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    Natural Fencing Built Using Stones, Trees and Hedges

    By Amber Stephens

    Photography courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg

    Fences are the framework of the garden canvas. The right fence in your landscape blends seamlessly, while the wrong one stands out like a thistle in a rose garden.

    Long before vinyl pickets and chain link made their way into the garden, homesteaders made fences from nature's bounty. By using materials common to the landscape, the garden is naturally complemented by materials such as stone, thick hedges, or wood.

    While some natural substance walls are functional, others are more decorative than practical. Bucolic rock walls scattered throughout New England, for example, were created as farmers cleared fields of large stones.

    "That is the defining feature of the New England landscape … the stone wall," says Wesley Greene, garden historian with Colonial Williamsburg, Va.

    Most stone walls are no more than 3 feet tall, Greene says. Above that height, gardeners should use mortar to keep the stones in place. For a sturdy structure, walls should be at least three to five stones thick.

    Stone fences designed with permanence in mind also need a proper foundation, especially in cold climates. As winter ice works its way between rocks and expands, the fence can crack, heave, and collapse.

    Wattle — or twig — fences, made from woven panels of willow or other flexible sticks and branches, make good natural fencing where heavy stone is in limited supply. Wattle fences date to medieval times, Greene says. "The trick is getting the stick," he notes.

    Some fence makers would practice pollarding- cutting the top branches-young trees to promote more plentiful straight stems the following year. These flexible growths could then be woven between natural fence posts to make the wattle fence.

    View all Know How videos in Know How Video Central

    However, homeowners do not need pollarding to gather straight fencing material. Any material that's straight and flexible will work, such as willow, sycamore, or fruit wood.

    Greene recommends placing the fenceposts — large branches cut to your preferred height — at least 18 inches apart. While it may be necessary to add a few nails to keep stray pieces in place, weaving green material ensures that the fence ties as it dries.

    "It's not the type of fence you're going to put up and it will be there 10 years from now," Greene cautions.

    For a more permanent natural fence, consider a living fence made from trees, hedges, brambles, or bushes. Even in desert climates certain cacti, such as the organ pipe, can be planted for an attractive fence.

    Some trees, such as thorny honey locust or hawthorn, prevent intruders from crossing through the thicket. In colonial times, closely planted rows of Osage-orange, or hedge-apple, trees were used for livestock fencing because of their thick growing habits.

    Forsythias and multiflora rows can be planted close together for a blooming fence. Greene suggests keeping the fence trimmed to a height of about 4 feet. "With the living fence," he says, "it's a constant maintenance."