THE basic logic of a front fence is to enclose your territory. It marks the boundary between where the street ends and your private property begins. But in the past decade, the role of the front fence has been elevated beyond one of implied privacy to something far grander.The boundary line is now marked by super-sized fences in elaborate displays of stacked stone or complex horticultural displays and high walls.For many, it’s all about privacy, and in a city where land pockets are small, this makes a lot of sense. But there’s also the connection between the house and the street to consider. And choosing the right materials to suit your house can be tricky. KEEPING IT REAL There are so many front fence styles to choose from, but the old chain link fencing has definitely had its day.Owner of End 2 End Fencing, Tony Lobasso, has worked with many different fencing materials and styles for creating front fences over the past decade, and says heavy metals and timbers are making way for aluminium.“Unless you are building a new house, you only start to think about putting up a new fence when the old one is starting to fall down and passed its use-by date,” says Tony.Even when homeowners are replacing a front fence on a classic federation or Art Deco home, the preference is to brick up the columns and width of the fence to a halfway point, then add aluminium in between, keeping costs down.media_cameraHomeowners are looking for materials that can withstand the elements while still being low maintenance.Tony says not only do the mixed use materials give the home a heritage feel, but the use of aluminium has become almost standard in his industry as homeowners look for a material that can withstand the elements while still being low maintenance.“A lot of people that I speak to just want a fence that is low maintenance,” he says.“They don’t want to have to paint the fence year after year, and this is just an easier option.”The NSW Department of Planning and Environment stipulates that the front fence should be a maximum of 1.2m high with a gate that opens inward. This is the standard that can be built without planning or building approval in residential zones, although councils are often open to discussion around height.They will also be interested in the materials you want to use to construct it.This is especially the case in heritage conservation areas where there are often a more limited range of style available.“The average height is about one metre, but I have worked on front fences that are up to 1.8m high,” says Tony. “People just want to maintain their privacy and for their home to feel secure.” More: end2endfencing.com.au; planningportal.nsw.gov.au SETTING THE STYLE BOUNDARIESmedia_cameraMake sure the fence matches the architecture as with this metal design for a contemporary house.Getting your front fence style right is important. It will impact on the overall look of your home. But there are some options that will work with different architectural styles. Art Deco Art Deco facades tend to be brick with geometric shapes, curved walls and porthole stained-glass windows. Wrought-iron gates and blocked-brick fencing complement this style beautifully. ModernModern and minimal homes are all about flat roofs and hard angles. Balance this style with natural materials such as wood or stone.media_cameraA picket fence is perfect for this charming Californian bungalow. Californian bungalow This style (above) peaked in the 1920s, with timber floors, window frames and doors and double brick construction. A picket fence works well, or panelling between brick pillars. Hamptons These homes are elegant and grand with a lot of weatherboard cladding so you want a fence that won’t overpower the design. A white picket fence or a natural rosebush fence would complete the look. GROW WITH A LIVING FENCE FOR A REAL GREEN SOLUTIONmedia_cameraPutting in a hedge as a living fence, such as this camellia hedge, is a great way to solve your fencing problems and to expand your garden.Brick, stone, timber and metal are not the only front fence options. Adam Woodhams, horticulturist and Victa ambassador, says plants are a beautiful fencing alternative.“Putting in a hedge of plants as a living fence is an awesome way to solve your fencing problems and to expand your garden,” he says. “But choosing the right plants is very important.”You don’t have to be an experienced gardener to get started. Adam suggests walking the surrounding streets to see what plants are doing well.“A fence is an unchanging, built structure but a hedge will change with the seasons, providing a lovely layer of foliage as well as a backdrop for garden or lawn,” he says.“If you’ve used a flowering variety, you’ll also have a beautiful annual display.”Plants are also great for the environment because they generate clean, fresh oxygen and store carbon.“There’s an old saying, ‘good fences create good neighbours’. I like to say good hedges create great neighbours,” says Adam.“The fact is that we all like our privacy and a hedge as a living fence is a more appealing way to achieve this. This need for privacy is becoming more intense as suburbia becomes tighter and tighter, with smaller blocks and bigger houses.The nature of a green fence gives a visual texture of the foliage and creates different levels of light and colour from foliage or flowers.“If you do feel boxed in then you can add a garden bed with plantings of different heights in front of the hedge to create a layered effect or introduce colour,” Adam says.Even if you had an old-school metal fence that is functional, but a little unfashionable, it can be smartened up with a climbing plant. He says climbers are often the fastest way to achieve high coverage with greenery, and many of the climbers flower beautifully.“The real trick in these situations is to make sure you provide the right sort of support for the climbers you select,” Adam says. “A twining climber will grow best on wire standing out from the fence. If you need to grow taller than the fence top there are pre-fab fence extension panels for the purpose.”Whether your green fence is made up of a hedge or climbers, it will need to be pruned regularly to keep it looking good. The rough rule is a light pruning after flowering. More: adamwoodhams.com.au START WITH THE FRONT FENCE TO PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARDmedia_cameraThe Manhattan by Wisdom Homes is finished with a low rendered and metal fence.When homeowners build a new house, the focus is on getting the floorplan right, deciding on the facade style and choosing kitchen and bathroom materials.In that hectic environment, there’s not a lot of love (or money) left for the front fence. For many, it’s an afterthought, but it should be budgeted for and discussed in the planning stages, according to Wisdom Homes’ managing director, Domenic Vitalone.“It’s generally not a consideration at the early stages of building a house,” Domenic says.“People generally worry about getting the main structure right first and then turn their attention to the front garden and landscaping during the later stages of the build.”Landscaping is such an integral part of the build process now, he says it doesn’t make sense not to budget for it. His company offers the service of building a front fence as a general part of the build, with most people taking up the offer. “Most customers are seeking convenience and it’s just nice to have it all done for you and complete the day you move in,” he says.“People generally underestimate what this costs and it’s not uncommon for people to get surprised when they see a quote.“The average fence is not that expensive but it’s more the add-ons that blow out costs. Things such as masonry walls and footings, render and painting and different types of in-fill fencing, such as powder-coated aluminium and iron, lighting, electric gates and intercoms. It adds up.”Much like a picture frame, the front fence sets off the home. It shouldn’t be a slapped-together afterthought to keep the neighbours’ dog out.“First impressions are important and people will make an initial judgment of your home by what they see, starting with the front fence and landscaping,” he says. “If your house is big and bold, your fence should say that too.” More:Wisdom Homes GROW YOUR OWN NATURAL BOUNDARYmedia_cameraPhotinia, a densely growing bush is suitable for taller planting, particularly hedging.These are horticulturalist Adam Woodham’s reliable plant options for a growing front fence. Photinia: Tough, beautiful plants that are suitable for taller planting, this densely growing plant has distinctive red tips for new growth. Sasanqua camellias: These will tolerate high traffic, high pollution and inner-city situations. They are a beautiful foliage hedge with an amazing flowering display in late summer through to early autumn. Small-leaf lilly pilly: The native lilly pilly has been popular for years, however many varieties of this plant suffer from an insect pest problem. These bugs cause lumps and bumps on the leaves but the small-leaf varieties aren’t attacked by pests. The small leaf lilly pilly is fast growing and makes a perfect living fence. It can be kept pruned to virtually any size too. Japanese box hedge: A fast-growing and a hardy choice that can easily be pruned to the perfect, formal hedge shape. Or try these climbing options: Native pandoreas: The beautiful glossy foliage of the pandoreas is stunning and puts on an amazing flowering display in spring through to summer. Star jasmine: Handsome glossy foliage keeps this climber looking vibrant all year-round, but mostly fantastic in spring with the display of fragrant white flowers. Flame vine: As it matures it tends to have almost weeping foliage, which creates the impression of a green cascade.