Kathy Foran - REALTY EXECUTIVES Boston West



Posted by Kathy Foran on 1/22/2017

Consider planting a living fence as an alternative to manufactured fences. There are benefits and disadvantages for both. Often vines, shrubs, small trees, and perennials are placed around manufactured fences anyway. So, why not go nature all the way! A living fence can give you privacy and security, as well as seasonal change. For example, a living fence made of shrubbery can bloom in the spring, be leafy lush in the summer, produce berries and hips in late summer, brilliant colors in the fall, and reveal pleasant branch structure in the winter. A living fence can be grown short (under 4-feet) or tall (30 feet or more) or any height in between. You can determine the width using your imagination or taste in plant material. You can tailor this living structure to your yard. Usually, a living fence needs no building permit as some manufactured fences do. You need not worry about height or width or color limits. Of course, a call to Dig Safe 811 is necessary. Digging into neighborhood power cables is a big no-no. You can plant shrubbery, small trees, ornamental grasses, perennials, and even vegetables and fruits or a combination of all to accomplish your desired effect. And you can do this with your neighbor, benefiting both sides of the fence! Robert Frost said it best with his Mending Wall. Living fences tend to outlive manufactured fences by decades. Of course, living fences need water until established, a bit of annual feeding, and the odd pruning depending on plant material selected. Europeans have been enjoying living fences for hundreds of years, calling them hedgerows. They have served as property line demarcations, windbreaks, shelter for birds and small animals for centuries. Establishing a living fence can be labor intensive, but need not be planted all at once. A slower pace would let the fence mature while the planter considers further options. Nursery plants can be used as well as seeds and root cuttings. The desired privacy would, of course, dictate the closeness of the plantings. There are multitude of plant choices to make a New England living fence, but the following are easy options:

  1. Pyramidal arborvitae are most often used in neighborhoods. They are hardy, can be pruned and sheared, and need very little maintenance. They can be grown as screens and windbreaks, but as evergreens they do not provide multi-season interest. They relatively inexpensive and can be planted in any configuration.
  2. Rugosa and Hansen roses have been used in beach plantings but will adapt very well to living fences. They are both extremely low maintenance and can be trimmed from a maximum height of 6 feet. They flower most of the summer, product red hips in the fall as well as yellow and red foliage. In the winter they are a thorney tangle of cover for birds. Depending on the species or cultivar, they bloom red, pink, yellow or white.
  3. Fragrant shrub honeysuckle is also easily maintained to a maximum of 10 feet and provides yellow and white spring flowers, then summer red berries cherished by birds, and yellow and red fall foliage. Winter shows interesting branch structure.
  4. Privet hedges are old standby's but easily maintained and sheered to your liking. Small white flowers and occasional purple berries.
  5. Russia olive trees with their strong late spring aroma and slender gray foliage are also easily sheered to any height or just allowed to grow to 25 feet.
  6. Rose of Sharon bloom in late summer in shades of purple and blue and are easily maintained to any height or width desired.
There are many more species of plants that can be used in your fence. You can certainly mix and match, but have fun with the process. You'll create something beautiful as well as practical.