By Shannon O’Halloran
Kenny constructing a rock wall
You may have seen this gentleman wandering through your yard during the installation of your landscape. Kenny is our craftsman. He builds amazing rock walls and water features, as well as all of our carpentry products.
As head of our carpentry program, Kenny designs many of our fences,
One of Kenny's beautiful fences
gates, pergolas, window boxes and stoops. At Field we are always looking for ways to put unique elements into our landscapes which are personal to our clients. Kenny is the person that makes these unique features shine.
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Angry Brooklyn Park neighbor erected this sign that proclaims "fence issue 'unresolved'" while warning family and their two dogs "Marlow" and "York" to Keep Out"
Living “cheek to jowl” as we do in our neighborhoods always develops the potential for some neighborly disputes. None is more contentious than the “fence vs. privacy” dispute. In some neighborhoods it is considered un-neighborly to put up a privacy fence. In the cozy St. Louis Park neighborhood in which my inlaws live, it is well understood (and enforced) that no one will ruin the rolling sward of forest and lawn by imposing fences. Even in Minneapolis, we encounter many, many hard-feelings and bitterness that are the result of someone putting up a fence.On the otherhand, the need for privacy is a central factor in our client’s decision to call in a landscape designer. Even when we like our neighbors, we don’t want to always have to step out the door and be intimate with their every gathering and impulse. To say nothing about the neighbors who have a barbeque party every night and can only talk at the highest decibels. Or the nice family who’s children stare through the chainlink fence and ask you questions about everything you do. Or the mechanic who uses his yard as a storing area for various car carcasses and greasy parts. Even the “Master Gardener” neighbor who has such a carefully primped front yard always has a tendency to pile all her clay and plastic pots and compost pile along our property line to stare at all winter.Here are a few rules when thinking about fences and privacy:
1. Think about your neighbor’s perspective during the design process (and beyond). What effect will the fence (or other privacy measure) have on their space? What ways can the design not only decrease the negative effects of the measure, but hopefully be an asset for them as well.2. While I do not recommend having a “blank slate” brainstorming conversation with you neighbors, I do recommend that you talk with your neighbors about your intentions. Discuss not only the decisions you’ve made but what led you to the decision. Be sure to mention ways in which you’ve considered their space. Ask them what they think and if there is anything they feel strongly about. Sometimes their input can lead to a solution that is better for all parties.3. Make the fence as transparent as possible while gaining the privacy required. No one wants to feel like they’re in a walled prison. Focus on blocking out the elements that require blocking, while leaving open views, areas for sun exposure, and paths for air circulation. Good fence design has a “light touch,” still leaving the space feeling open and with circulation and flow.4. When using plants for privacy, be cautious about overusing evergreens. In our climate, evergreens are prone to burn and other issues that can make them look mangy and worn. Mixing evergreens and deciduous shrubs and tiering plantings in front of them, will often provide the privacy required without making it look like an obvious “wall.”5. Get a survey done and double-check the city rules on fence locations. A survey seems like a hard pill to swallow at the time – they seem to run $600-$1000 – but they can save a lot of pain in the long run.
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