Friday, August 14, 2020

Don't fence me in

Living in the city and on a fairly busy road I found myself searching for privacy a years back. In my earlier career, I spent a great deal of time traveling through Europe and I always marveled at the magnificent hedgerows and great stone walls that sheltered the charming homes, small cottages, and austere mansions.

Straight out of the 'Secret Garden', these delightful boundary markers define the property and at the same time, instill warmth and grace. Timeless, they stand proud and stir the curiosity of what treasures can be found just beyond.

My home is a simple brick Tudor, so when I started my research on how to create a privacy screen for myself I reflected back to the European style and planted a wax privet hedgerow. This has certainly tested my patience - a hedgerow is not an instant thing. The first row planted twenty years ago is finally doing well. But the remaining rows planted about ten years ago are of varying heights and health. I have had to replace one or two due to over watering or under watering (not sure which and that drives me crazy) leaving large holes in my rows....not quite the look I was going for, but I have confidence, and now, the patience.

Seattle is a funny city....for every few streets is a busy arterial; and with the success of our city comes increased traffic and activity, so I am seeing more and more fences going up. I understand the desire to put up a six foot fence, I do - it's instant and accomplishes the goal. But I wonder if they realize what they're saying to the outside world? I liken it to a hand going up in my face - saying, 'don't come near'.

So how do you create privacy; division of public sidewalk and private property, and still send a warm welcoming message? Check out some of these options!

used with other natural materials

Arborvitae with hostas and a tall wooden gate

Wax Privet with a bright white gate

4' wall of Holly

Boxwood with a short brick wall


If time, and patience, doesn't allow for growing a hedge, then how about using stone or iron? These materials blend beautifully with nature and have some personality to boot!

Iron with climbing rose

Stone covered in moss

If a wooden fence is really what you want, and I openly admit, wood blends nicely with a lot of the styles here in Seattle, then here are some options to think about.

Vertical slating creates light flow while the grasses soften the look and the planted boxwood adds a touch of formality - a nice play on texture.

Classic diamond pattern painted the same gorgeous trim color as the house unifies this home and adds to the style and feeling of this classic bungalow.

Beautifully designed fencing is softened with evergreens. This horizontal
slated design provides the perfect screening for a cozy terrace and still
allows the stunning background to eek through. 

Not needing a security fence, this simple bamboo fencing defines this property - much like the role an explanation mark plays in a sentence. 

So, if you are thinking about planting a hedgerow, here are some thoughts. Look for the best hedge that will reach the desired size as soon as possible. Two things that you should keep in mind - the hedges should grow to at least 4 feet (a minimum of 6 feet is ideal in my book) and must have dense and intense foliage pattern. Also, make certain to match the plant with your landscape design and your soil, weather and water conditions. Here are some to choose from.


Beech (fagus)

Boxwood (buxus)

Canadian Hemlock

Holly (ilex)

Rugosa Rose (rosa rugosa rubra)

Silky Dogwood

Wax Privet

If you don't have a good gardener, you will need to learn how to trim or prune your new hedge. There are lots of how to's on the Internet. Here are two excellent sites:

There may be a few regulations you need to consider before installing a privacy fence or hedge. You will need to check:

Zoning laws (City or County offices) - height restrictions, materials restrictions, etc.
Building Codes (City or County offices) - planning, permit and design requirements.
CC&R's (Home Owners Association) - limitations, aesthetic requirements
Digging Hotline (811) - underground electrical, gas, sewer, cable, etc.

In all my posting, my goal is to provide inspiration and insight into home ownership, real estate, and to provide valuable resources.

Scott Mantz Associates

Penguin Gardens (day-to-day maintenance)
Rene Ramey

Millennium Landscape Construction
Brandon Vannoy

Ornamental Iron Fencing
Ballard Ornamental Ironworks

I don't know of a good artisan fence designer/builder-someone who will do something different than the 6' cedar fencing we commonly see. If you know of one you would like share, please post in the comment area below. 

Whatever you decide to do, enjoy the process and remember to add your personality. Here's to

la chasse au bonheur!


  1. Actually I husband. Although sadly he's a game programmer by trade so he's not available for hire.

    I'm really enjoying your blog Darcy. As with everything you do, it's incredibly well done! You are a great writer.

  2. I told Lou I was pretty sure there are laws requiring him to string rope lights on the fence (preferably blinking multicolored ones) but he won't do that, because he's a total rebel. fence estimator