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Garden Fence

This is an excerpt from the Book called “Homescaping by Anne Halpin. Continue reading to learn more about Garden Fence, thanks to the author.


Fences  mark off space just as walls and hedges do. And you can use them in many of the same ways fences are faster, easier,  and less expensive than walls, and they take up a lot less space than either walls or hedges. You can use fences to define property  boundaries,  divide space, contain pets, exclude wildlife, create privacy, make shade, slow the wind, or  separate the lawn from the driveway. A fence can provide a back drop for a flower border or enclose a cottage garden. It can support  flowering vines or  climbing roses. Fences can be strictly utilitarian, or they can be very decorative additions to the landscape. You will probably want to use a fence where a wall would block the light or a nice view, or where space is at a premium. 

You can choose from a host of fence style, from simple turkey wire fencing to keep out wildlife to delicate bamboo screening to enclose a japanese tea garden. Many fences are made of wood, but there are also wrought-iron fences, and vinyl fences made to mimic the look of painted wood. 

The function of the fence will determine, at least in part, its design. Generally, boundary fences are sturdier and more utilitarian, and interior fences can be more decorative. For  privacy, you need a fence that is  tall and of a constrution that shields what-ever is behind  it from view, and you need to position the fence carefully so that it obscures the area you don’t want to be seen. For year-round privacy, board-on-board and close-board fence are two options. For seasonal privacy, perhaps next to a deck used for summer sunbathing, you might consider trellis or lattice panels with vines or climbing roses trained on them. 

To define property boundaries, use a fence that is not terribly expensive  because you will need a lot of it. Stockade and picket fences are two possibilities. Another is a simple post-and–rail style; this kind of fence works especially well in the country because it will not block your view and it is easy to install. If you live on a large, formal property and area not constrained by budgetary limitations,  a stately wrought-iron fence could serve you well. To enclose a cottage garden, a white picket fence is traditional and still hard to beat. You  can also have a fanciful fence made of peeled poles, natural branches, bamboo poles, ocotillo stakes (in the Southwest, where this shrub grows), or log sections stood on end . Unless you want privacy, a fence around the yard is fine at about 3 feet high.

In a windy location, a fence can serve as a wind-break to slow the force of prevailing winds. The goal of a windbreak is not to stop the wind but to diffuse if and reduce its speed. An open fence that has space between the boards allows air to circulate freely and minimizes wind damage. Board-on-board, lattice or trellis panels, and louvered and basketweave fences can all work as windbreaks. One note; To be sure that you know where you need the windbreak, observe on which side or sides of your house the prevailing winds blow in winter and in summer. 


A fence can create shade, too, but if it is located to the south of a garden area, use an open construction that will let in some light for the plants. On a more practical level, if you need a fence to keep children or the dog in the yard, it must be high enough that the kids can’t climb it and  the dog can’t jump over it (height will vary with the size of the dog or the climbing ability of the child). If the dog is a digger, the fence will need to extend far enough underground that the dog won’t be able to tunnel underneath it. If you need to keep out deer, your fence ought to be 10 feet high-deer are impressive jumpers. Hungry rabbits and groundhogs can be kept at bay with a wire mesh or chicken-wire fence feet high and extending 6 inches underground. 

Design considerations 

When you set about choosing a fence, you will need to consider materials, heights, construction styles, and colors. In  addition to fulfilling its intended purpose, you will want your fence to complement the architecture of your house. You might even echo or  copy a design detail of the house, such as shaping pickets like the balusters supporting a porch rail, or cutting the tops of fenceposts to match the angle of a roof peak. Factor into your thinking the style of your neighborhood and your region, and plan a fence in keeping with the vernacular. That way, your fence will look like it belongs there. If you’ve never really thought about these kinds of style issues before, drive around your town and look at houses, gardens, fences, and walls, to see what other people have done. Careful observation of one’s surroundings can be very instructive. 

To unite house and garden, you might want to paint the fence to match the trim on the house. If it’s a subtle color, you can probably get away with painting the whole fence. But if the color is bright, try instead painting gates or end posts flanking an entry point for color accents that refer back to the house but are not visually distracting or overwhelming. 

If you want your fence to be less apparent, paint it a dark neutral color-brown, gray, dark green, even black. You might want a fence to not call attention to itself if a particularly lovely garden or an inspiring view lies beyond it. If on the other hand, you want a fence that draws the eye, whose lines are immediately visible in the landscape, white is a classic color to use. White also has the advantage of being able to reflect light into a shady garden, but it may be too glaring in a very sunny site . When you start to think about colors, it may be helpful to factor in that white fences need repainting every couple of years to keep them looking clean and fresh. Darker-colored fences need less frequent maintenance. The Popular fence styles. All have an open allows wind to pass through cut creating odd currents and eddies. A board-on-board fence affords the greatest degree ticket fences are generally informal but can be given a touch of class with shaped decorative posts topped with finials . Rail fences are beautifully suited to rural properties goal is to define boundaries without concealing what lies within them. 

A fence needs to have a logical beginning and ending point it needs  to make sense for it to be where it is. Try to connect the fence to an architectural feature a deck or  the garage, for instance. Or run it completely around an area to enclose  it and connect the fence to itself. If you want to screen a limited area, you might do better to plant a row of shrubs in front of it instead of erecting a fence. 

Kinds of fences 

Wood is the most widely used material for building fences. Wood fences come in many styles. Picket, stockade, woven, post and rail, close board, board on board, grapestake, lattice, and more. You can allow a wood fence to weather naturally, stain or waterproof it for a natural look, or paint it in the color of your choice. 

There are metal fences, too, including wrought iron, chain link, turkey wire, and welded creations. 

Picket fences 

Arguably the most popular fence style of all, the picket fence consists of  two or more horizontal rails with vertical flat board called pickets, or palings, spread evenly along them. Picket fences are classic enclosures for cottage gardens and informal herb gardens. They can edge a property or define space without totally blocking the view. They also do a reasonable job of containing kids and pets. Picket fences are not terribly strong, but they are decorative and can be downright charming. 

Picket fences are usually no more than 6 feet high, usually less, and they are not too difficult to build. There are lots of designs for pickets, from simple ones with pointed tips and straight sides to lancier styles with shaped sides and decorative tips. Adding ornamental finials to the tops of the fenceposts gives a simple picket fence more flair. 

Traditional picket fences are made of wood, but there are also vinyl picket fences that look pretty good and need no maintenance. Vinyl picket fencing comes in just a few neutral colors. White, gray, and brown. You can have a builder construct a picket fence from scratch if you want custom-shaped pickets, or you can purchase partly assembled panels at a building materials store. 

Panel Fences 
Panel Fences 
Board Fences
Board Fences

Panel Fences 

Panel fences go up faster than most other kinds of fences. A panel fence is constructed of panels that are put togther in units up to 8 feet wide. Each panel runs from one post to the next. The panels may be closed board, trelliswork or lattice ,or other designs. Trelliswork panels are a grid of wood or plastic bars set in a frame. Lattice panels are made of flat strips of wood arranged in a diagonal grid. Both of these kinds of panels are ideal for supporting flowering vines such as honeysuckle or morning glories,Which bring color and softness to the fence. Prefabricated fence panels are widely available at building supply stores and lumberyards. 

Board Fences 

In a board fence, individual boards are nailed next to one another on the rails, with less space between them then in a picket fence. Each board is usually less than 6 inches wide; wider boards are likely to warp. The boards can run vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. For more variety, you can alternate panels of vertical and horizontal boards. 

A board-on-board fence has two rows of staggered boards.  It looks good from either side, and the staggered design lets in light and air while still affording privacy.  This kind of fence can serve as a windbreak if you need it to. 

In a close-board fence, a single row of boards if set very close together, with little or no space between the boards.  The boards may run vertically or horizontally.  This kind of fence looks less welcoming than a board-on-board or louver fence of looser construction.  It also can cause odd wind currents and eddies that may damage plants growing near the fence. 

When stood on end and angled, the boards become louvers.  Louver fences make good wind-breaks, letting air and light into the yard while still affording privacy. 

Thin boards may be woven over and under one another, the way a basket is woven, for a different kind of look.  A woven fence affords a great deal of privacy, but it can be problematic if the wood is woven so thightly that air cannot penetrate the wood readily.  A tight fence is not recommended for a windy location. 

To make a board fence higher, or just to add a decorative touch, run lattice or trellis panels along the top.  You may even be inspired to train flowering vines to grow up the fence and along the lattice or trellis—it’s a lovely effect. 

Post-and-Rail Fences 

A post-and-rail fence is composed of vertical posts and two or more horizontal rails (the number of rails is determined by how high the fence needs to be).  Post-and-rail fences are seen all over the American countryside.  They are easy to put up and not terribly expensive. A low, two-rail fence about 3 feet high can mark property boundaries or serve as a linear accent in the landscape.  Higher rail fences can hold livestock. 

Stockade-type Fences 

A stockade fence can take any of a number of forms, but it is basically a  row of slender stakes attached to horizontal rails, with no space between them.  A fence of very slender posts is sometimes called a grapestake fence.  A palisade fence is similar, except it has no horizontal rails.  You can make a palisade from a line of tall stakes, bamboo canes, log sections, poles, or even crooked branches.  Regional materials can work, too, such as the ocotillo fences seen in the desert Southwest.  A palisade fence is very easy to make—you simply pound the upright posts into the ground.  But don’t depend on it to last for many years—palisades can be whimsical and fun, but they are not very strong, especially when they are of any appreciably height. 

Metal fences 

Wrought iron is a traditional and very formal fencing material that looks at home enclosing elegant city properties or large country estates.  Widely used in the 19th century, wrought iron is still employed for fences today.  Though less frequently.  Wrought-iron fencing is usually simple, but the gates can be elaborate and beautifully detailed.  Wrought iron is usually painted black, although white fences are occasionally used.  It is best suited to historic and period homes, and it works well with Victorians, especially those with Gothic detailing. 

Wrought-iron fences will rust if you don’t keep them painted.  If you want the look of wrought iron with lower maintenance, you could look into anodized aluminum fencing, which comes in similar styles.   

More contemporary metal fences can be had, too. For the most part they are custom-made art pieces, intriguing and quite beautiful but very costly. 

Metal fencing is more often strictly utilitarian. Chain-link fencing shows up in lots of public spaces, but seldom at home. It is expensive, difficult to erect, and too unattractive and institutional-looking for home landscapes. Turkey wire (large-mesh wire fencing often sold with a green vinyl coating) can be use along a driveway or property border, but it’s not much to look at and it’s not very strong.  Still, it has the virtue of being inexpensive and is easily installed; you hang it on metal posts driven into the ground. You can camouflage turkey wire and other less-than-attractive fences by training vines on them. See “Vines to Train on Fences” for a list of good candidates. 

If you live in deer country—and more and more of us do—fencing your property is almost obligatory unless you don’t mind dealing with serious limitations in the kinds of plants you can grow.  Fencing to exclude deer may be of wire mesh or plastic netting, or you can use a fence of electrified wire strands.  Deer fencing must be high: 10 feet is usually recommended.  Fences this high are difficult to install.  Another option is to erect two 4-foot fences, one in side the other, about 3 feet apart.  Deer usually will not jump a fence when they see another one beyond it. Camouflage the inner fence from your view by planting shrubs in front of it inside the yard or by training vines on the inside of the fence.  To use the double-fence method, you need to have a lot of unused space around the perimeter of your property. 

Fencemaking Guidelines 

Fences need more maintenance than walls. Painted fences need repainting periodically.  Unpainted wood will eventually weather to the point at which boards will need to be replaced.  Fences built of rot-resistant redwood, cypress, or cedar need the least maintenance, but they are also expensive.  Look for lower grades of these woods for fencing—knots are usually not a problem in a fence.  To minimize water damage, provide for drainage below the posts, and bevel or round the tops of the posts, or put metal caps on them.  Vinyl fencing needs no maintenance. 

Don’t froget to consult your local building codes before beginning construction of a fence along property boundaries.  You community may have rules about required setbacks and height restrictions. 

Lay out the line of your fence with stakes and string.  Then walk along the fence line and examine the site.  If you find a big rock where you plan to put a fence post, you may have to adjust the course a bit. 

If the fence will be more than 3 feet high, you will need to sink the supporting posts into concrete footings to hold the fence securely upright in strong winds.  Footings need to go below the frost line and be at least 18 inches deep for a 3-to 6-foot fence, or 30 inches deep for a fence higher than 6 feet.  Make the holes three times the width of the fence post.  Dig the post holes 2 inches of gravel in each hole for drainage before you pour the footings. 

When the posts are in place and dry, the horizontal rails can be attached.  Attaching the rails between the posts can create a fence on its own, or the rails can support pickets, boards, or panels. 

One last note about installation:  If your fence is not double-sided, erect it with the best side facing out. The side with the visible rails should face in toward your property so you are always putting your best face forward.  If you don’t like the idea of looking at the back of the fence, look on the bright side:  The rail gives you a place to park your water bottle while you are working in the garden.