An unsightly view can blight even the most otherwise attractive of gardens and with ugliness – like beauty – being largely in the eye of the beholder, it doesn’t always take something as imposing as the local gas-works to make a bit of a blot on the landscape.
Whether your particular source of irritation is a local eyesore, your neighbour’s garage or an unattractive wall in your own garden, the good news is that there are lots of ways to put it out of sight – and out of mind.
The Fast Fence Fix
For an instant solution to an unsightly problem, little comes close to a traditional wooden panel fence – widely available from garden centres, larger DIY outlets and many catalogue stores. Offered in a wide variety of sizes, styles and qualities, it can mask an ugly view and add privacy and a high degree of plant protection as an added bonus.
From the relatively cheap and cheerful basket weave to the more expensive Close Board or Waney-Edged panels, fencing offers a relatively low cost and immediate answer, although it may not be possible to build one high enough to block out some eyesores.
Hiding Behind Hedges
Should a fence seem too stark, one alternative is to plant a hedge to hide the view. Although it will take longer to become established, it does have the advantage of being able to grow taller than most of the available fencing panels and so can, in time, deal with larger eyesores. Although typical British hedge plants such as beech (Fagus) and hawthorn (Crataegus) are as much at home in the garden as ever they are enclosing a field, they are deciduous, so for a few months of the year, their screening effect will be less than complete.
There are traditional evergreen options to consider, including box (Buxus) and yew (Taxus) but for a swift solution, nothing comes close to Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii). Readily available and swift-growing, although it has often been the cause of problems between neighbours, it remains one of the best evergreens for screening unpleasant sights.
If the unwelcome sight is all your own – perhaps an old tree stump, or a derelict wall – few plants are better than climbers when it comes to hiding it. While all the usual varieties are more than adequate for the job, such as Clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine or Wisteria, if you want to do things in double-quick time, Russian – or “mile-a-minute” vine (Polygonum baldschuanica ) is the one for you.
One of the most rampant and invasive of climbing plants, able to grow to 40ft or more, this plant can engulf a problem wall in a season and although it will need pruning thereafter to keep it in check, it has the added bonus of masses of white, frothy flowers in the summer.
Trees bring a quite unique character to the garden and if the sight that you are trying to screen is only really a problem from one particular point of view, a well chosen tree can be the perfect solution, even for a small garden. Many trees grow to little more than 20 feet (6m) and as well as helping to cut out the problem, can offer a great deal of seasonal interest too. There is a wide range of possible candidates including Japanese maples (Acer ) and rowans (Sorbus), while for a fast-growing solution, few trees can beat either native willows (Salix) or the more exotic Australian gum trees ( Eucalyptus).
Irrespective of whether you opt for fencing, hedging, climbing plants or trees to solve the problem, although the primary reason is distinctly practical, there is no reason why the solution you pick cannot also add something to the overall garden design. Taking the time to consider all the options can pay off in the long-run, since a well-chosen screen can be an attractive feature in its own right.