Too often hedges are seen as static features, acting as a barrier to divide one area from another. By cutting a doorway the hedge’s purpose changes and becomes an integral part of the garden design, linking rather than preventing access.
And there is also something ‘Alice in Wonderland’ about them, appealing to our human nature to explore.
I am lucky by living in the Cotswolds to have two gardens nearby that utilise hedge doorways with great success. They are Hidcote and Kiftsgate. Here are a few examples from those gardens that may help explain my growing obsesssion with this design feature:
1: Garden rooms are a big feature of Hidcote, dividing the large garden into manageable and distinctly different parts. Here they have used Yew hedge to divide a lawn area from another section of the garden. The doorway has been carefully placed to provide access but also to draw the visitor in by offering a tantalising glimpse of a curved gravel path. Where does this path lead? Who could resist this invitation to explore further.
Two large, stone paving slabs are placed on the lawn side to help with wear but also catch the eye and make the door more visible. It’s surprising how easy it is to miss these doorways when there is not a path leading directly to them.
2: This time the doorway is cut through a beech hedge. Again the same principle of a curved path is used to entice the visitor through the hedge but not reveal too much of the garden beyond. The only option for the inquisitive is to follow the curved path and see where it leads.
3: There is no intrigue with this hedge doorway. It is a yew hedge that has been cut and shaped like an archway to become a feature of the garden. The design links with the topiary in front.
The paving stones are smaller as you approach the archway to slow the visitor down, before they make their grand entrance through the yew archway into the next section of the garden.
4. This doorway at Kiftsgate is cut into a purple beech hedge. The strong lines of the path draw the garden visitor towards the doorway. The dark purple colour of the hedge perfectly frame the green foliage of the garden ahead, creating a visible focal point.
5. This one isn’t a doorway cut into a hedge but I wanted to share it with you anyway because, basically, I like it. The gardeners at Kiftsgate have trained Sorbus aria into an archway. The large leaf shape, colour and texture of the Sorbus contrasts perfectly with the yew hedging. There is not the intrigue as associated with a small doorway cut into a hedge, rather a dramatic statement to attract the visitor to view more of the garden.
6. It doesn’t always have to be doorways cut into hedges. At Kiftsgate the gardeners have cut a window into a yew hedge to frame a view of their contemporary garden room.
This glimpse of the reflective pond and fountain is enough to encourage the visitor to find the path leading to this section of the garden and discover more.