I wrote a few days ago regarding my excitement about the delivery of a container load of hazel wood hurdles from Belgium; the order we placed in May finally arrived. Wattles and hurdles are panels, woven from the coppice wood of willow and hazel wood. I personally favor the heft and longevity of the hazel wood; it is vastly more durable and substantial than willow. Coppicing is the practice of cutting trees or shrubs to the quick, with the intent of harvesting the branches for fuel, or fencing. The shrub or tree regrows, only to have its branches harvested again. Woven hurdles keep the livestock out of the vegetable garden. They border herb and vegetable gardens. They provide privacy without being utterly opaque. They work wherever they are needed. Woven hurdles are a fence material friendly to a garden or landscape of any point of view.
I have a client who has become a friend; he supports Michigan industry in a big way and was so pleased these stripped cedar fence poles we bought are Michigan grown. Though I ordered 5″ diameter poles, 10 feet long, they looked like telephone poles when they got delivered from a supplier in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. As I relentlessly speak to issues of proportion, I was worried I had gone over the edge by an inch. I was wringing my hands, until the fence went up. I should not have worried. The size of the pole was perfect for the heft and texture of the fence. The bare cedar poles are a good contrast to the woven hazel wood, which has all of its bark intact.
There is no substitute for the time when the talk ends, and the making begins. We set a pole down 24″ or so below grade, and set a panel up next to it. These panels are made by hand, and vary in width somewhat. One pole, one panel, and so on. This one step at a time construction ensures that the space between two poles is fitted to a specific panel. Steve toe-nail screwed the panels to the center of each post; this is a sturdy construction. What I like even better? This fence has no back or front; the panels are the same back and front. How friendly is this to neighboring properties? This fence looks good to both sides.
I have a client who plans to screen his hot tub with this fencing. It was the subject of intense debate today-will these hurdles screen a man who is happily skinny dipping? I vote yes-unless the neighbor plans to be close enough to see through the hurdle branches. The neighbor with his nose pressed to the fence-that is the subject of another essay, is it not? The fence is also friendly to vines that need to grip to climb. Clematis grown on this fence is especially lovely. We are careful to install the fence slightly above the existing grade of the ground. Wood in constant contact with soil will deteriorate much more quickly than wood that is able to shed water.
The fence is good looking with contemporary steel ornament, traditional terra cotta pots, a funky birdbath made from recycled materials, or a formal lead cistern fountain. This is by way of saying this fence looks good with almost anything. As to its longevity, imagine how long it takes a dead tree to fall and deteriorate. Branches and twigs are not good materials for the compost pile, as they break down so slowly. We have stocked this fencing for 8 years now. I have yet to have someone tell me it had disintegrated. Wood fences do age though-that is part of their charm.
Robert Frost once said that good fences make good neighbors. I would go beyond that to say that good fences can be beautiful. They slip into tight places. They screen views not suitable for public consumption. They divide this from that. They are happy to support climbing plants. They enclose great views. This hazel wood fence goes beyond to please the eye, and warm the garden.