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What is a Living Fence?

When most people think of fences, they imagine a structure made from chainlink, wooden planks or some other material. That’s all well and good and they do add at least some privacy to a yard, but some people don’t like the idea of a “hardscape” barrier surrounding their property. Many people who have fences have spent a great deal of time and money making their yards look beautiful, and a harsh-looking chainlink fence can sometimes ruin things for them. Fortunately, having a fence doesn’t mean putting up an artificial structure that can sometimes detract from the landscaping and decorations in one’s yard. Many homeowners are opting for a living fence made from hedges and trees instead of chainlink and lumber.


Living Fence: At A Glance

A living fence is a barrier between two properties that is made from hedges, bushes, trees and other plants. Living fences are also called “softscape” barriers due to their softer and more natural appearance. They can be anything from a row of pine trees that are planted and allowed to grow naturally, or they can behave more like a traditional fence and be a neatly trimmed hedgerow. These types of living fences provide a cleaner look for those who like an expertly landscaped yard.

It is also possible to convert an existing wood fence into a living fence. Wood is a natural material, so a wooden fence will blend well with the hedges, bushes and vines you want to grow alongside it. This may also work to some degree with a chainlink fence if you are creative about threading vines along and through the chainlink, but wooden fences usually work better.

There are a few advantages to having a living fence that go beyond mere appearance. Living fences are more permanent than man-made fences because they become a permanent part of a landscape. They do need to be planted and grown, so it may take time to have the fence that you want. Since they are all-natural, living fences are popular among nature enthusiasts who like to watch the changing of the seasons or who enjoy watching the birds that may be attracted to their yards.


Building a Living Fence

As with other landscaping projects, building a living fence depends on the creativity and tastes of the homeowner, although there are some common tricks that many find useful. Most people who are installing a living fence for the first time like to use an espalier for support. An espalier is a wooden and wire frame that supports vining plants and hedges, and it is installed in much the same way as a wooden fence.

The plants you choose will be up to you, but you should use at least three different kinds of plants to add some variety to your living fence. Dwarf fruit plants are popular choices, but keep in mind that you won’t see a lot of fruit for the first three years that you have your new fence. You will also need to “train” your plants by threading them through the wire in your espalier and prune the plants regularly. It may take some time, but eventually you will have a beautiful living fence that can add a lot to the atmosphere of your backyard.


This article was provided by Anna Roberts, recent environmental studies graduate and earth-conscious gardener. If you are looking to spruce up your backyard (and living fences are just the start), Anna recommends visiting for new patio ideas.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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