Natural Fences: Increase Your Home's Privacy With Plants

On the fence about what to do for privacy and yard division? Check out these ideas for natural fences to think beyond the picket fence.
By: Alyson McNutt English

If you're looking to improve the privacy, protection or even just the view to and from your yard, think outside the boxed-in fence: consider using natural barriers to frame your property.

What Is a Natural Fence?

A natural fence could be many things, says Sandra Jonas, landscape designer and owner of Recreating Eden Landscape Design in Atlanta. In fact, Sandra says there are so many wonderful natural fencing options out there, you can pick and choose — even varying plantings within your own property — to best suit each area's specific need.

But natural fences aren't for everyone. Especially if you're looking for a quick fix, these botanical barriers may not be the right option. Sandra explains natural fences are a financial and chronological investment. "Plantings may look silly the first few years, but they'll mature into a beautiful hedge with time," she says. "The homeowner who opts for a natural fence has to have patience — give the plants space (and time) to grow and you're more likely to have a satisfactory result."

Those who do have patience will be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind custom barrier that should serve their purposes better — and last longer — than any wood or vinyl fence ever could. From hedges to climbing roses to evergreen trees, Mother Nature's options are far more varied than the selection of fence panels at your local home improvement store. Consider what you want to achieve with your natural fence to help you decide what plant material will best serve your purpose.

Plants for Privacy

If the main goal of your natural fencing is a greater sense of privacy, just remember what may be a robust barrier in May can end up as little more than a wooden skeleton in January. "There are times (when) a tree may be the only answer to a privacy issue, but because most trees are deciduous, homeowners may find they've only solved the problem for the summer," Sandra says. Evergreen trees like cherry laurel or holly can offer year-round protection, she advises, noting that depending on your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone, other good year-round privacy plants include privet, arborvitae, boxwood and the Thuja Green Giant Hedge.

One plant you should avoid, however, is bamboo. "Never, ever plant bamboo!" emphasizes Sandra. "It it too invasive and will require huge amounts of maintenance just to keep it in bounds."

Property Protection

It can be a sticky situation when you have people or animals intruding on your property. If you don't want to put up a traditional fence but do want to deter casual shortcutters or wandering wildlife, consider adding perimeter plants that say "keep out."

Anything with prickly leaves or thorns can serve this purpose, but if you're looking to redirect kids, do consider safety issues. Holly trees and bushes are a good choice in these situations, as well, since they're both nice to look at and not-so-nice to touch. If you're hoping to protect a large window, thorny climbing roses will offer privacy without completely obstructing the view. And since no one should be hovering right next you your window, you don't have to worry about the casual passer-by injuring themselves on the thorns.

View and Aesthetics

Flowering hedges offer gorgeous color during blooming season, and some, like rose hedges, toe the line between privacy, protection and aesthetics. No matter what you plant, though, remember that a healthy natural fence starts, literally, from the ground up. "Soil prep is the most important consideration," Sandra says. "Put your money into the soil preparation rather than buying more mature plants. The plant will catch up in very few seasons, and smaller plants are easier to establish and usually do better."

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