Great Garden Walls - Page 3

Fencing that extends your home's clean lines and rigorous geometries into the wide-open outdoors

The linear character of bamboo inherently creates a strong line and surface pattern on a fence, and the textured surface allows for interesting shadow patterns. Costs, of course, will vary depending on the construction method, but bamboo is typically a competitively priced material. In part this is due to bamboo's light weight, which makes it less expensive for suppliers to store and ship.

Concrete blocks, referred to in the building trades as concrete masonry units or CMU, can be used to make landscape walls that offer a high degree of privacy. Because of concrete block's durability, most homeowners who reside in desert climates prefer this type of construction. The cost of a block wall is considerably more than a typical post supported wood fence, but the higher initial cost can be justified by the longevity of the product.

Concrete block walls have an inherent structural quality that is well suited to modern architecture. The addition of pattern blocks to a design adds interest and a sculptural quality to the design. During the mid-century there were dozens of pattern block styles to choose from. While the variety available today is somewhat limited, there are still many options readily available.

Glass panels set in either wood or metal frames are turning up more frequently in modern gardens. Fencing that includes glass has a strong architectural feel that is entirely consistent with the mid-century modern design goal of blending the building into the landscape.

Beautiful when lit at night, glass also offers the option of clear or obscure panels that allow for views or privacy depending on the situation.

During the postwar period a variety of new materials became available for residential construction, including corrugated panels made of fiberglass or asbestos. While neither of these is sold today, corrugated plastic panels are available that provide the same look and feel.

Plastic panels in a wood-frame fence can add an exciting splash of color to the garden perimeter. These translucent panels allow light into a space while blocking sightlines, so they are ideal for enclosing small patios or other spaces where privacy is desired.

Metal a naturally strong material that sends a strong design message, so it should be used with care to avoid a harsh or institutional look. Like concrete blocks, the cost for material and installation of a metal fence is higher than for wood, but the life expectancy for the finished product justifies the greater expense. Galvanized, painted, or powder-coated finishes add durability and design punch to metal fencing.

Tall wood and wire-mesh fences are common in areas where foraging deer can invade the garden. This type of fence is a bit different in that it is not used to create or define spaces in the landscape. Used in situations where privacy is not an issue, the primary goal for such fencing is the creation of an invisible, but effective barrier.

Simple wood frames with a natural weathered finish and metal-mesh panels painted a dark color are the standard design strategies. Screen planting of shrubs and small trees helps hide deer fencing and supports the illusion that there is no boundary to the garden.

If fences are the walls of the garden, then gates are the doors—and they deserve special attention.

In most cases, gates should call attention to themselves because they are an entry point to the garden. Differentiating the gate from the adjacent fence with a change in materials, color, or proportions helps visitors navigate their way through the landscape and find their way into the garden.

A less obvious approach might be better for service gates or gates to storage areas. Rather than compete for attention, secondary gates are often designed to blend in with the fence line.

The ideas that are important to the planning of a successful garden gate are similar to those that guide the design of a home's door.

The gate should be wide enough to accommodate easy movement of people and things in and out of the garden. With this in mind, every garden should have a gate with a minimum four-foot-wide opening so that large objects or quantities of material can be brought in as needed.

If space allows, a second service gate, perhaps wide enough to accommodate vehicle access, is always a good idea. If that is not possible, incorporating removable panels into a section of the fence is an option.