Garden fences tend to be bland and purely functional. In this article I'll suggest a few plants that you can easily grow to cheer up, or at least disguise, a dull fence.
Before you reach for the coloured stain, you might want to consider planting a climber or a screening shrub as a way to add some greenery to your garden fence.
Both will be better for wildlife in your garden and could even provide attractive flowers. Some might also provide fruit!
Provided that your fence is in good repair (it's worth checking before you plant) there are lots of climbing plants that are suitable!
Unless your fence is long and needs a lot of cover quickly, I'd avoid planting very vigorous climbers such as Virginia Creeper or Boston Ivy.
But the less widely planted Chinese Virginia Creeper is well worth considering. Not only does it have that spectacular autumn leaf colour of the others, but it is less vigorous and has more attractive summer leaves.
I'd also avoid planting Russian Vine because of its rampant growth.
But Akebia is a rapid grower that can be easily tamed and, unlike those I've mentioned so far, it is almost evergreen.
In spring, rich dark purple scented blooms appear, and after a hot summer, you may even get purple sausage shaped fruits to show off to your friends!
Several evergreen Clematis climbers are available to smarten up your garden fences.
Some of these are winter flowering, and others flower very early in spring.
The winter flowering Clematis cirrhosa varieties are very easy to grow, trouble-free and easily trained. They require little, if any, pruning.
I'd recommend planting the delightfully spotted flowered form appropriately called 'Freckles' but 'Wisley Cream'(lacking the spots) is good too.
Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles'
The later flowering and larger leaf Clematis armandii (see header image) need a warm place to do well. Consequently, this is one for sunny spots.
It's capable of producing several metres of new growth in a year, and those leaves are truly evergreen. The white spring blossoms are slightly scented.
You might be tempted to plant honeysuckles for that intoxicating heavy summer scent.
Sadly, most of those that are scented lose their leaves in winter. If looking at a tangle of bare stems from November to April doesn't worry you, then go for a good 'un!
The selection of our native Woodbine Lonicera periclymenum 'Graham Stuart Thomas' is exceptional since it flowers over an extended period.
*Lonicera periclymenum* 'Graham Stuart Thomas'
The Firethorn (Pyracantha) is a great choice to screen a fence.
It can be trained and trimmed so that it hugs the fence neatly.
In spring the bunches of white blooms will be a boost to bees and insects. Then in autumn and into winter, the red, orange or yellow berries will delight both you and the birds that feed on them.
Growth is generally dense enough to encourage a bird's nest or two.
Neatly trained Pyracantha plants
Pittosporum is another excellent choice as an attractive, small-leaved evergreen.
There are lots of varieties and it's the selections of Pittosporum tenuifolium that are most widely offered for sale.
Lots have beautiful coloured leaves which are great for cutting for flower arrangements.
I'd recommend the varieties 'Garnetti', 'Irene Patterson', 'Warnham Gold', 'Silver Queen' or 'Wendell Channon'.
All will tolerate regular clipping which makes them grow denser.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Wendell Channon'
While technically not a shrub, bamboo is a great choice to soften those harsh looking fences.
Bamboos are giant grasses, and some of them are very suitable for this purpose.
However, a word of warning because some have a nasty habit of wandering off and becoming a little invasive.
My advice is to stick to the Fargesia group and you won't go too wrong. It is doubtful that this type of bamboo will produce anything other than a neat clump of canes.
A living bamboo plant reflects light, filters sound and gives movement to a garden, so to my mind, it is an excellent way to hide a fence.
If you think there's anything I've missed, or want to share any tips you've learnt, please leave a comment!