Symbol: white picket fence

I took these pictures of fenced gardens earlier this year on a brief visit to the historic district of Colonial Williamsburg. I don’t see many white picket fences at home in Lancashire: dry stone walls are more our thing.

Garden fence

These fences seemed as much symbolic as functional: a way of staking a claim to an area; an imposing of some kind of order. The gates were unlocked so visitors could wander freely from one garden to another. In some places, they were low enough to step over. 

Fenced Colonial Williamsburg garden

Fences may have a practical purpose – to secure an area or stake a claim – but often they’re not exactly impenetrable, when I’d argue they become a symbol. We fence our gardens to turn them into special, contained spaces – our private sanctuaries, protected and set apart. Put bluntly, a fence implies ‘This is mine – keep out, or play by the rules!’.

Garden fence

On the day of our visit the springtime sun was scorching, unrelenting. The harsh contrast has given my iPhone pictures a slightly weird, almost painterly effect. On balance, I quite like it. I can almost sense the camera squinting, like its owner, in the sunlight. It brings back memories of the character of the day: a particular, heavy quality in the atmosphere we do not experience on a spring day in Lancashire.

For more pictures of symbols, visit the weekly photo challenge.

10 Replies to “Symbol: white picket fence”

    1. We were exploring an old church yard yesterday and found a carefully tended, fenced fruit and vegetable garden hidden at the back. The fruit was ripe and the fence just a demarkation – easy to cross – but there was a very strong sense of protection!

  1. The picket fence has also been a long-time symbol of achieving the “American Dream”, your own home with a white picket fence! Very old-time feeling!

    1. I think the English equivalent is probably a cottage with roses round the door – we take some kind of enclosure for granted!

  2. What beautiful photos, it looks like a lovely place to take a wander. I always took white picket fences to be the quintessential representation of The American Dream! They’re certainly very lovely to look at.

  3. We really enjoyed our visit. The meadow in the bottom picture was studded with violets and wildflowers, which I thought created a lovely effect.

  4. I was born just up the road a piece from Williamsburg and most of my family lives in SE Virginia. In my mind, it will always be one of the most beautiful spots. Lucky you, I think you enjoyed two springs this year, didn’t you? I was surprised at how late the gardens were when I was in England last month. My goodness, the Laburnum Walk was still in full bloom at Bodnant! I bet that doesn’t happen very often!

    1. You’re right, I did get two springs, a US one and an English one. Both fully savoured I might add!

      Colonial Williamsburg was lovely. We drove down from Washington DC just around blossom time.

      I haven’t seen a Laburnum Walk in full bloom yet – I was just a few days too early for the Dorothy Clive one this year.

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