By Mark Wolfe
The old saying “good fences make good neighbors” becomes truer with each new subdivision. Often, details like the proximity of one home’s deck to the next home’s patio seems to be overlooked in the planning phase. Other areas of concern include busy streets, neighborhood common areas, golf courses and more that, while convenient, cause backyards to feel a bit too exposed for comfort. Sometimes we want a bit of privacy for ourselves, other times we just don’t want to see the view across-the-way. A bit of privacy is what makes your home a sanctuary.
The two most common strategies for creating landscape privacy are wood fences and hedges. Cost and simplicity are the reasons for their popularity; but, depending on the objective there may be better options.
Fencing comes in a wide range of types, including different kinds of metal and even stone walls. Mixed fences, such as stone topped with wood or metal, may be used to match the home’s exterior. Lattice, either alone or worked into a fence design, allows for light and airflow, and can accommodate vines for a softer effect.
Hedges are effective screens and can be giant trees or tiny shrubs, or anything in between. (By “hedges,” I am specifically referring to plantings made up of a single type of plant, in very close proximity, and treated as a single unit.) Unless you want to create a hedge as an element of the overall landscape design, consider a mixed planting as a really great option. A mixed planting typically includes three or more different plant species including both evergreen and deciduous types, and may vary significantly in height and width. The variety in mixed plantings effectively mimics nature, and protects itself against pest threats.
Architectural or artistic elements can also help provide privacy. Pergolas, arbors, statuary, fireplaces and fountains can all contribute to the feeling of solitude by distracting the senses. A well placed pergola near or over a seating area can provide a bit of overhead screening. The splash of water from a fountain or waterfall will drown out street noise quite effectively. In small, intimate spaces these elements, combined with substantial potted plants, can completely change the atmosphere.
Consider The Space
There are as many ways to create privacy as there are spaces. Patios and decks are great places to employ large planters with shrubs, small trees and grasses. Placing containers on wheeled bases allows for flexibility in the configuration, and makes planting, watering and maintenance easy. Large, open areas tend to require large shrubs and trees and often some type of fence. Yes, plants grow, but it is advisable to plant key screening areas with a few good sized starter plants so as to gain the desired effect in a reasonable amount of time.
Whether it’s a fence, or a planting, or both, if landscape privacy is something you are lacking, there is no need to wait. Get that project underway this year, because you will be doing yourself some good while being a good neighbor.