Posted by Landscaping Ideas on 19th January 2012
The white picket fence has become an icon. It is not merely a means of tracing a property line or a frame upon which rambling roses may grow. The picket fence has become a symbol of property ownership and an embodiment of a key component of the so-called American dream.
When people discuss the picket fence today, they are usually doing so metaphorically. Although the white picket fence does make frequent appearances in established, quaint neighborhoods and elsewhere, the idea of the fence and what is symbolizes is invoked frequently. The “cute little house with a white picket fence” is shorthand for the desires of those who want to move up the socio economic ladder and are seeking home ownership. When the picket fence is mentioned, it is often done so in reference to the American suburban experience–where so many city dwellers received their first taste of real estate ownership.
It was not always that way. The picket fence was a common site at one time. In fact, City Codes often demanded the use of picket fences in their heyday. The Architectural Code of Seaside, Florida, for instance noted that, “White painted wood picket fences are required at the street front and path front property lines…Individual fence patterns shall not replicate another on the same street. White paint shall be selected…” Although even Seaside’s rigid code allowed (and in fact required) flexibility in terms of design, it is obvious that the white picket fence was seen as an important indicator of property limits.
That tradition of demarcating boundaries with picket fences dates back to the First Period. For years, picket fences have been used as a means of distinguishing territorial ownership. For many years, the idea expressed by Reinhold Neibuhr that “The fence and the boundary lines of the symbols of spirit and justice” was widely accepted. He noted that, fences “set the limits upon each man’s interests to prevent one from taking advantage of the other.”
Today, we tend to worry less about neighbors encroaching on our lawns than we may have in the past. Nonetheless, the picket fence does still pop up from time to time. These days, however, the fence may be made of a something other than wood and may not be painted white. Wrought iron picket fences can give a home a stately appearance and plastic picket fences designed to replicate the look of traditional wooden models are popular, as well.
Part of the continuing use of picket fences stems from our sense of aesthetics and our desire to retain a connection with our pasts. In some cases, erecting the picket fence may be a physical manifestation of having reached one’s goal of home ownership. There are, however, pragmatic reasons for the fences, too. A picket fence can serve as a barrier to small animals that might otherwise have an interest in gardens or plants. It can discourage the escape of a pet. A picket fence can also serve as a platform for attractive vining plants as part of an overall landscaping plan.
Picket fences are no longer de riguer, but they are potentially attractive additions to a property’s landscape. We generally do not need to mark our property lines with a series of pointed posts to send a message to others, but there are practical reasons to return to the “old standard.”
The picket fence is a long-lasting symbol of property ownership and everything that goes with that concept. Whether used by elites as a derogative means of dismissing the hopes of the middle class or in earnest by someone who has reached their goals of property ownership, the picket fence is more than just another way section off land.
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