"One thing I don't understand, I see this on HGTV's House Hunters all the time too, why doesn't anyone have a backyard fence? I've never lived anywhere where the backyards aren't all fenced for privacy. I can't imagine doing all that gardening with everyone staring at me."
and flora responded:
I am so glad you posed that question! I had assumed it was a US thing and didn't like to ask. We get a lot of posts on GW about problems with neighbours trespassing or damaging people's plants and I always wonder why they don't just have a fence?'
I'm interested in what you landscape historian buffs think about this question. I think the reasons must be more cultural and practical than anything else. Fences keep livestock in. Fences keep livestock out of house and kitchen gardens. Fences kept enemies out.
I'm thinking of all the european cities and towns that have walled gardens, courtyards. There are some areas of the US: In Boston's Beacon Hill, parts of New York City (like Greenwich Village) and American south and west,there are varieties of walled gardens.
Some of the general contemporary reasons which don't address the larger questions:
prohibitions/laws against closed fencing or fencing above a certain height
the Omstead vision - vision of unbroken expanses of lawn that unify the appearance of houses in neighborhood; idea of "borrowed landscape"
the 'feeling' that privacy fences are unfriendly
Something to do with the vastness of our country in its youth?
Something to do with "don't fence me in?"
now: money. Even the cheapest privacy fencing is expensive!
If you don't know anything about the reasons we don't fence, what would be your reasons for NOT fencing??