This FAQ deals with fence design as a matter of form: what homeowners and passersby alike will find visually appealing. As with any hardscape, visually appealing fence design will consider compatibility with both the style of your home and the style of your landscape.
First some examples of fence designs that match particular home styles. Modernistic houses are complemented nicely by the sleek lines of iron and aluminum fences. By contrast, split-rail fences, for instance, go better with ranch-style houses. Likewise, the wooden picket fence seems a natural fit for cottages.
Wooden picket fences evoke images of English cottage gardens, which leads us into the component of the question that deals with landscaping compatibility. Not only wooden picket fences, but also split-rail fences and other fence design comprising just posts and rails are commonly used as backdrops for cottage garden plants. Playing on their Western ties, split-rail fences also match landscapes with a Southwest theme, such as gardens with cacti and succulents.
Incidentally, even wooden picket fences, to say nothing of solid barrier fences, can create "microclimates" in a garden. Only a "loose and airy" fence design such as that of split rail fences fails to create microclimates. For more on this and similar matters, see my piece on fence line landscaping.
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