Creating a Focal Point Fence

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Creating a Focal Point Fence

Outdoor and indoor areas are sometimes seen as two totally separate spaces governed by totally separate sets of design rules.

While sometimes this is true, often times its not. Take focal points, for example.

In the garden, focal points are usually thought of as a single object. For example, a fountain, specimen plant or an arbor. Inside, however, it’s commonly the walls of the home that form the foundation for focal points. Think of a brightly colored wall used as a backdrop for a grouping of photos or artwork. This indoor strategy can be applied to the garden, only instead of using interior walls you can use your fence!

I’m talking about much more than planting a vine to cover your fence. I’m talking about using your fence as a foundation for displaying artwork, growing edibles, and showing your personality. Don’t let that fence just sit there and be a fence - put that fence to work for you!


Fences are the perfect surface for supporting an edible garden, too! Consider espaliered fruit trees. Planted in the narrowest of spaces, they’re not only visually stunning to look at (even when bare) but they’ll provide an abundance of fruit as well. Espalier is a French technique of training a tree or shrub to grow flat against a wall, in a variety of shapes. It’s astonishing how much fruit can be harvested in just 12” of planting space using this method.


Fences are also the perfect surface for growing climbing edibles, such as beans and peas. But instead of using a regular humdrum wooden trellis attached to your fence, go the extra step and use a decorative one instead. That way during the winter, or a season’s ‘down time’, your fence will continue to look beautiful and interesting.


And don’t forget the many systems of living walls that can be displayed on a fence. Woolly pockets are an example of a clever way you can have a vegetable garden in very limited space. Some of the practical advantages of using your fence this way are not only having your edibles within easy reach (especially for those who find it difficult to bend over), but because your vegetables are raised off the ground they have an added layer of protection from snails, slugs and other bugs. And when planted with edible flowers, the Woolly pockets can turn an ordinary fence into one brimming with personality!


But don’t feel that all fences need to be covered with plants! A neutral colored fence or wall can perfectly highlight a collection of brightly colored flowerpots, miniature trellises or other artwork! Group your collection in one area for maximum impact, soften the fence with plants and you have a stunning focal point in your garden!


When using only plants to create a focal point, consider the existing color of your fence or wall. For example, imagine if the purple clematis in this photo were planted on an ordinary brown fence. While still beautiful, they wouldn’t have quite the same impact as they do on this burnt orange wall, would they? By painting a wall or fence a different color you not only create an instant focal point, but with thoughtful planting your wall can have a dramatic effect in your garden.