Garden entrances and exits can easily make of break an otherwise carefully measured composition. The choice of gates is vast, and you need to consider carefully the style and scale of your garden entrance, and the general impression that it will make.
Where there is a fence, it works well to use the same material for the gate: a close board or picket fence could have a similarly constructed gate. Walls or hedges, on the other hand, obviously have to use a contrasting material such as wood or iron, and this will effectively help to emphasize the point of entry.
As with boundaries, garden’s gates can either provide an open or a closed view – in either direction – and to a large extent your decision will depend on the need for privacy or otherwise. Your home can be with solid stone walls with well-detailed iron gate that allows the view from the road to run straight up a path to focus on a pool and fountain.
Simplicity and purpose apply to the design of boundaries and gates just as much as to other elements in the garden, and there are some practical rules that should be obeyed. You will find that if the top of the gate matches the general level of the top of the wall, fence or hedge, it makes a far stronger statement than if it is lower or higher, when it is almost invariably visually unsettling. Gates set within a wall work well if they fill the aperture adequately; those that have merely been given a feeble brick arch at a higher level than the walls gain nothing and smack of pretension.
Entrance gates often have to serve cars as well as people, and it is worth thinking about the problem. Five-barred gates are popular, but can be very inconvenient for pedestrians. It is often better to split a double gate into a small and large section so that pedestrians can use the small section and both can be opened for vehicles.
As a general rule, suit the gate to the entrance: grand entrances demand grand gates; modest entrances need something altogether less dramatic. But all the rules of good detailing, respect for materials, and scale, apply to gates as they do for walls. Rather than going to your local DIY or garden center, look at illustrated books of garden detail; walk down streets in well conserved areas; observe what works and what does not; then you can decide.