Screens and hedges
I have had a few projects recently where boundaries and screening have been an important element of the design. When I meet with clients for a consultation visit I always review boundaries – both between adjacent properties or the road and between different areas within the garden – sometimes there are fences, sometimes hedges, sometimes walls and each has its own pros and cons and of course, associated cost.
I am often invited to look at a plot already enclosed and secure with closeboard fencing and my challenge is to provide planting to hide the fence itself! I usually suggest painting the fence dark brown which takes it into the background and then consider the aspect. If the fence is on the south side there will be no sunlight at all which restricts the planting choices; in the garden below which has the additional challenge of a very dry situation because of the big trees behind I have used Viburnum, laurel, Pyracantha, Aucuba and a shade tolerant climber Parthenocissus henryana, but it will take several years to grow. This fence would be better dark brown but clients don’t always take my advice….
The garden entrance below is situated on a busy main road and the 1.8m high brick wall provides security, noise and visual screening. I am using a Silver Birch to give additional screening and specimen sized evergreen shrubs in well prepared ground to give the planting a good start. I would normally advise training climbers on wires on the wall but this was done for a property developer so it’s a very low maintenance result.
The bamboo ‘hedge’ against the dark painted fence below provides good colour contrast, additional height and a real contemporary look. This client also wanted to prevent the next door neighbour looking over the fence from higher ground the other side!
One year later…
The property below already had a secure chain link fence boundary but occasional unwelcome visits from deer - it wasn’t very attractive either. I installed 1.8m deer mesh screening behind a copper beech hedge and made the boundary itself an ornamental feature with contrasting golden tree foliage, Catalpa aurea, as a focal point at the end of the drive.
It is often difficult to balance the wish to keep an open view and the need for privacy. I saw a garden last week with no boundary enclosure and a view of parkland but the couple have two young children and a small dog so security is a priority. We could use dark green chain link fence which is secure, invisible and does not limit the view but it allows others to look in too. One option might be to use a louvred panel which, from the higher standpoint of the house, would allow sight of the parkland behind but stop casual dog walkers seeing in. Slatted panels or trellis are other options – it will be interesting to see what they decide.
I planted a beech hedge on Saturday at a beautiful property where there are three young children and associated football goals and a trampoline. The hedge will screen the goalposts from the driveway and an archway through the hedge will give us a ‘view’ from the front door through to a focal point – perhaps three bright white silver birch trees against the rhododendron background.
I lost a couple of plants last year when I moved our semi mature beech hedge in the front garden. I replaced them with root balled plants – more expensive but supposedly more reliable – I will see in a few weeks if they have taken.
We often walk the dog at Windlesham Arboretum and were surprised on Sunday to see they have undertaken a massive hedge planting project – literally hundreds of metres of hedge whips planted to keep people to the footpaths I assume.
The method used is interesting. The land is very low lying and wet so drainage ditches have been dug alongside the hedge run, whips have been planted in slits in landscaping fabric and then protected with rabbit guards. The membrane allows rainwater through but not weeds and acts as a mulch to help prevent moisture loss. Most of the planting appeared to be hawthorn (though it is very difficult to tell from whips!) with some areas holly. In the grassed areas the plants were simply inserted into a slit made by a spade – no digging, very quick method!
The drought and hosepipe ban will be a problem to these hedges and of course any other new planting or lawn turfing work. I have written to Veolia Water to request an exemption to the hosepipe ban for new planting projects because I expect clients will be hesitating before they go ahead with new landscaping work.
The weather is so lovely – it’s hard to wish for rain!