Wood is a very amenable material and its uses in the garden afford endless possibilities. Let us first consider the solid fence as the alternative to wall or hedge. Most garden centres and builders’ merchants stock the standard 2m (6ft 8in) wide panels at between 1.20-2m (4-6ft 8in) high.
These are usually made of larch and either overlap or are interwoven, overlap being stronger and a little more expensive. These are, however, cheap and instant but regretfully look it, and tend not to last more than a few years. They are also generally rather unnaturally coloured orange (although they do fade) and one must be prepared to accept this or stain them yourself. Do give the fence an extra coat of preservative, particularly at the junction at the level of the soil surface. The fence posts tend to rot at this point considerably in advance of the general decay of the fence itself.
These fences can, and should of course, be screened by covering with climbers. It will be necessary to provide good training wires (plastic coated 8-gauge) fixed with galvanised staples, three to four strands for a 6ft (1.8m) high fence. Unfortunately it is likely that by the time the climbers are fully mature, the fence itself needs replacing. It is for this reason that we would advocate a stronger fence.
A much more substantial and longer lasting fence is the type that is put together on site, called closeboard (or feather board). To have such a fence erected for you will be more expensive (half as much again), but nevertheless worth the money. If you are in a position to undertake the work yourself, the cost of course is much more reasonable. Be sure to have the timber tanalised, a pressure impregnating preservative, this will increase the life span to approximately 20 years. The only disadvantage to the closeboard fence is that it is usual to face the fence outward towards your neighbour, ie the less attractive side facing into your garden.
This is obviously a matter of goodwill and frequently the fence will be within your garden, abutting another hedge. You will probably be covering the fence with climbers and, in fact, the posts make the securing of climbing wires much easier. If you are putting climbing wires on the outer face, it may be necessary to have 1 in (25mm) square battens at intervals along the fence onto which to fix the wires and staples.
Fences as boundaries and stockproofing A complete visual block may not be required. Where the purpose of the fence is merely to keep livestock out and mark the boundary, there is little to compare with the simplicity of the post and rail fence, with the exception perhaps of the ha-ha. If you are creating a cottage garden or have that type of property, there is still a place for the traditional low palisade fencing.
Chestnut paling is used extensively as temporary movable fencing, particularly in the landscape industry, to protect planting in public areas during their establishment period. Chestnut as a wood is a very durable timber and will last 20-30 years. The temporary chestnut paling with its wire fastening is not a particularly tidy fence; however, it is possible to make a more respectable edition by using the palings only, nailed directly onto a fence framework. This gives a rather pleasing informal looking fence and will be long lasting.
A visit to your local woodyard/fencing specialist is recommended rather than settling for the standard products available in garden centres. They will also be prepared to make up fencing to your own requirements. You will find that, surprisingly, it does not inevitably work out more expensive than the standard panels. Similarly, trellis panels can be made up to any size squares or diamonds. The standard panels generally available tend to be rather thin on the wood and 37mm X 20mm thickness of timber produces a far more substantial and satisfactory panel.
Trellis is primarily for the support of climbing plants and as light is available on both sides of the trellis panel your climbers will grow better at a lower level than on an equivalent fence panel. Again, the trellis should be good and substantial. Trying to extract a mature climber from decayed trellis is not to be recommended. Even if you manage to get the old one off, the climber will still need to be supported and it will be difficult to reinstate a new panel. Trellis is easy to make yourself if you have the time. It will be well worthwhile as you will be able to experiment with the size of the squares, possibly even fanning the wood into a pattern.
There are, at the top end of the market, now at last a few firms specialising in trellis designs, both traditional and contemporary. With the advent of numerous coloured wood stains there is further scope for the more ambitious trellis designer.