Do good fences make good neighbors?

mrtulinMay 14, 2011

buyorsell wrote:

"One thing I don't understand, I see this on HGTV's House Hunters all the time too, why doesn't anyone have a backyard fence? I've never lived anywhere where the backyards aren't all fenced for privacy. I can't imagine doing all that gardening with everyone staring at me."

and flora responded:

I am so glad you posed that question! I had assumed it was a US thing and didn't like to ask. We get a lot of posts on GW about problems with neighbours trespassing or damaging people's plants and I always wonder why they don't just have a fence?'

I'm interested in what you landscape historian buffs think about this question. I think the reasons must be more cultural and practical than anything else. Fences keep livestock in. Fences keep livestock out of house and kitchen gardens. Fences kept enemies out.

I'm thinking of all the european cities and towns that have walled gardens, courtyards. There are some areas of the US: In Boston's Beacon Hill, parts of New York City (like Greenwich Village) and American south and west,there are varieties of walled gardens.

Some of the general contemporary reasons which don't address the larger questions:

prohibitions/laws against closed fencing or fencing above a certain height

the Omstead vision - vision of unbroken expanses of lawn that unify the appearance of houses in neighborhood; idea of "borrowed landscape"

the 'feeling' that privacy fences are unfriendly

Something to do with the vastness of our country in its youth?

Something to do with "don't fence me in?"

now: money. Even the cheapest privacy fencing is expensive!

If you don't know anything about the reasons we don't fence, what would be your reasons for NOT fencing??


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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

did i miss homeowner association bylaws ... disallowing them???

anyway.. in suburbia .. yes.. they make good neighbors ..

out here on 5 acres.. who cares ...

i guess it depends on where you are ...


    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 4:08PM
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karate626(7A Maryland)

Well I live on a 1.5 acre in semi suburban/woodland and I don't have a fence. My neighbor and I both have planted trees and large bushes sporadically along our border to separate our lots like as a fence would. I agree with Ken, I think it depends on what your situation is.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 4:19PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I live in an area of about one acre lots. There are very few fences, (and the ones that are around are quite nice - some split rail, etc.) many shrub/tree "fences", and also lots of patches of woods between houses.

On one side, my neighbor's house is relatively close to mine. We have a row of (dying, thin) hemlocks between the houses, but the front and back yards are fairly open. Neither of us has a problem with this. My other neighbor has a row of spirea - all of two feet tall, lol - along the boundary, and in the back there is a patch of woods at least fifty feet wide. We stand and talk over the spireas all the time.

But I am lucky to have good neighbors! I think if my yard were smaller (or my neighbor obnoxious) I would want some kind of privacy fencing. In the rowhouse in the city in which I grew up, there were chain link fences between the plots and all along fronting the sidewalk. Certainly didn't do much for privacy - I guess it was more for delineating boundaries.

I always loved the walled gardens - something very quaint and charming about them. And I think when you live in the big city you need to make some privacy, and that is not seen as rude, IMO.

Fences are very expensive, from what I've seen. I think that may be one reason why we don't see more.

I just remembered - as a kid, my aunt lived in a small cape on a small lot (but to me, in a rowhouse, the house seemed huge - it was a separate house, for goodness sake!) and the yard seemed even more huge. But I was always amazed at the hedge between her house and her neighbors. The thing had to be 15 feet tall! Any hedges in my neighborhood were about three feet tall and tried to hide the chain link fences. I loved that big hedge!


    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 6:45PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Our neighborhood has smaller lots, 1/4 to a 1/3 acre and I don't think there is a house here without a fence. Besides, what about pets? I can't imagine letting our dog out without a fenced in yard. As a matter of fact, one of our neighbors is only fenced in on three sides in the back and hasn't gotten around to completing the fencing along the front lot lines. He has his dog tied up in the yard, when they let her out.

I definitely can see having more than an acre and not feeling the need for a fence, except, I still would feel insecure about letting the dog roam loose.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 7:55PM
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We don't have much in the way of fencing apart from a cedar board fence that separates front and back yard, and connects to an unobtrusive mesh deer fence that encircles the back. Otherwise there are tall white pines that give us privacy on two sides.

Fences and walls seem to be more of a priority in places where lots are small. Olmstead's "vision"* is less compelling when you're right on top of your neighbors. Some walls and fences also make excellent backdrops. A good backdrop and sense of enclosure are two of my personal requirements for good gardening.

*I can share my neighbors' gardens as I walk or drive past. What I'm less enthusiastic about sharing are the sights of an unkempt property and my personal privacy.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 7:59PM
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Dan Staley

Actually, the narrator in the poem questions the neighbor's stating that good fences make good neighbors. That is: it ain't necessarily so.

Nonetheless, if you've got an idiot neighbor a fence is a great thing to have (as Frost's narrator states): Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!"


    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 10:03PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

PM2, unfortunately, there are way too many people who don't think twice about letting their pets roam. I am so sick and tired of cleaning up after other people's dogs, of having other peoples dogs and cats in my beds, and of one particular dog who had the absolute nerve to come into my yard and growl at me, while I was sitting on my patio, on the front steps, or working in the garden. (One day I got so ticked off when I heard it growling that I got up off the ground and ran straight at it, swearing, lol. Probably not a smart thing to do, as it is a chow, but ever since it makes a wide path around me when it sees me. Wimp!)

Anyway, people let their dogs out and then cry about "inconsiderate speeders" when their dogs get hit by a car. I've actually seen signs put up by residents in front of houses to the effect that someone who was speeding and inattentive and mean and any other adjective, hit their dog. They don't take responsibility for their actions, and never stop to think that the person who hit the animal was not necessarily speeding. If the person didn't stop, that is indeed inconsiderate, but the ultimate responsibility is the owner's.

If I were to get a dog, I would definitely try one of those pet fences. For my own pet's sake and out of consideration for my neighbors.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 12:38AM
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Other than old, decorative low stone walls, I've only seen fences around in-ground swimming pools where I am and those are generally for insurance protection. The small town where I live doesn't allow dwellings on less than a full acre so the yards are generous in size if the house itself is small-medium. My house is +/- 200 ft. from the one next door and the only "fence" is a 40 ft. row of tall white hydrangea, 4 mature dogwoods and a 50 ft. blue spruce along the boundary between. At the back boundary, there are enough tall trees & brush to form a natural division between mine and the house behind mine, to the extent the house is only partially visible even in winter.

To the north my lawn flows into the next-door neighbors' and since he mows both lawns it makes sense. In return, we remove autumn leaves from his lawn when we do ours plus I plant, mulch & maintain their south foundation bed.

I guess because we all help each other out, it's a good neighborhood where fences serve no purpose.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 5:07AM
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Cher(6 SW OH)

I put in my privacy fence 30 years ago around the backyard and just finished last year replacing it with the second one. I am in a suburb so it's a have to have situation. First for the dogs, not only to keep mine in but to keep any possible strays out which we as a rule don't have here. Second the privacy. Love, love, love the privacy. Don't have to look at the neighbors crappy yards. LOL But decided I wanted a little more height so have planted different shrubs around the perimeter for some extra height. Have a few years to go to get them to that height, but I can wait.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 6:31AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Dee, we have a leash law in our town, so there are rarely any stray dogs wandering around loose. I thought there were many towns with leash laws. And since coyotes started showing up in town, many people keep their cats indoors too. I rarely see a cat in the yard any more. It is great for homeowners, but if you are a dog owner and there is a leash law, you're really having to walk your dog on a leash a lot to give them enough exercise.

No one has mentioned small children either. I wonder what people with young children do without a fence. When I was growing up, you rarely saw a fence. The kids and the pets had the run of the neighborhood. It was great, and I felt bad for my kids that they didn't have that kind of experience growing up. Kids don't bring 'strays' home any more, either, which was very common when I was young. It was also more common for your dog to become lost or hit by a car too.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 6:56AM
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Oh, fences. This is probably going to get long - LOL!

Well, first, we have to have one. Like others above, it's for the dogs. And for me, a physical fence is the only option. It keeps my dogs safely contained and other critters out.

We moved to this house three years ago. The backyard was fenced, but for some reason only partially (perhaps expense). It was one of those iron lookalikes, and about 40" tall. One of my dogs can jump (from a stand) to see over a six foot fence, so obviously this wouldn't work. While they are always supervised in the backyard, I can't control whether he might see something he'd like to chase on the other side, and off he'd go.

Now: In addition to the jumping dog issue, we are on a corner lot that backs up to a small cull-de-sac. There are windows all along the back of our house. The backyard was entirely visible to five out of six houses. Like living in a fish bowl. That wouldn't thrill me anyway, but after we moved in we met the neighbor behind us. She told us all about how she used to see the former owner in the all-window room every morning, having his coffee and watching TV in his pajamas. Then she mentioned that we were up very late the night before - she knew because she had seen our TV on late. Um...OK.

We took out the previous fence and installed a six foot wooden privacy fence. To make a long story short, Nosy Rosy and the neighbor across from her protested very loudly and are still not speaking to us. Which is absolutely fine with me. ;)

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 8:17AM
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Oh my yes, I loooove my fence! We put up a 6 foot wooden privacy fence in the backyard last year as soon as we moved in, and I'm so glad we did. The property it fences out is an eyesore to say the least, and its residents are of questionable character (i.e. teenagers who dabble in petty theft). They also have a dog that is frequently loose whom I get pretty sick of cleaning up after. The fence helps me feel that my property and barn are more secure, and it also helps with privacy. We have good neighbors on the other side of our property, so a lilac, forsythia and rose hedge suffices as a border on that side. I prefer the hedge, which everyone can enjoy, but we felt we had no choice but to put a fence up on the one side.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 11:11AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I lived in Portland OR until I was eight then moved to Phoenix AZ until I was 23 and then back to Portland. Every house/condo I have lived in had a fenced yard. I had never seen neighborhoods with continuous lawns/yards and no fences until House Hunters on HGTV. Never. In Phoenix it is common for block walls to be built and they surround entire neighborhoods with reduced access to main streets keeping cross traffic out. I've never lived on even a quarter of an acre. DH built a solid cedar fence after we bought this house, there was a chain link fence but I wanted privacy from people and their dogs. I also use the fence to grow vines on and decorate.



Backyard: (shed now has new siding, old picture)

still have not found a way to cover up that hideous bare arborvitae and chain link by the shed/greenhouse. The greenhouse is right in front of the shed out of the picture. May have to put a cedar fence there too but with shed and greenhouse already there will be a real PITA.

Taller lattice around pond now covered with Clematis to try to block neighbor's view into hot tub.

Boxwood hedge in front separates us from neighbor, wish it was taller....I trim and fertilize my side but they don't. This flowerbed is now three feet wider. yay. more perennials for me.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 1:27PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

PM2, we DO have a leash law! Just because we have one doesn't mean everyone follows it, sadly. Especially in my neck of the woods where the lots are bigger and it's more rural.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 3:47PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I think it has a lot to do with the size of the properties in a neighborhood, and the era in which it was built. It's just different styles, no right or wrong. I always like to have a fence as a garden feature/ support structure.

I think fences are an awesome facility to interact with neighbors. It allows everyone to use the whole space, to the very edge, with no question about what square inch belongs to who. It's also a great way to have a conversation; over the fence. Nobody feels any social obligations, such as serving a beverage. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but if you're not in the mood or pressed for time, it's psychologically easier on both parties to walk away from a fence than from a spot in no-man's-land. It reinforces a sense of individuality, for those who want that. It's good to have options.

Incidentally, this question is an interesting piece of a bigger discussion of how and why Americans use their yards in different and changing ways. Especially if you've ever wondered why you have to grow-n-mow grass just because you live in a house. Two books on the subject I would recommend for anyone with an intest:

The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession by Virginia Scott Jenkins

Redesigning the American Lawn; A Search for Environmental Harmony by Bormann, Balmori, and Geballe

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 4:28PM
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flora2b(z6a bc)

Well, I'm fortunate to have a large slice of property and have fenced the back part of it, not as a privacy fence, but a much more open type, which is meant to keep out large herbivores as opposed to nosy neighbors.
In my area deer and other wildlife are more of a nuisance than neighbors.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 1:43AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

If I had a nice mountain view I'd have an open fence too!

All I can see is my neighbor's crappy yards, play structures and barking dogs.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 12:23PM
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Fences seem to elicit strong responses from those who border your property. Yes, I think they often see it as a statement that you're walling them out, and frankly that would be a primary purpose as far as I'm concerned. I don't have fences on my property now because I am rural, but I have been planting visual fencing for twenty five years because I do value my privacy. I wasn't raised in the U.S. and there isn't the expectation of privacy here that there is in other parts of the world.

I have discussed this often with people and for the most part, they do expect to visually borrow from the property around them and many feel it makes their property feel larger to look through other property unobstructed. However, if you notice the high stone walls around tiny gardens, if planted well, gives the illusion of more space than what there is.

I do not want to be watched on my own property either, nor do I want to interact socially with other people simply by reason of proximity.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 10:09PM
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Well, I live in an 11 year old suburban neighborhood of mostly 1/3 acre lots.

Here in the Twin Cities, where land is relatively expensive (about 80-100k for one of these lots, more if wooded), developers know that walk-out and look-out lots are more in demand. Most homes here are built on basements and most basements are finished for additional living space. So land is manipulated to accomplish more of these lots. This means that most everyone in our neighborhood has a sloped lot and that the backyard is 6-12 feet lower than the front. So, back decks are higher than the height of a legal privacy fence, so there's kinda no point in having a privacy fence.

So, there are only a handful of privacy fences in our neighborhood, and most of those are on the street that backs up to the main drag. A few more folks have chain link fences to coral kids and/or pets.

The way my house is situated, I have no neighbor across the street and can look down a stretch of about 20 lots. 2 of them have fences and they are chain link.

What I dislike about this is that no one wants to be the first one to put up a fence. I like the look of a fence when it's the backdrop for a garden. My neighbor to the rear has fencing on their side property lines, but not the rear. Eventhough they have a dog, they've found no need to put up a fence to keep their Pug in. The week they moved in, I put up chicken wire to keep their dog our of my hostas.

But I now find myself considering putting up a 4' tall fence along the back property line. I'd like to take down the chicken wire in favor of something more permanent. They don't take care of their weeds and I hate looking at it.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 10:45AM
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Timely that this should come up now. We have never had a fence and liked the open expanse with shrub borders. When we moved here, one neighbor had an ugly chain link fence for their blind dog that died. We learned not to see it.
Our lots are quite small. Now, we are putting up, what I think is a gorgeous hand built 6' scalloped cedar fence at the back with ball post toppers, because of the lack of disarray behind us. However, we are adding a beautiful tall gate with circular "window", just in case we ever have neighbors there that we can enjoy.
Their little boy asked why we were going to put up a fence. I didn't want to hurt the boy, so I said it was to be a pretty back drop for my garden and a place to grow flowering vines. I don't know where he learned to socialize. The parents have not started a conversation in the 3 years there and barely respond when I speak. I took them a plate of cookies when they moved in and she looked at me like I was nuts, took the cookies and closed the door in my face. I haven't seen her around since, except a few weeks ago she dumped the smelly water before her guests came.
I didn't say it was because we didn't want to look at all their junk, the back of the "U" fence they put in about 6' from the lot line and have their fire wood and multiple plastic tubs and junk tossed behind it and all over the yard - facing us while on their side, they hung flowers on their cheap fence. The only indication of liking anything nice, aside from the huge cedar swing set. All those tubs and buckets seem to just sit there and gather water until they literally smell like something dead from our patio. The rest of the containers are tossed around willy-nilly - not upright. My husband sneeks up and empties the water nearest us.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 11:22AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Well, what a fascinating topic. I've been watching this thread with great interest so thanks for all the input from everyone. The more I read the more I see that there really is a quite a gulf on the fence question between our two cultures. Idabean started off with 3 notions which I think hit the nail on the head.

1. The 'feeling' that privacy fences are unfriendly - in the UK there is no such feeling. In fact it is the exact opposite. There is much more a sense that it is none of your business seeing into other people's gardens. Not to have a fence,wall or hedge around your house is not only to retain your own privacy - it is to respect your neighbour's privacy. It would be considerd intrusive to lounge around your garden with no screening. A house without a fence,wall or hedge just looks unfinished to us. Not to keep your boundaries in good order is unneighbourly. This feeling is so deeply ingrained in the psyche that I don't think I could live happily in a house with no physical boundaries. I would be too embarrassed to go outside and would have a permanent feeling of being watched- almost like living in a house with glass walls. I have a strong emotional need for a sense of enclosure.

2. Something to do with the vastness of our country in its youth? - Yes, almost certainly. When I hear the size of some peoples 'yards' I am stunned at the space you have. People talk about parts of their yards that they haven't been to for a while! It takes me 30 senconds to walk from one end of my garden to the other.(I just timed it, and I was walking slowly :-)) Without physical boundaries we would be almost literally on each other's doorsteps. No wall and the back of my garden bench would be touching my nextdoor neighbour's barbecue. We need to utilise every inch of our gardens. Without a definite boundary what do you do? We even garden on our fences and walls by growing stuff up them.

3. Something to do with "don't fence me in?" Quite possibly. On the other hand I would never walk into my neighbour's garden and would be outraged if anyone walked into my garden other than up the path to the door. You have to be extremely old friends with someone to go into their garden without an invitation. There is a strong cultural imperative to keep out of other people's space, both physical and emotional.

We are rather private people on the whole and do not like others knowing our business. When I have been to the States I have been amazed at how loudly people talk in public spaces and don't seem to mind if everyone round can hear their conversations. It's something I find really hard to get used to.

We are all conditioned by the cultures we grow up in and it's interesting what disparities there are even in countries which appear superficially similar.

p.s. chainlink is never seen around homes here, only schools and tennis courts etc. There would be no point in a fence you could see through!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 2:21PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

flora - interesting... One of the things I most remember from UK gardens are the beautiful stone and brick walls. If those were the common building materials for fences here, I wouldn't mind them. But, given the climate here - frost heave problems - a high stone or brick wall needs deep footings and that means they are way too expensive to be commonly used. The common 6' wooden fences usually look nice initially but they don't age well! An aging, rickety wooden fence is an ugly thing.

We have a 1/4 acre lot and all the abutting properties are the same size. All the fences are chainlink and mainly serve to keep the dogs on their respective properties. The fences make good support for vines so most have vines on them. Because this neighborhood was developed in the early 1960s, there are a lot of mature trees and shrubs. They provide a lot of privacy and, since the chainlink fences are relatively low (4') and less visible, each property feels much larger than it actually is. Your line of sight is not stopped by a wall/solid fence but goes on for quite a distance.

Since I grew up on a rural property where the next neighbour was 1/2 mile away, I fall into the 'don't fence me in' category and would feel very imprisoned if confined by 6' fences.

The neighbours to the south are elderly. When they inevitably sell, the odds are high that their house will be a 'teardown'. So we expect we'll end up with a 'monster home' next door sometime in the next few years. That will most likely mean an ugly wooden fence that will block more light on that side (fortunately the garden area by the fence is a shade/woodland garden under the oak...)

We have always been lucky to have nice neighbours. Chatting over the fence is common. The neighbour on the north side is an avid gardener too. We exchange plants across the fence and our gardens are gradually merging :-)

I have physical disabilities and an incidental benefit of the open look of our yards is that it lakes me feel safer working in the garden. I know that the neighbours can see me and know that they sort of keep an eye on me. Safety trumps privacy.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 8:53PM
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Flora, that was so interesting! Thank you for sharing the UK perspective. I think I might fit in very well in the UK. :)

One of the main thoughts I had when the neighbors were trying to tar and feather us for building a fence was, "Why in the world would you WANT to see into my backyard?" I think I have a feeling similar to you - to watch someone in their backyard seems a very rude invasion of their privacy. It would feel like spying on them through the windows of their home (which, as I mentioned earlier, the neighbor behind us had no problem admitting, so I guess that's not something she could ever understand).

If I lived, as one of these neighbors does, directly across from someone's backyard - so that if I look out my front door, I can see the entirety of their backyard - I would be so relieved if they built a fence. Really, I don't want to see anyone's backyard.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 2:37PM
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Unfortunately beautiful stone and brick walls are not the norm in the Uk although of course there are many of them.

Bland wooden fences are very common in back gardens although vertical gardening softens them in many cases. Front gardens are often on view as the public space.

It is all a function of scarcity of land leading to the high value of land.

There are pros and cons for each perspective and I experience both. Here in central PA I live in a community with shared common land, no fences and I have put flower beds all around the house perimeter as much as is permitted. In the Uk the garden has an old brick wall on one side and a wooden fence around the rest with tall shrubs to provide max privacy as I am surrounded by neighbours there also.

I like and dislike each for different reasons! If pushed and I had to choose, I would choose fences.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 8:29PM
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Flora, that's so interesting.
I'm 1/2 English and I wonder if it's part of my blood that I HATE that people walk into my yard. There are teenage boys that live a few doors down... they think it's perfectly fine to play soccer/football/lacrosse across the streets and whereever the ball lands is where play resumes. It's not that they retrieve the ball and go back, they just start playing again, right there! They've also repeatedly walked thru my yard on the way to the school bus stop. Earlier this spring, I respectfully asked them to not walk thru our yards. But a light dusting of snow showed me that he's still doing it, just not as blatantly. He's clipping one corner of my lot and walking mostly in the neighbor's yard now.

I have a strong desire for enclosure too, so this neighborhood feels strange to me. And I do tend to really like the older neighborhoods that have that more enclosed feeling.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE that gardening is such a national pastime in the UK. I had the honor to hear Mike Shadrack speak last summer and he talked of the booklet that Brits keep in their car to be able to tour open private gardens on certain weekends. A charity thing, I think?

I will say, however, that that sense of enclosure is something I desire OUTDOORS, not indoors. I much prefer the open floorplans of homes of the US.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 9:19PM
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I don't think it is necessarily your nationality because my whole family came from Boston and all have different feelings about fencing. I think it is just a matter of preference. I have noticed though that the closer to city like neighborhoods you get the higher their nose sticks in the air (please I do not mean to offend anyone in particular because you know the ones I am talking about) and they feel their opinions are law. What I mean is that some neighborhoods tell you what height to cut your grass & sometimes that fences are not allowed even if you want a pretty one to keep your kids and animals in.

I originally grew up on a small hobby farm in the sticks surrounded by woods and cow pastures. We only used fences to keep animals in, never really had to worry about people walking on our land except our neighbors to get to a fishing pond out back of our house. So when I got married and moved to a small suburbia type town on .13 acres I really wasn't impressed. At the time I felt fences totally impersonal. When we moved in, there was no fence just a hedge on one neighbors side and the other neighbor had a small fence then on the back was a small patch of grass then more houses. The neighbor with the hedge decided to take it down and put a fence up (long story but was a good thing got more of our "land" back). We ended up deciding to put up a 6'fence to keep my babies and dogs in where it was safe from predators and cars. I find though that I am even happier because I feel like I have MORE room to garden because not only do I get to plant in the ground but I get to plant ON the fence with baskets and ivy(love love love my Boston ivy)When we put up the fence we HAD to talk to our neighbor before hand because our property line is literally 10" from her foundation and part of her fence was on our "land". The cool thing is we were both decent people-we didn't make her take her fence down and she had no problems with our fence and flower garden(I just dread the day of a new neighbor)But don't get me wrong I still yearn for the wide open spaces and someday I hope to get my hobby farm back. Depending on where I live though I will probably NOT have a giant 6' fence, maybe some split rail but no privacy fence.

I think maybe a lot of people have similar reasons for not wanting or liking fence 1)impersonal 2)ugly 3)don't fence me in(as flora stated). I think there is a place for fences just not everywhere.

My SIL and brother live in suburbs and took their fence down after a car crashed through it. I knew it was a bit of an eyesore AFTER but I would have REPLACED it BECAUSE of the car not taken it all DOWN! At that point I think it just a safety issue for the kids never mind anything else. But then again my SIL is one of "those" people.

You know what I don't understand is CURTAINS!! No one where we live has curtains unless they are transplants. Now that makes me feel a little weird, makes me feel like I am intruding when I walk by THEIR...

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 11:29PM
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Melissa -

" . . . he talked of the booklet that Brits keep in their car to be able to tour open private gardens on certain weekends."

In the US the Garden Conservancy has Open Garden Days, but it seems largely limited to the coasts, and the nearest to you are in eastern WI and IL. They publish a booklet, but many of the gardens are listed on the web.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Conservancy Open Garden Days

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 9:28AM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

My neighbors built an enormous tree house (the size of a large garden shed, I kid you not)...right on the edge of their HUGE yard. It's bottom platform is right at the TOP and edge of my privacy fence so they can look over into my yard.

it's quite unlike anything I've seen before.

oh, did i mention there is even a "porch" or viewing platform so they can just stand and look down over the fence?

It's just nifty.

The blessing is that their kids are great and they are overall just wonderful neighbors. Hope they stay that way. LOL

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 10:44PM
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yeonasky(z8b VancouverBC)

Lots of fences here in Vancouver BC. The back yards are fenced but not always the front. When I moved into here the front yards for my side of the whole block were open. Since I mostly garden in the front, I started putting in more and more garden. Then came my large wooden rectangular planters. More and more hard-scape has created a fenced look in my yard. Soon others were gardening more in the front and soft fencing (arborvitae) was occurring in other gardens. Across the street all of the front yards have shorter, 4', fences and the backs are fenced in most of the neighborhood.

Do good fences make good neighbors? I'm not sure. They might deter some kids and dogs, but not cats and thieves. They do, for me at least, mark the space as mine, and my family's, which helps me, psychologically, if a tad falsely, unwind from life in the crowded city.


    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 11:46PM
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ademink, in our other home, our neighbors built a "viewing platform" (aka "deck) that overlooked our backyard. They were uphill slightly from us, so the deck's base was above our fence line.

But like you, we loved those neighbors and it never occurred to us that it could be a problem. They'd be out on their deck and we'd come out and could easily talk to each other, yadda yadda.

Fast forward five years. Neighbors beside us decided to sell. The house had some problems so they were going to have to let it go for far less than value. It ended up becoming a rental. Suddenly the deck wasn't such a great thing anymore. The people who lived there threw trash into our yard and harassed our dogs, among other things. I scrambled to start planting to compensate, but we ultimately ended up moving.

So, based on my experience, my advice to you is, even though your current neighbors are great maybe you could start planting now just in case any future neighbors aren't.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 8:13AM
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When we moved here 25 years ago, our neighbors had a picket fence surrounding their house. Their house was built before there was a building code, and is about a foot from the lot line. Fast forward through about 4 different owners. Current owners weren't willing to do the upkeep to the fence and tore it down. The fence was a lovely backdrop for my garden. Now, there is no privacy - and I feel if they're having a cookout, I can't work in my garden as I would be invading their privacy. And now there's a big blue plastic swimming pool! I have started a shrub border, but may have to put up a partial fence.(Fencing is expensive!) We do have a fence ordinance in our village that limits fences to back yards. I like my neighbors, but I think I would like them better if there was a fence between our yards.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 11:21PM
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terrene(5b MA)

In my ideal world, I do not want to see, hear, smell, or anything else the neighbors. One next-door neighbor is a real jerk, and one is very nice, either way I find their mowing, blowing, whacking, chipping, and spreading of pesticides annoying, don't want to hear their voices or music, and even dislike the drifting smell of their laundry soap and dryer sheets. I would prefer total privacy and quietude, especially in the back yard.

I would love to install a big fence, especially on the side with the neighbor who is a jerk, but that would be expensive and if I had extra $$ to throw around for a fence, wouldn't even bother and would move to a house with a more secluded and private lot instead (which I will do someday anyway). Plus we have big lots, and nobody has fences, so it wouldn't fit in. Instead, I've been working on "soft fencing" by creating mostly native mixed borders on both sides.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 12:31AM
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I live in a rural area with many folks keeping farm animals. I don't need a fence for privacy, as I don't have really near neighbors, but some of my neighbors have fences to keep animals in. So far when fences have failed and animals wandered no garden damage has happened, but I usually call when this happens so neither the animals or the gardens suffer. I do recall sitting on the front step a number of years ago with the hose and a trigger nozzle waiting for the owners of a pair of enormous Holstein steers to come pick them up. The steers happily cropped the lawn, but every time one of those big heads swung towards my garden plants, I squirted his nose and he went back to being satisfied with the lawn.

We do have some issues with off road vehicles, unfortunately, but that isn't solvable with fences.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 2:35PM
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Just checking back seeing that more posts have come in. We live in a mid-sized town, thoroughly suburbanized. One of the few farms happens to be across our very narrow street (it used to be the main road when cattle were brought to market in what is now a part of Boston)in the 1800's.) Anyhow, it is now a riding stable. I heard a a lot of yelling last week, and one frisky horse had escaped and was having a grand old time galloping across the neighbor's lawn. A few times over the years I've found hoof prints and manure in my yard. And at least twice I've heard clomping in the street in the middle of the night, called the owner and gone to get the horse myself before it gets to the highway! I don't know horses and feel a bit afraid. But I'm not afraid to slap its rump and yell "go home!" and....damned if it hasn't just trotted back home.

The whole stable is fenced. Sometimes fences break, and a little excitement comes into our neighborhood unexpectedly.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 11:31PM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

We have a 6 foot cedar board fence around our garden which surrounds the whole back yard 50x100', a great backdrop for plants and vines. We have really good neighbors on both sides but I love the sense of enclosure and privacy it gives me being I'm one to wander around in my PJ's with a cup of coffee in the morning:). Standing out back, my neighbor on the left is a little lower then we are so she has to climb up on one of her raised borders to talk over the fence but all in all we can only see part of their house so they have privacy as well. On the right this neighbor is a little higher then we are but they can see very little of our back yard unless they come up to the fence where I have to stand on something to be able to chat over the fence. The different structures, trees and shrubs we have block most of our garden from their windows so it works out well. All three of us use the fence for vines which spill over the fence and softens the look. We never painted nor stained our fence, it now is a silvery grey and has lasted over 20 years, one or two boards are starting to go but we have spare boards which we have left out to get the aged look, so won't look too bad when we have to replace them.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 10:23AM
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hostared(Z5, IL)

First of all my fence is for privacy.
Suburban lot with alley...need a fence so you don't see everyones garbage. Mine is lined with daylily.

One side kids. It's hard to garden when your asked "whatcha doing" Or their dogs see you and cry for attention or a 3 year old says "hi hi hi hi" you need a fence!

Other side they just don't care what their yard looks like!!!!! Use your imagination.

Fenced in for 35 blissfull years....I call it peaceful.

If I had a view or few acres and a different neighborhood it may be a different story.

PS...plants look fabulous up against a fence as seen in the pics above!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 3:05PM
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I like my neighbors, but I love my privacy and wish I could have a fence. I love what Flora said, and her glass house remarks describe how I feel exactly:

Not to have a fence,wall or hedge around your house is not only to retain your own privacy - it is to respect your neighbour's privacy. It would be considerd intrusive to lounge around your garden with no screening. Not to keep your boundaries in good order is unneighbourly. This feeling is so deeply ingrained in the psyche that I don't think I could live happily in a house with no physical boundaries. I would be too embarrassed to go outside and would have a permanent feeling of being watched- almost like living in a house with glass walls.

--from the fishbowl in NY ;)

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 9:52PM
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This thread got a second wind. This summer We put up our first fence after living in the house for 18 years. It is lattice and about 16 feet long and affords us some privacy on the patio. I'm still surprised to see it when I drive home. And I still find it has somewhat unfriendly feeeling, even though I chose to put it in!
Without fully thinking it through at the time, the fence is part of a larger plan to make the patio usable. It is very very hot out there and inhospitable to lounging. The glassand iron table, iron cushioned chairs and large umbrella just don't meet my criteria for relaxing. Eating a meal, but not reading a book with a drink in my hand
I would like to redesign the space and plant a tree for shade then I really could lounge out there...and appreciate my privacy

For those who read the earlier posts, the horses across the street still get out. Last week I drove by neighbors (unfenced) yard and there was "Bella" (I think of her as Big Fella Bella) chomping on the lawn. When I couldn't find the owner's telephone number, I went back up the street, took her bridle and led her home. It was daytime and I was afraid if I told her to go home, she'd dawdle in the street and cause a car accident.
Not bad for someone who 's only ridden horse at one birthday party back in the dark ages.
People's answers were very interestingl. Here only one neighbor has a 'real fence. It is fancy iron and part of a plan for keeping up appearances (and surpassing the Joneses) It is the biggest butt ugly house and totally inappropriate to the neighborhood's age, history and style. Everyone who comes to the neighborhood for the first time asks about it, rolling their eyes. Yes, it needed a fence: an eight foot solid one to spare the neighbor from seeing this ostentatious eyesore.
Next, finally getting around to screening our neigbor's white aluminium shed which is on an elevation, and right on the property line (totally illegal now) But he's such an old sweetheart I don't want to appear unneighborly. We often meet over the water faucet up there; he lets me hook up to his well water for summer irrigation. Love thy neighbor, love his shed.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 11:27PM
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natalie4b(7b GA)

We had a "live fence" in a front of the property that my husband planted. Few years later it became incredibly huge - knowing very little about gardening and trees, we planted specimens way to large for the area - expensive mistake.
We had them removed, and I actually prefer sharing a very pretty view with our neighbors.
We are fortunate to have very nice people living on each side of our house. One of them have fence, and absolutely bare patch of yard with one river birch in a middle, and others don't do much either, and seldom spend time outside. There is a wall of crape myrtles planted between our yards, and a thick sweet olive which smells amazing in bloom. So it offers some privacy.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 9:20AM
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ilovemyroses(8 Dallas TX)

I don't know if a fence can make a neighbor 'good', but a fence can sure help if you have a lousy neighbor!!

I HAVE to have privacy, and I HAVE to be outside. Which doesn't lend itself to my setup. I have a fenced in backyard (wood) BUT our rolling driveway gate is metal. And people peer in ALL THE TIME to see what i am up to. As the front and sides are heavily gardened, and it is a bit irritating to be so in front of people all the time.

So, i am putting raised beds in the back and planning to have tall vines or tomatoes create a living fence to block the rest from the eyes of others. I just get so much out of tending my garden. a place to think, to wander, and i can't always satisfy this need outside of my backyard.

In fact, as I look at my side and front beds, I see that i am always planting for enclosure!! Just a yearning that lies deep within.

I am an introvert, not strongly, as i do socialize a lot, but i restore my soul....alone. and best done outside. and lately, my soul needs alot of restoration!!

interesting topic.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 8:19AM
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terrene(5b MA)

I love roses, I could have written your post, almost word for word.

Tina, you bumped an interesting thread, but why don't you go build some relationships with your neighbors instead of spamming message boards. (That's a nice way of saying "go fly a kite" which is a nice way of saying something else...)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 9:57AM
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This old thread has wings and time=travels! I cringed when I re-read comments about bad neighbors. Without meaning to, we became the untidy neighbors and received a snide remark from the woman next door who said she wished she "lived on the other side" [of our property.....the pretty side....] I went into her yard and looked at our huge looming woodpile under the bright blue tarp, pots scattered around, piles of brush....and had to gulp.
Our house does not face the street, so our back yard faces her side yard.
We can't afford a long privacy fence now, but I paid a mow and blow crew to clean up and got a brown tarp to replace the the blue one.
I've got a lot of rhodotypus seedlings and some misplaced hick's yews to start a shrubbery border between us....that will help during the seasons we are all outside.
Trying to repair our reputation as the people with the beautiful garden!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 10:39AM
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