Fenced

2008 Panaretos Spring 4-24-08 (3)
A fence is a garden structure that is easy to identify.  A fence is a vertical element in a garden that separates one space from another.  Twin fences with soil piled in between is an effective noise barrier.  How so?  Only soil absorbs and blocks sound.  Plants and single layer fences do nothing to mitigate sound.  An impossibly tall berm at the road is a fence of a green sort.  It separates a personal and quiet space from a noisy and public space by filtering out the sound.  Many communities permit the installation of what is known as a privacy fence.  No matter the material, any fence of a substantial height (in this case, 6′ tall) provides a physical separation from adjacent properties.  Those people who live in urban areas value their privacy.  A fence is a simple structure that takes up very little space-in the interest of establishing a boundary.  Your yard and my yard have a barrier in between that allows each of us to live our private lives.
April 25 2013 (15)
Those people who live on vast ranges of land in Texas value a separation that keeps their cattle from wandering off their property.  Electrical substations fence their properties to keep unsuspecting others from injuring themselves.  The Berlin wall was an elaborate fence which came to symbolize a barrier to freedom.  A firewall on my computer-a digital fence constructed to protect my computer from harm. A fence is a person who is a middleman between two parties.  The fence is a barrier, or a facilitator, depending on the circumstances. Other fences are purely decorative in how they define a space.  A low wall, should it be long enough, qualifies as a fence. This wall/fence does not provide privacy.  It does not entirely enclose a space.  It makes a beautiful and very friendly statement about the separation between the public street and the private home.

April 25 2013 (16)
Iron fences designate a separation, but permit lots of light, and a view through.  These pillars are massive, and the gate is solid and painted a dark color.  The black iron fence can barely be seen, but for the hedge of yews planted on the inside.  Why so much discussion about this particular fence?  The choice of materials, the color, and the size make a visual statement about privacy.
April 25 2013 (18)
Like the home in the previous picture, this property is a corner property.  Other homes on the block have private back yards courtesy of the house itself. This fence is solid from top to bottom, and has a very contemporary feeling.  Make sure that wood fence is installed slightly elevated from the ground plane. A garden fence made of wood needs to shed water and dry quickly.  A fence in constant contact with the soil will deteriorate much sooner than it needs to.
balcony railing

This second floor balcony terrace has a fence which is primarily about safety.  White or light colored fences usually stand out architecturally, but this fence has a landscape of water and sky behind it.  This white fence in a green landscape would make a much more emphatic architectural statement.

cedar fence

This vegetable garden is entirely enclosed by a fence of cedar, and galvanized steel mesh. The idea here is to protect herbs and vegetables from the wildlife. The height of the fence is meant to keep the deer out.  The depth of the wire fencing below ground is meant to deter ground hogs and rabbits.  Keep out.
cedar privacy fence
Fences of a clearly decorative design satisfy the need for beauty and visual interest as much as a need for privacy.  Cedar is a highly rot resistant and evenly grained wood that can make a fence as refined in appearance as a piece of furniture.  The design of this fence is especially pleasing, given the stone and grass path below.

espalier fence

Espaliered trees can provide a green fence.  In a tight space that needed screening up high, a fence of espaliered lindens was a good solution.  The property next door is vacant, and unattended-the property line is in front of the boulders.  Were it to be sold and developed, a new house could be very close by.  Anticipating the need for privacy permits the time it takes for a green fence to grow.   The major horizontal arms have numerous small branches which will eventually grow together to form a green wall.  This fence needs more care than most, in the form of yearly, or twice yearly pruning.
pool fence
Pools require fences of a certain height, and a certain density.  An iron pool fence in my area requires a picket every 4 inches.  Most communities have rules about fencing swimming pools, as they can be dangerous to a child.  These fences are not about privacy-they are about safety.  The hydrangeas on the far side of the fence will eventually grow between the pickets.  The fence itself will disappear from view, with its ability to enclose and protect unimpeded.

steel fencing
This garden/dog run has a hazel wood privacy fence along 2 lot lines.  The Bowhall maples will eventually provide a green screen for the second floor windows.  The iron fence encloses the dog run, and is meant to deter coyotes.  Coyotes run at, and leap over a barrier.  The 18″ wide shelf at the top of the fence, and the yew hedge at the bottom, is a strong deterrent.

twig fencing

I have only seen a fence such as this once.  It is beautiful and dense.  Fencing from natural materials are easy on the gardening eye while entirely functional.

vertical-garden-fence.jpgBut of any fence I have ever seen, this has to be one of the most inventive and original.  Designed and built by Barry Harrison, partner in Art-Harrison Design Studio in Royal Oak, it satisfies both a need for privacy and a need for green.  The cedar posts with integral bird finials were hand carved by Barry himself.  It’s easy to see that these pots of succulents would be tough to overwater. This is sure evidence that even the most utilitarian element in a landscape can have great visual appeal.

Comments

  1. David Bockman says:

    how brilliant is that last design pictures? Dropping the fence caps to the ground and making them stone is 8 kinds of awesome, love it

    • Deborah Silver says:

      brilliant-yes! This client is a very talented interior designer and furniture maker-this is his own invention.

  2. I will disagree with you slightly, if only to make myself feel better. I live on a busy road, and my barrier of choice is greenery and single-layer horizontal fencing. Apparently, according to studies, plants are a poor barrier to noise, but do have at least a minimal effect. So I think saying they’re ineffective at blocking noise may be somewhat inaccurate.

    And single layer fences can apparently be somewhat useful as well, especially if they’re continuous. 😀 So there. I can’t afford two fences. I did notice a significant reduction in the noise with my fencing installation. Although the fencing isn’t continuous, it is somewhat gap-free and tall. I had initially only installed it for privacy.

    My neighbor said I noticed the difference because the fencing blocks the noise from the road surface, and that’s where a lot of it comes from. I’m not sure if that is true, but I did notice a difference. The paper I read about the apparent dangers of living next to a busy road (it is a government study…you can probably find it on the internet somewhere) seemed to indicate that using plants as a noise barrier was more effective if tall shrubs and trees were included which are tall enough to block the entire view of the roadway.

    The study did indicate–as you’ve stated–that soil berms are the most effective in blocking noise…but sadly for a lot of us…not as practical as fencing or vegetation.

    While not as effective in terms of noise, vegetation and single layer fencing may also provide the benefits of reducing drift of emissions into the yard, which may be just as important as reducing noise.

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Your letter is interesting. My yard is very close to the road. One side of my rose garden is buffered from a very busy 4 lane road by the house itself.That garden is very quiet. Other places, even though they are densely planted, do not block the noise. Every situation in a garden is probably different-I should be careful not to generalize. Thanks for writing, Deborah

  3. This post is pure poetry.
    The photos are so inspiring.
    I can’t think of a better way to enjoy my coffee in the morning than when I’m reading your musings on gardening and forming the outdoor landscape.

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