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Good Fences, Good Neighbors

March 31, 2009

When we bought the house, the fence didn’t enclose the entire backyard. Instead, the big opening facing the main road just funneled the view into my yard. This year, with an ambitious garden planned- that will require us to exclude the rabbits- I decided to finish the fence. After multiple redesigns, this is what I came up with:

fence-march-30-2009

Obviously, I’m not quite finished, but I’m hoping to wrap up this weekend. Most likely this fall (because I am SO far behind), I plan on planting a fruit tree at each panel, and espaliering the trees. This will give me a mini-orchard, yet not take up too much space in my yard. Hey, it worked for George Washington, so how can I go wrong? Rabbit-proof wire fencing will extend up the bottom of the trellis panels, but the mix of low shrubs, perennials, and herbs will hide that.

The custom fence panels are constructed from pressure-treated lumber. To keep the 2x2s from warping and twisting, they’re joined with a deck screw every place they cross. It’s tedious, but the cost savings over cedar makes it totally worthwhile. The gate will continue the look and feel of the fence. A beam with corbeled ends, in the same style as the beam spanning the gate opening, will span the three posts you see rising above the fence panels. I’ll be able to tuck low-voltage downlights inside, to give things a little “pop” at night.

I acheived several design goals with this fence: first, it allows air to pass through. Everyone knows Virginia gets hot and sticky in the summer, so a fence that allows breezes in is a good thing indeed. Second, it’s a place for espaliering plants, and it allows light to pass through- which gives me more gardening space in the years it’ll take for the fruit trees to get established. Finally, I like to think that I’ve defined our private space, without creating the feeling of a giant KEEP OUT sign. After all the large-scale, concrete and stone structures I built this winter, it was a nice change of pace to build something light and airy.

Let’s be honest, this year we’re all looking to squeeze every bit of value from a dollar. If you need a fence, consider something that gives you multiple functions.

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