The 2024 Moon Gate Portal Garden Trend

by Brenna Kehew Sculley

by Amber Edwards
There is nothing more enchanting than a stunning stone moon gate nestled in a lush garden, intertwined with flowers and the essence of intrigue.
The moon gate was put on stunning display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the highly anticipated Bridgerton Garden. Designed by New Zealand garden designer Holly Johnston the main feature of the garden is the moon gate that frames the heart of the garden, a sunken seating area with a tiered fountain. The designer shared how she saw the gate as a symbol of the character Penelope choosing between the two sides of her life. For fans of the Netflix show, you know this is an inspired choice. And for those unaware of the Bridgerton mania that has overtaken popular culture, at least you can enjoy the beauty of a stunning English garden.
I first saw a moon gate as a young girl at the Chateau-sur-Mer, a beautiful Gilded Age mansion in Newport, RI, where I grew up. I remember the whimsical mystery the design evoked and the beauty in the simply laid stones.
Chateau-sur-Mer, as a featured filming location from HBO’s The Gilded Age, stands as a quintessential example of High Victorian architecture, and from its completion in 1852 until the rise of the Vanderbilt mansions in the 1890s, it reigned as the most magnificent residence in Newport. This architectural marvel was the backdrop for some of the most memorable social events of its era. Notable among them was the grand “Fete Champetre” in 1857, an extravagant country picnic that hosted over 2,000 guests. Originally constructed as an Italianate-style villa, the house was commissioned by China trade magnate William Shepard Wetmore and brought to life by local contractor Seth Bradford.
Mr. Wetmore was likely inspired by his travels in China, as the origins of moon gates begin there. A moon gate features a distinctive circular opening and serves as an elegant pedestrian passageway in traditional Chinese gardens. This architectural element is not only functional but also imbued with profound cultural significance.
In Chinese culture, Moon Gates are said to bring luck and happiness. Walking through a Moon Gate is akin to stepping into a new stage of life, a transformative experience that leads one to enlightenment.
Each moon gate’s shape and design carry unique spiritual meanings. The sloping roofs, for instance, symbolize the half-moon of Chinese summers, while the roof tiles are adorned with talismans, believed to offer protection and fortune.
The appreciation of moon gates has grown and spread globally, notably in Bermuda, coinciding with the British territory’s importation of Easter lily bulbs from Japan. The Bermudan adaptation, while maintaining the essence of the Chinese original, often features gates that stand independently or are connected to low walls. In Bermuda, stepping through a moon gate is a cherished tradition, symbolizing good luck for newlyweds embarking on their journey together.
The enduring allure of the moon gate remains a timeless architectural element. Embrace this enchantment and add one to your own yard! Its global journey underscores the gate’s ability to enchant and inspire across cultures and generations. The moon gate’s blend of beauty and symbolism continues to captivate, bridging the past and present in an ever-evolving celebration of architectural artistry.

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