Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fence Conundrum -- What to do?

HELP! My yard needs more privacy. We need fencing...but what exactly do I want? What would be the best choice? I am wrestling with what to do. (pictured here, "corn stalk" fence in garden district of New Orleans, courtesy justanuptowngirl, flickr. I'd love this!!)

Our property is in the town center, set back from the Main Street, just behind a small lovely town park.

My side yard garden (seen here) is separated from the park by a small access road. It is south facing and is highly visible to foot and car traffic. This is where the sunny stream bed and garden are located. This area needs a small fence to give a sense of separateness from the public spaces around us but which does not block the view of this more public aspect of my garden.

On the other hand, the back yard feels like a more private shade garden with a row of huge old pine trees along the back property line and a big maple tree in the center of the area. I have shade gardens here and have planted a dozen or so rhodys and hydrangeas. In this area we have a picnic area, a terraced patio area and a small back deck. It is peaceful, shady and feels secluded...except for one big thing..... just beyond the 100' tall pine trees is a 4 story brick elderly housing complex. Our yard is separated from that building by a 4' chain link fence, owned by the complex. On their side there is a walkway and a small green space. In addition, beyond the trees on the far side, there is a small parking lot. So, although this area feels serene the reality is that dozens of apartments look out and down onto our yard (tho through the pine branches). Additionally, the pine trees do not have branches on the bottom 10-15 feet, so the yard is actually totally exposed to the chain link fence, complex walkway and the first floor apartments. This area needs a fence that provides more substantial privacy. But I don't want it to stand out or make a huge statement of its own.

As you can see........I need help!!

Here are the things I am factoring in:

Style Issues:
The side yard needs to be open and airy feeling while the back yard needs to create privacy and block some sound. The "style" of town center is moderately historic New England. Emily Dickinson's house (museum) practically abuts our property. On the other hand, our house was built in the 1950's and is a one story, mid century house that was "colonialized." We are downplaying the colonial aspects.... ie we removed the eagle above the front door, will soon paint it "November Sky" a slightly funky blue-grey instead of white. Oh, and every other house around us is 1800's Victorian.

The fences need to be fairly durable as there is a lot of pedestrian traffic near the side garden, potential people horsing around and crashing into it as there are many college students around us. The few neighborhood school kids' bus stop is on our corner. Out back, kids sometimes play ball and other games on the walkway so it may get some "abuse" from that.

It needs to be reasonably priced. We are doing many renovations to this house and have other things we want to spend money on. The fence is not the highest priority for expenditures. We have some skill and availability to build and / or install it ourselves so it seems wood is likely to be the material of choice.

Ok..that being said, what ideas, suggestions, pictures do any of you have to throw into the consideration pile?
My blog ears and eyes are all yours!!

Leave your comments/suggestion. Send your garden blog friends over to add theirs!
Remember, my garden is on the annual Tour in June. Yikes!!


Kylee said...

Oh goodness, I am not the person to give advice about fencing, but I'm so jealous about your proximity to Emily Dickinson's home! That is just too cool. I have been drooling over her herbarium for over a year and one day I will own it.

Vanillalotus said...

I have no idea about fencing. The first one you showed it lovely maybe another metal type fence that blends in like that but still has some details. Have you considered maybe growing some vines to separate or cover the areas. I love vines and am always in awe when I see fences just covered in them.

Frances, said...

You have lots of issues to deal with here. Have you considered a thorny but attractive hedge in the front? We have used a grouping of Rose Glo barbarries as a barrier to the very close and not that nice rental house next door. It is a dense planting, but a zig zag double row would work for you. Or a picket fence to tie in with the neighborhood, maybe painted a more funky color to not be so colonial. In back, we have the same thing with large pines that have no lower branches. I am working on building a berm and planting with burford hollies, but for your place, maybe a stockade type fence would be best with some evergreen plantings underneath to soften it, a mix of conifers and broad leaf shrubs of various colors might work. Hope this helps and thanks for visiting.

Frances at Faire Garden

Melanie said...

Ok, I've been scrolling up and down looking at your photos. Your sunny garden and stream are beautiful! I agree, you shouldn't put something there that would block the view of that garden from other people.

The evergreens you have in the back are very similar to mine, bare on the bottom. Here's my recommendation (worth about a penny for my thought)

In the front/sunny area I'd go for a more formal cut of post & rail fence and in the back I'd choose a lattice privacy fence. I'd use the same types of posts on each style fence (just different in heights) to tie them in together. Posts come with different style tops/caps so you want the same top on all the posts.

If your house was victorian I'd say a picket fence, but it's not so I wouldn't go with the picket. I'd also not recomment painting it white because the fence under the evergreens will get pollen from the trees and then get mossy. If you want to paint it a color, go for a deep green that would blend in with the trees. Otherwise find a shade of wood stain that compliments your new house color and stain the fence once. Then it can age naturally from there.

If you go to google images and type in "post and rail fence" and "lattice fence" you will instantly get lots of photos to see.

This was fun :-)

Layanee said...

I love wrought iron fences! The corn stalks are a bit extravagant for New England though and even the simple styles could get a bit pricey! That is what I would like to see in the front on the corner but Melanie's suggestion sounds very practical. I think a solid fence in the back in a neutral color would give you privacy and enclosure. I can't wait to see what you choose!

joey said...

Good grief! Much to think about, Carol, but you are wise to think issues through. The 'corn stalk' fence might be one of the loveliest I have ever seen but I'm sure is pricey. How about a natural hedge of taxus yew (clipped formal or left natural) to mask the chain link fence. Or boxwood (often fine in dappled shade.) In other areas you might consider a piece of fence incorporated with boxwood.

You have given us all much to think about! Don't rush ... fences (natural or otherwise) are a long term investment. Good luck ;)

WiseAcre said...

A split rail fence in town might be a bit too rustic. A picket fence may fit in better out front.

The side yard bordering the parking lot - I liked the idea of planting shrubs.

A stockade fence may be ok but I'd make a custom fence. Solid to about 4 feet high topped with a shelf then 2 feet of lattice. To soften the look - back to the shrubs.

Hard to believe I can't find a good photo - this is the best I could find in a reasonable amount of time

Board and Lattice Fence

I'll have to go to town and take a photo of the fence I'm thinking of.

kate smudges said...

Hi Carol,

I love the stream bed and garden in your side garden. The iron fence would be a great idea - except for the cost. (my neighbours have a very simple iron fence that is about two feet high ... it is simple, but does the trick - you might be able to find second-hand iron fences. It's worth a look.) Otherwise, a simple, sturdy wooden fence would look good too as would a live hedge.

In the back, my suggestion would be a wooden privacy fence. They look good - using an interesting lattice pattern. You have cool chairs!

Blue Fox said...

Hi Carol, thanks for your visit and nice comment on my blog! I'm here to return the visit! I know this may not quite fit in with the 'use and abuse' aspects of your requirements but Kim has some lovely ideas for twig fences on this site that you might get inspired with:
This also might tie in quite nicely with Frances' idea of vines covering the fence...enjoy!

Blue Fox said...

Oops, sorry, I guess it was Vanillalotus who had the vine idea!

Ross said...

Hi Carol,
Thanks for stopping by my blog and for the comments. I love the front garden, with the stream, and I agree with Melanie that you've got to show it off!
I'm not sure if it would fit in to the style of the area (or how it would look?), but looking at the bare trunks of the pines, I was thinking it might be interesting to weave something between them. Possibly something with a bit of colour?

Shady Gardener said...

I like the front "living fence" idea... just a very short version (18" high?) so as not to block the beautiful view! I'd love to drive by. ;-)

I notice a backyard neighbor has a wooden fence. I like the fence idea you recently came up with. The upright sawed logs are interesting. The fence would match your yard, and from the outside, only the wooden slabs would show... just like a "regular" fence.

Thanks for letting me in on this fun! ;-)

Nan Ondra said...'s probably not helpful to give you even *more* links to look at, but...if you need additional inspiration, you can find a whole lot of different fence styles at the Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop we did back in December. Here's a link:
Good luck with choosing the perfect fence. Whatever you go with, I think you'll be thrilled with the difference it makes.