A garden is a wonderful addition to any home. It can provide a space for relaxation, recreation and even food production. But what do you do when your garden needs more protection?
A garden fence can help keep out trespassers and animals, but it’s not always the best option.
A hedge might be better if you want something that will still provide privacy in winter when it’s leafless or during summer when it’s too dense to see through. Let’s take a closer look at both options!
The short answer
As a quick summary, hedging can be better if its the look you want and you are a keen gardener however most people are best served by fencing.
Fencing remains the same all year acts and a both a visual and physical barrier and can be installed very quickly.
Unless there is a good reason you want a hedge then we would recommend going with a fence which will be much less work overall.
Fences are usually the cheaper option compared to hedges, and they can provide excellent security.
The enclosure of a fence also ensures that the garden is not open to trespassers or animals.
They also don’t take up any space within the garden, so you’ll have plenty of room for play, relaxation and even food production.
Hedges are less secure but still provide a high degree of protection from unwanted access to your property
Hedges need frequent maintenance in terms of trimming, pruning and shaping. In winter, when they’re leafless, they’re much less effective at protecting your garden from prying eyes.
A hedge is more likely to become overgrown and a burden to maintain if left unkempt.
A fence doesn’t need to be maintained as much as a hedgerow, but it will require cleaning from time to time and staining if necessary.
The benefit is that it’s far more durable than a hedge over the long term, particularly when made with pressure-treated wood or similar materials.
If you want a hedge that will give you lots of privacy, make sure it consists of plants and trees that are tall enough to hide your garden from prying eyes.
They should also be thickly planted together in order to provide maximum coverage and still allow the sunlight through.
A fence can work well too because it’s usually made from wood, which is opaque.
A solid fence will also block out prying eyes, but you’ll need to ensure that the posts are well hidden in your garden so they don’t spoil the view!
The lifespan of hedges and fences differs greatly. Some types of hedge such as the Portuguese laurel can span a few decades, usually reaching 25 to 30 years old. Most wooden fencing can look good for 15 to 20 years if cared for properly.
There are also some decorative wooden fences which may only last about 5 to 10 years. It will depend on the type of wood and how it’s used.
Pressure-treated fence panels usually last around 3 times longer than untreated ones. Fence posts should be checked regularly for rot in order to guarantee their longevity.
Which one looks better really is a matter of personal choice . A fence can help you create a more productive garden because it provides the structure that other plants need to grow and thrive.
It also prevents soil erosion and provides support for climbing plants that might otherwise require staking or tying up
Hedges generally look better in formal gardens, but if you don’t want something so structured then a fence can work well too.
It’s also easier to add plants to a fence than it is to create a hedge, so you have more freedom in your choice of vegetation!
Unless you opt for an evergreen hedge , you’ll have to consider how your garden will look and function in winter.
A fence can be covered with wreaths, ornaments and even Christmas lights, but a hedge is rather ugly in winter.
This may not be an issue if the hedging is still providing some shade during summer when it’s leafy, but there will be nothing to protect you from the elements when it’s bare.
Generally speaking a fence will cost more to install than a hedge.
The exception to this is if you want a fully grown hedge installed from the get go. These can be very expensive as they need to be nurtured for a couple of years to get to the appropriate height.
Over the long run fencing is much more expensive as it will need replacing more often than a hedge. Fencing also needs staining or painting every year, while a hedge really only needs to be trimmed and shaped.
If you live in a windy area , a hedge with an overhanging canopy will provide excellent protection for your garden. Hedges can also be planted on the north and west sides of your property to protect the house from damaging winds
Fences are easier to build into windbreaks than hedges, though you’ll need to ensure that they’re well secured and staked down.
A hedge can also be used as a windbreak, particularly if it’s tall and dense. It’ll help to prevent damage to the rest of your property by acting like a buffer between your garden and the surroundings!
Whatever you want your hedge or fence for there will be some waiting time if you opt for a hedge.
Many types of hedge only grow 30-60cm per year so if you buy a small plant you could be waiting for 2 or 3 years before it reaches a size which makes an effective physical or visual barrier for your garden.
Hedges are attractive to wildlife and insects and act as shelter, food and a home for them.
This is not something everyone wants but can add charm if more nature if what you are looking for.
Pigeons like hedges and will often sit in and on them cooing and flapping. If you live near farm animals they sometimes eat hedges (as we discovered when cows ate a long laurel hedge we planted) so hedges would be a bad idea in this situation.
Maintenance is a cost which should be considered before making the choice between hedging and fencing.
Hedges require more upkeep as they need regular trimming and shaping in order to keep it shaped, while fences only need staining or painting every few years, and cleaning them once per year keeps them looking fresh.
That said, the time and effort it takes to prune a hedge is usually much less than the effort involved staining a fence.
Another consideration for maintenance is water. If you plant a hedge in a wet area or you get consistent flooding it could kill the hedge.
The same is true in particularly warm weather where your hedge doesn’t get enough water.
Most common hedge types are fairly hardy and can withstand more seasonal changes but be sure to do your research before hand!
Types of fencing
The most common type of garden fencing is close board fencing with concrete posts.
There are many different types of fence to choose from with composite fencing starting to become popular due to its long life span and maintenance free design.
Check out this article to find out more about different types of garden fence.
Common types of garden hedge
The variety of potential plants that can be used for hedging is staggering. Some of the most common types of hedging are: yew, Portugese laurel, hornbeam and Rosa rugosa.
These types of hedging are popular because they look good, grow fast and handle out climate well.
For a great guide to types of hedging see https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=351
Where to purchase hedging
Most garden nurseries will sell hedging and will usually have someone on hand to help you choose the right hedge for your garden. Make sure to read through all the considerations above and ask questions so you don’t make an expensive mistake.
How to install fencing
Installing garden fencing is heavy work but is not that technically difficult so if you are fit and have some practical knowledge it is something that you can do yourself.
If you are thinking about your garden and how to make it more private, a fence or hedges may be the answer.
The main difference between these two options is in maintenance costs and lifespan: fences need staining every few years while hedges typically only require trimming once per year.
Hedges provide better protection from wind but will also take longer to grow than fencing which can be built into any type of barrier as needed for short-term privacy.
If you live near farms where livestock might eat your plants, hedge would not be an option; fences on the other hand are available in many different types with composite being one that lasts long without requiring upkeep.
Consider what’s most important to you before making this decision!