While typing the phrase “A Grand Entrance,” I feel a bit like a copywriter for Peterman’s Catalogue; they always make their clothing sound so romantic, like the people who wear the clothing are almost from another time. “She made a grand entrance in a chiffon dress that circled her like a spring breeze.” (These are my words, not theirs….I am just having a bit of fun.) If you have never looked at a Peterman’s Catalogue, check one out sometime for the sheer fun of the writing; it will amuse you, I promise.
Entranceways for the garden are one of the most important aspects of our gardens; they provide curb appeal, are first impressions, a way for our guests to navigate to our doors, and mark the change from “public” spaces to “private” spaces. There are, from a design point of view, specific things you can do to make it appealing.
Refer to the photo for the discussion. While the masonry workmanship of these stairs and walls is lovely, this is only one aspect contributing to the overall success.
1. In my book, safety is always the first place to visit in assessing the garden. In any of its aspects. In the photo, you will see that the treads are smooth, even and in excellent repair. The riser heights are the same to reduce tripping hazards. While there is no railing–code requirements differ place to place– one could expect a person in reasonably good health could navigate to the top of the stairs without difficulty;
2. You will notice that the walkway is free of debris, trash, old newspapers, toys, skateboards or other impediments to a safe and direct access to the front door (just out of photo frame, but in the middle/top);
3. There is a surface change from the brick to the stone of the stairs, indicating a pathway or new direction;
4. Landings–which I would call mid-transition points– are marked with planters to provide a visual pause and to note the change from the stairs to the landing areas;
5. Circulation is wide enough for two people to walk side by side with comfort;
6. Plant material is mirrored side to side to provide a visual connection between the right and left margins;
7. While not yet in bloom, the dogwood at the front left provides a strong visual and is at nearly the same elevation as the first landing–which helps both draw the eye upward and connects the plants to the hard materials. Trees also provide a sense of “grounding” and permanence more that other plant material. This also helps connect it to the stone;
8. Just visible at the right side of the second landing–so I am assuming it is just out of photo range–is some landscape lighting to illuminate the steps. Very important for safety and for aesthetic;
9. The plants gently fall to the edge of the walking area without engulfing or obstructing;
10. The colors of the plant material and the stone are in harmony. While this is very much a springtime garden, I hope the summer perennials will color things as nicely once the azaleas become a solid green. The planter will be changed out to reflect the season which helps keep the entranceway fresh and well-maintained.