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lawn with stripes with a small tree and a garden fence

How to create privacy with the right design and planting

There are three basic methods of making your garden feel less overlooked from neighbours or passers by.

Fencing

Fencing creates an instant and solid barrier but needs to be dealt with sensitively. Apart from ensuring that the fence line is yours to change (if it isn’t you can still install a fence but it would need to be in your garden rather than the boundary), a fence can be quite visually dominant and actually draw the eye immediately – first to the fence itself and then to the houses, windows, or gardens beyond.

This can be rectified by painting the fence a dark colour. My preference is always black, as any planting in front of a black fence really stands out.  Please remember though that fences can only be up to 2m in height, measured from ground level (except in front gardens where they can be only 1m high). 

Also in a small garden a high fence can reduce sunlight (for you or your neighbour) and so should be erected considerately. This is why people often use trellis work or slats at the top of a fence to ensure light continues to flow in.

Trees or hedging

For those with a little more budget pleached trees (which are effectively just hedges on stilts) can create an instant screen at eye level. Otherwise a hedge needs to be planted and time spent waiting for it to achieve the desired height. The law does state that hedges may be considered as anti-social where they are more than 2m high and unreasonably restrict light to a property.

Both options will also require pruning between September and February to keep the plants looking good and screening effectively. The planted alternative though is to plant trees to break up parts of the views into and out of the garden. This can be really effective, and has the benefit of keeping maintenance low and wildlife value high.

It is also important to chose trees that are appropriate for the size of the garden, proximity to any buildings, and to give interest across a number of seasons (blossom in spring, leaf colour and fruits in autumn, or bark interest in winter, for example). Selections of apples (Malus), rowans (Sorbus), flowering cherries (Prunus), Serviceberry (Amelanchier), or even a Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) may be good choices to consider. 

Make your garden visually captivating

The final option is to simply make what is in the garden more interesting to look at than what is beyond the boundaries. This is where a good garden design can come in. If the garden is visually captivating then you will no longer feel quite so overlooked as neighbouring windows will not be the first, second or even third thing your eyes are drawn to when you’re in your garden.