Make a Great Entrance

In this dramatic entry by Carey’s Garden Design (left), mini-fortress walls reveal the garden within – while the driftwood chair provides another clue to what might come next. Entrances may be only utilitarian, with nothing entrancing about them. Heavy post and beam timber structures overpower delicate trims and doodads of carefully built heritage homes or blowsy cottage gardens. From rustic (old garden tools and other memorabilia built into the gate), to humorous (“Chien Mechant” – bad dog! – on one of the gates), to the stately effect of stone lions and wrought-iron fencing – a wide variety of personal aesthetic may be expressed by one’s choice of garden entrance.

Vancouver garden designer Ann Talbot-Kelly leans to “softscape” – vine-covered trellises, natural stone placed informally, and groundcovers layered to embellish paths. Here a pair of gates (centre and right) convey a sense of drama, offering just a glimpse of an earthly, well-structured paradise within. The bright-red door, softly framed by a lush vine, says “welcome to this garden of wonder and delight!” Ann’s favourite combination for an entranceway includes passionflower (Passiflora) underplanted with black mondo grass (Ophiopogon), which is in turn, underplanted with blue star creeper (Laurentia).

Garden designer Linda Shulman likes to frame an entrance with year-round interest – Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii is a particular favourite. Other good suggestions: Helleborus foetidus with acid-green blooms in winter, Carex comans ‘Bronze’, Hebe, Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’, and Santolina species. Narrow paths surrounded by tall plants add up to a cluttered feeling that may promote fast exit. Think about creating generous entrances linking house and garden, where guests and family may linger, smell the flowers and admire plant textures. Incorporating changes of angle and turns in the pathway add interest and promote good feng shui. Well-designed entranceways and structures incorporating the permanence of hardscape may be more to your liking – they also add value to your home. Landscaping professionals like Krol Construction avoid a cluttered feeling when creating garden structures by reiterating themes or materials used in the home (see photos on pg. 48). For example, a red brick chimney may be echoed in the use of similar bricks on the pathway and within the garden. Pull it together – Geoff Woods, one of Krol’s designers, advises do-it-yourselfers to paint trellises, pergolas or fences with a paint colour that is already in use on your house.

Design a well-thought-out garden entrance, linking it strongly with the style of your house, and you will have created a happy, harmonious invitation to your home and garden. Our featured designers: Carey’s Garden Designs: 250-390-0527 or Anne Talbot-Kelly: 604-732-0336 or Linda Shulman: 604-263-7001 or Krol Construction: 604-728-1437 or The following plants are hardy to the zone number indicated (turn to page 10 for our zone chart): Carex comans ‘Bronze’ – zone 6 • Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’ – zone 5 • Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii – zone 8 • Helleborus foetidus (stinking hellebore) – zone 6 • Laurentia fluviatilis (blue star creeper) • Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘nigrescens’ (black mondo grass) – zone 6 • Passiflora sp. (passionflower) – zone 6 Freelance writer Sharon Hanna coordinates the garden program at Queen Alexandra School and needs a new garden gate!