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Friday, February 22, 2008

The Fence Post

There are many reasons for wanting to install a fence on your property. One common reason is security. You could be telling the world "Stay out, this is mine" or you could be telling your children or pets "Stay in, this is where you belong".

We installed fencing the first summer we moved here. One side of our property backed a home that was facing a busy road. At the time our girls were 6 and 2 years old and we feared that they might wander off and quickly be in the middle of traffic.

We didn't know much about landscaping back then but our house and the property seemed rustic and countrified so we went with a wooden stockade fence. At that time, vinyl fences were not available around here so they weren't even a consideration. We had three estimates and actually chose the highest one because it was for the best quality cedar fence. This fence has been here 11 years now and shows no sign of nearing the end of it's life.

Our home is almost 50 years old but was built to resemble a 200 year old Williamsburg colonial style house. The front is covered in stone, so is our inside wall in the living room. There is a breezeway between the house and the garage although the foundation is one piece for the whole structure.

We loved the breezeway and I was especially in love with the little wild cottage garden I grew in front of it. Over the years though we noticed a major flaw with having an open breezeway. Strangers would come down our driveway to go to the front door, but if they saw us in the backyard they felt quite comfortable just walking through the breezeway and coming to speak with us. That doesn't sound so bad, except when you find you are in your swimming pool with two little children and a strange man walks up to you to try to sell you steaks off the back of his truck. Get out!!!

Early last year we had a fence installed to close off our breezeway. Instead of something disappearing from view, I wanted something that visually said "stop here". White stops your eye, dark colors fade from view so a white fence was what was needed to form a visual barrier. A month later we had masons come in and replace the old patio and front walkway. It was an amazing transformation. You can click on my label "hard-scape" to see last year's post showing our new masonry.

In our town there is a law that states you must fence in a swimming pool. You can fence just the pool or the whole property. Every year there are tragic drownings because children have access to those swimming pools. We absolutely hated this white fence the previous owners put around our pool when we moved here but it was a necessity with small children around. What a relief when the girls grew up and we could remove this fence. Our yard still meets code because it is entirely enclosed in fencing but at least we could get rid of this big white zit (blemish) in our yard.

We had friends who moved to a house a year after we moved here. They too had a pool in the yard but it wasn't fenced in separately. I urged them to reconsider a white fence and instead suggested that they put a black fence around the pool. If I had a photo I'd share it with you, the black fence just totally disappears from your view when you look out at their yard.

If you haven't been able to tell yet from my previous posts, I really hate white vinyl fence. Ok, maybe hate is a strong word. I don't mind the white vinyl picket fencing but when it comes to white vinyl stockade, yes, I hate it!

Today it's snowing outside and other than a day like today, there's no time in nature that one sees a huge expanse of white. In the winter those white vinyl fences look so cold and stark to me. In the summer they're even worse, totally not a part of nature. The huge expanse of white grabs your eye and takes away from anything else in that area.

Above you are looking at a bed we built along the back of our pool (once the white fence was removed) and behind it you can see our cute shed. Did your mind even look at that wooden stockade fence? Probably not.

Here's a picture taken from the same exact spot just a year later. What grabs your eye? Could it be that unnatural expanse of white? Does that white fence do anything at all for the rustic country garden? Scroll down to my last post and take a good look at how "white" that fence is just two years later. The whole selling point on those vinyl fences is that they are maintenance free. It sure doesn't look maintenance free to me unless you want to look at long expanses of moldy plastic.

Sometimes a fence is installed for decorative purposes. White picket fences in front of cottages are perfect examples of that reason. I adore white picket fences but they just wouldn't suit my home. Here you can see a perfect white picket fence outside the little cottage at Westbury Gardens. Be still my beating heart, I just love this sight.

Here at our old country home, the decorative fence along the front property line was a split rail fence. This fence was already old when we moved here 11 years ago and has finally begun to fall apart. Still, I would like to replace it with something very similar. Maybe a slightly more formal post and rail style with three cross bars but still in natural wood finish.

Up the street my friend Gianna also has split rail along her property line. It's just enough to mark the boundaries of her front yard and not so strong a viewpoint that it pulls your eye away from her delightful sea of blooms.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't think fencing should be the main focal point in a landscape. The house, garden, shed, or something else should be what draws your eye.

Yesterday as I drove through town I really looked hard at all the types of fences people have. Whether the house was an old victorian, a typical 1950's high ranch or even a modern angular house, I never saw a place where a white vinyl fence added to the beauty of the home.

Googling fences brought me countless beautiful images. If you know of a photo that would add to this thread, please post the link to it in the comments section. I'll be on the look out for more photos too.

It's still snowing outside, time for a walk.



GardenJoy4Me said...

Hi Melanie
You are so right about fences and what they can, or shouldn't do, for the over all look of your home and garden.
We are packed in pretty close here and I would love a very TALL privacy fence .. hubby and I both agree on cedar, if we ever did get to that point .. Perhaps if people aren't of the garden soul persuasion ?, it doesn't bother them?
I think no matter what our skill level is, gardeners want to make their place as natural looking as possible .. and that includes hardscaping and structures.
We had a beautiful little court yard in Holland .. I so loved the privacy .. and little pond and little gold fish .. one swam lopsided when the poor little guy lost a fin on ice that formed in the pond over a VERY unusually cold winter there .. we called him "Lefty" .. I don't think he minded too much : )
Great post !

Melanie Vassallo said...

Joy, if I had a small yard, (our last one was quite small) I know exactly what fence I'd want. It's called a lattice fence. If you want to see an example go to:
scroll down and you'll see the word "fence" on the far left side of the home page. Let your mouse hover over the word "fence" (below the word "browse"). Then click on semi-screen fence. The top photo is the kind of fence I'd like. I can't tell if this one is painted dark green or some other dark color. I like the idea of dark green or dark brown or even just a clear wood stain.

This kind of lattice fence gives enough privacy and yet doesn't make your eye stop short.

Hmmm, Lefty? HAhaha

Cabs said...

Thanks for your great input on fencing. You have validated some of my concerns about installing a large white fencing..and I agree totally with the comments on vinyl. Lots of good things to think about!

Anonymous said...

white fake fence .... not nice at all
good post

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