The boundary around our garden is the thing that we still have and want – it reflects our primitive instincts. Like our ‘hunter gatherer’ forebears many thousands of years ago, we build them to fulfit the basic function of keeping people and animals both out and in, and to give a feeling of security.
A boundary around the garden can set out to do a number of things. For example, it can delineate the limits of your property, enclose a garden and provide security for or from people and animals, and provide a visual barrier by blocking unattractive views or preventing people from looking into the garden.
A boundary around the garden also give shelter from wind, noise and polution. a well-constructed fence or wall, backed by substantial planting, can help to combat both noise and polution.
A garden boundary becomes an important part of the design framework by focusing a good view and screening a less attractive one, which may be part of the same aspect. It allows the view from the garden to continue out into the landscape by using a ha-ha or ditch to keep livestock at bay.
You should consider the patricular type of garden fencing, screening, hedging or walling that would best surround your plot, while working out the overall design of the garden. If you install a wall or fence yourself, do try to respect both the surrounding materials and the levels of the site. A walk down any suburban or even village street will indicate just how insensitively materials can be chosen.
And on a steeply sloping site with a high density of housing, the practical problems of the gradient often lead to a wide variety of fences and walls, many of which are erected with scant regard for a sensitive choice of materials or for the way in which the garden boundaries are constructed. In some cases fences or walls are ‘stepped’ at variance to the actual slope, so that fences go up where the levels go down, and vice versa. Planting can do a great deal to soften this kind of approach, but it is best avoided in the first place.
There is a vast range of boundary materials to choose from, and compatibility, both with the style of the house and with the surroundings, really is important. A cohesive street scene is far more telling than a hotch-potch of random styles; first impressions count, and the boundary of a property is often the first thing to be seen.
If your house is brick or stone, then carry these materials through to any walling if you can. It will provide a natural link, and allow the building to sit comfortably in its surroundings. Look for brick or stone to match that used in the house, and be careful to match the pointing. If your house is rendered, then rendered or fair-face (untreated) concrete blocks, or even concrete cast in situ, can be used with superb effect. What is less sympathetic are the geometric blocks od white concrete whose harsh color and busy patterns make them unacceptable in most situations.
Walling, however, is expensive, although it has an almost unlimited life, and a well-chosen fence will be a more economical alternative. Here, too, style is important, and what is appropriate in one setting may be quite out of keeping in another. Local fencing styles with a strong regional flavor often look particularly good in the country. Wattle or osier hurdles make a good foil for planting, and sturdy post-and-rail fencing fits well in an agricultural setting; wrought or cast iron railings are most effective in a more formal or urban setting.
Because the choice is so wide, and the outcome so important, take your time before deciding what to use. Keep your eyes open as you drive or walk about, and think about what particular kind of boundary around the garden would look most appropriate to your own property.