Garden Boundaries – some Garden Design bites

| December 16, 2013 | 3 Comments


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.Pleached copper beech, a symphony of border pereenials and a sympathetically coloured wall makes patrolling the boundaries a complete pleasure

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.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Category: Design Bites, Garden Planning, The Planty Stuff

Facebook comments:

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. I like using a boundary to borrow a view, and in the dry west, it can be done with one of our courtyard walls! Too bad most clients don’t want to pay for it here…yet. One famous LA in Phoenix, who has clients more willing to do things up all the way, considered gardens his “stage sets”, and would sometimes create a gap in the wall, that opened up one view line towards a mountain or someone else’s planting.

    My old house wall blocked all views of neighbor windows and the street, from sitting and even casual walks outside, and were open to the mountains you pay extra to live near.

    No images can work well, as in your case given your eloquence, I can visualize it all so well!

    WordPress behaved for me, but it doesn’t always do that. Maybe my 31-photo-upload messed it up for the UK folks? :-)

  2. […] Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK […]

  3. Robert says:

    Hi Dave,
    Didn’t we do well posting, considering we r the only ones?
    Yes when well done the borrowed landscape is fabulous.
    Thanks so much for your supportive comment.
    There is actually something wrong which we have asked our web guy to fix.
    In the mean time at least I tried which is more than can be said for some people!

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.