What makes a landcape stand out from all the others?
In this case, it is a gate and the talent of Susan Els.
Read the story about how Susan made magic happen …
I found the gate in the 80’s on the side of the road in Amesbury, MA. It was a “field gate” that came from an old estate in the area. I actually hesitated a bit at the price — $150! It sat in our garage a couple of years, then moved with us to Vermont where it sat for another 10 years. While designing other people’s gardens, my vision of the front entry was taking shape around the gate.
Two complementary desires propelled the design: first, I wanted a welcoming garden space that could be enjoyed by all my walking neighbors; then, a private interior garden that would be an extension of our home.
The lay of the garden was dictated by the white fir that had been awkwardly located by the original owner. The entry was shaped to give generous space to match the scale of the fir, highlight the gate and transform the awkwardness to a natural flow.
I knew I wanted standing stones to flank the gate and some kind of sculptural arbor-thing to hold the gate up. When it came time to do the garden, Ken Mills and I were working together and he very generously came on board, adding his vision of the beautiful Corinthian Granite pillars. He also set the boulders and did the doorstep landing.
For the gateposts, I worked with metalsmith and sculptor Kirk Williams who was able to execute exactly what I was imagining. Our first iteration had the scrolls lying in a flat plane on the floor of his studio. They didn’t have the dynamic quality I wanted. While standing up on Kirk’s ladder, I asked him, “could you pull the centers out like a pig’s tail?” So he got out his torch. It was magic. We both knew it was finished. (Pics included here — sorry for their quality). My aim was elegant fun. I like how they suggest a court jester. During the holidays, I push that notion by hanging bronze Christmas balls among the steel scrolls. Looks like the gateposts are juggling!
Kirk also worked with me on an arbor of steel Chinese dancing ribbons I designed for a client.
I’ve not been in touch with Kirk this past year and I notice his old website is not up. I left him a voicemail to give me his new website. Meanwhile, his contact number is 802-318-2850; the name of his company is KW Design.
I designed the outer entry and walkway to include cobbles and old bricks from the former walkway. It’s something several of my clients have wanted to incorporate in their gardens.
The random evergreen spires of Emerald arborvitae have become a hallmark of much of my design work. They lend a neat, vertical rhythm to the loose, horizontal line of most gardens. (I’ve added some pics here of more recent work projects.) The huge, heart-shaped leaves of the weeping redbud are a perfect textural foil against the arbs. And those magenta spring flowers really show up against the green spires.
I designed the lighting scheme using Cast lighting fixtures. The aim was to light the shapes and textures of the garden and let the spillover light flood the walkway.
Can you see it? The gate is so much fun that you are able to dance around it!
Susan Els Garden & Landscape Design
Contact: Susan Els
32 Pheasant Way
S. Burlington, VT 05403
Phone: (802) 338-0488
Fax: (802) 863-3989