Living and Built Fencing Options

gate arbor hedge

Fences and hedges can be added to your landscape plan to integrate the natural with your outdoor living space. Here are some notes on how to do it.



Fencing serves very important purposes for your property. It can define boundaries between your yard and those around you. It will also make clear where your yard begins, and public property (streets, sidewalks, and alley ways) ends. Fences offer privacy, create outdoor ‘rooms’, and keep your pets in and other animals out.

Using plants as fencing

Where I grew up, my dad used the existing trees to denote our property lines. He added native shrubs and groundcovers to create dense plantings that offered privacy for our neighbors and us. From the road, you could only see the driveway entrance. He had planted a thick stand of native evergreen shrubs and trees for privacy. Even in Google Earth today, I can barely see the house in street view!

Natural fences also serve as wildlife habitat, windbreaks, sound barriers, and snow fencing. As with all landscape design, various colors, textures, forms, and sizes create visual interest year round. Excellent evergreens for fencing are arborvitae, juniper, yew, boxwood, privet, cedar, and cypress. Let them grow freely and naturally, or keep them trimmed to a certain height and shape.

Add fencing to your existing landscape

Built fencing and all hardscaping are an integral part of your landscape. Fencing is a visual contrast to the plantings and allows the eye to rest while looking around the yard. It also provides year round structure, or the bones of the yard. It is steadfast while plants change throughout the year.

If you want to add or expand your fencing, do so with minimal impact. Try not to disturb the existing plants or the soil. Tuck your new fence into what is already in the yard. Choose fencing that matches or is similar to your home and outbuildings. Natural colors and materials will blend with the landscape. Height will depend on the purpose of the fence. A short picket fence might be enough to visually divide your yard from the sidewalk. If privacy is your goal, taller fencing will be in order.

Add a gate to an evergreen hedge for an interesting entryway and visual contrast. Install fencing along the natural topography of the land. It will flow and look natural.

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Types of fencing

Your material choice will depend on the function of the fence and your personal needs.

Wood is one of the oldest fencing materials, because it has been so plentiful. Unless you get cedar or bamboo, though, it will be very high maintenance and will eventually rot.

Chain link is utilitarian to mark boundaries, and can double as a trellis for climbing plants for beauty and privacy.

Cedar or bamboo lattice is more attractive than chain link, and can also be covered with flowering vines. Make it part of your garden.

Rolled bamboo fencing is easy to install on existing or unsightly fencing, or onto posts sunk into the ground.

Vinyl fence options

Vinyl fencing is gaining in popularity, because it is durable and maintenance free. It comes in many styles, and some brands can be painted.

A tall white vinyl fence is the perfect backdrop to a flower garden or climbing roses. Think of it like a canvas to paint on. Create a cottage garden with a vinyl picket fence.

Call the pros

Get several professional opinions from fencing contractors or landscape architects. They will give you a variety of design ideas, and will suggest materials that suit your needs.

Be sure to check your neighborhood covenants for restrictions. Your town or county may also have regulations. A professional can help you sort through that information.

Install a fence that is durable as well as beautiful!

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