It’s never nice to be overlooked by the neighbours, even if you are the best of friends. We all crave privacy, but it’s harder to get with modern housing developments.

There’s also the issue of height restrictions and the neighbours’ complaints if you block their views and sunlight. So here are my top tips for successful screening!

Designer Solutions for Screening the Neighbours

  1. A simple way is to add a section of trellis on top of your existing fence or wall as shown in the photo above.

As you can see this doesn’t screen everything but the additional height does help, especially once some climbing plants have grown.

Slat screening looks more modern and lattice trellis traditional.

Add trellis on top of your existing fence for additional screening

If a solid trellis isn’t an option, a more subtle/sneaky version is to use stainless steel wire which is tightly strung between posts.

Stainless steel wire between posts – won’t upset the neighbours & great for growing climbers over for screening

The image above is of a low-level wire fence, so you need to imagine it suspended above a fence or wall. Initially, you can see straight through it, so there’s nothing for anyone to complain about when it comes to blocking sunlight…

But once it’s covered with a fast-growing climber, like honeysuckle or the golden hop, then it really comes into its own and becomes a very effective screen.

Most people assume you have to completely block your neighbours from view for screening to be effective. You don’t. Anything that interrupts a direct view is often enough. Completely solid screening is unnecessary in the majority of cases.

2. Trees can be your best friend for effective screening – if you pick the right variety!

The trick is to choose trees that aren’t going to get too big for your space. And if you’re on a crowded housing estate be very careful not to put in species with invasive root systems like Poplar, Willows and Elms.

My goto choice tends to be smaller varieties of Silver Birch (like utilis). They are one of the few trees you can plant in groups to make an effective screen.

Silver Birch trees

Silver Birch also tend to have small leaves and are fairly open. Being able to see through them doesn’t block the light levels that a lot of trees do. And you’re less likely to get neighbours complaining.

If you’re worried about tree roots causing damage to your property you can always plant them with a root barrier which is a material that will restrict their growth.

People are often drawn to putting in a Eucalyptus tree because it’s fast-growing and evergreen, BUT they get very big, very quickly and they have shallow root systems and can often blow over in strong winds. So only use it if you have a very large garden. A small and better option might be Cotoneaster lacteus – which is more of a large shrub, than a tree, and can grow up to 4m.

3. If trees aren’t a viable option then the next best thing are tall shrubs and grasses.

I particularly love Arundo donax for this – though please be aware outside of the UK this is often considered an invasive species, so find something similar that will do the job where you are. Bamboos like the black variety, Phyllostachys nigra, tend to be non-invasive in most places – but again, do check for your region.

Arundo donax & Catalpa tree screening

Proper Screening Placement

Really consider where are you overlooked from predominantly. Does the view out of your window annoy you the most or is it when you are actually in the garden that the neighbours become an issue?

You may find that the position of the screening needs to be in a different place when you’re actually in the garden. If that’s the case, this next tip will help…

4. Create enclosed seating areas with a pergola

The closer you can get to your neighbours, the less they can actually overlook you. So if you create a seating area at the top of the garden and have it enclosed you’ll have a wonderfully private area you can relax in.

Quick sketch of the garden shown at the top of this page with an enclosed seating area and tree screening

As you can see in this very quick sketch, the neighbours don’t completely disappear but it’s enough to give you privacy.

Also, upright structures add interest so it gives you something in the garden to look at and helps distract you from the neighbours!

Upright structures add height and interest and can grow climbing plants for additional screening

5. Hedges

This one is probably my least favourite option because of the time they take and the maintenance. But if you already have one in place then growing it higher is certainly an option, but it’s also the option that tends to most aggravate neighbours. Because hedges are so solid, they do block a lot of sunlight.

New build properties now and a Photoshopped version of how it will look once hedge & trees have grown!

Leyland conifer hedges are probably the quickest (in the UK) but if you don’t keep them properly cut back every year they will soon turn into large, problematic trees, so plant with care! The image above shows a well-maintained golden Leylandii hedge that needs to grow a bit higher to screen the new-build housing that’s recently appeared.

Final Privacy Screening Solution…

All the examples shown above place the screening at the end of the garden. Screening elements can be placed closer to the house. Archways and pergolas loaded with climbing plants will make excellent screens…

Fence disputes over ownership – if you’re not entirely sure who owns the fence you want to screen, this article I was sent may help you work out who owns it!


However, it’s really important that anything you add to your garden is designed in place, not randomly added, otherwise you’ll never get a garden that looks really good.

The overall design layout is more important than the individual elements you add. If you want to learn more about that, attend one of my free fast-track garden design web classes.

Additional screening solutions…



Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

    10 replies to "Garden Privacy – Screening the neighbours!"

    • Gail Klein

      So glad to have received this latest item on extending fences upwards! Some really new ideas. Can’t believe it.
      And of course you are well aware of possible objections of neighbors. In our area it is heightened by rules of the University where we live, and the list is always changing, only really enforced if a troublesome neighbor complains. I agree with you and wonderful to have some new ideas that area likely to please everyone!

      • Rachel Mathews

        You’re very welcome, Gail! Glad the article was helpful :o)


      Does she know her neighbours? Maybe pop around and see what the view is like. Those windows look to be very high up so privacy may not be an issue. In my experience those types of window are high up and only for light to enter the room and impossible to look out of unless one is very, very tall.HOWEVER……great ideas here for screening off the neighbours and for their privacy too 😉


      Another comment from me …
      These days its always tricky to find privacy in a small garden. With houses either side and more at the bottom of the garden (inevitably facing you) screening is important for privacy so consider carefully what you want from a garden. Dining out? Sunbathing 🙂 Childrens play area? Pet space? Etc…I love the idea of pergolas loaded with climbing plants (or veg) as an extension to the house. Stainless steel wire between posts will not keep pets in,or out of the garden (or children!) BUT if used in a cross wire patten (think Rabbit wire) then thats much better and more likely to keep in, or out, little challenges 🙂 One thing I would like to add is if you have a pergola dont forget you can attach a “screen” or curtain to all sides which can be removed come rain or winter.

    • Susan Jones

      Hello, Sadly we are on sloping ground, so overlook neighbours. They entertain frequently, dining on the decking and the kids have a trampoline and football goal set up. Years ago there were trees which screened everything off a treat, plus attracting birds. Now it’s open plan I have to keep my blinds down – not an ideal situation at all.

      Should I suggest something with the neighbours or leave it be? We do speak but rarely as they have 3 noisy children.

    • Erika

      Hi Susan , your situation is very recognizable . The new neighbours here even built a ‘bookaneer’ playhouse next to the hedge up in the top of the garden and a topfloor to their garage with another large window in it so that they have an even clearer view on our garden which is full of ( fruit )trees and other beehappy and other ‘wildlife’ attracting plants . They are not very much on speaking or rather on listening terms . However i am happy with the ideas on this site and will take them into serious consideration to en’fe’nce our yard .
      I hope some day soon i will accept the things i can’t change and be happy with the things i can change .
      All the best

    • Barbara Watson

      Thank you for this article Rachel I hope to be able to use some of your tips possibly the wire one as our patio is overlooked due to its height .I particularly like the idea of the vines or climbing plants .A small wall was built to support the patio soi presume the posts would need to be sunk into the wall rather than the ground?

      • Rachel Mathews

        Probably, it all depends on how good the construction of the wall was. The ground is always best but the wall footings will most likely prevent you from getting the post in close enough. A good contractor will be able to advise you when they look at it.

    • bill sherren

      When I started to grow honeysuckle over my trellis the neighbours cut it all off and threw it over the fence! Eventually it died! Guess the only solution is to put another trellis up in my garden where they can’t reach it!

      • Rachel Mathews

        Oh no, that’s awful! Yes, you will have to come up with a solution they can’t reach! Good luck!

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