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.

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. Or if you are looking for step-by-step tutorial on how to design a garden all by yourself, check out these Online Garden Courses.

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!