Why might garden boundaries matter?
Well, ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’!
‘Man the barricades!’
‘Repel all boarders!’ It is caveman stuff, right? A gentler sense of this atavistic instinct is the perfectly understandable desire for privacy.
But it does make good gardening sense to exclude the neighbours’ hell-raising kids, their pack of marauding dogs and their voracious and rather smelly goat!
Take donkeys for instance. I mean everyone loves donkeys, don’t they? But these three would love a good munch on your border perennials. They are even manfully (donkeyfully?) tackling the stock proof hedge. Thank god for the fence!
Successful garden boundaries can also of course give shelter, keep your kids and pets safe, reduce traffic noise and ultimately help sell your property. It is definitely a sound legal principle to maintain distinct boundaries since rights given over time can become entrenched in practice and ultimately in law. So a good hedge, sound fence, wall,
or even a moat (!!), is best. Though we would recommend stopping short of installing vats of boiling oil on the ramparts!
Within any boundary there will also be other ‘defences’. From a design perspective successfully handled garden boundaries can exclude an ugly view, certainly from one angle if not from all. A dextrously planted tree can work wonders. It is therefore worth thinking carefully from where you see most of what you hate the most. A solid wall of light-excluding leylandii is bad for all parties really and in UK at any rate is now illegal.
Better is a mixed, baffling, veiling screen, part evergreen and part deciduous. Employ climbers on any fences and it is also worth planting in your garden a little of what your neighbour grows, (providing you like it of course). Add some billowing borders and you have reached the garden designer’s nirvana: you have ‘lost your boundaries’.
Here a dense boundary screen, some dramatically vertical central plants and the strong garden design has successfully diverted attention from two neighbouring greenhouses beyond.
But of course it is not always that simple because there might be something simply stunning beyond your boundary which if glimpsed might become a focal point in your garden and give your garden a sense of place. In this case you might actually pierce those careful visual defences.
Here a delicious oval aperture in a boundary wall provides a pleasing vignette of the surrounding countryside. It is the proverbial ‘borrowed landscape’ – another Garden Designer favourite! The view could be well be of a distant hill, a church spire, or an art deco cinema. And you might even, within your garden , lead up to them suggestively. Hummocky shrubs might mimic the hill and fastigiate shrubs the spire. The art deco cinema? Yes well that is a difficult one. Maybe get busy with the topiary shears!
Losing your garden boundaries or ‘stealing’ the view beyond are not the only games in town. And definitely not when those very boundaries become objects of interest in their own right. It is often contemporary gardens which frankly acknowledge the boundaries with chic.
Queue ‘Quercus’ sustainable oak woven fencing which is the rich man’s version of larchlap.
Or the narrowest of arrow straight hardwood battens against which architectural flora such as Pseudopanax crassifolius might strut their stuff like exotic creatures in a night club.
Walls are as much part of this sassy urban vibe. They might be poured concrete inset with panels of living wall:
Walls can be dramatically coloured, heavily textured or simply elegant:
Here Robert Myers harmonizes the boundary wall with the planting and draws the eye towards it with lateral paths ending in plaques of text incised on creamy stone.
Of course, once you abandon the idea of garden boundaries as something to be ashamed of, all manner of things are possible.
Take a pleached walk right around your boundary. Back it by a hedge or a wall. Plant beneath the pleaching and you have fully explored the space you have and doubled your privacy. Trunks of pleached trees look stunning as they march along – a classic vibe with a contemporary feel. A strong heart to the centre of this garden could then create a complete feel for the space.
If all this is too complex for you it is worth remembering that a good quality, well maintained hedge is a beautiful thing in its own right and can be the perfect background canvas for plants, garden buildings and topiary.
Here a modern and minimalist approach to the landscape shines out against a beautifully clipped Hornbeam hedge.
By way of total contrast of course, if you are less territorial and more ecological, allow gaps in your boundaries so fauna can move through the neighbourhood as in a wildlife corridor. Your boundaries could act as food resources if your plantings are rich in berry, nectar and habitat provision. You are saving the world.
And so the possibilities of boundaries are boundless. We have just scratched the surface in this post. But maybe sufficiently to show you why as designers we are constantly busy!
Robert and Lesley.