Fences, Screens and Pergolas

Fences and pergolas in a huge variety of designs and sizes can be easily erected. Like walls, they are used to provide privacy, shelter from winds and sometimes to divide the garden neatly into sections.


Fences must be strong, not only to support their own weight, but also to withstand considerable wind pressures, especially if the garden is exposed and the fences are close-boarded or solid. Creosoting or other treatment will be necessary to prevent wooden fences rotting.

The strength of a fence will depend upon its supports and the manner in which they are inserted in the ground. Timber supports of a thickness of 3 to 4 in. will be sufficient for most purposes; treat them with wood preservative before sinking them in the ground. Where exceptional strength and support is required, use concrete posts, which can be purchased in various sizes. For light fences the posts can be spaced about 10 ft. apart; but the usual interval is 6 ft.

The ‘clean face’ of the fence—or the side which does not have the supports showing—should face the neighbour’s garden. Make quite sure, also, that the posts and fence are inside your boundary line. By law, fences between gardens must not exceed a height of 7 ft.


A pergola formed by a series of arches can take the form of a covered walk, or it can be constructed to provide attractive screening or partitioning. Although pergolas are usually made of larch or pine poles, they can be constructed with thick baulks of timber about 4 to 6 in. square, or as a double row of brick pillars, with very thick lengths of timber (9 in. square) secured at the top and lying across the pillars to form a ‘roof’.

A pergola constructed from larch or pine poles should have a simple design; too many fussy details can result in a weak structure. Use poles having a minimum cross-section of 2-1/2 to 3 in. for the uprights, and insert them 2 ft. into the ground. The tops and cross-pieces should be nearly as thick and strong, but the decorative filling-in can be a little less substantial—a thickness of about 2 in. is enough.

A pergola looks attractive clothed with creeping or trailing plants. When arches are made, allowance must be made for the growth of the plants so that one can walk through without the plants causing annoyance. A height of 8 ft. is adequate. Nail the pieces of pergola carefully together and, where they meet at the angles of the framework, cut the ends to fit neatly and securely.

The simplest design for an archway consists of two rows of strong uprights firmly anchored into the ground and spaced about 6 to 8 ft. apart, with the rows far enough apart to accommodate the pathway. Fasten a series of poles across the tops of these uprights and parallel to the run of the path. Before they are fixed in position, make quite sure that all the uprights are the same height and perpendicular.

Construct the ‘roof’ with a set of poles cut so that they overhang the width of the path by a foot or so each side. Nail each length to the top of the structure.

On each side of each upright, fit short supporting arms screwed into position about 2 to 3 ft. below the tops and forming a triangle with the long run of poles, again about 2 to 3 ft. away from the tops of the uprights.

More ornamentation can be incorporated, but this basic design is simple to build and pleasant to look at.

A pergola need not be an archway. It can consist of a single line of posts spaced about 6 to 8 ft. apart with a series of horizontal pieces forming a continuous top rail. It can be embellished with smaller pergolas, used to divide off parts of the garden or to form secluded areas for sitting out.

Archways, covered ways and screening can be made up with ordinary timber approximately 3 to -I in. square. The most effective timber to use is western red cedar which is easy to work and most attractive in colour. It requires no painting or preserving and will last many years without attention. Its delightful warm, red colour blends in admirably with any type of garden, and even if it is allowed to weather to a silver-grey (this will happen if it is not initially treated with either clear varnish or linseed oil) it will still retain its unique character.

16. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, Garden Management, Gardening Calendar | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Fences, Screens and Pergolas


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