Fence It

The White Picket Fence

So much imagery is conjured up around this little icon of nostalgia, even if it is meant metaphorically today. Little girls everywhere used to daydream of the house with the white picket fence when they grew up.  It meant their Prince awaited; marriage proposal, wedding, 2.5 kids, warm summer nights, and the metaphorical American Dream. The happily ever after dream.

I think of the idealistic, stay-at-home mom, busy baking cookies that you could smell stealing out the open window, kids playing safely in the bounds of the White Picket Fence, mouths starting to water at the first hint of the sweet smell.

Pretty flowers grew along the fence and as kids, we would pick them to surprise our mom on birthdays and as penitence for misdeeds. See the old-fashioned varieties, they transcend time and fad? The same ones that used to sit on the kitchen table, generation, after generation. The same plants growing with cuttings passed down and spread through families.

But the fence means so much more. Memories were fueled and idealistic dreams were filed for our grownup future.

The dreams never included taking care of the fence, staining, painting or repairing. But it might have included decorating the fence, being creative with ideas, and different in design.

And planting the fence. Does the White Picket Fence not scream cottage garden?  Look at all the flowers that get planted, the kaleidoscope of color, shape and size that lined our grandmother’s garden fence.

And smelling the roses as you passed by the fence on the way to just about anywhere your mind and little feet took you.

Nostalgia comes in many forms with things we don’t have the time for anymore, but our grandparents did. And they made it as a grand affair. Time with family meant everything, and often, that happened within the bounds of the fence, through the gate, or up on the front porch.

Our fences may not be white, wood, or worn, but they enclose, provide a sense of security, and give a charming, homey feel. Fences represent physical boundary, but the White Picket Fence does it in a more friendly, sweeter, neighborly way.

They lead places, beautiful places. Places that exude charm and a quaint cottage feel.

And they help to make a garden room by designating space for certain functions, whether rest or play, entertainment, or solitude.

They might separate neighbors, but also make a place for neighbors to get together and have a chat over the proverbial white picket fence.

But the thing with fences, they give the flowers support, a place for the flowers to shine and strut their stuff. You might want to plant a fence today and bring back memories long ago shelved.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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41 Responses to Fence It

  1. Victor Ho says:

    What a nice tour. And spring is right around the corner.

  2. Les says:

    And for people who collect plants with not thought to overall design, white picket fences are a great unifier (spoken from personal experience).

  3. David says:

    I loved the tour and I love picket fences (I actually have a collection on my garden blog). Are the first photos of your garden? What a beautiful mixed border….one of the best I’ve ever seen.
    Great post and some wonderful ideas for me to savor. Yes, I think the nostalgia factor is deeply ingrained in my memories of childhood….particularly of my Grandmother’s country garden.

  4. andrea says:

    I’ve always loved the white picket fences. However, in this part of the world it is not as easy to do as it sounds, we have mostly cemented or metal enclosures. In our area in the province i wanted to do that but there are lots of termites there, and termiticides (?) are so expensive. Wood is also expensive and difficult to get these days, we opted sometimes on bamboo slats but termites and fungus easily decompose them. Whew!

  5. Stacy says:

    One of our neighbors when I was little had a white picket fence with a big weeping willow inside it–it was my idea of a storybook, and I used to sigh with longing every time we went past. The rest of our neighborhood leaned more toward dilapidated chain link, which wasn’t nearly so dreamy… Beautiful photos as always, Donna. It’s lovely to be transported back to summer (and childhood) for a while.

  6. These photos made me so happy it is spring! Our fences tend to become trellises for edible fruiting vines (muscadines & kiwi). I have some native aristolochia on one in a shady place, too.

  7. Lilybell says:

    Beautiful photos! I’m 26, tried the working world and would much rather be studying the ways of the plants and cultivating a home. Even without kids! My little flowers would be my kids until the time is right =)

  8. White picket fences ARE friendly. Love that garden!! While I don’t have fences in my yard, I like the gentle borders that a picket fence offers.
    Like white pickets so much am thinking about making a headboard for one of the guest room beds. White accents in that room would be perfect!

  9. Laurrie says:

    I miss the short span of white picket fence at my former house that had two New Dawn climbing roses rambling on it. The whole look just suited the space and house just like the ones in your pictures here. My current garden does not lend itself to a white picket fence (or could it . . . hmmm).

  10. Chad B says:

    Enjoyed your pictures as always. It also made me want to add a fence to a portion of my yard . . . maybe a long weekend project is in my near future.

  11. This brings back memories for me. One of the things I thought about is all the lovely fences and flowers flowing among them up in Door County, Wisconsin. If you ever have a chance to vacation there in the summer, you would love it. It’s like stepping back in time. Fences certainly add character to gardens!

  12. Jess says:

    I’m not sure exactly how I feel about them… I am surrounded by them where I have no other choice, so I run into their down sides. Due to the historic nature I’m not even allowed to remove them! And do I have white picket fences!!!! And wouldn’t you know it, I grew up on a farm in Virginia among wide open rolling hills with mountains in the background where the only fences were barbed wire: I didn’t even have to correct daydream vision going to begin with!

  13. Maryann says:

    As a child when I was angry with my parents I would dream of running away. It never failed
    that in my dream I would get to the house at the corner of my street, smell the lilacs over the fence,
    calm myself down and return home. Thanks for bringing that memory back to me!

  14. John says:

    Such wonderful photos, and some great ideas for landscaping and utilizing fences. I can’t wait for Spring now, the flower pictures just make me want to melt the snow myself.

  15. Barbie says:

    Oh how absolutely beautiful – the picket fence brings so much interest to the garden and it always conjures up the white version, regardless if you direct visitors to your home and mention a rustic picket fence, they still look for the white one! Did I spot a Mexican Petunia? And you Clematis is just beautiful. So much colour and textures. My favourite is the bird houses!! Thank you for sharing.

  16. Lovely to look at but not very practical – all that painting! They remind me of Tom Sawyer – he hated painting them too! On the other hand they do give a garden a cottage feel.

  17. Christina says:

    My first rememberance is of a boy painting them in the Pollyanna film or am I mixing that up with Tom Sawyer above? I don’t see any pictures, any ideas as to why? Christina

  18. You create such a romantic image! Beautiful.

  19. Karen says:

    Loved your post and beautiful photos. It makes me long for summer or even spring as my gardens are all under a foot of snow.

  20. When I planned my garden 7 years ago it had to have a white picket fence with gates and arbors or pergolas. I wanted it for the quaint, nostalgia, the charm, the support and backdrop for gardens and the ability to keep out pets and children but not too harshly…well said Donna and lovely visions of fenced gardens…

  21. Dear Donna, I LOVE this posting! You totally validate why I have so many picket fences around my cottage gardens. Makes me long for summer when the flowers are in bloom along them. P. x

  22. Going Native says:

    A friend and I were just talking yesterday about picking flowers for our moms from the garden. Thank you for the lovely post.

  23. I think I feel about walled gardens as you do about picket fences. The second photo down is a delight.

  24. b-a-g says:

    Brilliant post Donna. I’ve never seen a white picket fence in real life. I wonder how often they need to be painted – I imagine it’s not that easy once it’s supporting plants. At least that’s my excuse for not staining my fence.

  25. Christine says:

    I love white picket fences – I especially love them when they are covered in flowers or provide support for them. Too pretty. I wish I had a space for one … 🙂
    Lovely photos Donna!

  26. HolleyGarden says:

    Oh, I love the look of a white picket fence! I think almost any flower would look good against one! Isn’t it funny that our grandparents had time to make things so pretty and special, and us, with all our gadgets supposedly to help us with our chores, seem to never have enough time!

  27. Kala says:

    Thank you for taking us on this lovely tour. I am partial to white picket fences myself.

  28. Greg says:

    I enjoyed this post immensely. I think the calmness created in these gardens were more than just the picket fence, it was good design. And I believe some of the fences were pvc which takes less maintenance including no painting. Fun! g.

  29. Love your pictures. Such clarity and beauty! Love picket fences, too! Nice post!

  30. debsgarden says:

    Beautiful photos! I like the fence decorated with birdhouses! I also had the dream of the white picket fence, and now I have one. We used it as the enclosure for our dog lot. That was before we realized some dogs like to eat wood fences. We also planted a climbing rose on it, and that was before we knew that some dogs like to eat roses, thorns and all! Sadly, the dogs have passed away now, but the fence and the rose survive. The dog lot is about to undergo a renovation, enlarging to incorporate the herb bed area and becoming something of a kitchen garden. We plan to extend the picket fence and plant more flowers around it.

  31. tina says:

    I love fences in my garden. The more the better as I like that privacy but also the barriers and of course flower supports. You showcased them perfectly! The best I’ve seen on any blog.

  32. PRETTY!!!

    (Though I can’t have fences around my garden as I don’t want them to eliminate the chance of waking up in the morning and see deer grazing on the lawn…)

  33. Catherine says:

    What pretty pictures!! We put up a white picket fence a year ago and I just love it. I did always dream of having one. This year I’ll be working on planting around it.

  34. I like fences in and around the garden. Not only are they decorative and functional, but sometimes I do think of them as another plant. They seem to integrate into the garden so easily and nicely, and I like having the garden defined in that way sometimes. Your photos of so many possibilities show us how endless the use of fences can be…beautiful!

  35. Indie says:

    What a beautiful garden! I’ve always adored a planting along a white picket fence, especially right up front in the front yard. I am sad that one would not really go in our yard without looking odd, though I do have eventually plans for dressing up our back yard privacy/deer fence if I can get my husband to go along with them.

    Ah,looking at these pictures and dreaming a lovely dream…

  36. Lona says:

    I am still dreaming of the white picket fence. LOL! I love seeing them still with beautiful flowers planted along them. I guess I am of that generation that always dreamed of having it.

  37. I had to read this post as I stare at my ugly chain link fence and wind-shredded bamboo paneling to try to cover it, and the view next door. Hmmm, the neighbor just added a recliner to his outdoor grilling, storage, garbage, seating area. I think I need something more substantial than a white picket fence, though enjoyed the views here. I am also impressed with the very crisp edging.

  38. I enjoyed this lovely post! I am so excited for spring to get here!

  39. Shyrlene says:

    LOVE this post! White picket is so much prettier than chain-link (not to say chain-link can’t be dressed up with plants in front of it!).

  40. Donna! What a lovely, charming, peaceful, relaxing, nostalgic, refreshing, inspiring post! I’d love to be able to “sit a spell” near ANY of those fences.

  41. Cara Olsen says:

    “Little girls everywhere used to daydream of the house with the white picket fence when they grew up. It meant their Prince awaited; marriage proposal, wedding, 2.5 kids, warm summer nights, and the metaphorical American Dream. The happily ever after dream.” ~ When I read those first couple of lines, I was mildly chagrined. Are we ALL so transparent?! Alas, I am just another maudlin product of Disney whimsey. Thankfully (Thank you, God!), I did find, date, and marry my Prince Charming. :0)

    These photos are just stunning. I do appreciate the look around your place. They weren’t all taken in your backyard, were they? If so, my goodness, you live in paradise! I could use your green thumbs over here; my garden is looking rather shabby these days . . .

    Nice to meet you!

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