When we first moved here the garden was pretty much devoid of plants. There was rough field grass (left to grow to over 2′!), a couple of Euonymus (‘Emerald Gaiety’ and ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’), and a large conifer in the corner. We were overlooked by over half a dozen houses, which I hated.

This was my first garden, so I devoured books to try and work out what to do with the space. Lots of them recommended that, in a small garden, the best thing to do was hide the boundaries so that the eye was deceived as to where the garden began and ended. This was rather counter intuitive to me, but I am so grateful that I followed their advice! Fourteen years on and you can barely see the back fence.

Back Right Corner

The large conifer has been joined by a black stemmed bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra), Fatsia japonica, and behind the deciduous shrub (some type of Philadelphus, I think, it was a refugee from the front garden) another bamboo and Euonymus ‘Green ‘n’ Gold’.

Back border by silver birches

Further round the silver birches sit in front of the Aucuba japonica crassifolia that I blogged about for GBBD and the Canry Islands Ivy (Hedera canariensis). Further round to the left is Mahonia x media ‘Charity’.

Right hand boundary

The right hand boundary used to be similarly smothered, mostly with a very vigorous honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenmum ‘Graham Thomas’. It did what honeysuckles tend to without regular pruning, and grew woody at the bottom and only flowered in a great lumpen sprawl along the top of the fence – and in to my neighbour’s garden. I put off renovating it for years, as I didn’t want to put up with the bare boundary or deprive the birds of a favourite nesting site, but this year I got around to it. It is already growing back, vigorously, there are Blue-tits nesting in the bird-box, and we have planted a variety of other climbers to extend the season of interest. We have Clematis montana ‘Sunrise’ (allegedly a lot less vigorous and invasive than the standard montana, with scented pink flowers), Clematis koreana ‘Blue Eclipse’ (pale blue bell-like flowers from April to August), Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ (a viticella with delicate deep purple flowers in late summer) and the beautiful climbing rose ‘Mme. Alfred Carriére’ with fragrant white blooms. We’ll see, the profusion of bamboo poles is supposed to help us train them well over the willow trellis, and we have promised ourselves to keep on top of the training. Watch this space…

Willow Screen for Polytunnel

Although I love our willow trellis, I much prefer living willow screens, like the one above partially hiding the polytunnel I talked about on Anglesey. Jacqui, who built the screen and helped me to build a willow fence around the cutting garden there, also built a wonderful living dome for her children to play in:

Willow Dome

I love boundaries made with natural materials rather than tanalised fence panels, they always seem so much more beautiful, though this one hides a secret:

Hazel screen

The beautiful hazel screen surrounds the beehives kept on the local playing fields next to the allotments:

Hazel screen for beehives

I’m so glad they didn’t use conventional fence panels, and the willow was coppiced at the local Woodland Trust-managed Lower Woods, part of the ancient Avon forest. I’ll take my camera there and show you how beautiful it is next spring when the bluebells are out.

What I secretly long for, though, is a good hedge. I’ve been collecting beach seedlings – we get loads every year from next door’s tree – with ambitions to create something beautiful in the future.

Beach Hedge

I love the way that beach retains a lot of its coppery leaves over winter, they sing out against blue skies.

Beach hedge with fence and wall

29 thoughts on “The Importance of Boundaries

  1. Dear Janet, I could not agree more that a garden to be really effective needs to have a sense of mystery….boundaries one is unsure of, paths which lead one on to discover new treasures, and screens to ensure that only a portion of the garden is revealed at any one point. Over the years, your garden has matured significantly and is certainly providing all these elements, with some wonderful plants too. Beech makes, I feel the most wonderful hedge and does grow quite quickly from even the smallest of saplings.

    1. Hello Edith, thank you for visiting. I’m glad to hear that beach grows quite quickly, though I don’t as yet have anywhere to plant my dream hedge!

  2. Very nice boundaries and I love the hazel screen. The beech is great grouped and is pretty to look at in Fall.

    1. Hi Donna. I think the hazel is my favourite too, I’d love to be able to grow enough to coppice for myself!

  3. My favourite boundary is my brick wall that separates my garden from the road. The only bad thing about it is that it faces North. Two other boundaries are formed by larch-lap fence panels — very unlovely, but I suppose they are quite practical. Hedges are nicer to look at, but I find them hard to maintain.

    1. Hi Mark. Brick can be beautiful, and adds that extra warmth that can be so useful. My dream house has a walled kitchen garden! Fence panels are indeed very practical, there is a close-board fence of tanalised timber lurking behind the greenery at the back of our garden.

  4. Janet
    Good to find you on Blotanical. I wish there were space for living willow fencing in my tiny plot, but do so enjoy seeing it in other gardenscapes. The copper beech hedge : an ambitious project to plan for!

    1. Hi Alice, thank you for dropping by! I haven’t got to grips with Botanical yet, but look forward to finding you on there. You are right, living willow is not for the small plot, so invasive and it sucks all the moisture out for quite a distance! Beautiful though…

    1. Thank you Tina! I certainly prefer them to staring at the wooden fence panels behind!

  5. Janet, what an inspirational post! It never occurred to me to use natural materials as a screen wall. I am looking for creative solutions for screening — tired of the “living in a fishbowl” feeling.

    1. Hi Shyrlene! Good luck with the fishbowl feeling, really not a good one. If you can get hold of some attractive stout poles for uprights, you can use pretty much anything to weave in between to make a screen. Dogwood perhaps? Or different coloured willow stems? I bet you could come up with something wonderful…

  6. Hi Janet, Your boundaries look great – very well planted. It’s going to take us some time to get ours established, we’re still pulling out old hedges that had been neglected, died in the middle and bloated out into the garden. We started to plant new native hedge plants last winter (ash, hazel, wild rose, spindle…) but the cows reached over and pulled half of them out, and ate the tops of most of the rest. Think it could take a while to get our boundaries growing back at this rate! We’re hoping to plant beech or hornbeam for a hedge at the edge of the front garden, to replace a monstrous evergreen hedge that has gone rogue there too… so we should get to enjoy the lovely autumn colours. I love those living screens of yours though, wonder if we can incorporate some of them in…

    1. Hi Sara. What a pain about the cows! Maybe you need to concentrate on hawthorn and blackthorn until it is established? Bet even cows wouldn’t go for that… On Anglesey they used Rosa rugosa for boundaries a lot, because they were bunny-proof! Do please try some living screens, I can enjoy them vicariously!!

      1. Oh yes, there was quite a lot of both blackthorn and hawthorn in our mix too – but when they’re so young they still have little defence against a hungry cow… we kept finding the dying whips that had been pulled out and dropped nearby if they were rejected for food. Very sad. Our two young filbert/cobnut whips were rather harshly “pruned” by the cows too, though they seem to be surviving still. Pesky cows. Will definitely think about living screens… they are rather fantastic. I may be asking for tips! Sara

  7. Very nice photos of your garden.
    I have always liked gardens that had secret paths and have a bit of a labyrinth layout.

    1. Hello fer, I agree, a little mystery in a garden adds wonderfully to the atmosphere.

  8. Boundaries certainly are important, and like the way you have hidden your fence with a variety of plants. Watch the bamboo. Some can become extremely invasive. I think a beech hedge would be fabulous. Hedges do take time and patience, but are worth it.

    1. Hi Deb, thanks for dropping by! I’m lucky with the bamboo, I chose a clump-forming one, and in the places I’ve planted it it behaves very well. I did have one in much richer soil that looked like spreading beyond bounds quickly, but I moved to where spreading would be a blessing!

  9. Your garden is so lush and you are right about not even seeing the back fence. I don’t have a garden per se but I have potted plants lining the perimeter wall.

    1. Thank you Bom, good to “see” you on my blog! Your plant-chasing adventures look amazing…

  10. You have made a good job of your boundaries – lots of inspiration here for anyone moving to any of our modern housing estates.

    I had a similar problem here too. My only regret is that I didn’t find out about pleached hedges earlier – I’d love to have one, but it won’t fit with the eventual design we put together.

    1. Thank you VP! I love pleached hedges too, though they are the kind of thing that only works if you can commit to maintaining them consistently and well. Not sure my life would allow that, but who knows, they are a stunning feature.

  11. A most thoughtful, informative and enjoyable post Janet. We have a beech hedge but I wish that we had gone for an evergreen :) Look forward to seeing the Lower Woods in spring.

    1. Thank you Anna, what a lovely comment to have. Am hoping for a good dry patch of weather at bluebell time, as the Lower Woods get VERY muddy, being based on heavy clay and with a stream running through. True “lose a welly” land!

  12. I don’t know how I missed reading this post until now. You are so right, that hiding a boundry with shrubs is the most effective thing to do. If you’re lucky and neighbours have good trees or shrubs; they visually become part of your garden because the boundary ‘isn’t there’. Rosa Mme. Alfred Carière is a real climber in that it wants to go straight up and flower at the top, maybe best for the side of a house! It does have one big advantage in that it will tolerate shade. Oak trees do the same thing as beech here in Italy but I haven’t seen any hedges. Great post, Christina

    1. Hi Christina. I agree, “borrowed landscape” is a wonderful way of extending and blurring your own boundaries. It works particularly well when you are surrounded by other houses, it helps give an illusion of greater space. Am a little worried about what you say on Mme. Alfred Carière. We chose it for shade tolerance and long flowering fragrant flowers, seduced by a picture of blooms smothering a fence. If it is another like the honeysuckle, only flowering at the top, it won’t do what we wanted it to at all! Watch this space…

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