The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making

November Observations: Fences Make Better Neighbors


As we enter the season of the “spirit of giving,” I entertain the idea of “taking away.” Not very spiritual or neighborly of me, but I affirm that fences make better neighbors. Just as I choose to ignore the retail onslaught of Christmas until after Thanksgiving, I am determined to have my own narrow and not very open, view.

I have just read David L. Culp’s The Layered Garden – a wonderful book about the making of his garden at Brandywine Cottage. I enjoyed this book tremendously and actually read it through vs. just studying the incredibly beautiful photographs. I would like to quote a few excerpts that especially resonated with me at this particular time in my gardening life:

“For any gardener, screening out unwanted views is a key to creating privacy and an appropriate mood.”

“The idea is to create a backdrop that at best may complement but in no way competes with the garden’s plantings and design.”

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And my favorite:

“The utility of a screen is most apparent where one is lacking: a garden can be filled with the most beautiful plants on earth, but if the backdrop is a string of cars parked in the neighbor’s driveway or a wood pile covered with a bright-blue tarp, the eye will instead focus on those unattractive distractions.”

Right on brother! I have worked really hard to make my garden in our small patch of village, my retreat. Now that the leaves have fallen, well, my neighbor’s idea of a retreat is encroaching upon mine. The lovely view (above), the backdrop to my garden, began as my new neighbor’s compost pile. (The “parking lot” and propane tanks are beyond that.) Should I really mind so much as the previous tenant actually placed his old recliner in this very same spot? This spot seems to be the “Bermuda Triangle of What-to-do-with-this?”

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As much as I have tried to work with the inherited chain link fence, I have reached the end of my patience and resolve. A big, solid fence it will be! Right over the chain link – as we might need a barrier to prevent any “neighborly-stacking-upon” the new fence as in the case of these hay bales(?!)

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I didn’t mind my rustic fence trellis, until the hay stacked up. I live in the middle of a village, not the country – which is where our snarky neighbor, an apparently inexperienced landlord, suggested we move to after my husband called to say we sort of mind the f-bomb arguments that are being conducted by their new tenants outdoors well within our hearing range during one of their many smoke breaks. Besides, isn’t hay a fire hazard and full of weed seeds? (Note the invasive Nightshade growing over the fence.) Good thing the predominant winter winds will blow any seeds their way, I hope. I still do not understand the hay bales … a makeshift fence? A sound barrier? Insulation? (Although the bales are not stacked around the foundation – just teetering against our fence?) Your interpretations are welcome!

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The new and improved fence backdrop plans extend from the end of our back porch to the shed, effectively erasing the too-close-rental structure, the “compost”, the propane tanks, and the “parking lot.” My “favorite contractor” (introduced in this previous post) will eventually add a bit of trellis work to the top of the fence for the Virginia Creeper and grapes to climb – since a flock of Cedar Waxwings was recently spotted dining among the vines! I will repurpose my rustic fence trellis in another area of the garden.

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The beginning of this fence is a little raw right now but should age to a nice neutral backdrop to the likes of the other side where the new “Hosta Row” is planned. (I really tended to gravitate to this area of the garden last summer – I think because of the fence!)

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New Hosta Row section of the garden

Now my eye focuses on the “Woodland Edge” plantings – the new “better-neighbor-fence” has really accentuated them. It will be especially telling in spring.

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New “better-neighbor-fence”

Winter is a good time to observe “the bones” of one’s garden. Some areas in need of improvement (aka distractions) are much more, ah, obvious than others as I have observed in my own garden this November. And so it is in this current season of being thankful, that I am especially thankful for good “solid” neighbors.


Author: Kathy Sturr

Cultivating art, growing soul, and creating plant-based food in the beautiful 1000 Islands, New York and Cedar Key, Old Florida.

6 thoughts on “November Observations: Fences Make Better Neighbors

  1. The wood privacy fence is the perfect solution! The rattiness of you neighbor’s yard apparently is an accurate reflection of who they are in their spirits. I doubt your fence will erase all the foul language you hear, but it along with your plantings should help.

    • Ah, thank you Deb. My husband and I are wondering why oh why didn’t we build a fence sooner? The answer was the thought of tearing down the chain link. As for the outdoor social arguments, I’m thinking more wind chimes? The chimes “refocus the ears” to what is closest by? My advice, based on experience, carefully consider buying next to a rental property!

  2. Happy thanksgiving Mr & Mrs Sturr! I think u are fine in your idea if Taking Away this Holiday Season. There is nothing left for u to do but to take away that view that your very selfish neighbors have decided u need to look at every day! The hay bales were probably something they put there to annoy u even more. That is ridiculous. How dare they tell u where u should live! your fencing is perfect & will be a great border to all your creativity in the Garden! I enjoy your posts & wish u a blessed season.

  3. The fence is perfect and will give your garden the right backdrop…too bad you had to endure the nasty neighbors.

  4. Amen Sister!!! I agree totally:-) I have a hard time with my neighbor when he took ALL my bushes out in the back. I could not put up a wood fence since I like my other neighbors..I settled with a temporary bamboo fence while my evergreens grow back in after our terrible drought in 2012…that book sounds interesting..I nominated you for Very Inspiring Blogger…will be sending you the link and rules..your garden is an inspiration to me…great looking fence I might add and it will blend in nicely with all your beautiful plantings:-)

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