At the most basic level, walls and fences mark the boundaries between neighbouring gardens. The need for privacy is often important, particularly in a small town garden, and a solid wall or fence provides maximum security and privacy. On a patio, however, these structures have different functions. They can divide separate areas and levels or provide shelter, and when a new patio is being designed, you may want to erect additional fences or walls at the same time.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Check regulations before building a wall or fence. There are often local regulations governing the height of solid boundaries, so if you already have a wall, make the most of it.
Install a windbreak to protect young plants growing around the patio. A trellis fence will filter the strongest winds better than a solid wall. A compromise can be achieved by topping a low fence or wall with trellis panels next to the patio. If you want to preserve a lovely view from the terrace, a low fence may be adequate shelter for small plants.
Use a wall or fence to create a patio retreat. As long as you have space to dig out the footings, walls can be used either to enhance the privacy of a patio or to create secret places and hidden corners. A wall up to 3 feet tall can be built by anyone with basic skills, but seek professional help with anything higher.
Match the building materials to your existing home and patio structure. A wall to edge a patio can be built of a material that matches the house and patio floor itself. Brick and stone are obvious choices, but concrete can be stylish, especially if the house is a modern one, and the material lends itself to abstract and innovative designs. Glass blocks are excellent in a contemporary design and are attractive in association with water features.
Consider installing curved walls if the patio permits. Brick, glass and concrete can make curved structures, but the weight and the techniques involved usually require the skills of professional contractors.
Install a ready-made fence around the patio. Most fencing is made of softwood, and ready-made panel fences are easy to erect and effective. As a rule, the more expensive the fencing, the better the quality and the longer it is likely to last. Wherever possible, use pressure-treated wood to ensure a long life.
Inspect ready-made panels carefully. Look at how they have been made. Close-board fences, made of upright timbers, look good in a woodland garden and anywhere where you want to emphasise verticals.
Use fences that have texture around the patio. Interwoven fences tend to stress horizontal lines and are useful when you want to exaggerate the depth of the garden. In an Asian-style setting, a bamboo fence is entirely appropriate, but it can be too lightweight for use anywhere other than in a sheltered corner. Trellis has the advantage that it functions well as a windbreak but can be clothed with dense climbers in summer to provide maximum privacy.
Remember colour is important. All fences can be painted or stained, either to soften their impact or to help them blend in with their surroundings. Alternatively, you can make a strong colour statement by painting them so that they really stand out or contrast the patio surface. Whatever you do, make sure that any preservative or paint you use on the fences is plant friendly.