A chain link fence is durable and long lasting. It is a great choice for defining property boundaries and keeping your children and pets safe. Unfortunately, the dull, utilitarian look of the metal can also look stark and unattractive. Here are some ideas for adding some charm to your chain link fence that will help it blend more seamlessly into your landscape.
Using Perennials to Bring a Chain Link Fence to Life
Vines and climbers:
The very structure of chain link makes it the ideal, ready-made trellis for vines and other climbing plants that twine or cling to supports. Perennial vines such as clematis and honeysuckle produce beautiful flowers, or you can go with vines grown primarily for their foliage such as Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla) or English Ivy (Hedera helix).
Fruit trees: For an edible alternative, many varieties of standard, semi-dwarf, and dwarf fruit trees can be espaliered (trained to grow on a flat plane) and grown on chain link fences. Examples include apple, apricot, peach, nectarine, fig, persimmon, and pomegranate trees. The downside is that an espaliered fruit tree requires pruning at least two or three times a year to maintain its shape. The upside is fresh, edible fruits right from the fence. Fruit trees require full sun and good soil drainage, so your fence needs to be positioned appropriately.
Skirt the bottom of your fence with clump-forming perennials, such as daylilies and irises, to help control weeds and reduce mowing and trimming tasks.
Six Annual Vines for Fences
Before you plant a perennial vine or espalier fruit tree near your chain link fence, it's a good idea to experiment with some annual vines first. You may even find that you prefer the flexibility of being able to play with different colors and amounts of coverage each year, rather than being stuck with plants that are permanent.
The following are examples of vines that have vigorous growing habits and often reseed themselves. Research how these plants respond to your particular growing zone, as a few may become invasive under the right conditions.
Black-eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia alata)
Morning Glory (Ipomoea tricolor)
Cup-and-Saucer vine (Cobaea scandens)
Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus)
Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus)
Hyacinth Bean (Dolichos lablab)
Painting a Chain Link Fence
Over time, chain link fences tend to rust and fade. One way to improve their appearance is to paint them black or dark green. Painting your fence will make it look less industrial and help it to blend more seamlessly into the surrounding landscape. A dark color like black or green will also help showcase your plantings. The best tool for painting a chain link fence is a deep pile paint roller and a medium brush for touch-ups and painting the posts and poles. Use a rust-inhibiting, self-priming paint for good coverage with just one coat. Plan on one quart of paint per 20 feet of standard 4-foot-tall fencing and follow the directions on the can for prepping the surface before painting.