How To Make Your Yard Private

From a fence to a row of bamboo, these strategies will shield an outdoor space from the world's eyes.
Outdoor Entertaining Patio

Outdoor Entertaining Patio

By: Laura Fisher Kaiser
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"When in a garden or on a patio, you want to feel that you're in an intimate space — in a room not exposed as if you're in the middle of the driveway or street," says Risa Edelstein, president of the Ecological Landscaping Association.

That's not so easy when your back yard looks out on your neighbor's hot tub, your tranquility is constantly interrupted by road noise or your house sits in a new development with scant tree canopy. Here are some strategies for creating more privacy:

Fences. Privacy settings for fences range from private (solid tongue-and-groove or board) to semi-private (slat, picket, spindle or lattice) to rather public (rail). A topper made of lattice or circle cut-outs makes a solid fence feel less oppressive.

When considering materials, keep in mind the maintenance involved. Wood typically needs to be resealed, stained or painted every few years. Low maintenance options include powder-coated aluminum, vinyl and composite, all available in neutral shades of white, brown, black and green. Check local zoning regulations to ensure you have proper permits and do not exceed height restrictions, which are often lower for parts of the yard visible from the street.

Landscaping Privacy Solutions

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Walls

Solid walls provide the most privacy and look attractive. This mural wall, designed by Jamie Durie, adds an artistic element to the yard.

Privacy Fence

Fences are a popular and versatile privacy option. They come in a range of materials, colors and styles that offer varying degrees of privacy. A solid fence, like the one around the pool, is a great way to create complete privacy in a yard. Design by Rate My Remodel user RandyAngell

Bamboo

A stand of bamboo can be a graceful and effective screening. This plant is an aggressive spreader, though, so regular pruning is needed to keep it under control.

Photo By: DK - Small Garden © 2004 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Evergreen Hedges

Living fences, often made of densely planted evergreens, offer privacy and tranquility. Manicured privet hedges require frequent clipping, but you can use shrubs for a more natural, low-maintenance option. Design by Tracy Morris

Photo By: George E. Brown

Curtains for Privacy

A little fabric can go a long way. These curtains create easy privacy and protect against the wind. Design by Rate My Remodel user arcadiadesign

Lattice Screens

Lattice screens are versatile and easy to install. They can be used to make semi-private walls around a yard or as an underpinning for a porch or deck. Design by Patricia Wagner

Mixed Screen Plants

Layering evergreens and flowering shrubs will create visual interest year-round and provide a level of privacy in your yard.

Trellises

Trellises are a great option for semi-privacy, especially with plants growing up the side. They are versatile and movable, and they provide visual interest. Design by Robert Hursthouse

Vertical Gardens

Vertical garden plots can be grown on metal grids and are increasingly popular in urban areas. They have a structure that supports annuals, perennials, vines or vegetables. This small area is tucked in a Mediterranean-style garden, creating a cozy hidden space to relax. Design by Pamela Berstler

Raised Beds

Raised planters add height while creating volume, proportion and privacy. Try planting low-maintenance shrubs and grasses like blue fescue, dwarf arborvitae or even fragrant rosemary.

Photo By: DK - Small Garden © 2004 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Stone

Stone is an attractive option that gives your yard a natural look. This stone wall blends in beautifully with the simple pavillion surrounded by lush plantings.

Wood Screens

Wooden privacy screens section off this rustic porch sitting area. The modern herringbone design creates a stylish twist on a basic door.

Sails

A sail canopy is an elegant and unobtrusive way to provide shade and privacy to a backyard or deck without sinking posts into the ground.

Photo By: DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Brick

A brick wall is a classic choice when it comes to creating a privacy fence. Flowers, shrubs and a water feature soften the brick in this courtyard to create a cozy outdoor retreat.

Photo By: Mary Palmer Dargan ©Gibbs Smith, Lifelong Landscape Design, Mary Palmer Dargan

Walls. Solid walls surrounding a courtyard provide the most privacy and can look attractive in fieldstone or cut stone, brick, adobe or concrete block. To make the space feel open and airy, provide site lines within the interior or through "windows" — a gate, arbor or scalloped section — that connects to other spaces. Soften the edges with plants that creep up a trellis or cascade over the edge. A structure such as a wooden pergola or arbor also provides contrasting texture that warms up the hardscape.

Evergreen Hedges. Living fences made of densely planted evergreens, especially columnar and upright conifers, offer privacy and tranquility by screening out busy street noises, reducing glare from headlights and acting as a wind break. While suitable for formal gardens, manicured privet hedges require frequent clipping. For a more natural looking barrier that's low-maintenance, use shrubs planted close together as more of a screen than a hedge.

Mixed Screen Plantings. Creating privacy in a heavily shaded yard can be challenging, says Robert Schucker, president of R&S Landscaping in Midland Park, N.J. One solution is a mixture of evergreens and deciduous trees, with an under story of flowering and evergreen shrubs. This allows light to penetrate during the winter and creates visual interest year-round.

Lattice. Lattice screens are a versatile and easy-to-install building element. They can be employed as semi-private walls on a deck or patio — or as the underpinning for a porch or deck. You can use lattice to corral an HVAC unit or garbage cans. Available in various weaves and grid patterns, lattice partners well with a range of materials and textures including stone, brick and board fence. Flowering shrubs, roses and vines add more privacy as the lattice becomes a textured back drop.

Treillage. Metal trellis-like panels mounted on a wood or steel frame can be used in lieu of or in addition to conventional fences and walls to provide a vibrant privacy screen. Placed on the side of a home, driveway or patio, these structures reduce ambient air temperatures by up to 10 degrees, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects. The usual rules of climate zone, sun and wind exposure, and soil type apply for choosing plant materials.

Vertical Gardens. Trevor Smith, vice president of the Ecological Landscaping Association and president of Land Escapes in Arlington, Mass., says that vertical garden plots grown on metal grids are increasingly popular, especially in urban areas, which "have poisoned soils" and tight gardening spaces. These structures can be custom-designed for wall-mounted or freestanding installations and planted with annuals, perennials, vines or vegetables. Smith specializes in planting "herb and veggie mosaics" that are "edible pieces of artwork" for clients' patios. Besides looking beautiful, they help cool and insulate buildings inside and out.

Bamboo. A stand of bamboo undulating in the breeze can be a graceful and effective screen. However, you need to choose and plant your species carefully because many are aggressive spreaders and even invasive. Stick with hardy and clumping bamboos, which have pachymorph rhizomes, are u-shaped instead of horizontal, and make new culms next to the original plant, spreading only a few inches a year. Even so, the American Bamboo Society says that controlling the spread of bamboo is a matter of regularly pruning the extending rhizomes.

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