Unless you live on a large property, landscape privacy will always be an issue for homeowners. Nosy neighbors, busy streets, and unsightly views really put a damper on outdoor living in a residential landscape. All hope is not lost for these small city lots though, privacy can be achieved in every residential landscape and still look good. Here are the three best ways to add privacy to your backyard oasis.
1. Plants (When Done Right)
The easiest and most traditional form of landscape privacy is a hedge of shrubs. Unfortunately it’s also one of the most underwhelming and disappointing projects for homeowners. Will a row of evergreens block a view? Yes, but here are some of the drawbacks of this simplistic approach.
- It takes time to grow and provide privacy
- One row of the same plant is boring and ugly
- Often overgrown and unmaintained
(Hedge is boring and unnatural looking)
Achieving privacy through plantings can be so much more than a hedge of shrubs. Identify the site line or view that needs to be blocked, then focus on that area. Blocking the entire length of your lawn isn’t necessary when you only need privacy for the patio. Take a rough measurement of how wide and tall the view is and then create a naturalized buffer rather than a wall of plants. Use a layered and diverse set of plants. Tall grasses and perennials along with a small cluster of shrubs provide just the right amount of privacy. A strategically placed ornamental tree adds a focal point while blocking the largest amount of space. A well-planned design will feel like a beautiful landscape rather than an awkward row of shrubs that block the next door neighbors.
If heavier and immediate privacy is needed, then a structure is the route to go. This may be a fence, individual panels, or a trellis. Structures provide instant privacy, require minimal maintenance, and can be built in a variety of styles. Similar to the row of hedges, a large fence isn’t required unless you need containment. Determine where you may want privacy in your yard and focus on that area. Here are a handful of unique privacy structures that are much more interesting than your run-of-the-mill six-foot privacy fence.
Pergola / Trellis
An extremely effective form of gaining landscape privacy is by adjusting the elevation in your yard. Consider building a sunken patio or building up planting beds around it. Instead of a six-foot privacy fence, a three-foot seat-wall or shrub is all the privacy you need. Sunken spaces are very intimate which adds to the cozy feeling most homeowners want in their backyard.
Layering a particular view with a combination of plants, structures and elevation is the most effective method to gain privacy without having to build an awkwardly placed hedge or fence. There is more depth and dimension when using layers; and it opens up the space visually without sacrificing privacy. A small seat-wall contains the space, a trellis fence provides a filtered separation, and the plants create a buffered view. The combination of all of these elements create an incredible space while giving just as much privacy, if not more than a single hedge.