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


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.

More Fence Examples

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 bare-root 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.

What Are Your Favourites?

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

If you would like the Successful Garden Design cheat sheet and video on how to add the WOW factor to your garden click on the image below…



Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 25 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!

    18 replies to "Fence or Hedge Your Garden – Which is Best?"

    • mike korner

      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).

      • Rachel Mathews

        Hi Mike,

        Oh some good choices there, I do like burning bushes especially, not ever used them for a hedge though.

    • Felicity Waters

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

      • Rachel Mathews

        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!

    • Cat

      Hello Rachel

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

      • Rachel Mathews

        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!

    • oscar

      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

      • Rachel Mathews

        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.


    • Landscaping_Katy

      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.

    • Sarah Arrow

      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?

      • Rachel Mathews

        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!

    • Landscaper Dublin

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

    • Patrick Winson

      A custom fencing is better, I believe. One can have the fencing done the way one wants and choose their own style and size.

    • Silas Knight

      Deciding between fencing and hedges is actually kind of hard. However, after reading this, I think that there are more benefits to having fence put in. I also liked how you included which types of fence were the best, thanks for the information.

    • Asad Minhas

      Hi Rachel,
      What would be the best hedge for Sidcup area, London: around 110 meters long for a newly established Vegetable Garden? I want a mix or ornamental+Mechanical one..


      Hi Rachel and fellow readers – one thing I would add is that if you live in an area with deer or foxes etc or have dogs that like to explore a fence is much more secure. However, I love hedges so if animals might be a challenge try a very prickly ground shrub hedge. J


        PS…. If going for boundary hedges think about your local Native hedgerows like Blackthorn or a mix of native hedgerow – Blackthorn, Dog Rose, Bird Cherry. I like Laurel hedges – no spikes and need to be planted in two rows to get a good hedge. Particular favourite is Spotted Laurel Hedge – Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’.

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