Fences are often seen as just a way of marking a boundary or as a means of keeping your dog in – or next door’s out! However, they can be decorative features in their own right, while few things offer such almost instant privacy or wind-protection and at a fraction of the cost of a wall – though admittedly they do need more maintenance.

A trip to the average garden centre reveals a wide array of possibilities in terms of type, material and price tag – so whether you’re looking for a simple boundary marker, some privacy or something to give your plants a little shelter, there is sure to be something to suit.

Marking the Boundary

Sometimes all you really want to do is mark off your plot and choosing which type of fence to use chiefly depends on the size of the expanse to be enclosed, and how visible it is likely to be. Generally speaking, if it is on show and needs to look reasonably attractive, in most cases wooden fences are the best choice.

There are four kinds commonly available:

  • Picket – decorative wooden uprights attached to horizontal lengths of wood, the sort of thing commonly seen on TV around the typical American front garden.
  • Ranch-Style – a run of horizontal planks attached to posts.
  • Chestnut Paling – split upright stakes of rough wood, linked together with wire.
  • Post and Rail – two or more horizontal planks nailed to upright posts, similar to Ranch-Style fencing

Alternatively, when the fencing is not likely to be seen by too many of your visitors, wire fencing of some sort may be the appropriate solution, especially if you need to keep your boundary secure from animals.

  • Chain Link – galvanised or plastic coated interlocking mesh, available in a variety of heights; it offers good animal proofing but can look a bit like a park boundary or a tennis court.
  • Welded Wire – a cheap and cheerful approach, available in a variety of mesh sizes to keep rabbits, foxes and deer out.
  • Post and Chain – most often used to fence off car parking spaces, often when other types of fencing would be too intrusive or are not allowed.

Adding Privacy

No one likes feeling that they are living in a gold-fish bowl and there are times when a bit of privacy in our gardens can make all the difference. Wooden panel fencing is one of the best choices for providing a little instant seclusion and comes in a variety of type and qualities, usually being around 2 metres long and available in a series of different heights.

Basket woven panels – thin interwoven strips, usually in pine or other softwoods – are some of the cheapest. They can be very effective at keeping prying eyes out, although they are not particularly strong, so if next door’s youngsters are partial to a bit of impromptu soccer, or you live in an exposed or wind-prone site, they may not be the best choice.

Where a stronger fence is called for, Close Board or Waney-Edged panels are hard to beat – formed from overlapping strips of wood which are much stronger than the thin pieces in a basket weave version. With the strips running vertically, Close Board fencing is one of the strongest types to be had, although the more commonly seen horizontally overlapped Waney-Edged panels offer almost as much strength, security and privacy.

For blustery gardens, the “Interference” fence is probably the best option. Made from two layers of strong, horizontal boards on opposite sides of a strong frame, it is constructed in such a way that the boards on one side coincide with the gaps on the other, which allows the breeze to pass through, but with much of the force taken out of it. In places where solid panels would stand the risk of being blown down, an Interference fence can provide the perfect windbreak.

Plant Support

Fences can also be used to provide plant support, whether temporarily or permanently. Wattle hurdles, for example, can be used while a newly-planted hedge becomes established, to provide it with shelter and give a little immediate privacy to the garden until it grows up. Made out of thin wands of woven wood, they have a rustic charm all of their own, but they do tend to become rather tatty quite quickly and repairing them is not easy – so they are really only suited to short-term use.

Trellis fencing, on the other hand, can provide excellent permanent support to allow your climbing plants to form a living fence and if you pick some of the stronger versions available, it can last for years with a little care and routine maintenance.

It is always a good idea to make sure that there is nothing to stop you putting up fences – usually unless you are planning on one taller than 2 metres (or 1 metre at the front of the house) permissions are not needed – but sometimes there can be restrictions. A word with the local council will keep you straight – and remember to consider anyone nearby if their view is likely to be affected. There is an old saying that good fences make good neighbours – and it doesn’t just apply to farmers’ fields!