The role of a boundary in a garden is to define a space, whether that’s the whole
plot or an area within it. They have many functions, from providing
privacy and intimacy to forming the backbone of the entire garden
design. A brick wall, garden fence, gate, hedges and trellis are all options for creating the boundary you desire.
Why Build a Boundary?
Dividing spaces often makes them seem larger, especially when the
different areas are then given a specific use, such as for formal dining
or as a play area for children. You don’t need tall barriers to create
the divisions – you can achieve the same effect with low walls, woven
screens, and see-through planting. The idea is merely to suggest a space
and purpose. Using screens also means that the divisions are temporary
and can change as your need for different spaces evolves.
Garden boundaries have the fundamental task of containing the site and
providing a physical barrier to intruders, prying eyes, and the weather.
In most gardens they are highly visible and form the backdrop to
everything else. When designing with boundaries, there are two
approaches: either try to blend them in, or make a feature of them. Once
in place, the materials and style you choose are hard to change, so
design your boundaries carefully.
Beyond the Boundaries
Garden boundaries don’t have to block views or be continuous and
unbroken, and can be used to lead the eye to specific features. Niches
clipped into hedges provide a prime spot for a statue, while trellis
panels inserted into fences can reveal a neighboring focal point. Alter
the height along the length of your boundaries to give a varying sense
of enclosure and openness. Gates don’t just provide access, they can
also be used to frame views in or out of the garden and can be made
features in their own right.
Within the garden, leave gaps in divides and screens to give a taste of what lies beyond. This will also allow you to take full advantage of garden features by enabling them to be enjoyed from different angles. Be creative with the design of your garden, and consider how and from where you will view its features.
Materials to Consider
When deciding on what materials to use for garden boundaries, it is important to consider the overall design first. Aesthetically, natural materials suit traditional designs better but can look out of place in contemporary plans, and vice versa. On a practical level, think about durability and what the boundary is for. If it’s intended to keep people out or to act as a windbreak, you’ll need something sturdy. Likewise, if your garden is exposed to the elements, even temporary internal dividers will need to be fairly robust. Maintenance is also a factor. Hedges need trimming regularly in the summer, and fences last longer if treated every year. Even walls need looking after.