Privacy in a garden is an important thing. An outside space which feels more private, and separate from the outside world, can be a more relaxing place. It can help us to feel more calm, grounded and at peace. No one likes to feel they are overlooked, or being watched by nosy neighbours. So how can you improve garden privacy, without detracting from the space?
Things to Consider When Thinking About Garden Privacy
- Consider whether you need privacy from specific point sources, or more general privacy, and whether you need it year round, or are less concerned about it during the winter months.
- Think about the trade off between privacy and light when thinking about what screening to place, and where it should be positioned.
- Consider the impact of any screening, not just in terms of light and shade, but also in terms of wind, water, wildlife and plants in your garden. Think about whether the options you are considering are harmful or helpful to the environment – both local, and in a wider sense.
- Think about how privacy screening can fulfil multiple functions. It might help in other ways, as well as helping to improve garden privacy.
- Try to integrate natural living plant solutions wherever possible. And where made structures are required, make sure they are made with natural or reclaimed materials.
Adding Privacy With Fencing and Walls
Many people’s first thought when thinking about garden privacy is adding fencing or walls around the garden boundaries. Sometimes, a fence or wall can be the right solution – but it is not automatically the best choice. Often, there are better, natural, living plant solutions to improve privacy in your garden. Remember, a solid fence of wall will block light and can create a rain shadow at its base.
A more open fence or lattice structure can provide screening, however, without as much impact on the light levels. It can also avoid the feel of a hard, harsh boundary, which can make a garden feel smaller. By blurring the lines around the periphery of the space, and referencing the landscape outside, you can make the space feel bigger. As well as making it feel like a more private space.
If you are creating fences or walls, think about ways to use natural materials, perhaps even from the garden itself, or reclaimed materials that might otherwise be thrown away. And note that, to create a feeling of privacy, the garden periphery might not be the best place for one. A wall or fence might also be more strategically positioned, to provide visual screening from a particular point, or to make distinct, and private, garden rooms within the space.
Remember to think about eyeline to determine how high a screening wall or fence would need to be to hide you from prying eyes in a particular part of your garden.
Privacy From Overhead/ High Above
Fences and walls may not do a lot to screen you from overhead or high vantage points. Avoid the temptation to simply build higher and higher structures on the edge of the garden. Again, natural plant solutions are often best.
But before we get on to those plant based solutions, it is worth mentioning the other man-made structures you could consider for privacy from overhead/ high above. You might consider, for example:
- A polytunnel. (Which could be a private place to sit as well as a place to grow food year round).
- A pergola. Either with a solid roof, or a framework over which climbing plants and vines can be grown.
- A gazebo or other small garden building.
- An arbour seating structure (again, with either a solid roof, or a structure over which climbing plants can be grown).
- A simple garden parasol.
Using Trees for Privacy Screening
Of course, one of the simplest and most affordable ways to get privacy from overhead or high above is to plant trees. Trees can be an excellent addition to almost any garden. But you do have to be careful about which you choose, how large they will grow, and how much shade they will cast onto other parts of the space.
Remember, evergreen trees will cast a lot more shade, year round. They grow to provide privacy quickly, but can make it difficult to grow other plants nearby. So for smaller gardens in particular, they are not usually the best choice. Deciduous trees will obviously only provide a full screen in summer, and their leaves will fall in autumn. But this can be a good thing because it will let in more light during the chilly winter months.
Don’t be tempted to push all trees to the garden borders either. Think carefully about how trees might be used throughout the garden design. A forest garden area with several smaller fruit trees, for example, can be an abundant and productive, low maintenance edible garden, and can feel very private and secluded. Even single patio trees in containers could be positioned to screen a table or seating area in a clever way.
Another thing to remember is that trees can be trained, shaped and pruned. A row of pleached trees, for example, could be great for privacy screening, while still letting light through below. Or increase the height of privacy screening above a wall or fence. If they are fruiting trees, they could give you an edible yield as well.
Privacy Hedges and Shrub Borders
Of course, privacy hedges and shrub borders are also excellent choices. In many cases, these plantings can avoid the need for any man-made structure as all.
Avoid the ever-horrendous Leylandii and other fast-growing conifers, and consider more sensible, low-maintenance and wildlife friendly mixed hedgerow options instead. A neat and orderly traditional hedge is not your only option. A wilder border of shrubs or a mixed hedgerow can often bring privacy just as effectively, while yielding many other benefits too.
Again, remember that like fences and walls, these might also be put into play in other parts of the garden, dividing garden rooms or screening particular areas – not just around the garden periphery.
Trellis and Climbers For Garden Privacy
Another way to screen a particular part of your garden from view is to erect a trellis or other plant support, with climbing plants and vines to climb it. A well secured trellis can screen an area all year round if you choose perennial climbers and vines. Or over the summer months if annual climbers and vines are chosen.
Bamboo and Grasses for Garden Privacy
Bamboos and tall ornamental grasses can also help in creating garden privacy. Tall plants like these can look great, and provide screening without feeling to hard or blocky or creating too solid a barrier. Swathes of taller prairie planting, with grasses and tall herbaceous perennial flowering plants can work very well to screen a seating area or a particular part of a garden from view.
Annual Plants For Garden Privacy
Finally, if you only require privacy during the main growing season, annual crops and their companion plants could actually provide some privacy for a seating or recreational area close by. Tall annual plants like sweetcorn, sunflowers, amaranth etc. can all help screen off a part of your garden and offer the sense of seclusion you crave during the summer months.
Do you have more tips for garden privacy? Let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.