Gardening Ideas – Hedges or Fences? Making a Garden Boundary
Too much screening can make your garden dark, small and uneasily confined. So do not rush to fence yourself in. Just as a lace or net curtain will effectively veil a room from street eyes, so will a comparatively skimpy curtain of foliage. To begin with, its an idea to plant a row of runner beans, sweet peas, golden rod or sunflowers for example, as a “token” fence until you see — literally, perhaps — which way the wind blows.
We usually find that some sort of garden boundary has been installed, to define our property. For economic reasons, this is usually a wire and post fence and it is generally unattractive.
One of the best means of making use of the basic post and wire boundary fence is to grow on it some vigorous material which will quickly form some sort of screen. One of the best of these is the awkwardly named Polygonum baldschuanicum, or Russian Vine. This is a rampant grower which can make as much as 20 feet of growth in a single season. It gives a foam of creamy pinkin summer but alas it is deciduous and loses its leaves in the winter.
Some climbing and ramblerwill make a good and quick growing screen which again can be trained along existing wires. Annuals, such as tall nasturtiums make a fine summer screen. I have seen espalier fruit trees trained along the wires set about a foot above each other.
The first thing to do is to ask yourself why a screen or fence is necessary. The most important aspect of a screen or fence is to protect the garden against wind. A few washing days will show you from which way the prevailing wind blows. Cast an eye over any large trees growing nearby. If their outlines show signs of the sloping growth caused by strong sweeping winds be prepared! You will certainly need some kind of wind break to cut down their damaging power. Whether this is a dense one such as a fence, or an open one such as a row of plants, is up to you to decide. There are many decorative trees and shrubs which will grow happily in such a situation.
If you need to shut out an ugly view or make a screen in just one spot, you need a spreading tree or large shrub — not necessarily an evergreen for even bare branches make good covers. Most small flowering trees are safest near the house since their roots do not penetrate far. Fast growers like weeping willows, poplar or metasequoia have large ever-searching roots, which might upset the foundations of your house.
Many readers of this site ask me for the names of fast growing trees for screens and though I may be dampening their spirit, I always tell them that any tree which grows very fast is also going to grow really big. The best permanent plant screens are those which take their time.
Where only complete screening will suffice, a timber fence is the quickest and cheapest answer. This can quickly and easily be disguised by growing plants. Many evergreens and others will grow up and along or can be trained to hug a new fence prettily and in time will hide it. A mixture of evergreen and deciduous plants will present a wide range of possibilities, depending uponand aspect.
The best wooden fences are oak, but they can also be bought in larch, pine, deal or cedar in heights varying from three to seven feet. If they arc untreated they will need to be painted with a preservative. Untreated wood rots quickly.
Split chestnut is a cheap, rustic form of. Checker board is a “woven” variation of a wooden fence. I should advise you to visit a garden shop or centre and see and compare various forms and prices.
Wattle hurdles, like those used by the farmer, are very cheap but not very long lasting. These are best used as a quick temporary fence which acts also as a windbreak behind newly planted shrubs and trees to protect them while they are young.
If you do not like the closed-in effect of a tall fence, use a low fence and erect a more open screen some little distance from it on which roses or some other plant can be trained. Make sure the screen is stout enough to stand the buffeting of the wind.
If you dislike the hard lines of a fence and would like to get an impression of a leafy hedge there are many plants such as evergreen winter flowering and variegated honeysuckles, ornamentalincluding the Virginian creepers, clematis, and passion flowers which can be trained against the fence, but are not weighty enough to pull it out of shape. Polygonum baldschuanicum is very quick and rampant growing but may get out of hand unless its roots can be restricted. In the first year you can sow seed of annuals like canary creeper, morning glory or Blue Coco runner beans to cover the fence temporarily.
A garden fence consisting merely of a few separated strands of wire can have fruit trees trained along it. Perhaps you can co-operate with your neighbour, and both plant trees alternately. This way you can be sure of having enough varieties to pollinate your trees successfully so that you have good crops of fruit.
Fibreglass has tremendous possibilities and is now being used in several colours to make good screens, roofs and other garden accessories. It is not affected by weather and is strong.
Modern fabricated stone can be obtained in several shapes from which one can make most attractive semi-open walls. They make a pleasant boundary without the closed-in effect of a solid wall. These open work walls are just the thing for a patio or a sun bay as well as for boundaries.
Walls can now be as varied as paths, in fact. For example you can have a plain solid base against which you can grow flowering or fruiting plants under a pretty open work top.
This is not the place, I feel, to go into a long description of wall making techniques. But I would just suggest that it is sometimes forgotten that a good solid wall requires a good solid foundation if subsidence is not to cause trouble in the future.
We are so accustomed to seeing walls made of brick or stone that we tend to forget that there are now so many other materials which can be used. The advantage of most of them is that they are so easy to handle that even the unskilled worker can build a good wall. Artificial stone of all kinds, and concrete open work blocks can be laid. Simply and effectively.
Manufacturers usually supply fences in do-it-yourself form, either in separate pieces or made up into larger panels.
Although the association of plants and wall (and particularly in this case of shrubs and wall), can be very beautiful, this partnership is seldom exploited by the modern gardener.
The plants need not always be seen against a wall. They can cut across the wall line. There are times where a plant and a wall make a patterned barrier. Walls can be built and shaped in such a manner that where the wall dips, a plant rises. Here plants of a distinctive shape can be used.
Evergreens will become as dense a screen as the wall itself, while deciduous trees or shrubs will bring seasonal variety and colour changes, even in certain cases, blossom also.
Among the evergreens some of the junipers and chamaecyparis are beautifully columnar, and there are others which will bring hues of blue-green and yellow to the scene. Much larger growing are the upright or fastigiate deciduous trees such as birch, Betula pendula fastigiata; hornbeam, Carpinus betulus columnaris and pyramidalis; hawthorn,monogyna stricta; beech, Fagus sylvatica fastigiata; poplar, Populus nigra italica; flowering cherry, Prunus Amanagowa (syn. P. serrulata erecta) oak, Quercus robur fastigiata; and Robinia pseudoacacia fastigiata, which may be too large for small gardens but which could be used effectively as a wall-screen at the boundaries of a large garden where the harsh line of a straight wall would not be desirable.
Where areas of grass have been eliminated and in their placeor other flooring materials have been laid down, the hedge can play a decorative role and can be so colourful that it can act as a permanent .
For example it can consist of three or more parts or layers: shall we say, a background of purple-leaved prunus, a lower hedge of yellow privet or chamaecyparis and an even lower hedge of santolina or lavender and perhaps even lower than this, covering the ground and forming a border, a strip of heather.
Type of soil is not a great problem here, because although most ericaceous plants need an acid or peaty soil, there are many varieties which are lime tolerant. Among these are the winter flowering heathers which ensure a band of colour from October to April. After flowering the plants can be clipped to keep them neat and they will continue to give a band of green through summer. Soil on the site of a hedge must be well prepared and any deficiencies remedied before planting.