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Tuesday, 20 October 2015 01:18

Private Paradise

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Your outdoor area is the perfect place to relax, but it can be hard to do so if you’re being watched by nosy neighbours. Here, Alexandra Brocklehurst explores the different landscaping options available to help you create a private retreat in your own back garden.

As larger houses continue to occupy smaller lots, private outdoor living areas are at a premium, especially if your neighbours have a second-storey or deck overlooking your outdoor space. Whether you’re playing with your kids, entertaining guests or simply sunbathing during warmer months, creating an oasis away from prying eyes is important.

For David Jesse, managing director of The Landscaping Company, landscaping your outdoor area for privacy is all about finding balance “between aesthetics and [the] practical function of the garden required by the clients’ family, pets and lifestyle.”

With more than 40 years of experience in the landscaping and design industry, Jesse offers a variety of ways clients can landscape their garden to suit their aesthetic sensibilities and lifestyle needs.


From perimeter plantings to hardscaping, including fences, walls, fountains, and timber and metal screens, there is an abundance of options available in both softscape and hardscape designs to suit your outdoor area.

For Jesse, when planning your landscaping, “some considerations are available space, size of plants, natural plant dimensions, time required and ability to prune the plants to size, and the ongoing maintenance.”

While you want your outdoor area to look good and impress guests, Jesse emphasises that “the garden should also be durable and an appreciated asset to the family as the garden matures.” This means choosing plants that aren’t high-maintenance and opting for hard structures that will be durable through rain and shine.


If you’d prefer to use horticulture over hardscaping to screen your outdoor area, property-line plantings are a perfect year-round screening option and typically don’t have the same height restrictions that a solid fence or wall might. To get great coverage quickly, opt for a fast-growing columnar evergreen such as Italian cypress or arborvitae, or even a sheared privet hedge for a more traditional look that is perfect for separating adjoining yards. If you’re looking for height when planting, junipers are both tall and fast-growing, and provide a lush feel to your outdoor area. Alternatively, you could choose bamboo, which is also fast-growing and ideal for a modern or tropical garden.


In larger yards, there is more opportunity to plant a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs alongside other hardscaping features. This layered effect creates a natural look, especially if plants are grouped with their heights staggered – for example, taller evergreens planted in the background while shorter shrubs and flowering plants are used in the foreground. This strategy will not only keep your garden protected from outside viewing, but will also provide the area with texture, depth and a mixed colour palette to make it feel fresh and welcoming.

Deciduous shade trees are also a great option to obscure your neighbours’ view of your garden, while providing shade through the summer. In winter, the tree’s bare branches will allow the sun to stream into your home to create a warm, light-filled space.

When using a mixture of plants to layer your horticultural design, keep in mind that you will  still want a space that is easily maintained and won’t make your garden feel small or overcrowded.


When it comes to the overall design of your outdoor space, Jesse explains, “focal points are the elements that tie the landscape together and direct the flow of the garden.” No matter the size or shape of the area, “correct positioning can help [to create] a visual barrier, but [can] also take the visual focus of the surrounding properties out of the equation.”

This means, whether your neighbours’ home has a brightly-coloured façade or a large secondstorey deck, you can still draw the eye to your own yard with a few simple design strategies. For example, a timber screen offers a rustic aesthetic to complement your home’s design, while a metal screen in silver or brass will create a modern, industrial look. Canopies and gazebos will also provide privacy and shading to your back garden, and can be easily moved or packed away in cooler months when they’re not required.

If you’re worried about creating a space that is so private you start to feel a little claustrophobic, Jesse reassures, “clever planning of the built structure, i.e. timber screens, shade structure and plant climbing frames,” will ensure you don’t block out the sunlight or make the space feel overly small.


If you have a newly-installed pool or playground area that requires a visual buffer, a simple fence will provide year-round screening while not taking up as much space as plants would.

While a board fence might seem a little boring, the various styles and stains available can complement the architecture of your home, making it aesthetically-pleasing rather than an eye-sore.

Are you working with a larger garden? If you have the space, flowering plants or evergreen shrubs placed in front of the pool’s fence will help soften the solid look and feel. For a stone wall, break up the solidity by keeping it at a lower height, and mounting a lattice or picket-fence on top – it will also act as a climbing frame for vines to thrive.


While you might not be able to see your neighbours, you could still be close enough to hear their conversations, or be disturbed by the sound of a buzzing air-conditioning unit. Incorporating a fountain to your outdoor area may help mask any unwanted sounds and create a major focal point within your back garden. Keep in mind that flowing water sounds louder the further it falls, so a large fountain might become just as loud and disruptive as the noise you’re trying to hide! In a small space, install a smaller structure to allow for outside conversation with friends and family.


With so many options to consider when designing for privacy, Jesse encourages homeowners to find balance within their outdoor space.

“The balance of textures, colours and spaces are critical to a successful landscape,” he says. If your budget will allow, mixing soft and hard landscaping features will create an outdoor oasis to enjoy year-round. No matter the size of your wallet or back garden, Jesse emphasises that “the planning of the garden – from the ground works and hard structure to planting and maintenance – is the most important.”


Read 159163 times Last modified on Tuesday, 20 October 2015 01:24