If your neighbors have a tall house or it's higher on a hill than yours is, shielding your deck or patio from view can be tricky. But one easy way to do it is to install a canopy of outdoor-friendly fabric as homeowners Brian Caldwell and Robert Shore have done here.
Bonus: The canopy also casts a soft, filtered light on the patio, keeping it cooler on hot summer days.
Pull a little landscape sleight of hand by using a focal point to create a distraction. Any eye-catching object works if it draws more attention than the view you're trying to screen. Here, a small raised water garden captivates garden guests -- and adds a bit of tranquility.
Your yard won't feel secluded if you hear noise from passersby, traffic, or barking dogs. So create another layer to privacy like Brian and Robert did by including a water garden with a fountain to give you the relaxing sound of moving water.
Test Garden Tip: Don't forget plants such as ornamental grasses and quaking aspen that generate sound anytime there's a breeze.
Hedges are a classic way to screen a view and make privacy. They come in a tremendous variety of colors and textures, from dark green yews and arborvitaes to silvery junipers.
Test Garden Tip: Look for columnar (also called fastigiate) varieties that grow tall but stay narrow to keep them from eating up yard space.
Hedges look friendly, but they tend to be expensive and slow to grow. So for instant gratification, put up a fence. Happily, fences don't have to be cold and unfriendly -- install architectural details as Brian and Robert did to make your fence a piece of landscape art.
If your space is small, create windows, as seen in this gate, and vary the height of your plants or structures. That will give the area some visual relief -- and give your yard a playful quality.
If you do put up a fence, use plants to soften it. This corner, for example, became a delightful display of color and texture thanks to an 'American Beauty' climbing rose.
Most municipalities have rules about fence height. Brian and Robert live on a corner lot and needed more screening than the rules allowed, so they found a clever solution. The pair installed the largest fence they could (the bottom fence in this photo). But then just inside it, they installed a freestanding trellis and arbor (which supports a climbing rose and 'Aunt Dee' wisteria). Because the trellis and arbor are a separate structure, they don't violate city code.
An urn set on one of the fence supports looks lovely and provides privacy. It's another way to make a fence seem taller without violating codes.
Imbue your landscape with another layer of privacy by dividing it into garden rooms. When you can't see your entire backyard from one vantage point, it feels more secluded -- and offers guests a sense of mystery as they explore around the next corner.
Small yards can be easier to screen than large yards. If you have too much area to put up a fence or hedge within your budget, start small and concentrate on creating privacy where you need it most, such as around a deck or patio. You can always expand your plans in future years.
Container gardens can be a delightful substitute for a wall or fence. Here, for example, Brian and Robert planted a tall container with a tree-form hydrangea. Together the plant and container reach about 6 feet tall; of course, as the hydrangea grows, the height will increase.
Don't forget to add a little landscaping around the outside of your private area. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate. A simple viburnum with mondo grass and a Japanese maple make the fence look great to passersby.
Even on their corner lot, Brian and Robert created a private retreat. We hope their tips help you do the same in your yard!