In small townhouse gardens like mine, I’ve found that fences not only make good neighbors – they help create “garden rooms,” the sense of enclosure that makes you want to spend time there and enjoy some privacy. Or at least the feeling of privacy.

The role of fences came home to me recently when one was installed along the border of my back garden. Above, the scene this spring.

What changed is a new dog running around the garden next door, and he needed a fence.

Voila the fence, and I love it.  The simple boards reinforced with black wire mesh keep Seymour in, and it’s affordable, as fencing goes. The style and the stain color match the existing sheds and hardscape, and even the International Style architecture of our row.

There are plans for a ‘Flame Thrower’ redbud to be planted just on the other side of the fence.  And between the chairs I recently planted a ‘Snowflake’ oakleaf hydrangea that will quickly be 6 feet tall, filling in this space completely. 

Imagine it in a couple of years when it looks like this one a few feet away in front of a privacy screen.

I have two ‘Tangerine Beauty’ Crossvines that I’ll train along the top of the fence. They’re evergreen, so they’ll be a major feature the other half of the year.

On the right of the Japanese maple is the beginning of what will be a big patch of Joe Pye Weed, soon to be 6 feet tall. Chain link fencing in the distance is now hidden from my view.

Speaking of…fence styles matter!

I’m so relieved that the style and stain color of the fence match the existing sheds and existing hardscape. I really lucked out because my co-op rules allow fences to be erected without any prior notification to nearest neighbors, much less coordination with them.

But our views are enormously impacted by fences! Imagine coming home to suddenly see fencing you HATE along your garden’s border – now a prominent feature in your view from every angle in the garden, porch, living room and bedroom window.

In my case the hated fencing is chain link, which to me looks fitting in junkyards, not residences. I understand it’s functional but even its defenders don’t claim it’s pretty.  I found one curious discussion of strategies for dealing with a neighbor’s hated chain link fence, with ideas including painting it black (good) or white (terrible), and growing some good vines (clematis) and one horrible one (English ivy).

At The Spruce it’s noted that chain link is “not known for its privacy or aesthetically pleasing properties. Other than being an inexpensive, effective method of keeping pets and children safe, chain link is sometimes viewed as a blight on yards. In fact, some communities even ban chain link fences in incorporated, residential areas.” Condos and co-ops, too, almost universally, except mine.

And this source opines that “chain link fencing can make a backyard feel like a prison yard.” Exactly.

(End of gratuitous rant about chain link.)

Why all the fuss over screening?

Because my co-op severely limits the amount of built screens we can have, the 6-foot fencing that separates townhouse back yards just about everywhere. I ranted about it in post: “Historic ‘Garden City’ is Surprisingly Anti-Gardening.”

Where a flag once proudly waved

Where I planted the new hydrangea was previously reserved for the flying of a U.S. flag – every day. I mentioned it in a rant called”Flags in other People’s Gardens” in 2014: “Like it or not – and for holidays I kinda like it there – it’s a dominant feature in my own garden and from my porch.”

The flag was hung by my former neighbor, a veteran, and his lovely English wife. They were great neighbors and I kept my feelings about the ever-present flag – in all the wrong colors for my earth-toned back garden! – to myself.  

They’re gone now and I miss them, just not the flag.  I like seeing flags on special holidays, which they make me think about. A worthy purpose. When you see them every single day flags lose their impact entirely.

Photo by Amanda Rose Spaid.

Now my garden is being enhanced with a nice-looking fence, more large plants, and many more bird visits, thanks to the abundant feeders installed by the new  neighbors. And occasionally they send me photos like this one of a Black Swallowtail on my Joe Pye Weed.

I’m loving my back yard more by the day.