HOA in your Way? Grow Yourself a Fence!

When I purchased my 2nd home, we were informed that years ago HGTV had designed the backyard. It was gorgeous, full of vibrant colors, and to be honest- required a lot of upkeep.

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Not too much later, we got a puppy. Meet my firstborn, Oscar- who at the time was 1 pound. Now he’s a burly 4lbs…or 5 depending on if the kiddos liked supper or not.

 

In order to keep him safe, we wanted to finish the wooden fence that surrounded the majority of the property. The Builder had installed fencing around 98% of our backyard so we would only need to put in 6 panels total. All we had to do was apply to the Architectural Review Board through the Home Owners Association (HOA) and we’d be set, right?

Wrong.

This was our first ever encounter with an HOA permissions process. Our application, which included forms, fees, and research was denied. The reason? Finishing our fence with wooden panels would “impede on our neighbors’ views of our beautiful HGTV garden”.

What the what?!

It was voted that we could put in a standard height metal one like this one . The original wooden fence was grandfathered in. Wood fencing was now deemed too tall and no longer permitted to be installed in the neighborhood.

Now as a Realtor, I’m very well aware that metal privacy fences are nearly always required in HOA restrictive neighborhood situations where a requesting home is on the water. You cannot ‘impede’ on your neighbor’s view of a lake.

But this a neighbor-bordering backyard and my pup will easily get through those fence slats…sigh….The Board had come to their decision and restrictions are indeed restrictive. 

After dealing with the initial shock and defeat, we creatively came up with a alternative solution. We re-read the HOA covenants and regulations to confirm that our idea was indeed permissible, and proceeded to grow our own fence.

There were restrictions about taking plants out but not against putting plants in!

So which plants to use?…

Ligustrum

Now this was my go-to. It can be shaped into just about anything- think Edward Scissorhands- and is actually a tree. They’re very hardy and deal with the Florida heat well.

ligustrum hedge privacy

*One thing to note* is you do have to make sure to trim them fairly often once they are established, otherwise they will grow more upward than outward. This can leave the bottoms looking a little bare and twiggy.

Ligustrum privacy hedge


Bamboo

Bamboo privacy

Another thought would be bamboo, like the original source for  this lucky little indoor guy.

It’s sturdy and will literally “shoot” upward. They also sprout very close together.

It can sometimes take 3-4 years for planted bamboo to get anywhere near your desired privacy height. Keep that in mind if you buy them small from the nursery, though it does tend to thrive in Florida.

 


Viburnum

My customers who installed that super cool cabinet- covered spice rack have the most AMAZING viburnum hedges I have ever seen. Take a look for yourself:

Viburnum privacy hedge

Major selling point and incredible privacy.

Fun fact: they also grow 3 times faster than ligustrum!

 


Podocarpus

This thick evergreen will actually grow a few stories tall if you let it! Just don’t expect that to happen overnight; it’s not known for growing quickly. Make sure you don’t buy the dwarf version if you are looking for privacy.

When taken care of, these shrubs become thick and luscious and can take on just about any shape you try.  Their color will be determined by the amount of sunlight received- darker green in shade, more lime sprinkled in if in direct sunlight.

 

Podocarpus hedge privacy

They are very popular in the landscape business right now.


Setting Roots

We ultimately decided to put in ligustrum. Remember what I mentioned about needing to trim down a bit so they don’t get scraggily? This is how I learned that nugget of knowledge. We managed to catch ours in time, but they would be more “bushy” and not taken quite so long to “hedge” had we known to trim them so much from the start. It is still effective in keeping pooch in, but if I had to do-over I’d go with viburnum or podocarpus.

 

What did the HOA think?

The folks on the board were pretty impressed with our idea and have actually suggested it to other folks in the same predicament.

These days, they also make more puppy-friendly fences like this one. I guess enough folks had the pup/fence/HOA dilemma to warrant inventing a new style of fence.

Another idea

Feeling left out because you don’t necessarily have a yard to grow a fence in? Fear not! I’ve shown a few condos that have “hung” their own privacy fence on the balcony.

I LOVE this idea! Get yourself a few hanging planters and go wild! As they grow, they will form a privacy wall and eventually begin to absorb sound.

 

 

Do you know of any other plants that would make excellent natural privacy fences?

 

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