such as one made of chain link, can be adorned with clever signs, art objects, and even vines if you don't mind training them.

I consider the garden gate the best way to send a message to would-be visitors. Closed and bolted, it begs a peek but no more. Open yours even a tad and I'm likely to knock for admittance. But be warned: If you leave the garden gate open, I'm in like a moth to a flame.


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