Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Picking Materials for Boundaries

Walls, screens and fences don't just identify where your yard stops and someone else's begins. As much space as they occupy, they should also be major design features. We help you choose materials for maxiumum border appeal.

Excerpted from Garden Design
  • Garden Brick Wall Fountain

    Walls and Solid Screens

    Brick, stone or rendered walls enclose spaces and form a framework around the garden. When planning for a solid screen, consider the size and shape of units, which can range from random rubble to expensive stone blocks. Also think about how the color of stone or brick walls, which stands up all on its own, will fit with your larger vision. Man-made materials, such as concrete, offer almost endless possibilities in color and shape, providing clean lines or fluid structures. But you don't have to forfeit movement entirely if you go with brick or stone, demonstrated here by an in-wall water feature.

    Constructing solid screens requires a significant budget and expert skills, especially with regard to structural soundness, so think twice before embarking on a wall project casually.

  • Wall Flowers

    Enhancing Walls

    Once you've decided on materials, think about any details you'd like to add, for aesthetic or practical purposes. Color could be added to some or all of the wall, depending on the material. Masonry walls benefit from capping or coping to frame the top of the wall and allow water to run off. Planting in crevices is another possibility, as in these pockets of soil at the top or on the face of a wall. Limited water will be available to them, however, so choose species that can flourish in dry conditions.

  • Coping Keeps Wall Dry and Protects From Frost

    Rendered Coping Wall

    Coping keeps the body of the wall dry and protects it from frost damage. It also forms a stunning visual element and can make a useful horizontal surface for seating.

  • Solid Fence Creates Privacy

    Solid Fence

    Wood and metal fences do not require strong foundations or heavy building materials; they are usually inexpensive and easy to build. To keep the design of an existing garden feeling coherent, it's best to repeat or copy the original fencing styles. However, for new designs you can create patterns using planks of different lengths, widths and shapes.

    This tall, close-boarded fence creates privacy, and has been stained gray to enhance the overall composition.

  • Perforated Fence is Decorative Windbreak

    Perforated Fencing

    Solid screens don't allow any wind to pass through; instead, they force it up and over, at risk to the plants below. Fences with deliberate, often decorative, gaps solve this problem by allowing some wind through.

  • Brick Wall Gate

    Gates and Apertures

    While screens and boundaries enclose space, they also create barriers that restrict movement and views. Opening them up with doorways, gates and windows allows access or visual links to other parts of the garden, while also increasing visual appeal. Choose complementary materials and consider how openings frame views when open, as well as look when closed, as in this painted wooden door, which gives an enticing glimpse into another part of the garden.

  • Traditional White Picket Fence

    Picket Fence

    When closed, this picket gate blends in with the rest of the fence; the only breaks in continuity are the posts and braces required for structural stability.

  • Concrete Screen Links Contemporary with Nature

    Modern Aperture

    This reinforced concrete screen, with artistic cut-outs for interest, would be difficult to construct. But the beautiful results link the contemporary structure to the natural planting beyond.

Excerpted from Garden Design

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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