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
- A simple way is to add a section of trellis on top of your existing fence or wall as shown in the photo above.
Slat screening looks more modern and lattice trellis traditional.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.