Choosing a Wood Colour For Your Fence
Let’s face it, the colour of most new fence panels is unattractive. Often described as something like “golden chestnut” or “red cedar” they are invariably an unpleasant shade of brick-orange. Left to fade they will disappear into an unobtrusive grey, but wood colours are promoted to “bring them back to life”. Or in other words maintain them as a predominant, unsightly feature in your garden. I am always amazed how many homeowners will try myriads of tester pots in their homes to ensure they get the right shade, whereas in the garden they are prepared to use any old big tin of what’s on offer.
Some wood treatment suppliers offer an extensive range of wood colours. These are usually water-based paints that are harmless to plant material once applied and dry. They only preserve the wood to a limited extent, the solvent-based preservatives penetrate the wood, protecting it and extending its life. So if you start with a pressure-treated or tantalised wooden fence panel the treatment is already in the wood and a water based wood colour will change the colour and appearance. I could fill the whole blog about this subject but I want to get on to colour.
First and foremost you need to remember that the wood colour is there to enhance the garden, not to make a feature of the fence. A dilapidated, warped and broken fence will only become a more obvious, and probably ridiculous feature if you paint it with an eye-catching colour. Best to spend your money on replacement, repair or planting to screen it. If you must paint it choose a subtle shade.
Contrary to what many think green is the trickiest colour to use. Getting a shade of green that enhances leaves, rather than killing their colour needs a good eye. Don’t choose it from a colour chart or the top of a tin. Try it on a small area if in doubt and be prepared to change your mind. As a starting point I suggest you go soft or dark in your colour selection. Soft grey- greens work as do deep holly greens.
Different colours work in different light levels. Blues, yellows even pinks might work in a seaside garden with gravel, pebbles and lots of grey foliage. In a country garden they might be disastrous. A strong wood colour, particularly blue, might work on a garden feature, but paint a whole fence with it and it is likely to be overpowering and just down-right nasty.
Just as it is important to tie in any hard landscaping materials, such as paving and gravel, with the fabric of your house, this also applies to wood colours. The yellow tones of Cotswold paving may not sit well with a grey fence colour, you would be better with something warmer and browner. That’s also why those “yellow” preservatives look so out of place with grey paving.
Grey shades are generally a good choice with planting. They also suit contemporary and minimalist designs. Some will consider them hard and industrial, however they do sit well against the sky and a backdrop of trees and they enhance any planting, however simple, in front of them.
I always think one of the worst mistakes you can make is to do half a job. I suppose the coloured fence is seen as a “feature wall”. In reality it just makes the rest of the woodwork look tired and tatty. That’s why it is so important to choose the right colour in the first place. In the above picture this is a good fence and a reasonable wood colour. It looks awful where the fencing runs straight down to grass. Grass is such an emerald green and has no variation in shade or texture to speak of. Imagine a good border of foliage shrubs and perennials against this fence and the picture would be transformed.
So if you get the right wood colour my final tip: don’t spoil it. This is quite a well-chosen colour and a good fence. It works well with the gravel and planting and enhances the garden. Then disaster strikes in the form of a few plastic wall baskets planted with some nasty bedding combinations. Why? If you wanted more interest on the fence plant a foliage shrub against it; maybe a variegated pittosporum. Or use a climber. A small-leaved grey-green and white variegated ivy. Get rid of those awful baskets and you will see an instant improvement.