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Privacy Please! Ideas For Screening Eyesores

Trellis Tricks

When talking with a new client, landscaping for privacy is at the top of most people’s wish list. Whether the need is to screen neighbors who are a tad too close, obscure an offending garden eyesore, or create a secluded courtyard in the front garden, people want their privacy. Over the years, I’ve helped people create privacy using either plants or structures – or both – and have seen loads of other gardens where homeowners have developed their own creative solutions.

Let’s start with the simplest structure – a trellis added to the top of the fence. To add a few extra feet to the top of a standard wooden fence, sometimes the easiest thing is to add a trellis to the top of the fence. It’s easiest to plan for this initially when installing the new fence, but it is possible to modify an existing one. Just make sure the ultimate height is within your city’s ordinances and double-check that your neighbor is okay with any changes you’d like to make.

Climbing roses are one of my go-to climbers to plant along long fences. With age, the strong structure of the rose supports the plant while allowing the long stems to be trained along the side and top of the fence. This Cecil Brunner rose, for example, grows at least 15-feet in both directions along the fence, not only adding eye-candy blooms but also providing several additional feet of screening.

Free-Standing Structures

One of my favorite trellis solutions is one that my husband and I built in this skinny side yard. The idea originated when a new neighbor decided to remove all the trees from their backyard, exposing their unsightly roofline and tons of hot summer sun. The neighbor didn’t want us to attach a trellis directly to the fence, so we built a free-standing trellis placed along the fence. The added height provided a structure for a climbing rose on one end and an espaliered pyracantha bush on the other. I especially love the clusters of red berries that hang through the trellis, almost as much as the robins and waxwings do. The freestanding trellis was such a successful solution that we decided to build another one, this time painted black, in a different part of our garden.

Today’s Gardens is a garden design and landscaping company that specializes in creating private, beautiful outdoor spaces. Their team of experts can help you transform your yard into a personal oasis, whether you need screening, structure, or plant-based solutions.

On one end of the free-standing trellis, I planted an evergreen clematis ‘Wisley Crème’ to delicately scramble up and over. And on the other end, I planted the evergreen clematis ‘Avalanche’. These are two of my favorite varieties of clematis, as they’re not only evergreen, but have very different bloom times. The ‘Avalanche’ blooms in the late spring through mid-summer, while the ‘Wisley Crème’ blooms in the late fall through winter – yes, I said late fall through winter!

And while the clematis vines don’t provide as much blockage as the Cecil Brunner rose, this area only needed the feeling of enclosure and privacy versus screening an unsightly view. Heres another example of a free-standing trellis that my father built for the vegetable garden. A familiar scenario occurred – the neighbors’ tall hedge was removed, creating a new focal point: an unsightly roofline. Thanks to the trellis, there’s plenty of screening as well as support for climbing edibles or an ornamental vine. In this instance, a seasonal wreath adds a beautiful touch.

Creative Screening

This courtyard garden is governed by HOA rules which don’t allow for anything to be attached to the fence. Our solution was to build this L-shaped free-standing trellis. The trellis not only screens the neighboring home, but also supports an Iceberg climbing rose and an akebia quinata vine. A similar concept was created by Freeland & Sabrina Tanner in their gorgeous garden – they used semi-private screening from their neighbors with a creative lattice structure.

Sometimes, all that’s needed is the illusion of privacy to help define an intimate space within a much larger area. A few years ago, my husband and I stayed in this wonderful Airbnb that had an incredible sprawling country garden. Several intimate garden rooms were created within this large space with clever use of upcycled antique doors, windows, and other decorative objects. As the walls of these garden rooms illustrate, sometimes just the illusion of screening is all that is needed to create a private atmosphere.

Plant Power

But plants alone can provide plenty of privacy, eliminating the need to buy or build a trellis, fence, or gate. One of my go-to small trees is the Prunus caroliniana ‘Bright ‘n Tight’ – a moderate growing tree to 10×6 feet in 10 years. I often use the standard version, removing the lower limbs to create a tree shape which allows additional planting underneath the canopy. In small spaces like side yards, this is an ideal strategy as the different layers of planting give the illusion of more space.

When a neighbor added a second story close to the fence line, this homeowner’s privacy was shattered. There wasn’t a trellis tall enough to block the view, so she planted a row of Prunus caroliniana ‘Bright ‘n Tight’ that quickly transformed her view into a lush wall of green. Surprisingly, the trees have fared well over the years despite receiving a hefty dose of shade in parts of the skinny side yard.

Similar to trellises and gates with open-lattice construction, sometimes a solid hedge isn’t needed to create a feeling of privacy. In this instance, a solid row of thujas would have screamed ‘KEEP OUT’, definitely not welcoming to neighbors. However, since plenty of space was left between the thujas, it’s friendlier as well as providing the perfect amount of screening.

Berms for Bonus Height

One of my favorite go-to strategies for creating privacy with plants is to create a berm. A berm helps give plants an additional lift, adding a bit more height and privacy where needed while remaining open and welcoming at the same time. The key to a successful berm is to keep it subtle – I typically make berms no higher than 14 inches in the center, then gently taper them down to form a natural shape.

This is my former front garden, which was relatively small. Without the berm, it would’ve been tricky to prevent the garden from looking flat. But after the plants on the berm filled in, the various heights add privacy and interest to this small space. Heres another example of a berm used in a very small garden, helping to provide interest and screening.

I hope I’ve provided some inspiration for ways in which you can add privacy to your garden. And if you have any favorite plants or screening ideas you’ve used in your own gardens, please share! After all, creating a private sanctuary in your outdoor space is key to true relaxation and enjoyment.

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