My six this weekend are all about the boundaries because I am celebrating getting my privacy back. Long term readers of this blog will know that my old neighbours neglected their garden and it was overgrown with a thick barrier of ash and sycamore trees between our two properties which gave me reasonable privacy.
When the new neighbours moved in 3 years ago they did what any of us would do and cleared the garden. It was quite alarming for me as I suddenly felt like I was in a goldfish bowl. All the screening above the fence line was gone. This might not seem such a big deal but our gardens slope up from our houses and so with all the angles you often feel like you can be seen by your neighbours in your garden and they can see you which I don’t like.
Then to make matters worse because the garden had been neglected for so long the fences hadn’t been cared for and in some places it was only the trees and shrubs that were holding things together. So over the past two winters the fences have disintegrated or have bits missing and it has looked a real mess.
Not any more, they have had the fences replaced and we now have a lovely 6ft fence which is rather beautiful. Sadly, for the neighbours, as they are at the end of the road they are responsible for all the fences around their property so this must have cost a lot but I think it is fab. Suddenly, I have my privacy back and it brought home to me just how much I had missed that privacy. I think there is actually even more privacy than before as the fence is higher than the old one.
Not only have I got my privacy back but I have gained about a foot along the fence line. I need to fill in the trench left from where they dug out all the old tree roots etc but once I have done that I can play around and give some of my plants more space. I had left some Hawthorne seedlings grow up in recent years in anticipation of new owners clearing the garden and now I think I will cut the Hawthorne trees back to create more of a hedge along the fence which will in turn allow my Liquidamber tree to have more light and thrive.
The new fence at the end of the patio. The fence here was previous held up by a variegated ivy that I planted which was OK. The bamboos in pots were added when they cut all the trees down as it meant they could see straight from their garden down on to my patio which was horrid. The new fence is higher and somehow I think has obstructed the view but I think the bamboos may stay. Now they have a smart backdrop I may think again about what is around them and smarten it up.
As I am fixated with fences at the moment I thought I would include my back fence which you can just about make out through the undergrowth. The garden slopes up to it and last year I removed the path that used to run along the top of the garden as it was never used and was a waste of growing space. I am encouraging a wild and hardy exotic look up here. There is a huge thistle which has appeared from somewhere which sort of messes up the look of the planting but I was intrigued to see how big it would grow. Behind it is a fig tree which I had to prune hard last year as it had a lot of long branches going off at angles and I wanted more height than width. This year it is smothered in figs. I need to work out when I am meant to harvest them and what to do with the fruit as I don’t think I’ve eaten fresh figs before.
And finally my side fence which is the same style as the neighbour’s new fence but shorter. I thought I would include this as my final six as it another boundary photo and includes my marmite rose which I included in a previous post. I inherited this rose when we moved in about 16 years ago and for years and years it had one or two flowers. Then my other neighbours also indulged in some heavy handed pruning and cut everything back hard meaning that the rose suddenly benefited from light and more rain and this is the result!
It’s all been about the boundaries the last couple of weeks with a new fence along one boundary and tree surgeons sorting out the neglected beech hedge.
I find myself wondering if this is me staking my territory again now that we aren’t moving, bit like a cat. But if I’m honest the fence was on the to do list before we put the house on the market and in fact the old fence was only staying up right as it was tied to the tree.
Who knew it was possible to get so excited by a fence. I love this fence. It is so solid and robust and I love the colour. It blends in the with garden and isn’t that horrid garish orangey brown you used to get. If you look in the top photo you can just about see how the angle of the fence as it goes up the garden. To accommodate the fall of the ground the fence has been made bespoke and has such a better quality to it. The only mild irritation is the black electric housing which takes the electricity to the workshop. We have agreed that we will reattach it so it isn’t so obvious.
I’ve taken the opportunity to re-plant the area in the photo above. This is the first part of the grand plan – well it’s not that grand a plan, just various ideas I have had. This bit of border has been difficult ever since we moved here. I have tried various things and the badger has had a good go too. I’ve improved the soil and have moved an Abelia from elsewhere as its such a robust shrub I think it will do well and hopefully thwart the badger. Like Jekyll I really rate Bergenias as a good foliage and ground cover plants so I have added two to fill this space with wonderful foliage to give interest all year round. I’ve also added some crocus to the snowdrops that are already in this space somewhere.
In the front garden the tree surgeons have reduced the beech hedge by around two foot in height and trimmed back the sides to improve the whole look of the hedge and make my neighbour’s life easier when they get out of their car. I have been ignoring the hedge and had let it get away from me but now that it has been reduced I think it smartens up the front garden and it should improve the light to that side of the space.
So those are the boundaries sorted – now I have the bit in the middle to do.
As gardeners we need to be continually adapting, whether it is to changing weather patterns, replacing ailing and much loved plants or in my case losing the tree canopy from the woodland end of the garden; to the extent that there is no woodland.
I have been anticipating this change for a number of years now. Ever since the couple who lived next door split and their children went to University I knew it was only a matter of time before the house was sold and new owners would be tackling the garden. I don’t think in the 13 odd years we have lived here that my neighbours had ever done any gardening other than cutting the grass, chopping off the odd branch that got in their way and weeding the driveway. The garden had obviously been much loved by their predecessors and there have always been signs of good plants hidden amongst the undergrowth. The house was on the market for a year and during this time I have made sure that I planted some shrubs in the woodland border to replace the tree canopy should new owners tidy up on the boundary line.
The new owners finally took up ownership about a month ago. They are a young family full of energy and enthusiasm with two sets of grandparents helping to sort out the property before they move in. I found myself wondering how the house felt yesterday as over the last few weeks every weekend the air has been filled with the sound of sanders and drills and I think they have painted every room in the house – they say the interior was as neglected as the exterior. But more fascinating to me has been the gungho attitude to sorting out the garden. One of the grandfathers (or ‘olds’ as his son refers to them) is a dab hand with a chain saw and strimmer. On the first weekend they set too in the front and by the end not only did they have a pile of debris some 10 foot tall but you could actually see the far front corner of the house up which was growing a beautiful climbing hydrangea. They have worked along the furthest boundary, finding a shed on their way and yesterday it was the turn of our shared boundary.
Having been blessed with complete privacy from this side of the garden ever since we moved here it was rather startling to come round the side of the house from planting in the front to see two men clearing the fence line. They have removed the majority of the trees and intend to remove the sycamore and ash trees as well. The intention is to only keep a large oak tree, which we didn’t even know existed, and some prunus. The large sycamore is going as its roots are pushing over the retaining brick wall that holds up the garden – my reaction is ‘hoorah, no more sycamore seedlings!’ They think they have doubled the size of the garden already; certainly they have gained something like 6-7 foot along our fence line and probably 15 along the back fence. You can just about see the difference if you compare the two top pictures and they still have a lot to clear so the sunlight levels should increase further.
The impact on the garden has been quite dramatic with sunlight flooding in to what was the shady part of the garden. The shade had been so dense in the past that the ‘lawn’ was just moss which is partly why it was dug up. Being a perennial Pollyanna I am trying to look past the fact that they can see into my garden and vice versa and focus on the fact that the patio is now much sunnier which means that it might be worth getting a couple of nice chairs. I don’t have to group all my sun loving pots down one end of the patio any more which means I can arrange things better. It also means that I had to spend some time today moving the shade loving pots to the opposite side of the garden into a smaller area of shade and replacing them with pots of bulbs which should really benefit from the extra light.
It will be interesting to see how the shade loving plants cope and whether the shrubs I have planted will give them enough shade. There are a couple of self-sown hawthorns in my garden along the fence line which I have deliberately left for some years and they are now higher than the fence so I will allow those to grow up into trees and provide some privacy. But what I am really interested to see if whether my perennials which have a tendency to lean towards the right of the garden will straighten up if they are getting all round sun-shine. It really is quite fascinating.
I am sure we all have bits of our garden that we really struggle with and to be honest turn a blind eye to. I also bet that those areas are ones which are possibly in difficult to get to parts of the garden, or have difficult growing conditions. My challenging spot is the top right hand corner, as you look from the house; it’s the corner behind the workshop. As you can see from the photo above the corner suffers from the shade cast by my neighbour’s trees mainly the Elder which is right in the corner. This has two large conifers, probably leylandii behind it which form part of the hedge along my neighbour’s back boundary.
But having battled with the elder for years I was thrilled the other evening to get a visit from my neighbour asking if I minded them cutting back some of the branches on the maple to the front of the shed. During the conversation she mentioned that the tree surgeons would be cutting down the elder and the two conifers. I felt a little bad later at how enthusiastic my reaction was; maybe saying ‘Oh good, I really struggle with that tree..’ is a little selfish! I was thrilled when I got home on Friday, just before the light faded, to see the transformation. Not only had the tree surgeons done a very neat job with no debris on my side of the fence but the amount of light that is now flooding in on that side of the garden is amazing. It isn’t only the light but the fact that the elder, in full leaf, created such a rain shadow at the top of the garden that I have struggled to grow anything. As you can see there are three bamboos along the back fence. The one to the left of the picture above is much taller than the others, in fact the third one has hardly put on any growth since it was planted some years ago and I am really hoping that with the increase in light and moisture the plant will start to thrive. I am now revisit what plants I can use to plant around the bamboos and maybe I can now consider something more exciting than is presently there.
If there was ever a book written for an anti-social recluse like me it is this one. Well so I thought, but actually Landscaping for Privacy changed my way of looking at creating privacy and has certainly given me food for thought.
The author, Marty Wingate, starts from the point that we are all living more closely together, that our outside space is more and more precious and that we really don’t want to see, hear, smell or be aware of what many of our neighbours are doing or have them know our business. Some people may say that this is a negative comment on society and shows how it is breaking down with us not engaging with our neighbours but in my opinion society has been always been like that. Most of us are happy to engage with our neighbours but on our terms not have it forced on us.
Whilst Marty looks at a range of issues: fencing out wildlife, preventing trespass, buffering sound, reducing pollution and creating windbreaks there were two areas that really grabbed my attention. Firstly the whole business of screening unwanted views or from my point of view giving me some privacy from my neighbours. I live on a housing estate which when it was built was designed to be very open, no hedges or fences in front gardens etc. However, I like my privacy and so to address this I have planted a laurel and beech hedge and some trees in the front garden. They went in around 5-6 years ago when I was more horticulturally and design ignorant and they just don’t work (see photo below); consequently I avoid the front garden. However, the answer is in this book. Putting a large hedge in isn’t the answer; it might hide the view but it creates a large block of planting often monotone which you have to look at and not get any joy from. Instead Marty suggests creating buffers which are consisted of “a mixture of evergreen and deciduous shrubs to provide a year-round green strip and to let in some extra light during the winter months’. Add some bulbs and perennials and you have something interesting to look at all through the year and you are creating a screen from your neighbours. It is just so obvious I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. This idea has fed into my plans for the front garden which will include formalising and reducing the lawn, creating deeper beds and adding layers of shrubs. I may even pull out the laurel hedge which just isn’t, and never has been, happy.
The second really interesting idea I took from the book was how planting can help improve the ‘climate’ in your home. I had picked up on this idea earlier in the year in a report on urban gardening by the RHS but this really set it out in a clear way. You can insulate the house with plants which helps to keep it warm in winter and cool in the summer. “A ring of shrubs planted within a few feet of the house creates air space that acts as an extra layer of insulation, keeping in the heat during the winter and providing cooling shade in the summer” This is quite fascinating to me as my house is surrounded on all four side by paving – not my doing it was put in when the house was built – and I have been wondering about lifting some in order to try to plant some climbers up the walls. Also if you think longer term you can plant trees in such a way that they will provide shade for the house in the summer. “For best results, plant a deciduous tree at least 1oft away from the side or sides of your home that receive the most sunlight.” You need to choose a tree with a round shape and broad canopy to maximise the shading. It’s all food for thought and there are plant lists throughout the book to help with that thinking.
Landscaping for Privacy is aimed at an American audience; I hadn’t heard of some of the plants and there are references throughout to sidewalks, city ordinances etc terms we don’t use. However, the problems are the same wherever you live so it is easy to look at the ideas and transplant them to your garden using different but similar plants. I particularly liked the ideas for hiding wheelie bins and began to wish that our council would introduce them just so I could have a stylish cupboard!
If you want to hide certain views, stop people or animal walking across your garden, beautify existing boundaries then this is certainly a book worth a look.
I’m a person that needs a project to motivate myself. Without a deadline or plan I have little impetus to get going. As we are heading into Winter my thoughts are turning to next Spring and what I want to try to achieve in the garden. Anyone who has read this blog for a while will know that I have been trying to find an identity for the slope at the back of the garden.
When we moved in 6 years ago the back slope was dominated by a huge Laurel. I found the above photo which was taken in April 2008 but it didn’t survive much longer than that. The Laurel drove me mad as it dominated the view of the back garden as well as sucking up all the moisture from the soil around it. I knew when it came out that my view would change dramatically but decided to go for it anyway.
Behind my garden is the a bungalow. As we are on a slope the bungalow is about the same height as my upstairs windows so this now means that we look straight into their garden and vice versa. This didn’t really bother me as we now had a good view of the Malvern hills. But over the last two years the neighbour’s washing line has begun to irritate as well as the neighbour. He is one of those little men who has to stick his nose in things that are nothing to do with him. He also has what I call the ‘scorched earth’ approach to gardening. From what I can see there is little growing in his garden more than a couple of feet tall. However, what really irritates me about him is his refusal to let anything cross the boundary line so my beautiful Prunus which must have been there for years, gets butchered from his side on a regular basis. It is the only flat backed Prunus tree (as you can see from the photo).
I did win a small victory this month as when he informed me that he was pruning the tree again back to the fence I told him that he would be getting rid of the prunings. He started to argue, last time I came home to a pile about 4ft high thrown over my fence. Luckily after the last time I had checked my facts and informed him, with more authority than I felt, that he was required by law to offer me the prunings but if I didn’t want them then it was up to him to get rid of them – and I didn’t want them. Well that didn’t go down well but it made me feel better!
Anyway, I need to sort the fence out as I am sick of looking at it – to me it dominates the view. This year I bought a beautiful Vitus to grow along the fence to cover it and provide some fab autumn colour. Needless to say as soon as my son started to drill the holes for the vine-eyes irritating neighbour was peering over the fence wanting to know what was happening (we share responsibility for the fence). I went for climbers in order to cover the fence and also because if I plant a tree or large shrub it will get massacred by the mad neighbour and I don’t want that to happen. However, I have now got to the point where I don’t want him to be able to look over the fence, nor do I want to look at his house or his washing line any more.
So I have decided that the best plan will be to plant some bamboo along the fence. I have a large clump forming bamboo which I have divided before successfully so I think come the Spring I will divide it again and plant at least two clumps along the top. No doubt that will make mad neighbour twitch as of course all bamboo is known to be invasive! I will move the Buddleja down the slope a little and I am going to add a dwarf Crab Apple to add a little height but far enough from the fence to protect it. I might move the vine to the side fence as I don’t want it getting destroyed by his pruning. I am thinking that if I use Bamboo as the backdrop then I can add shrubs etc along the top of different heights etc to produce a thick shrubbery which he can’t see through. Hopefully the Bamboo will grow tall enough to block the house from the view but still leave me the hills.
If you have any bright idea of plants I can plant along the fence line that will grow tall but won’t grow over the fence please let me know – all ideas will gratefully be received. I have even considered Leylandi but this would cast a huge shadow in my garden so that’s out.