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SHARING SECRETS: Making Fences a Garden Asset

Ellie Knight's Pallet Fence

Edited by Tina Ivany.

Small yards, tall wooden fences. What have you discovered that incorporates boundary fences into your garden, making them an asset instead of a reminder of limits? (Thanks to Barbara Crawford for suggesting this question.)

Deborah Young (92024): Painting the wooden fences with a transparent grey-green stain has given the impression that the garden extends and is a world unto itself.

Ellie Knight (92028): Downsizing our property from 1½ acres to less than ¼ acre, I still needed a substantial work area that wasn’t always neat and tidy. The logical area was unfortunately visible to the neighbors, the street, and a dining area. The problem came down to being able to screen this area with something that still allowed air circulation and blended well with the garden. I had worked before with pallets to display succulents, which gave me the idea to explore this possibility. I was able to obtain three extra-large ones. We removed enough of the slats to open them up a bit and placed them so the slats on top were vertically oriented, facing the garden, leaving several of the internal support 2 x 4’s to serve as narrow shelves for small potted plants. For support, we purchased round tree support stakes set in holes with cement, and then used metal half-ring hardware to secure these to the sides of the pallets, leaving a small space in between pallets. Since I still needed another three feet, we added a small pallet already planted with succulents at the end. We used a soft green translucent wood stain for the whole thing. Now it almost disappears into the garden, except for the many small unusual pots of succulents, and window box planters screwed to the tops (see photo above).

Diane Kennedy: I'm a permaculturalist, so stacking functions is a large part of design. A 'fedge' is a food-hedge, or shrubs that can act as privacy and boundary fences but also provide food for both humans and animals. Guavas, citrus, or any non-deciduous fruit tree or shrub will work as well as fast-growing clumping bamboo. Bamboo acts also as a barrier against dirt blowing in from neighboring properties, helps clean the air from roads, makes a rustling noise to cover road sounds, makes good goat fodder, can be used as building material, and, if an edible variety is planted, then it will also provide bamboo shoots for stir-fries.

Stephen Zolezzi: The right plants work to create rooms without a fence or wall to construct and maintain. You can even put a roof on the room with the right tree.

Steve Zolezzi's Garden Room

Rene Freeland and Family: Trained grape vines work well on boundary fences to turn them into beautiful fruit-producing boundaries. Morning glories also work well, for us, anyway.

Kathy McKee: We grow westringia along our boundary fences and find that it makes a lovely frame for the rest of the landscape. Westringia makes a strong hedge-like frame and requires little water and no care, except for cutting it back when it grows too enthusiastically.

Gail Nye (92116): A dark brown wooden fence is a beautiful backdrop for flowers.

Louise Anderson: Fences are a good place to hang outdoor artwork.

Tina Ivany: The Water Conservation Garden has a great before and after photo showing how the focus was taken off the fence in this backyard makeover.

Cheryl Leedom (Escondido): Our yard is only fenced on one side, so critters are free to come and go. We’ve created habitat for them and we have a game camera set up in our backyard, so we can see who comes to visit at night and during the day when we aren’t looking. We get coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, possums and rabbits. During the day, we see an array of songbirds and quail and the occasional egret from Lake Hodges looking for lizards.

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