Variations on a Theme: White Picket Fences

Blue house with different style of picket fence

If you live where white picket fences are traditional, you might be forgiven for thinking they are much of a muchness, but to my English eyes, they seem sweetly evocative and almost quirky. For years, a shot of roses tumbling over and around a white picket fence topped my Photography Wants List: the American version of a cottage garden with roses around the door.

While my sweetheart was trying to decide what style of fence he wanted last year, we paid extra attention. During a couple of days spent in Florida, a gardener suggested we visit a neighbourhood for inspiration, between Seagrove Beach and Seaside, where different styles of white picket fence sit companionably alongside each other. While I didn’t fully satisfy my rose cravings there, I saw just about every style of picket fence I could imagine. I hope you’ll forgive me for sharing some of them here.

Anyone planning to install a white picket fence around their garden will find some ideas to consider. Those of us whose climate is more temperate rainforest than sunny beach (and where winter is still upon us) can just enjoy the virtual stroll.

White picket fence with leafy plants growing through
Leafy plants soften the design
Pyramid top fence posts with slanted pickets
Pyramid top posts with slanted pickets

While combining basic elements, a picket fence permits many ornamental styles. As well as the materials, homeowners choose the design of the posts and finials; the shape, spacing and patterning of the uprights (or pickets); and the outline or profile of the fence.

Picket fence with rain-resistant pickets and posts
Rain-resistant pickets and posts
White picket fence with scalloped design
Picket fence with a scalloped profile
Arched picket fence with wide and narrow pickets
Arched pickets
Decorative white picket fence
2 – 3 – 4 pattern
White picket fence with stepped pickets
Stepped pickets
Fence with pickets of alternate heights
Pickets of alternate heights
White picket fence design with wide gaps
Wide gaps and alternate heights
Split rail fence panels on a slope
Managing a slope
Fences with pickets in and out
Pickets in or out?

Most gardens had the pickets on the outside of the rails. Neighbouring homes demonstrate the effect of having the pickets inwards or outwards… or you could choose to have both:

White picket fence with two rows of pickets
Pickets in and out in staggered rows
White picket fence with arched gate
Arched gate

Various shades of white helped unify the community,  but there was plenty of scope for self-expression. Contemporary, minimalist, toothpick-style fences abutted fancier French Gothic ones. I might have expected a home to stick with a single style, but often the railings on fences, balconies, stair rails, and on garden features such as gates, arches, pillars and pergolas were in different styles. I dare say they had been added or repaired at different times, as budgets allowed.

Pickets with a flat balustrade design
Flattened balustrade pickets
White picket fence with spear top
Spear top pickets
Arrow top picket fence
Arrow top pickets
Picket fence with cocktail glass design
Cocktail glass finials
Picket fence with yellow birdhouse on a tall post
Birdhouse post

I imagine you’ll have seen enough white picket fences to last the rest of the week (if not a lifetime), so as a contrast, I’m signing off with a rustic, weathered picket fence, jazzed up with a painted gate. We saw this some miles away in Grayton Beach.

Simple picket fence with painted gate saying: Stars fall on Grayton Beach
Stars fall on Grayton Beach


This is a garden-related outlier in my series of posts on plants that are easily confused, since it fit the ‘Variations on a Theme’ title. The others in the series are:

Primrose, Cowslip or Oxlip
Forget-me-not, Heartleaf or Green Alkanet
Rose, Peony Or Camellia

48 Replies to “Variations on a Theme: White Picket Fences”

  1. Even though we have picket fences in early 20thC homes here in Australia, most of the ones you have included in this post were new to me and very interesting.
    Thanks for sharing, Susan. 🙂

  2. There certainly are many different styles. We had a picket fence when I was young, and painting it was the worst chore… it took forever when I’d rather be doing anything else. I’ve been opposed to painted fences ever since!

  3. All I could think when I looked at these was, “Upkeep!” Here on the Gulf coast, or at least on my part of the Gulf coast, keeping those things clean would be a horror. Of course, the gardens and houses behind those fences suggest that the homeowners probably aren’t the ones keeping them clean. There’s a lot of wooden ‘gingerbread’ trim on Galveston houses, but it’s generally painted a color to complement the house, to help make maintenance less of an issue.

  4. On this bleak and cold January day, you could not have given me a lovelier daydream! One cannot make too much muchness over these fences; they are, along with the homes, the stuff of old songs. I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to move into the pink house or the yellow one, and then came the fence with the cocktail glasses and yellow birdhouse. Yes, that one, please! Something tells me your sweetheart invented his own fence. Thanks so much for the colorful walk!

    1. Our weather tends towards the rainy, misty and muddy. I’m sure we must have a white wooden fence somewhere nearby but I wouldn’t know where to find it.

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated what variety there can be among picket fences! Having studied all of these I’ve concluded I like the simpler ones best 😀

  6. My goodness – so many varieties! I always wanted to have a (simple) white picket fence. But where we live is so windy, it would need to be painted every year (or if not wood, it would need to be cleaned). So for now, we’ll skip the pretty white picket fence.

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