Landscape Ideas: Making A Fence Look Good When Needed For Pets

A fenced in yard is a necessity for the security and safety of pet owners and their animals. A functional fence does not have to be ugly. Tips and instructions on building a fence that will improve the look of your home and yard.

For the investment, few yard additions can improve both the exterior aesthetic and functional value of a home like a good sturdy fence can. The challenge for homeowners however, is in meshing the two primary attributes of a fence: 1) functionality and 2) attractiveness, in a way that neither is compromised. This begs the question: what is a fence's primary purpose: adornment or utility? Ask today's homeowner and the answer is likely to be: both.

The problem is that fences offering the greatest utility and practicality, such as those designed to hold animals to a confined space, are generally not the most attractive. So what's a responsible pet owner with an eye for the landscape to do? Let me offer the following suggestions.

Building a new fence.

Visualize -- Look at the exterior of your home or better yet, take a picture of it. Then take the photo with you to your local home improvement store and do some browsing of the multitude of fence materials available. Take into account your home's architecture, styling and color scheme and what type of fence would provide the best accent. And then do some old-fashioned imagining. If you need more inspiration, browse the Internet or spend a lazy afternoon thumbing through home and garden magazines for ideas. You can even turn this exercise into a date by getting away with your significant other for a relaxing drive "fence spying" through some of your area's most attractive neighborhoods. If you're really up for an escapade, venture beyond the city limits into the country and keep an eye out for fences that tickle your fancy.

Location - in fence building just as in business it's all about location, location, location. Consider your home's curb appeal and think about what part of your yard will be fenced e.g. just the back yard, the entire yard or maybe just a quadrant of your yard, which would be more of a pen rather than a fence. Generally though, if you're wanting to keep Fido contained, the back yard is going to be the best option, both aesthetically and functionally.

Materials - modern improvements in fence materials such as pressure treated woods, wire-welded meshing and even vinyl have helped to bridge the gap between function and beauty for today's homeowner. If you're a pet owner, no longer are you restricted to the highly practical-but-unsightly chain link or cyclone fence, or worst yet, the dreaded chicken wire. Wood fencing, picket or privacy, work well as enclosures. But consider the size of your pet. Large dogs for example may be able to jump a picket and/or subject itself to injury in doing so. Also, consider that of your options wood is likely your most expensive. At the other end of the spectrum is chain link, but as stated before, it isn't very attractive. A middle of the road alternative is a combination of wooden post and welded wire. Ranchers refer to this as field fencing. This fencing material comes in rolls of varying lengths and height and is less expensive per linear foot than the treated lumber you would use for a picket or privacy fence. You can mix and match various woods with wire to create different looks but with consistent functionality. For example, untreated cedar posts can create a rustic look while treated posts with looped wire fencing (the antique looking fencing) can give your yard more of a Victorian look and feel. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and your budget.

Sprucing up a new or existing fence.

Landscape - to add beauty to your fence, whether new or old, consider accenting with landscaping. Even if you're stuck with one of the old, ugly cyclone fences, there is hope. Shrubbery, ground cover and climbing plants can make the perfect adornment in planting beds along fence lines. Crawling plants such as Ivey and honeysuckle in particular can add a touch of elegance to a fence as well as help camouflage unsightly areas. Feel free to experiment with combinations of perennials and annuals such as antique roses, flowering shrubs and evergreen plants. But be mindful of your pet's health. Some plants can be poisonous to animals, so check with your nursery and/or veterinarian before planting. In any case, the right combination of vegetation can highlight or hide your fence, whichever is needed, and can help blend a new or old fence into your existing landscape.

Accessorize - one of the most important aspects of a fence, though sometimes overlooked, is the gate. Just as your front door sets a tone for entry into your home, a gate can either enhance or detract from your landscape appeal. Just as with the fence itself, a gate can be constructed of many materials - from wood to wire to vinyl or a combination thereof. Also, consider the use of trellises or archways to further accent entryways and add depth of field to your fence line. These accent pieces serve as excellent lawn props and can accommodate plants such as vines and other climbing vegetation. In addition, consider the use of timbers to highlight planting beds or walkways. A well laid out path of mulch or stone materials such as flagstone, pebble, or crushed granite can help control traffic flow through your lawn as well as add an element of beauty.

Modify - Some fence styles such as split rail or picket don't work well for holding pets, especially small ones that can squeeze through the pickets or under the rails. No problem. Rather than replace these fences, you can easily modify by introducing any of a number of attractive wire meshing designs that can be installed along the bottom of your fence, making it more functional without compromising its beauty. In addition, well-placed shrubs and raised flower beds can help create natural and attractive hedges to reinforce fence boundaries and keep Fido from escaping the yard.

Finally, let your imagination run wild. Keep your fence's functionality but try out different combinations of plants and lawn adornments for a season. If you decide you don't like them, simply change them next season until you get the look you're looking for. That's the beauty of landscape design.

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