Garden Walls and fences

These may be to enclose the garden or make divisions within it – or even to prevent landslide – as in the sloping or terraced garden. They can also be built to support climbing plants or to provide decorative interest.

Of all the labours of love in a garden building your own wall is perhaps the most rewarding. You can take your time yet measure your progress day by day, and at the end there is evidence of your toil and skill for all to see.

Drystone wall.

  • Nothing more gracefully sets off a country garden than a drystone wall but, if there is no local quarry and the stones have to be imported, this will be the costliest choice of wall.
  • If a wall of this type is to be of any height, rather than a shallow wall built to retain a bank, it should have a solid concrete foundation. The wall itself is double, rammed-down soil being used between the individual stones and more soil used to fill the gap between the two inner faces of the wall. Stones that are as flat as possible should be selected, the larger of them used at the base of the wall and joints staggered.
  • Traditionally this Cotswold-style wall is finished off with upstanding stones called “soldiers”, but alternatively the top course of stones can be cemented in for greater security.
  • Such a wall can be a rock or alpine garden in itself, as many small plants will fit snugly into the crevices between the stones. A low retaining or purely decorative wall of the same type — of, say, four to six courses — can be left uncrowned to accommodate more plants in the central soil lining of the wall.
  • Low double walls with integral flower beds, whether drystone or bricks and mortar, are particularly useful for setting off a terrace. Built to a slightly greater height they are also a boon to keen elderly gardeners who are no longer supple enough to stoop with ease.

Brick or block wall.

Walls of new brick, dressed stone, concrete blocks or concrete screen blocks are more appropriate to town gardens and easier for the amateur to construct because of their near-regularity. Textured concrete blocks are available in various subtle colours and, most usefully, in related sizes, so that you can avoid the monotonous effect of a wall built of blocks of uniform size, instead introducing a few 4-in. (or 100 mm) blocks into two courses of mainly 2-in. (50 mm) blocks, and here and there adding the odd 6-in. (or 150 mm) block. But if you do this it is essential first to work out a modular design on graph paper, not only for aesthetic success but to make sure you order the right number of blocks in the various required sizes.


  • A fence is as good as its posts, which must be securely embedded in the ground to a depth of at least 18 in. (say 45 cm). You can buy a special tool for making post-holes for timber posts. Use a spade for the wider holes required for posts set in concrete.
  • Additionally, it is vital to treat the underground section of the posts with preservative in order to prevent rot. (A stone beneath the post acts as a further rot deterrent.)
  • Replaced soil must be rammed down hard around the posts to ensure really tight packing.
  • Posts set in concrete offer stronger protection. The concrete should be used to above ground level and domed off to allow water to slide away. In gardens exposed to strong winds concrete posts will support a fence more ably than timber ones.
  • Materials for fencing range from the cheapest wire or plastic netting through chainlink, wattle, steel mesh and timber fencing in various styles (trellis, panel, closeboard and lateral ranch-style boarding) to the newest and most expensive plastic extrusion fencing. The last has the bonus that it never needs painting and stands up well to violent winds.
  • Panel fencing of thin wood overlapped is a popular choice because it is relatively easy to erect and affords a high degree of privacy. It comes in softwood or the more expensive but maintenance-free cedar, usually with oak posts. It will suit all but extremely exposed positions vulnerable to high winds.

Leave a Comment