'Portals' for a Serenity Garden

Conspicuous portals or entryways signify the transition from one space to another. In the case of a garden designed for calm and reflection,  a portal is a nonverbal cue to visitors that they are entering a separate and special world.

Portals can take many shapes and be constructed of many materials - the possibilities are limitless. Arches, gates, pergolas,walls, plantings, and even fake crossed elephant tusks ( as I saw in Kenya) make a beautiful statement in the landscape.

Ceremonial portals have been used in the West and Asia for centuries. In Japan, the compounds of Shinto shrines are entered by passing beneath a 'torii ', a wooden overhead structure, often painted vermilion red.  Torii mark the transition from the normal world to the sacred.

The Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto features many torii, creating a mesmerising effect. Torii in a garden can also be fashioned from logs, stone or stainless steel.

One of the better known ceremonial portals in the United States is the striking arch in Washington Square Park in New York. Inspired by Roman triumphal arches, this structure was originally erected in 1889 in wood to celebrate the centennial of George Washington's inauguration. Due to popular acclaim it was rebuilt in marble in 1891. It is now an important New York City landmark.

In gardens, portals can frame a particular view. In this photo of a landscape that I designed, an overhead arbor makes an attractive frame for a lush and green scene.  It was the last element to be built and its decorative details add just the right touch.

More on garden portals in my next entry!

Landscape designed by Jan Johnsen, Johnsen Landscapes & Pools


  1. I found your blog on Blotanical. Welcome to blogging! Very nice photos (I'm a landscape photographer as well as a designer so I really appreciate good images) and thoughtful posts. The archipod looks as though it might be a bit dark inside for a studio - have you seen one in person?

  2. Thanks Melissa!
    No, I haven't seen one in person and I think you are probably right about it being dark - but they are designing a larger one and perhaps then they can incorporate larger windows....I admire rounded forms in the landscape and just fell in love with the concept of this building.


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