February 4, 2010



Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen ground swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing;
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
Butat Spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each,
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance
" Stay where you are until our backs are turned ! "
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more :
There where it is we do not need the wall :
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him
He only says, " Good fences make good neighbors. "
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head :
"Why do they make good neighbors? "
Isn't it where there are cows? But here there are no cows. "
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down, " I could say " Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly,
and I'd rather he said it for himself.

I see him there bringing a stone
grasped firmly by the top in each hand

like an old-stone savage armed he moves
in darkness it seems to me

Not of words only and the shade of trees
He will not go behind his father's saying
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, " Good fences make good neighbors. "

-Robert Frost

Robert Frost didn't dwell in the city which is probably why he didn't like fences. I had never lived in a house surrounded by a fence before moving to the city . Our first home didn't have one either until one Spring, just as the tulips and daffodils were blooming in my front yard , a huge German Shepherd came rushing in and mowed them down.

Even though I was seething, I said to the dog owner, as politely as I could muster, that I worked hard to keep a nice garden and I would appreciate it if he would keep his dog in check. He grew angry and ordered the dog to " get her. " I ran in the house and shouted out the window that I was calling the police. " I don't care, " he retorted, " I've only got six months to live, " to which I replied , " If you don't get off my property NOW I'm going to shorten that sentence. And that is why I have never regretted having my front garden fenced in.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by good neighbors but for reasons of privacy, dogs, and security we find a fence a good thing to have. When we had to take down a rickety old wooden fence between my neighbor Ceci and I we put up a cedar one with a decorative lattice top. To soften the fence we planted Sweet Autumn Clematis a few years ago. The beautiful white clouds of star-like flowers and the fragrance is something we look forward to every Autumn.

And that's just one good reason why I agree with Robert Frost's neighbor that " good fences make good neighbors. "

Visit Gardening Gone Wild and see what other garden bloggers are saying about their walls and fences in their workshop this month.

Written by Carolyngail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago
All rights reserved


  1. You said it so well. And to think I thought I had bad neighbors! The fence looks great and does make for a great neighbor. Nice and quiet and doesn't bite:)

  2. Isn't your backyard beautiful? No wonder you spend a lot of time out there! And no wonder the fences. Especially after the story with the huge German Shepherd. Pretty sad story about the fellow's state of being, too.

  3. Thought-provoking post re provoking neighbors. I'm nervous to share my stories, but neighbors who don't care about gardens (it's shocking but common)are a huge issue. Your garden is just lovely with all the plant material blurring the boundaries - a beautiful dream in the city!

  4. Wow Carolyn - that sounds like an awful experience with the dog owner. There are lots of good reasons for fenced yards, and people who behave like that man are good examples of the reasons! A couple of houses ago I had a fence installed after a neighbor installed a pool that took up their entire yard. It was an eyesore, their kids trampled many plants playing in our yard since there was no room for play outside the pool in their own, and we had no privacy. The fence solved all those problems.

    I love sweet autumn clematis climbing a fence - did that myself at my last house on the 8' fence surrounding a shady little courtyard garden in the side yard at my last house. It was my favorite spot I think, of any house I've lived in. It was a very tall, but open wood fence, and the clematis filled in the gaps, turning the fence into a living wall that was especially beautiful, and nicely fragrant in September. I still miss that place!

    Your garden is so beautiful! It's nice to see all that summer color in the season of brown and white.

  5. Love seeing your beautiful gardens again, Carolyn! And Robert Frost is one of my favorites. :-)

  6. Even if it was true that the dog owner had only 6 months to live, what a jerk. Your garden is beautiful.

  7. What a story, and a good reason for a fence. Your garden is so pretty.

  8. A European friend cannot understand how we live in homes here without fences or walls! There is comfort in a fence in so many ways.

    Great post and lovely photos!

  9. Thank you all for your lovely comments.

  10. Yikes, Carolyn - I don't think even the best fence could make a good neighbor out of that horror, but cheers to you for making the best of the situation. Thanks for sharing your stories for this month's Design Workshop!

  11. What a horrible experience to have with someone in your own garden. No wonder you like fences. I must say I have grown to like them since I have lived here. I don't have to worry about my dog bothering anyone. It keeps people from crossing through our garden to get to the other side. Yes, it makes the neighbors happy that we have boundaries. I love talking over the fence or at times ignoring that someone is out. Funny how that body language can say so much.

  12. Good heavens! A stranger sicced his german shepard on you in your own yard? I would have had to physically restrain my hubby from shooting the dog and tackling the owner. We all have to die someday, as if that's an excuse to attack someone!

    We had dog problems, too, which is why we had a short fence put in the front yard. It really helps but the moose just step over it;)

    Christine in Alaska, land of gun-toting gardeners


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