Gardens & Conservatory

Gardening Articles


By Lynn Kirk, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
and used with permission from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

The entryway is one of the garden’s most critical design elements since it creates that all-important first impression. Whether fashioned of wood, brick, stone, steel – or simply crafted through the deliberate arrangement of trees and shrubs – the garden entry should extend a warm, inviting welcome. Ideally, it piques the visitor’s interest and beckons him to cross the threshold to experience what lies beyond.

The benefits of a well-planned garden entrance extend beyond aesthetics. An entry defines outdoor spaces as garden rooms, guides one toward a pathway or draws attention to a particular area. Dependent on the design, an entryway may frame a view or conversely screen off a private area. Functional entry structures, such as lattices and arbors, provide frameworks for climbing vines, sometimes offering seasonal shade in addition to beauty.

The entry’s design and materials also combine to create a mood or encourage an emotional response. While a flower-laden arbor hints of dreaminess and romance from days gone by, stone pillars exude tradition and strength. A white-latticed entry sets the stage for cozy informality while a sleek, wrought-iron pergola emphasizes simplicity and order.

A moon gate is an intriguing entryway that dates back to ancient China and Japan. Its defining element is a partial-circle opening that acts as the pedestrian’s passageway into the garden. Only two-thirds to three-fourths of the circle is visually apparent, so the visitor must engage his imagination to visualize the rest of the sphere.

Asian noblemen incorporated moon gates in their landscapes for spiritual enrichment. The opening transported the visitor from the human world to the natural world—from busyness to relaxation and reflection.

“Then and now, a moon gate symbolizes the transition to a special place of beauty and respite,” said Frank Robinson, executive director at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, who recently returned from a tour of Japanese gardens. “The circle universally represents perfection, eternity and wholeness. The moon gate takes you from one place of beauty to another, and in its pure form reminds us how we all are connected through space, time and spirit.”

Scott Martin, a Garden volunteer and amateur woodworker, was commissioned in May to build a moon gate for the entrance to Lewis Ginter’s Asian Valley. The western red cedar structure will feature a ring-like entry that is approximately 11 ft. in diameter, making it Richmond’s only moon gate in a public setting.