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Garden Boundaries

Issue: TW Mag May '13

THINK OF YOUR GARDEN as a picture and think of your fences or boundaries as the frame. If you had a beautiful oil painting you would want it to be framed in a suitably beautiful frame, however all too often we ‘frame’ our gardens in cheap orange stained fence panels bought from the local garden centre or DIY store. When designing our gardens and choosing plants we take endless care in selecting exactly the right colour, texture and form to fill that space or create interest, but when it comes to the fence our creativity and imagination seem to desert us. If you are lucky enough to have a lovely old brick wall or a smart hedge as a boundary they can provide the perfect backdrop to your planting, if not you could consider doing something a little bit different.

When making over a room in your house, one of the key ingredients is the treatment of the walls. The walls define the space and the choice of colour and finish used to decorate them sets the mood for the furniture and soft-furnishings within. The ‘walls’ of the garden are the fences and boundaries, and in the same way as a decorative wallpaper sets the style for the room’s contents, so too does the fencing treatment suggest the choice of planting schemes, outdoor furniture and so on. Despite ever changing fashions in all things decorative, the most important consideration for exterior elements is that they are be both practical and hard wearing.

Here are some of my favourite alternatives to the ‘bog standard’ fencing we all too often see surrounding our gardens.

Coloured panels
A solid block of colour strategically placed can provide the perfect focal point. This could be built from rendered breeze blocks or a timber frame covered with marine ply. Ideal to break up an expanse of painted wall of a neighbouring building.

Choose your colour carefully, hot colours, yellows and reds, usually work best in warmer climates, cooler colours, blues, greens and greys suit a temperate climate better. Don’t forget it’s easy to change the mood by changing the colour.

Living walls and fences
Living walls are very popular at the moment. There are lots of different systems on the market to suit many different applications. They can be very challenging to get right but if done properly can be very rewarding. In a smaller garden why not try a tall narrow panel of herbs near the kitchen. Don’t forget these walls are living and therefore need water and light together with the right aspect for the plants you’re using.

Another lovely idea is a living ‘fence’. Plant and weave whips of willow (salix) or dogwood (cornus) in a trellis pattern using garden twine to hold the shape. It will need careful clipping for it to maintain the pattern and should give years
of pleasure.

Decorative steel panels
Decorative steel panels in either geometric or organic patterns can be used almost anywhere. Laser cut from sheets of mild steel or aluminium they can be painted or powder coated in any colour or left to develop a beautiful rusty patina. The panels can be used to screen unsightly features like bin stores, sheds, plain walls or boring views. As well as providing interest in the winter these panels can be great backdrops to summer planting and when illuminated from behind look amazing at night.

Slatted fencing
As an alternative to prefabricated timber fence panels, slatted fencing is becoming increasingly popular. The linear effect can add that modern feel to your garden. Try designing your own using exterior quality woods such as iroko, ipe, teak or cedar, or for a less expensive option use pressure treated sawn timber, which can be stained or painted, or left to silver naturally. Use varying width of boards, horizontally or vertically, to create additional interest.

I hope these options have you thinking about new ways to liven up your boundaries.

David Robinson is a Partner
at Robinson Design Interiors
& Gardens. Tel: 020 8892 8906