I’m often asked by clients if they would be better off with a fence or a hedge to surround their garden. There are pros and cons to each. Here are some of the main things to consider:
Fence Benefits - Instant, Can be less maintenance if right materials are chosen, Security.
Fence Downsides - Cost – will depend on materials but the end price can be significant, Cheap fences can deteriorate and need regular repair, Harsh or abrupt looking.
Hedge Benefits - Nicer aesthetically, Usually less expensive than fences, . Natural.
Hedge Downsides - Can take a long time to establish, Need at least yearly trimming, Can take moisture & nutrients away from plant borders.
Combinations - If you are keen to have a hedge but need to screen or secure your property, one approach is to put up a temporary wire fence and grow the hedge along one side of it. Eventually the hedge will grow through the wire. (Just be a little careful when you are trimming it.) You can grow almost any shrub and train it into a hedge. Some obviously work better than others, but it’s definitely something you can have fun with. Before you get too carried away with an over the top hedge choice, here’s one thing to bear in mind.
Traditional Works Well For Good Reason - What are you going to put next to the hedge? For example, using a variegated shrub with bright pink flowers may seem like a good idea. But if your plant border is also full of red and orange flowers, it may not look so good when everything is flowering together! This is why I like to be pretty boring with my hedge choices. I tend to go for plain green because it’s a good colour backdrop for everything else I want to do in the garden. The same goes for fence colours. Yes, I know you can get vivid cerise fence paint but that doesn’t always make it a good choice with everything else you have in your garden!
I prefer hand-built fences made in situ in the garden rather than pre-made panels. Hand-built fences tend to be stronger, and you can make them fit the size of the area. Pre-made panels rarely fit exactly how you’d like, which means you typically need to cut them to fit the space. This type of hand-built featheredge fencing (see photo at left) is very popular here in the UK. If your existing fence is still strong but looks ugly, or it happens to be the neighbour’s fence, my favourite trick is to cover it with willow screening.