Fence or Hedge Your Garden – Which is Best?

I’m often asked by clients if they would be better off with a fence or a hedge to surround their garden. There are pros and cons to each. Here are some of the main things to consider:

Fence Benefits                       .  

Fence Downsides

  • Instant
  • Can be less maintenance if right materials are chosen   .
  • Security
  • Cost – will depend on materials but the end price can be significant
  • Cheap fences can deteriorate and need regular repair
  • Harsh or abrupt looking

Hedge Benefits                        .  

Hedge Downsides

  • Nicer aesthetically
  • Usually less expensive than fences                        .
  • Natural
  • Can take a long time to establish
  • Need at least yearly trimming
  • Can take moisture & nutrients away from plant borders

Combinations

If you are keen to have a hedge but need to screen or secure your property, one approach is to put up a temporary wire fence and grow the hedge along one side of it. Eventually the hedge will grow through the wire.  (Just be a little careful when you are trimming it.)

You can grow almost any shrub and train it into a hedge.  Some obviously work better than others, but it’s definitely something you can have fun with. Before you get too carried away with an over the top hedge choice, here’s one thing to bear in mind…

Traditional Works Well For Good Reason…

What are you going to put next to the hedge? For example, using a variegated shrub with bright pink flowers may seem like a good idea.  But if your plant border is also full of red and orange flowers, it may not look so good when everything is flowering together!

This is why I like to be pretty boring with my hedge choices.  I tend to go for plain green because it’s a good colour backdrop for everything else I want to do in the garden.

The same goes for fence colours. Yes, I know you can get vivid cerise fence paint but that doesn’t always make it a good choice with everything else you have in your garden!

Favorite Fence Styles:

Featheredge Fence

I prefer hand-built fences made in situ in the garden rather than pre-made panels.  Hand-built fences tend to be stronger, and you can make them fit the size of the area.  Pre-made panels rarely fit exactly how you’d like, which means you typically need to cut them to fit the space. This type of hand-built featheredge fencing (see photo at left) is very popular here in the UK.

If your existing fence is still strong but looks ugly, or it happens to be the neighbour’s fence, my favourite trick is to cover it with willow screening.

Willow screening attached to old fence

For a modern look, I love using simple tile batten (approx. 1″ x 2” wide pressure treated timber). It’s not ideal for total privacy but it does work for simple screening.

Tile batten slat fence

 

Favourite Hedges:

Laurel hedge

Laurel is the king of hedges. It’s got beautiful large evergreen, glossy leaves. It can take shade, sun, dry and wettish conditions (but not waterlogged soil).

Yew hedge arch with low box hedge

Yew is another favourite of mine, but it can be rather slow to establish and doesn’t cope well with wet soils.

Native hedge

Native hedge mix is probably the one I use the most because it blends well with English countryside locations and is great for wildlife. It is also fairly inexpensive when bareroot plants are purchased. The only drawback is that it’s not evergreen.

Good Suppliers:

It’s worth hunting around for a good fencing stockist rather than just what’s in the local DIY store because quality and prices can vary dramatically.

A good nursery or garden centre can help you with hedges.  If you put your order in ahead of time for a good quantity, you likely be able to negotiate a discount.

One place I can certainly recommend for laurel hedging is C & S Mathews Ltd. Yes they are related, so that’s how I know just how good the laurels are! They specialise in supplying large laurels for near instant hedges.  They feature a variety of laurel that grows quickly, stays green all year, and doesn’t turn the usual yellowy colour in the winter months.

Other News – Success Story

I recently received an email from Karen Sprinkle that totally made my day. She watched a free video tutorial on how to design your garden and she was then able to go off and solve the garden problem that had been totally bugging her for years! She’s written about it on her clear the clutter and mind blog, go take a look!

And just click on the link if you’d like to view the garden design video tutorial that helped her so much.

What Are Your Favourites?

Which fence or hedging plants have impressed you most and why? Please leave your comments below.

 

About Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 20 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

Comments

  1. When full privacy isn’t required), I like roses, lilacs, burning bushes, etc. I’ll have to check out laurel hedging (as I hadn’t previously heard of it).

  2. oooh what about a vertical garden? i have a timber fence and i add plants to the vertical face!

    • Hi Felicity,

      That’s a great idea! I haven’t done much vertical gardening but have seen some great examples – actually was one of them on your blog a while back? If so do add the link to it here!

  3. Hello Rachel

    Will you please confirm the cost of this course in UK pound sterling (£). Thank you

    • Hi Cat

      The normal price in sterling for the full garden design course is £197 but there’s a special offer on the video at the moment for approx £127 – I say approx as it will depend on Paypal’s exchange rate when you buy it, I’ve just checked and it’s currently £122!

  4. In spain we use a lot the heather (erica) branches in a screening mesh attached to the fence, it has dark thin branches, “BREZO”, a bit expensive, cheaper is cane, cut half way and place in lines, also now in fashion is “japanese cane” a very thin version of bambu, lines together and meshed together, but all depends in space, budget, time available for maintaning the fencing, I would use climbing plants, like jazmins, flowering bignonias, etc… if it was possible, also the maroccon trelis makes a good effect. Regards

    • Hi Oscar

      I’ve seen them used in Spain and they do look good. I think we can also get the heather ones in the UK, but like you say they aren’t cheap! I have used the cane too but find they don’t last quite as long as the willow, but do look good too.

      I like your suggestion of the Moroccan trellis with climbers, the gaps are sufficiently small that it makes for really effective screening.

      Rachel

  5. Personally, I’d go for a fence. Besides securing the property, I think it’s more versatile since I can alter its appearance not only with paint or garden decor but with hanging plants or potted plants. It also gives some sort of break in the very green landscape. Although you are right about the end cost.

  6. Hi Rachael that willow screening looks fab, I never knew you could have that in a garden! Taking on board security as mentioned in the comments, is it ok to have another fence behind the screen or is that just wasting resources?

    • Hi Sarah,

      The willow screening can be purchased in free standing panels or if you buy the rolls they do need attaching to an existing fence. So if you want to be secure then yes you would need another fence.

      You can always used reclaimed materials for the security fence, then attach the willow. Doesn’t matter quite so much if it’s a mixture then, assuming there aren’t neighbours to consider, fine if you live in the middle of nowhere!

  7. It all depends on what type of garden it is and what style of design the client wants.

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