Do you have neighbors? Probably. Do you like your neighbors? Hopefully. Do you want to see what your neighbors are doing in their backyard or worse, know that they can see everything you do in yours. NEVER! With lot sizes decreasing and population density increasing, we’re living closer to each other than ever. And while the most common solution is to put up a wall (physically not emotionally), it may not be doing you or your home any favors.
The origin of the word “fence” comes from the 14th century term fens, which was short for defense. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as a structure serving as a barrier or boundary, made of joined posts or stakes, meant to surround, separate and protect. Clearly even then, it was known that the best offense is a good defense. But if you’ve been fenced into thinking that your only options come in wood or worse, chain link (gasp!), then I’m here to broaden your horizons!
Arborvitae: One of the most popular plants for a living foliage fence, this thick evergreen will create a dense hedge, when spaced properly. Tolerating a variety of soils, while standing up to cold conditions and minimal maintenance, there’s a good chance that arborvitae will suit any of your backyard desires.
Bamboo: In the family of the quickest growing plants known to man, bamboo may just give you the modern and contemporary look you were going for and fast! But be warned: Many types are invasive so do your research before you buy. Look for slow growing varieties with clumping roots like Fargesia.
Boxwood: Possibly the most classic of all the entries on this list, boxwood is the stuff of elegantly designed English gardens. When pruned and sculpted, the effect can be formal but when allowed to grow freely with less strict maintenance, certain types can grow up to 20 feet tall!
Cacti: Unexpected, yes, but there is such a thing as Mexican Fence Post cactus which has been used for centuries by landowners, south of the border, to designate boundaries. It’s sculptural and chic and may just be perfect for you.
Cypress Trees: Growing tall and narrow, the Cypress creates a stately silhouette when used as a screen. Again, cost and required maintenance in relation to the longevity of your investment should always be considered when adding any new element to your yard. But especially when shopping for cypress trees, as certain varieties only live for 10 to 20 years.
Euonymus: Available in options ranging from small to large, some with green leaves, some with gold leaves, some with both at the same time, this sturdy shrub can serve as a lush hedge or a pruned sculpture, with the same amount of pizzazz! Flourishing in all types of weather and even poor soil, euonymus adds interest to any property line up.
Hicks Yew: If attracting wildlife is your game, planting Hicks Yew should be your name. This sensible choice for a living fence creates a low maintenance backdrop complete with soft needles and wintertime berries.
Privet: With great privet comes great responsibility. And also sweet smelling flowers every spring. Even though it’s fast growing, privet can takes years to properly cultivate and grow. But it is well worth the wait to achieve a private space surrounded by this lush hedge.
Red Twig Dogwood: Because it is deciduous, the red twig dogwood loses its leaves every fall after which it displays a cheerful and seasonal thicket of bright red branches. Growing in even the soggiest of soils and providing a habitat to creatures throughout all 4 seasons, this dogwood guarantees an impressive display of drama in your yard.
Skip Laurel: As another springtime flowering hedge, the skip laurel is not to be missed. Planted in a sunny location and with a little bit of annual pruning, the dense evergreen foliage will make for a rewarding 10 foot tall privacy screen.
Vines: Last but most certainly not least, vines come in just about every shape and size. Two fast growing favorites should be the Chocolate aka the five-leaf akebia and the crowd favorite, Clematis. In the nature of flowering vines, both these beauties mature very quickly, requiring regular upkeep and yielding maximum payoff. In contrast to the speedy sprouters, Confederate Jasmine can take years to cover a fence. But every spring/summertime, you’ll be rewarded with the most intoxicating scent, a reminder in every sniff that it was well worth the wait. Trust me, the nose knows.
Fences are a necessary element of modern, community living. Just because they’re meant to keep prying eyes out or property in, doesn’t mean they can’t be constructed from or covered with something beautiful. Helpful, I know. You can think of me as Wilson, the worldly and wise friend, extolling advice and giving counsel from behind such a backyard fence. And then think of that fence as a empty canvas. Hi-di-ho neighbor!
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