Entry Gardens

Entry gardens are extremely important to both home architecture and general landscape design. They serve as transition areas between indoor living space and outdoor landscape designs. These transition areas are not merely places to pass through, but rather they are special landscape elements in their own right that contribute a very unique form of aesthetic to any front yard or back yard landscape. They add both decorative appeal and functional living space in otherwise unused areas that are too small to be developed into more large scale elements, but nevertheless are too large to leave fallow without visible diminishment of the landscape.

The most important decision that the landscape designer makes is to choose exactly where to create one or more of these special environments. Any segment of the landscape can be labeled “transitional” from a liberal definition of the term. In this instance, however, transition must be clearly evident as a movement from enclosed, restricted space into a more boundless feeling of sheer open space (or vice versa).

In addition to front and back entrances to the home, side entrances also serve as ideal locations for this specialized aspect of landscape design. Typically when one steps out of the side door to a home all he or she sees is a neighboring house, a fallow piece of empty lawn, or a garage wall. Adding an entry garden here can create transition both from within the home and from front yard to back yard, back yard to front.


A motor court or driveway is another excellent place to plant an entry garden. Driveway areas, due to their obviously two-dimensional structure and concrete constitution, can often look too harsh and one-dimensional on an otherwise carefully planned and developed landscape master plan. However, simply adding additional greenery around a concrete slab will help make the driveway and parking areas look friendlier to the organic world that surrounds it.

Common features may include any number of decorative and landscape elements. Water features are almost always present in some form. This can be anything from a small reflecting pool to a large, custom, illuminated fountain. Seating is also included in most of almost all of these special environments in order to encourage guests to pause, reflect, and enjoy the moment suspended between one type of space and another.

Another very important consideration that landscape architects must always keep in mind is the absolute necessity of a sense of entrance. There are many ways that residential landscape designers can go about creating this sense, including narrowing down a pathway just before expanding it into either a patio or courtyard area, or lining a walkway with shrubs, flowering ground cover, or even small trees. Still another method involves changing the grade of the landscape itself. Simply varying elevation either upward or downward is enough to create a sense of drama and arrival.

Regardless of its size or contents, one thing every entry garden absolutely has to have is outdoor lighting. The dynamic expressions of sculpted greenery and integrated custom hardscape can only be enjoyed when they are clearly visible. Special up lights, down lights, ground lights, and underwater lights can be installed to create both visibility and mood-altering effect.

Due to the fact that most formal gardens are designed in back yards, entry gardens in front yards are typically a great deal more formal than equivalent environments located behind the home. This is because front yard entry gardens are work to move guests from outdoor space into the indoor space of the home. Consequently, they must be focus more heavily on home architecture, feature a design build that is precisely to scale with the house, and be characterized by geometric patterns that directly introduce the significant structural elements of the house.

By contrast, entry gardens in the back yard are typically much more informal and free form in design style. Because it is not necessary for these forms to directly reflect the appearance of the house, more fluidity can be applied in their development—provided the final outcome still work on some level to compliment architecture and surrounding structures.