Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop – Walls and Fences Revisited

– Posted in: Garden Design

Fence along driveway midJuly 05

To kick off Year Three of the Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop, we’re revisiting what has turned out to be one of our most popular topics: fences, walls, and other means of creating enclosure, separating spaces, and adding privacy and protection.

There’s a lot to be said for not having walls or fences: unenclosed gardens usually appear more spacious, and good air circulation helps to keep plants sturdy. But in some cases, they’re a necessity: when, for instance, you need to keep something in or out.

Emmaus garden Spring 97 Emmaus garden with Gwennie 98

In my previous garden, a solid fence was a must-have. With a busy side street just a few feet away, making sure my Shelties (including one super-energetic puppy) stayed safe was high priority. I would have loved a taller boundary for more privacy and sound screening, but both my budget and local zoning rules nixed that possibility.

Kitchen garden fences June 22 07

When I started my current garden in the middle of 4 treeless acres, one of my first priorities was creating a bit of shelter for a small kitchen garden and propagation area. A 6-foot-tall “shadowbox” fence on the south and west sides and 4-foot picket-style fence on the other two sides did a good job blocking the worst of the wind, with the added benefit of providing a great support for trellising peas and climbing beans.

Arch and gate and fence along side garden Sept 27 07

Second priority was figuring out how to divide up the blank slate: to separate what would be the closely gardened area around the house from the meadow, naturalistic plantings, and shrubbery. With plenty of setback from the road, and dogs who at this point rarely left my side, a more open fence was an option. Post-and-rail is a common style here in Pennsylvania and well suited to the rural setting. At 4 feet, it’s not nearly high enough to keep deer out, but for the most part, they seem to go around it, except for occasional forays in during the winter.

Stone walls at farm 2009

Beautiful stone walls make me weak in the knees, but I quickly accepted that there’s no way I could ever afford them. Rocks are certainly plentiful around here, but they’re mostly small and uneven: less than ideal for wall-building. There are still some remnants of old walls on my parents’ farm next door, but they’re basically loose piles of rocks gathered when the land was cleared long ago for farming and roughly stacked along fencelines.

Orchard entrance June 22 07

When I started preparing planting areas, those piles began to make a lot of sense: it was much easier to use the abundant small rocks as edgings than to haul them away and find a place to dump them.

Rock wall with Sedum Teucrium Ceratostigma My Love June 25 07

Besides serving as dividers between paths and beds, the low stone “walls” also work well as frames for the looser dug-up planting areas, creating much-needed raised beds.

Boulder wall Pennsylvania 2008

Other properties in my neighborhood have much larger rocks. Usually, these boulders are left in place, but in this case, they were arranged to create a serious stone wall. I think they’d have been better left where they were.

Triple Flip Wall Vermont 2008

I’m more inclined to admire rocks used artfully, as in this amazing drystacked “Tripple Flip” built by Thea Alvin of My Earthwork. Granted, something like this is more of a landscape feature than a garden wall; who would even notice plants around something like this?

Ok, back to more practical issues, and your turn to share your thoughts on and photos of walls and fences, in your own garden or those that you’ve seen on your travels.

  • Do you already have a wall or fence – either one that you chose or one you “inherited” when you bought your home? Are you pleased with it, or would you like to replace it with something different?
  • Have you removed an old fence and decided not to replace it?
  • Do you not have a fence or wall now but wish you did? What kind would you get if money were no object?
  • Do you use walls or fences to enjoy vertical gardening – in other words, to support vines, climbers, or espaliers?
  • Have you used  a wall or fence as an aesthetic feature: as a focal point, or to frame an eye-catching entrance?

If you’re new to the GGW Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop, here’s how it works: Write a post on anything related to garden walls or fences on your own blog and give us the link below, or simply leave a comment if you don’t want to do a separate post. If you’ve written about the topic in the past, those links are equally welcome; it’s not necessary to create a new post to participate.

I’ll gather all of the links into one summary post for easy reference. It’ll go up on February 27th, so if you could get your links in by the 25th, that would be great.

If you’re interested in checking out previous Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshops, you can find them here.

Amsonia hubrichtii against viburnums late May 07

Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

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13 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Sylvia (England) February 4, 2010, 5:17 am

Nan, I love this subject but I look to US for ideas about open plan gardens, these are never written about or pictures taken in the UK. The media pretend they don’t exist except at Chelsea Flower Show! It was looking for ideas for my front and side garden that I found garden blogs, this blog was the first one I read regularly. I will enjoy all the posts on this subject, one day I will have a fenced/walled front garden again!

Best wishes Sylvia (England)

Hi Sylvia! When I started gardening, most of the books and magazines I had access to were about British gardens, and I drooled over all of the pictures of gorgeous walls. Even though I’m more into the naturalistic look nowadays, the idea of walled gardens still speaks to me.

Dave February 4, 2010, 9:02 am

I really like how you’ve used your fences. I’m a fan of the split rail fences and wish we could put up something like that around our yard to set up our boundaries better. Other projects are the priority right now though. As usual this workshop will be a great way to get some ideas for the future!

Thanks, Dave. I can imagine that a split-rail fence would be perfect in your setting – especially the meadowy area where you plan to put the orchard.

Sweet Bay February 4, 2010, 9:59 am

I love what you’ve done with the fencing on your property. It’s beautiful, and combines really wonderfully with that Blue Morning Glory (mine never have that many flowers!) and the Amsonia. I love the low stone edgings too.

If money was not an object I’d have some low stone fencing put it. There’s a lot of that in Chapel Hill NC and I really like how it looks. The only “ornamental” fencing I have now is a post-and-rail fence several hundred feet from the house that was put up in case a horse got loose. I’ve been growing roses on it, which is nice because some roses are impossible to train on a trellis.

I have to say I really like that “Tripple Flip”!

Ooh, yes – post-and-rail fence can be great for many of the climbing roses (except for the really big ones)!

If you want to see more examples of amazing stonework, check out the site of the woman that built “Tripple Flip.” Really breath-taking stuff.

carolyngail February 4, 2010, 12:11 pm

Hi Nancy,

Great post on fences. I have mine up here: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.

That was quick! Thanks for the contribution, Carolyn.

Frances February 4, 2010, 3:23 pm

Hi Nan, I never tire of seeing your gardens, studying every photo for details. Your kitchen garden looks wonderful, I love those gravel paths and the pot too. Is it okay to just use the post I wrote the first time around with this workshop? It was our first real post! 🙂

Garden Bloggers Design Workshop-Walls And Fences

That’s just fine, Frances. It’s a post that’s definitely worth revisiting!

Becky February 4, 2010, 7:17 pm

In our garden the walls that Ed loves to build are the hard structure that support the soft plants and flowers . Now in the winter, the stone walls stand out and are the centerpiece of the garden. Once the plants return , they will fade into the background, but always remain like good cheekbones on a beautiful woman.

What a lovely analogy, Becky!

Jess February 4, 2010, 8:40 pm

I have to have a fence due to living in an urban environment, but I actually prefer the wild and free kind. That said, ever since I read The Secret Garden, I’ll always want one of those.

Hi there, Jess. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I love the name of your blog (Children of the Corm – heh!).

andrea February 5, 2010, 1:12 am

I am just a bystander looking at the developments in your garden. Amazing feats. Lovely blooms after the renovation, especially the blue morning glory at the door. But the rock art is something special, i wonder if there are permanent holds inside those loops. Splendid creativity!

Believe it or not, there’s no interior support in those arches. The artist specializes in amazing feats of rock balancing. This is just one example; there are lots more on her site.

Gail February 5, 2010, 8:13 am

Absolutely love this post! Would that I could afford it I would have a whimsical roller coaster stone installation! Isn’t it incredible!

I am so looking forward to all the participant posts because ‘Hedge’ ( has to be replaced at my garden. Then there was the Plea to Mr I to tear Down This Hedge ( The links are for fun ~I want to do a followup post this month of possibilities we have put together!

Now I must go back and look over those photos they are chock full of great ideas.


Terrific, Gail – thanks for the two links. I should have mentioned hedges in the post, because of course they’re a great option for creating enclosure where space allows. I look forward to seeing the new ideas you come up with!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter February 5, 2010, 1:16 pm

I’ve finally become reconciled to the chainlink fence that runs along the east side of my garden. I mentioned it in a post I wrote this week about a fox and a squirrel that I could watch from inside my house because I hadn’t done anything to camouflage the chainlink fence. Another of my fences has changed since the last time I wrote about them for this workshop. I’ll have to write about it.

Thanks, MMD. Here a direct link to The Tale of the Fox and the Squirrel. It would be great to have an update on your other fence project – thanks!

Cameron (Defining Your Home) February 7, 2010, 6:14 pm

A wonderful topic! I love the examples and photos you’ve provided.

I have posted a story, Garden Walls and Fences on my blog to describe how the cottage garden fence came to be in my garden.


bloominrs February 14, 2010, 11:14 am

Hello Nan,
I have made a post about our low stone wall. It’s not professionally done, so maybe you can take a look at the post and determine if it is appropriate for the design workshop.
low stone wall.

I love your post and rail fence, and always love low growing plants hanging over rocks.

Heather's Garden February 26, 2010, 9:26 pm

I know I’m a little late to the party (I started writing the post on the 7th, but got distracted), but hope I got this to you in time to be included.

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