Continuing my series of articles for 2019, Materials For A Purpose, I am going to be discussing how best to choose the right materials for your desired purpose and how they best fit into the design of a space. I want to get you thinking about the options and how the right selection can give you a cohesive, timeless solution rather than a predictable, uninspiring result.
This month I want to investigate products used for screening in the garden.
Fencing is a very obvious way to screen and delineate a garden boundary and it certainly comes in all shapes and sizes. Last summer I designed and built a small Cambridge contemporary courtyard garden. The space was viewed on all sides through the bifold glass doors so the fencing material needed to be higher specification and quality to act as a back drop to the planting. I used horizontal slatted panels that allow some light and give a contemporary flavour to the space and complemented the granite paving. In sharp contrast a simple boundary fence in a large country garden could be feather edge boarding or split chestnut post and rails. For a smarter option the woven willow looks great!
Trellis panels are a good way to extend the height of your fence by an extra 600mm (2ft) and allow light through. The standard shapes are square or diamond and this allows for that extra amount of screening. Generally I would grow climbers such as Clematis or golden hop up and through the trellis to soften the effect. I find that gardens can look box like and claustrophobic with too much fencing. Simply adding shaped borders and breaking up the amount of wood the eye looks at will help to eradicate the rectilinear feel that fencing gives.
Shelterbelt planting is my go to solution for softening and greening up the screening effect. By shelter belt I mean a collection of planting that will act as a block for wildlife, colour and interest. This is useful in more rural locations where post and rail fencing is more appropriate and cost effective over a long run. Mixed native shrubs will soon grow up to provide all year round interest and a wildlife habitat at the same time. In urban back gardens this is even more relevant where wildlife habitat for birds is being eroded by low maintenance, sterile outdoor spaces. Planted back gardens can provide a corridor of habitat for our wildlife linking spaces together, but if there is no planting the gardens cannot link. I love to use hazel, guilder rose, dog wood, spindle, hawthorn, holly and crab apple to name just a few!
Lollipop trees have become popular to screen specific views in outdoor spaces. The stem of the tree is clear to a given height with a shaped crown on top to screen the neighbour’s windows. It is often justifiable in a garden budget to spend on single ticket items to give instant solutions. I generally like to plant sensible sized plants and let them grow, but there are many more options available now. I like to use Ligustrum japonicum, Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Umbraculifera’ Laurus nobillis and Photinia ‘Red Robin’. There are other choices from specialist nurseries and it is worth selecting the trees in person to know exactly what you’re getting. This is especially relevent when selecting more than one. One year I had a client that sold off part of the garden so needed several specimens to screen off the new development of houses at the end of the garden.
Pleached trees are a very smart solution to screening issues in the garden. A pleached tree is essentially a hedge on stilts and is a great way to give controlled interest at height. I like to use Carpinus betulus and Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ to name just a few. It does give a very deliberate effect and always reminds me of national trust gardens.