Are you ‘on the fence’ about how to section off your garden? Wooden posts and panels and their synthetic alternatives may provide instant privacy, but costs can be high and lifespan limited. A natural border, made of plants, is a viable solution that will not only improve with time but is often much more aesthetically pleasing than man-made fencing.
While traditional fence panels offer very few benefits to surrounding wildlife, a natural fence can become a thriving habitat for small mammals, birds, insects and arachnids. As well as providing seeds and berries for food, a hedge offers a safe tunnel for transport and a place to nest. Increasing numbers of European wildlife species have become endangered thanks to industrial-scale farming and urbanisation destroying such habitats, the time is therefore ripe for replanting natural borders.
What plants to choose
To achieve year-round foliage and visual versatility, select a mixture of deciduous and evergreen species. Holly, boxwood, privet and laurel are all popular evergreen choices and should be balanced with an array of four or five different flowering and fruiting types such as blackthorn, wild roses, hawthorn, dogwood, hazel and beech. Layering plants and shrubs isn't only more interesting on the eye, but also more resistant to disease. Once the hedge is established you can underplant with wild flowers like primroses and violets and allow clematis to climb up through it for an extra dash of colour.
What not to plant
Enthusiastic gardeners often make the mistake of choosing fast-growing bamboo to create immediate privacy with a natural screen. Although it's undoubtedly quick to grow – up to 50 inches a day – bamboo can soon become difficult to control. It's best to resist the temptation for quick results but, if you are determined to include bamboo, opt to plant it in a pot to prevent it spreading through your garden.
When and how to plant
Autumn is generally the best time to year for planting your natural fence. Position your bare-root shrubs in rows about 30 centimetres apart and use plenty of compost and mulch. Avoid plastic tubing around the stems as this restricts growth at ground level but, if rabbits or deer are a problem in your garden, protect the roots with some wire fencing in the short term. Prune well in late winter for the first few years, after which the hedge will fill out and establish itself.
A hedge is the most natural way to define boundaries but trees, with their greater height, can provide a further sense of privacy. The Thuja Green Giant is very fast growing and can rise to 50 feet tall, it also has the benefit of being tolerant to drought. Lombardy poplars are often used as windbreaks and can grow to six feet in a year. Smaller trees like Japanese maples and magnolias make lovely focal points and, when combined with shrubs, add colour and visual interest.
Engel & Völkers are passionate about exclusive homes and gardens in all corners of the globe. Our expertise, established in over 700 locations, has given us an outstanding breadth of knowledge, allowing us to offer you professional support across all aspects of real estate.