Fences and walls are an important element to consider when designing a garden. The material they're constructed from and their finish should complement other features in the garden, to create a unified whole.
In minimalist gardens, boundaries are often left exposed, but in most gardens they serve as a backdrop for the plants grown in front of them, as well as supports for climbing plants.
Boundaries can be subtle, but they also have the potential to be a key feature to draw the eye to certain areas of the garden, so think about how you can personalise them.
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Check out our suggestions for creating and perking up garden walls and fences, below.
Sleek and modernist
This boundary uses two different widths of facing boards fixed onto a simple framework, hiding the posts to give it a smooth face. You can vary the sequence of the upright boards, adding a more random and subtle rhythm. Paint can be tricky to apply to wood, so consider coloured stains applied after a light sanding.
Cost: Not an off-the-rack product, so budget around £40 per linear metre at most DIY stores.
Use recycled materials
Old scaffold boards are a great source of cheap material for the garden. Here, they're stacked on top of each other to make a chunky, low, pre-weathered shabby-chic boundary. Fix the boards safely into posts concreted into the ground (rather than stacked on top of each other) with spacers.
Cost: Potentially free if you get old ones from scaffolders, or around £5 per linear metre.
Green walls can be pricey, but by fixing plastic guttering to a solid fence you can create a new planting opportunity and green up your boundary. Ideal if space and budget are tight. Make sure you drill drainage holes and water regularly, as the plants can dry out quickly.
Cost: Gutter around £1.50 per metre and brackets around £1 each, from most DIY stores.
Newly installed fences look bare without plants growing in front of, or climbing up them. This woven fence has gaps that create a good overall texture and enable climbers such as Pyracantha to scramble up. Plant climbers in the middle of fencing panels to avoid the posts and concrete beneath.
Cost: 1.8m-high panels around £48 (excluding posts).
Create a green wall
Plenty of products, such as fabric pockets or plastic modular systems, make it easy to install a green wall. It can be costly to do this on a large scale, so consider adding just a small feature section. To make watering easier you could install an irrigation system.
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Cost: Wall plant pockets cost around £12.50 excluding plants.
Create a rustic fence
Woven hazel boundaries have been used for centuries and sit well in a more rural or cottage garden setting. They're good value but don't last forever, about five or six years in wet areas and 10 in dry. As a natural material, panel sizes will vary. Put the posts in as you go along to avoid gaps or squeezed panels.
Cost: About £50 per 1.8m x 1.8m panel.
Use a simple design
Sometimes you need only add a light touch, so the fence can blend it with the garden while still delineating an area. This rustic post and rail fence looks spot-on with informal red valerian and echinaceas.
Cost: Approximately £5 per rail and £10 per post.
Erect a low fence
A low fence, up to 1.5m tall, is ideal if you don't need privacy or have a good view beyond it. Horizontal boards can make a garden feel bigger, too. Planted here are astrantia, anthriscus and dryopteris ferns – perfect for a shady spot. Consider the spacing (if any) between the boards, as well as the width of the boards themselves.
Cost: Wood panels can be bought at around £35 per square metre, including posts.
This expanded metal fence has been allowed to rust, giving it a lovely orange patina similar to Corten steel. It delineates the space and provides a warm, contrasting backdrop to the purple planting, while allowing some light and visibility through to the other side.
Cost: Around £50 per metal sheet.
A rustic take on palisade fencing, this boundary is a reasonably solid option that exudes a hobbit-like charm. The ample gaps between the posts allow planting areas either side to blend with each other and soften the appearance of the fence.
Cost: Approximately £50 per 1.8m fence section, £7 per post.
Basic boundary marker
Stripped back to its basic components, this string and hazel pole fence unobtrusively marks out an area and, while it won't last as long as other options, it isn't short of appeal. It's also a very cheap option – you simply need garden twine and hazel poles.
Cost: Around £20 for a bundle of 10-15 hazel poles, £2 for a ball of twine.
Dos and don'ts of garden boundaries
- Do take advantage of a larger garden's increased scope for using interesting, darker boundaries. A black-stained fence can set off and intensify the plants in front
- Do plant a hedge or 'hit-and-miss' fence if you have a windy garden to filter the wind. Solid boundaries can exacerbate strong winds – directing them up and over, creating damaging eddies
- Do think about which part of the boundary you'll see. Only invest in top-of-the-range boundaries where you can see the benefits
- Don't install tall boundaries all around the garden, only use them where really needed, i.e. where privacy is required. Change the heights if needed so you can open up a good view if you have one
- Don't use too many different boundary finishes. You'll get much better continuity in the garden sticking to one – two at a push
- Don't darken a shady garden with dark boundaries. Bounce available light around with light-coloured paint or stains. Plants should respond to the boosted light levels, too