Fences are great for privacy, security, and keeping kids and pets corralled. Whether you choose wood, aluminum, or vinyl fencing, a good fence can enhance the beauty and value of a house. But sometimes they get short shrift when it comes to landscaping. Often a quick trim at the base with a weed whacker is the only attention they get. Consider creating a bed of decorative mulch or rock that extends along and a couple of feet out from your fence. You can put shrubs, flowers, (or both) in the bed. A row of potted plants or ornamental grasses can work well, too. This can also serve as a subtle space for vegetables or herbs in lieu of a traditional garden plot. By adding contrasting colors of different plants and mulch, your fence line can complement your well-maintained San Antonio landscape.
Instead of hiding your fence, highlight it with climbing vines. A little greenery along the top and sides of the structure helps the fence blend into the yard. Vines, such as bougainvillea or trumpet vine, can hide blemishes in an older fence that’s becoming a little too “rustic.” But choose your vines carefully: Some, like the popular English ivy and some varieties of morning glory and jasmine are invasive and can quickly spread out of control.
“Invasive plant species cause a combination of economic, environmental and human health threats,” says Dr. Barron S. Rector, an associate professor of rangeland ecology and management at Texas A&M University. Invasive plants “do not provide food or much value to Texas native wildlife.”
He warns the invasive vines and plants will often crowd out the native plants that feed local wildlife. Create a walkway of stone, pavers, or concrete adjacent to the fence and nearby flower beds. The paths can be attractive accents as well as serving the practical purpose of giving you space to work the beds and water. These elements will cut down on the amount of grass you’ll have to mow. You’ll also have less water-greedy turf to deal with.
For your bedding shrubs and plants, think native. Texas has a wealth of native plants to choose from. With imagination and planning, you can turn that chain-link or bare wood fence into a stunning landscape element. The shrubs will enhance the noise-blocking purpose of the fence.
The name says it all. This water-miser shrub can take shade or sun and will reward you with lovely pink blossoms in spring and early summer.
The greenish-white flowers in early summer bring clusters of beautiful purple berries to its branches in late summer. American beautyberry prefers some shade, making a fenced area perfect. It can tolerate full sun, as long as you water it often. It can also tolerate drought and various soil conditions. The berries and seeds are a favorite of birds and butterflies, so expect an influx of flying critters when the berries arrive.
This shrub forms large, dense colonies. In Texas, its creamy, white flowers can grow to 10 inches wide, bringing blooms from May to July.
The state flower is also the most prolific in Texas. There are six species of native Texas bluebonnets, but only one was named the state flower in 1901 by the Texas Legislature — the Lupinus subcarnosis, also known as the buffalo clover. Correcting its oversight, legislators expanded the definition in 1971, adding “any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded.” The bluebonnet, in its many varieties, will add color to your fence line in March and April. The leaves and seeds are poisonous, so deer and rabbits usually avoid them.
This red flower grows taller than other Texas wildflowers, sometimes as high as 16 inches. It prefers full sun but does well in both sandy and clay soil.
Butterfly milkweed and Texas milkweed
Milkweed holds the distinction of being the only host plant for the monarch butterfly. The butterfly variety is the most attractive with bright orange flowers. It’s popular and easy to find in San Antonio nurseries. The Texas milkweed is best if your fence line sits in a shady area since these flowers thrive without sunshine. Both will bring scores of monarch butterflies to your yard as they make their annual trek through San Antonio during their fall migration.
Take Care of Your Fence
Vegetation can damage your fence. Keep shrubs trimmed away from it. Moisture in branches can transfer to wooden fencing and cause it to warp or rot. Consider trellises for vine-covered chain link to avoid sagging the metal fabric. Be mindful when trimming the grass and weeds around your fence, as the trimming line can easily cause damage if you aren’t careful. There are several types of weed eaters out there, but be sure to get one that you are extremely comfortable using so that you don’t nick your fence. A cautionary note: Fences, shrubs, and hedges can give you privacy — but they can also hide backyard intruders. Police warn you to keep property barriers from becoming too tall or overgrown. Nighttime lighting can also discourage would-be burglars.