Fantastic Fences Without That Fenced-In Feeling

Andrea_44/flickr (crop)Does the idea of a fence around your yard make you feel ... well ...  fenced in? Some homeowners like a nice neat boundary to mark exactly where their property ends and their neighbor's begins. But then there are other folks, free-spirited types who love unrestrained air flow and an unrestricted view. You may fall into the second group if you read Robert Frost's poem and relate more to its opening, "something there is that doesn’t love a wall," than to the more famous "good fences make good neighbors," which is all too often quoted out of context. Even so, you do reluctantly recognize that fences have their place in the scheme of things, whether for blocking out what you don't like (such as street noise or the curious glances of passersby) or protecting what you love (for example, your pets and/or your prize roses). Here are 5 fences that will serve a useful purpose without making you feel too fenced in.

Twig Fence -- A friend who chooses to be known by the moniker Gardening Gma is happy to share the charming sight of her front yard flowers with passing pedestrians. Although she is not so enthusiastic about the neighborhood dogs' attempts to use her grass as a handy restroom, she chooses to keep them at bay with the most discreet fence you could imagine -- a dainty little barrier built of repurposed twigs. Now if she could only come up with a similarly ingenious solution to stave off those pesky squirrels!

Hedge -- Even though a hedge qualifies as a type of fencing, it is green and alive, meaning it doesn't feel as confining. Start off a successful hedge with plants that are dense and fast-growing; species which grow 24 or more inches annually won't take long to reach a very respectable height. Look for something with low water requirement after the first year. Privet is a traditional favorite (but beware -- it is classified as invasive in some areas of the US). Remember that, unlike a standard fence, your hedge will need regular trimming to keep it looking neat and to encourage hardy new growth.

Stone Wall --  A wall constructed of local stone is a sustainable fencing solution. More than that, it naturally blends into the surrounding landscape in a way that few other materials do. Your stone wall will look beautiful and could quite conceivably stand for centuries with little to no maintenance, since it will be resistant to common fence problems like fading, fire, rot, and termites. If you live in an area with harsh winters, though, you will need a fencing pro to dig deep into the earth to stabilize the wall with a frost-proof footing.

Lattice -- Openwork lattice fencing will let the passing sweet breezes blow through your yard and will admit a generous helping of sunshine as well. If woven-look lattice's wide open spaces are not sufficient to meet your need for privacy, consider having a solid fence put up instead, but including strategically placed lattice "windows," or topping your fence with a foot or two of latticework.

Chain Link Fence -- Yes, you read it right. Chain link fence has acquired a bad rep over the years -- it is generally thought be unattractive … er … let's rephrase that as downright ugly. Whether you installed this affordable fencing yourself or inherited it when you moved into your home, chances are excellent that you don't enjoy its looks. However, humble as it may be, a chain link fence does have a few definite virtues. It's affordable, sturdy, and easy to take care of. It also allows for ventilation. Your fence will serve you very well if you just invest a little imagination. For example, add concealing panels of reed or bamboo -- or plant jasmine or Virginia creeper to twine its way up (and hide) the chain link.  

Laura Firszt writes for

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