A fence is an outdoor wall that's perfectly serviceable when left plain but can transform your boring backyard if you decorate it. Create some magic for the kids, a trendy gallery for your own stolen moments of relaxation or an evolving canvas for artistic mastery. Re-imagine the privacy barrier that marks your property boundaries as a challenge to bring out the best in your al fresco decorating skills.
1. Mural, Mural on the Fence
Paint a mural on your fence for outdoor art you can view from the house. A stretch of flower garden fence sports air-brushed year-round blooms against a lavender background. The fence behind the basketball court gets a city scene of building silhouettes or a motley crowd of cartoon-style fans. Copy a treasured preschool drawing as a blown-up magnum opus on the fence, and then trace the outline of the artist next to it in paint and help her sign her name.
2. Hanging Garden Gallery
Hang a few decorative wall planters -- faux aged stone is a nice contrast to weathered wood or a distraction from industrial chain link. Fill the planters with trailing vines to cascade down the fence and use all-season ivy in several planters for greenery in winter. Intersperse the planters with an unexpected collection of decorative plates and painted metal signs, such as vegetable-stand signs over the veggie patch or cabana signs near the pool. Metal sculptures meant for inside walls might look even better out in the sun and rain where they will rust and weather in interesting ways. Kid's acrylic-painted canvases can be displayed en plein aire. Just fasten a canvas on stretchers to the fence at all four corners to discourage warping. Spray clear fixative over the entire canvas for longer protection against the rigors of your outdoor gallery.
3. Chalkboard Jungle
Paint a section of the backyard fence with two or three coats of chalkboard paint for an ongoing graffiti fest. Attach a couple of low hooks at kid height to hold buckets of colored chalk -- erasers will end up soggy, so use the hose or let the rain wash the latest oeuvre away to make room for new designs. Debut the fence at your child's next outdoor birthday party, but don't point out that it's really an instant fair-weather babysitting gift to yourself. Use the backyard blackboard to deliver reminders to your teenage pool cleaner or your middle-school dog walker. Post the menu for a grown-up party; add a few strings of outdoor fairy lights and a couple of tiki lamps so guests can read it, and invite them to scribble their own reviews or birthday congratulations.
4. Green Wall
Plant a living wall on your backyard fence, the same way innovative decorators do for a startling indoor display. A green wall of plants is simple to set up outdoors with a divided box -- even one as modest as a soda bottle crate will hold individual plants. Custom-build a larger hanging frame for a bigger impact that allows for more ambitious planting. A plastic or metal screen over the open side of a living green wall box or frame holds in soil and plants. Mist the box between rainfalls or plant drought-friendly succulents so the vegetation stays healthy. An entire section of fence becomes a formal vertical garden with a frame, a water-resistant backing, growing medium, a simple self-watering system and a vigorous melange of hardy green and flowering plants. You may wind up loving the green fence so much that you re-create it on an interior wall to live in a rain forest.
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