How to Choose the Materials for Your Garden Walls and Fences


Stone Walls

Several types of stone wall have been illustrated. There are many more and their appearance will obviously depend very much on the type of stone and the way in which it has been used.

Dry’ stone walls have no mortar. As a consequence they have to be quite thick, at least towards the base if they are to be free standing. Alterna­tively, they might retain soil on one side. This would give them stability and allow plants to grow in the face of the wall. They would, however, need a backward lean (a batter) for extra stability if they were more than about 450 mm (18 in) high.

Garden Walls Materials

Mortared stone walls are obvi­ously stronger and if they retain soil, do not necessarily need a batter. In many cases they would have a concrete block wall behind for extra strength. A mortared wall can be made to look rather like a dry stone wall by having the mortar deeply ‘raked’ out of the joints. Thick, free-standing mortared stone walls which are at least two stones wide can have a smooth (fair) face on both sides. Walls only one stone thick can normally have only one fair face. Manufactured stones are available for the construction of a very similar style of wall.

Brick walls

Again, there are many styles displaying different brick ‘bonds’ or patterns. These are always mortared and require a substantial concrete foundation. If the bricks in the wall are not likely to be frost resistant, a damp course of engineering bricks will be needed just above ground level and possibly near the top of the wall. In addition, some form of coping or tile ‘creasing’ will help to keep the rain off. The style of coping gives the designer a chance to add character to the wall. Even the engineering bricks could be extended into a pattern running through the wall. In some areas, any wall over about 1.8 m will require planning permission. A combination of brick and stone can look very effective with panels of stone framed by brick. This could match stone crazy paving which has been edged in the same brick.

Rendered block walls

These are cheaper than brick but some measures have to be taken to ensure that dampness does not creep into the blocks and push off the rendering. The rendered surface can be further deco­rated with a stippled (Tyrolean) finish, or be painted. Again, some form of coping will be necessary. Visually, this might match some nearby paving, at least in colour if not in texture.

Screen blocks

These ‘see-through’ patterned blocks have been available for many years and every now and again new designs come on to the market. They produce a very weak wall and need frequent piers. Although their own concrete ‘pilaster’ blocks will make adequate piers, brick or stone provide a more attractive and stronger alternative. This is a good example of where two different materials can be brought together with great effect.

Timber walls

Railway sleepers (from railway tracks) can be made into attractive walls by installing them vertically or horizontally.

These walls could be free standing as in the case of a screen around a rubbish bin area, or be in the form of a raised bed or a retaining wall in front of a bank. Unfor­tunately, they do tend to exude tar in hot weather and will eventually decay. Portions of telegraph poles and other (pressure-treated) wooden poles can be used in a similar way.

Timber screens

These include many forms of trellis. Some are simple, others highly ornate. If part of its function is to support plants, then the trellis may as well be simple and functional since it will soon become covered. The more ornate trellis may be left unplanted and in constant view. In many cases, the trellis would be made from pressure-treated timber but be left unstained. This gives the designer a chance to select the right colour for that particular situation. It could be orange, green, blue, white, brown etc. The colour should come from a stain, not paint. Paint deteriorates and means regular rede­corating would be necessary.

FENCES

Financial considerations as well as aesthetic ones will help decide upon the style of fencing to be used. In many cases this will have already been decided and established but where this is not the case, the designer ought to be aware of the possibilities before coming to a final decision.

Timber panels

These include overlapping larch strips (horizontally); interwoven strips (mainly horizontal); close boarding with vertical feather-edged boards.

Timber

These include close boarding mounted on arris rails between posts; the type of fence known as ‘pallisade’; ‘hit and miss’ with vertical planks; ‘hit and miss’ with horizontal planks; diagonal intermittent laths on a timber frame; posts and horizontal rails (typical paddock fencing); ranch rails with horizontal planks or rails; chestnut fencing where vertical pieces of chestnut are held by two or three horizontal twisted wires. Picket fences of vertical intermittent timbers, often with pointed or rounded tops.

Garden Walls Materials

Wire

These include chain link; stock fencing (various types); wire or chicken netting; posts and strained hori­zontal wires.

Steel

Estate fencing of various types includes vertical railings, wrought iron etc.

Gates

These include wrought iron, steel or timber, including five-bar gates.

‘NATURAL’ SCREENS

These include bamboo, reed, woven willow, woven hazel, heather and so on. Most come as panels but some, notably split bamboo, are in rolls. The panels are usually wired to rustic posts. Rolls can be mounted on horizontal wires strained taut between posts. On one occa­sion I saw woven hazel panels mounted in white painted wooden frames. This provides a very striking contrast though I suspect maintenance would have eventu­ally been a problem.

Provided the designer is aware of the practical limitations of all the materials under consideration, there is no limit to what can be used where. Preconceived ideas and traditions are perhaps the designer’s greatest enemy and good, sound common sense his greatest asset!

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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