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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Garden Features That Delight - Arches and Gates

One of the many ways to lift any garden from the realm of the ordinary to the level of spectacular is through the installation of an appropriate garden arch and gate. The style can vary from formal to rustic, and the landscaping may extend for acres or be limited to a small rear yard, but a well-planned feature can spell the difference between ho-hum and awe-inspiring.

Planning for such a feature, however, should not be taken lightly or accomplished quickly. For, even though many such features are not expensive, they are often the primary attraction, and should be in keeping with the mood of the area. Ideally arches and gates would define a path, point to the entrance of the planting area, or be incorporated into fencing to enclose an entire yard.

In the antebellum South and in New Orleans, such fences and gates were a feature of many of the graceful mansions of wealthy urban merchants. Because lots were sometimes relatively small, property was defined by fencing; gates lent a feeling of security and a sense of privacy. Archways and arbors often led to specialized gardens, such as the orchard, the kitchen garden or the evening patio.

In the Northeast, sea captains and merchants sometimes employed the same features, although quite often they included white picket fencing and vine-covered arbors. And, in the American West, lodge-pole pine uprights spanned by a couple of logs laid sideways and finished with a rustic gate often marked the front entry to a massive ranch.

Today, even though many homes are much more modest than these examples from the past, the appeal of a personal garden arch and gate, whether to lend an architectural sense of arrival to one's home or as the focal point of a backyard patio, has not diminished.

Indeed, with the advent of the now-popular outdoor living space, such installations are even more popular as home amenities, perhaps in conjunction with a barbecue grill or a fire pit. In some climates, multiple outdoor living spaces are encountered. Another popular use for a garden arch and gate, incorporated into perimeter fencing, would be as an attractive safety feature surrounding a pool, whether it's a private pool or that of a community center or clubhouse.

Choices of materials today are limited only by personal preference; style should be reflective of the geographical location or the materials used in an adjacent structure. However, beyond that consideration, modern synthetics can be fabricated to mimic historically correct materials. Ever-popular wrought iron is available in styles from traditional to rustic to clean-lined contemporary. Brick and stone are also among the options, as well as other choices utilizing stucco, wood or metals


Just remember, gardens should reflect the personality of their surroundings; they should be designed for beauty and for enjoyment. And the plan of a garden can include much more than the plants, whatever its purpose. So, take your time, plan well; then enjoy.


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