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How to make a garden fence last....and last........!

Built over 30 years ago, we thought the long fence made from overlap panels would never last because of it's exposed position and the regular strong winds. During the first couple of years one or two of the wooden posts were damaged at their bases but they were shored up and the fence held. Then, a bright idea! Let's plant an ivy to see if that will stabilise it better. Initially trained along the fence, the ivy soon took over and covered it. Close examination of the fence posts shows that if it was not for the ivy, we would have spent considerable time and trouble replacing parts of the fence over the years because in some places it is only the ivy which is holding it up image 


A refuge and a nesting place for birds, a home for toads at the base and a shelter for the cats when caught out in bad weather, the ivy hedge needs only an annual trim. Here is a picture of a short section of it:


Apologies, for some reason unable to upload a photo of the fence. 




  • Ivy has an undeserved bad reputation.The front of my old stone house is covered in ivy. also planted 30 years ago. A survey I read a year or three (! maybe in Gardening Which?) ago found that it provides significant heat insulation and protection from the effects of the weather, wind, rain and ice and snow and does no damage if the wall is sound. It provides  food for insects in winter and a regular nest site for birds, blackbirds last year, pied wagtails this, wrens before that. It also looks good. I chose Goldheart and the splashes of yellow add cheer to what would otherwise be a gloomy, damp, North-facing wall. It is now due its annual trim though, to uncover the study window and save the bathroom one from the same fate! 

  • KT53KT53 South WestPosts: 7,286

    Just like any other plant, ivy is only a problem if it's growing where it's not wanted.

  • Thank you to all for the responses


    I think the decision is that ivy planted in the right place has more advantages than disadvantages, as long as it is not allowed to become rampant image



  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 81,387

    Thoroughly agree about the benefits of ivy - I love it and I spent a delightful hour yesterday photographing insects on ivy flowers image

    However, just a word of warning - Ivy which reaches the arborial stage (which is when it flowers and fruits) will become very heavy and in wind and rain it can pull a fence down.  When we viewed this house the fences were covered by ivy which had been regularly trimmed back - in the period between us deciding to purchase and actually buying and moving in the owner did not trim the ivy back - we moved in and the ivy had become thick and heavy and before we could cut it back, a day of heavy rain and strong wind resulted in this



    If you're going to allow ivy to flower and fruit, which is when it is at it's most beneficial to wildlife, it has to be well supported - a fragile panel fence will not do the job.


    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • KT53KT53 South WestPosts: 7,286

    It must have been a long time between viewing and moving in if the ivy had gone from being trimmed back to a state where it destroyed the fence.

    The other problem with having ivy over an old fence is that it also encroaches on the neighbour's garden.  It may not be what they want but if they cut it back it could kill the growth on your side.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 81,387

    That's the problem - the fence was old and rotten and had been so for a long time; the ivy was holding it up - when the ivy became top heavy it pulled the fence down.

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • image



    Oh dear, Dovefromabove, it looks as if the ivy had not been touched for some time, though you say that this happened in a relatively short space of time.


    I posted in error that my fence had been built from overlap panels. It was not panels but was constructed as a continuous overlapping fence. The issue we had was with the wooden posts at ground level. Even the original side and back gates remain in a fair condition.


    It is a perimeter fence with a side road running alongside it so there is no encroaching on the neighbour's land. Inside the fence I maintain a border which if it were not for the ivy would have been planted with shrubs. This allows for any 'creep' and regularly trimmed, the ivy is prevented from encroaching into the lawn. 


    Managed to resize the photo to show part of the ivy hedge internally.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 81,387

    I think the problem with the fence/hedge we inherited was that the tops had been allowed to develop arborial growth to produce flowers and fruit for wildlife - the neighbours say that the practice over the previous twenty years had been to cut this back every other year and they always did it from their side - however the chap we bought the house from had only been there a few years and hadn't done his side of the tip - he'd just trimmed the vertical sides back, leaving the tops for the wildlife.  It became top heavy. 

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

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