I’m going to answer the three top questions on garden privacy.
I’ve been researching this subject a lot over the past year. And The Middlesized Garden Complete Guide to Garden Privacy is now out in Kindle and paperback. That’s very exciting for me as it’s the first Middlesized Garden book!
So I thought I’d answer these three main questions here. The first is ‘how do I increase my privacy from above?’ The second is ‘how to improve garden privacy without blocking light?’ And the third is ‘how to make a privacy screen?’
Firstly, you can’t always make your whole garden completely private. But if you decide where you most want the privacy, then you have a very good chance of achieving it in that one area.
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1) How to increase my garden privacy from above?
Is there an upper window or windows which overlook your garden directly?
The biggest mistake is to to try to increase your garden privacy by planting tall trees along your boundary. If the trees grow tall enough to screen the overlooking windows, they will cast your garden into shade.
That might not matter if you had a very large garden, but most gardens these days are not large and it would affect the whole garden.
And even in a large garden, you’re often not legally allowed to grow a tall, evergreen hedge or row of trees along your boundary. You need to check local regulations or country or city laws before planting high hedges or installing high fences or walls.
So the answer is to work out what the upper window or windows can see. Often their view is quite restricted. Draw an imaginary line from the window to where you want the privacy. That is your sightline.
If you could see an imaginary figure in the window, then they can see you. But if the window is at such an angle – or distance – that you couldn’t see someone standing in it, then they can’t see you.
Block the sight lines – and just the sight lines
A parasol, arbour, pergola or gazebo is a good way of increasing privacy if you’re overlooked by upper windows. Place them between you and where the window where an imaginary person could stand.
And you can also get more privacy by having a tree or a screen near to you. A small fruit tree near your terrace will give you more privacy than a taller tree further away.
And a 5ft high screen can shield people sitting at a table. So you can have a privacy while enjoying a meal with family or friends.
2) How to increase garden privacy without blocking light
This is the next big question. This, too, is about working out what the sight lines are. Who can see you? And when do you need the privacy?
If you only need privacy in your garden in summer, then you can plant deciduous trees and shrubs which lose their leaves in the winter. They’ll only give you garden privacy in the summer, but often let more light into your house in the darker days of winter.
Once again, don’t plant a tree right on the boundary. Try to plant it as close to where you want the privacy as possible. Because if you plant a tree for privacy closer to your terrace or seating area, even quite a small tree will interrupt the sight line.
Invest in good tree pruning
You can also increase the light in your garden if you prune your trees for privacy carefully. We have an evergreen conifer, and we regularly cut it so it doesn’t grow too tall. We have also removed the lower branches and that helps let light in.
Or prune your tree to make it look more airy. Take out whole branches from the main trunk to make the canopy lighter.
When you cut across branches, then more growth sprouts and the canopy gets very dense. If you remove whole branches to give an open, spreading shape, you will get dappled light. But the branches will still screen you.
3) How to make a garden privacy screen
There are lots of options for garden privacy screens. This isn’t a DIY blog, so I suggest you look for tutorials on YouTube.
But here are some ideas to get you started.
A summer hedge
You can screen a bench, table or sun lounger by growing taller plants and flowers alongside it. This is sometimes called a summer hedge, because it usually dies down in winter.
You’ll need to think about which way your border runs. The border will need to be between, for example, your terrace and the sight lines. It’s a lovely, easy way of creating more privacy in a garden in summer.
Use trellis for privacy
Ordinary garden trellis is easily available from garden centres or online. It’s important to make sure it’s properly secured. Sink trellis posts at least 12″ into the ground, fixing them with something like a cement post mix.
Or if they’re attached to a wall, it must be strong and in good condition. The battens securing the trellis to the wall need to be long enough to hold it in place in a strong wind.
Once a trellis is covered with plants, it can create a ‘sail’ in high winds.
A DIY privacy screen from upcycled materials
I like this garden privacy screen made from planks and corrugated iron. It’s in Australia and looks good with a modern house.
You don’t need a garden privacy screen to be solid. People see the screen not what lies beyond it, unless they go up close and peer through it. (Which most people would hesitate to do). Gaps in a privacy screen allow light through. They also mean it is less likely to blow over in a strong wind.
More about the Complete Guide to Garden Privacy
The Middlesized Garden Complete Guide to Garden Privacy draws together all the elements that can help make your garden feel more private. And there is more detail on what you need to know in each section.
For example, there is advice on how to choose trees or hedges for privacy, along with planting tips. There are ideas for garden privacy screens, plus practical insights.
The book covers trees, hedges, fences and screens for privacy. And it includes ideas for using sheds, gazebos, pergolas and parasols for privacy, too.
There is also a section on screening eyesores and minimising noise.
The Complete Guide to Garden Privacy is available in paperback (£16.99) or Kindle (£7.99) from Amazon. Or you can buy a PDF download (£7.99) to read on your pc or tablet directly from the Middlesized Garden if you don’t use Kindle.
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