Garden Vertical- Walls, Fences & Trellis

Once the horizontals - the floors - are sorted, the next things to think about are the verticals - the walls, the fences, the hedges. The verticals i'm talking about aren't just to go around the edge of the garden and mark the boundary. verticals can be used to divid up the garden and create wonderful new spaces. They set the tone and the proportions of your new garden and generally speaking they are pretty easy to look after, so a great freind of the low maintenance garden. Verticals have loads of different uses.

1) Mark boundary- If it's just a case of marking a boundary, a low picket fence may be enough and be welcoming as well.

2) Divide garden- These don't have to be solid and high. They can be low, implied boundaries, or a see-through one of airy plants or trellis work.

3) Screen eyesores- These need to be tall enough and dense enough to hide the view.

4) Buffer against noise- Earth Bunds, are very good at screening from noise. Fences and hedges can help too.

5) Filter winds- Solid boundaries are less successful than partially open onces. Solid boundaries tend to push the wind up and cause turbulence, rather than slowing and calming the wind.

6) Make hidden areas- To create hidden areas you need something quite substantial and dense - a hedge, a wall or trellis.

7) Backdrop for sculpture- Sculptures can be beautifully framed against a flat plane of hedge or wall. 



Especially in a small garden the boundaries are incredibly imortant like the walls of a room. If they are dilapidated and a hotchpotch mixture the whole place will look terrible. A great way to bring the whole garden together is to make the boundaries look the same all the way around. You can do this by planting climbers but these tend to be slow and high maintenance. So a better way is to use trellis or battens to clad the walls. Render and paint the walls to give a really sleek finish. Or use a combination - but patterned, regular combination of these.

High old hedges can be loads of hard work and really difficult to maintain. Especially hedges of things like privet which are very fast growers and can need cutting three times a year. I would take them out and replace with a slower grower like yew, or a solid boundary or fences. If you choose yew, and if you cut it in August, it should only need a once-a-year cut.



It's not just around the edges that verticals are important if you are creating rooms in the garden you need to separate off different areas. These separations don't have to be complete - a low wall will give the impression of a different area without making an imposing statement. Divides can also help to screen unwanted views in the garden and outside. A marine ply wall can hide a staircase or the bins. You can divide up the garden as follow:

  • WallsGarden vertical-walls, fences & trellisCredit: wikimedia
  • Trellis
  • Plants
  • Hedges


Walls:    walls are a favorite for a low-maintenance garden - they can look slick, sleek, modern and architectural and no gardening in sight. Brick walls are seriously expensive to build but they can look wonderful and a walled or part walled garden is a lovely addition to the house. It's possible to build walls of concrete block work and render and paint them. These blocks are bigger than bricks and cheaper so it will cost less to build the wall. However it will need maintenance - the paint will probably need touching up every couple of years. Also concrete blocks, being larger, don't do curves very well.However, render is great if you want a flat coloured wall. Bright colours are a really exciting addition to a garden. An even easier way to get the same effect is to build a divide from marine ply and paint it.


Capping:    This is the layer on top of a wall that stops the rain getting inside it. It seems like a small detail but it can completely transform the character of a wall if you want your painted, tendered wall to look sleek and modern don't use any capping at oil - use beading under the render, this will give the most modern look. The more rustic the capping, the less sleek and the more it will start to look Spanish. If you put roof tiles along the top of the wall, you've gone the  whole Mediterranean way.


Lights on walls:    These plain coloured surfaces are just perfect for shadows. The sun, of course, will create great shadows and lights can shine through foliage to make wonderful shapes after dark. Walls don't just have to create divides - they can hold water features. Modern water features go with tendered walls beautifully. Walls can also hold up in-built seats.


Trellis and battens:    Woodwork, screens are really coming into their own in design right now and there are some truly beautiful examples of woodwork screens around. There are two main trends. The modern with slick lines or horizotal wood. The more traditional with really beautifully designed and painted close squares of trellis panels. 


Plants and hedges:    Hedges will provide a great, quite low-maintenance barrier, but so will taller shrubs and things like bamboo, even small trees can give an implied boundary with a wonderful repeated line of verticals in their trunks. At the other end of the scale, tail grasses will also give a gauzy, see-through barrier.


Retaining Walls:    Retaining walls hold back earth so that flat areas can be created where previously there may have been a slope. These need to be strong and to have very good drainage behind or weep holes in them so that water does not build up behind them.