Landscape design concepts for maximising the privacy of your backyard

As a homeowner, spending time in your backyard with friends and family is something you look forward to, especially in the warm spring and summer months. Whether you want to plan a family cookout or kick back in your favourite lounge chair, creating a backyard landscape design with adequate privacy and a comfortable atmosphere can have a big impact on the enjoyment of your outdoor activities.

Outdoor living spaces are popular features for most homeowners, but rising real estate prices have made houses with large yards less affordable for some. As the demand for outdoor spaces grows and large houses occupy small lots, backyard privacy is at a premium. Take a look at landscape design ideas that will create maximum privacy and enjoyment in your backyard.

Each yard has its own unique situations, so not every tree or concept suggested will work best in your backyard. Think about your site requirements and what size tree you ultimately want as it matures. This will help narrow down which type of tree or trees that will be perfect for you to achieve desired privacy. As always, you can contact us for a free consultation if you would like help tailoring the perfect design for your backyard or landscape. Free Consultation

Solid Privacy Fences

Building a fence is a common solution for privacy in a backyard landscape design. A six-foot fence quickly provides a visual buffer between properties. It provides maximum privacy and noise reduction with a smaller footprint than shrubs and plants. A fence is a good solution in a side yard where privacy is essential, but space is limited. Although a fence can be built from various materials, a solid board fence in wood or cement sheet will provide the best privacy for your backyard. To soften the structure, you can add an open lattice or baluster top to the fence and a variety of plants and flowers at ground level.

Semi-Private Fences

Semi-transparent fences may not provide as much noise reduction as solid privacy fences. Still, they add a lot of visual interest to your landscape and allow natural light and breezes into the yard. They create a comforting sense of containment and a buffer between your backyard and your neighbour’s yard. If you choose to install a semi-transparent chain link or open weave fence, you can create more privacy by adding climbing vines or trailing plants to the fence or along the fence line. Within a few years, you will have a solid wall of greenery that hides the fence completely, but you will have to keep it properly trimmed to prevent unsightly overgrowth.

Stone Walls

A stone wall will add maximum privacy and unique visual appeal to any style of home. With a variety of materials to choose from including granite, limestone, bluestone stacked stone and flagstone, it’s easy to build a stone wall that complements the materials on your house, as well as your backyard landscape design. Your stone wall cost will be higher compared to building a fence, but it will last a lifetime with minimal landscape maintenance. To reduce material and labour costs, construct a shorter stone wall, about four feet in height, then add a two-foot wooden lattice or fence to the top. A lighter material on top will soften the hard edges of the stone and give the wall a unique style. If your home’s exterior is wood or siding, a lattice or wooden top will tie the two structures together.

Garden Structures

If you have a small backyard, a tall, solid fence or stone wall may feel too confining for your outdoor space. Defined areas like small patios and terraces, decks and outdoor kitchen areas can be easily screened with open panels, trellises and arbours. By building an enclosure around your outdoor spaces, you can create privacy for outdoor activities and entertain without creating perimeter boundaries around your property. Open panels, trellises and arbours allow you to create maximum privacy with climbing vines, hanging baskets and colourful flowers. Garden structures provide an appealing, affordable option for backyard privacy in small spaces.

Mural Walls

If you dare to be different and appreciate the beauty of art, you can design a unique mural wall that will provide privacy and a stunning focal point in your backyard. A mural wall can be as creative as you are. It can be built in concrete, wood or metal and covered with beautiful artwork, colourful ceramic tiles or pieces of interesting rocks and stones. It can reflect a sleek contemporary feel to enhance modern architecture or a comfortable, nostalgic feel to enhance traditional or rustic architecture. A mural wall is a unique way to add privacy, style and atmosphere to your backyard landscape design.

Outdoor Fountains

Although you may not be able to see your neighbours, you may be close enough to hear them when you’re in your backyard. Suppose you’re in a neighbourhood where houses are built on smaller lots and close together. In that case, you may even hear intrusive noises like barking dogs, buzzing air conditioner compressors, televisions, stereos and conversations. By adding an outdoor fountain to your backyard landscape design, you can mask unwanted noises and replace them with the soothing sounds of nature. Depending on the size of your yard and your budget, you can build a custom outdoor fountain or purchase a pre-made model. When choosing a fountain, note that the further waterfalls, the louder it becomes, so choose a fountain size and style that provides the right amount of noise reduction and privacy with a soothing level of sound.

Green Screens

Whether you have a structural fence or not, a green screen or a living wall of plants is a great way to create a natural barrier between your backyard and your neighbour’s backyard. It can create a visual break, establish property boundaries, provide a buffer for noise and wind, hide unappealing views, soften the edges of hardscape walls and fences and create a sense of intimacy and privacy.

Trees

Planting deciduous shade trees is a good way to obscure a neighbour’s view from a second-story window or terrace. Typically, they grow from 6m - 20m  depending on the species. When planted near a property line or in the backyard, their large canopies provide privacy, as well as good shade in hot summer months. Deciduous plants usually lose their foliage in late Autumn and winter, so during these months, the trees’ bare branches allow the sun to shine brightly into the house for added light and warmth. Evergreen plants will act as a buffer and barrier and provide maximum privacy for your backyard landscape design year-round.

Shrubs and Hedges

Shrubs and hedges provide excellent privacy for backyard settings, whether the yard is large or small. Where space is tight, for side yard areas, for example, fast-growing columnar evergreens like Cupressus ‘Pencil Pine’  and Syzygium ‘straight and narrow can provide a simple solution for separating adjoining yards or blocking sight lines out of windows where privacy is essential. Unlike fences and walls, shrubs and hedges can provide a year-round privacy screen, and they’re not typically restricted by city ordinances that limit their height. If you plant a private hedge, it’s best to plant individual shrubs at least 1.5m apart or half their maturity width apart and bring soil up to the branching trunk. For the first year, hedges will require proper irrigation to survive. To thrive year-round, shrubs and hedges should be properly trimmed and mulched to prevent overgrowth, dead growth and provide moisture retention.

Layered Plantings

In larger yards, planting a mixture of deciduous trees, as well as shrubs, evergreens and perennials create a natural look for your backyard and create interest all year round in your landscape design. Stagger evergreens in the background and the foreground, step down the height with deciduous plants and perennials that provide different heights, textures and colours. Layering your planted areas creates better depth and visual impact in the yard. It also allows you to replace seasonal, smaller plants when they die with a variety of new seasonal plants in different colours, shapes, sizes and textures. This creates an easy way to change your privacy requirements throughout the year.

Container Gardens

Raised planters and container gardens will add height while creating good volume, proportion and privacy in your backyard. You can design a series of container gardens that define your property boundaries and establish a visual buffer between you and your neighbours. If you prefer a formal, symmetrical look, each container can be filled with identical plants. If you like a more casual, asymmetrical look, fill the containers with a variety of plants that offer different sizes, shapes, textures and colours. For easy, year-round maintenance, plant native, low-maintenance plants, shrubs and grasses like Lomandra, dwarf Nandina lavender and rosemary.

Vertical Gardens

Vertical gardens are popular ways to create maximum privacy in urban areas where homeowners have small plots of land or no land at all. However, they can also be used in spacious backyards. They can be grown easily on wooden trellises, open panels or metal grids that have structured support systems. Vertical gardens can support climbing vines, annuals and perennials and herbs and vegetables. Whatever the style of your home, you can design a vertical garden that enhances that style, as well as your backyard landscape features. A vertical garden will add height and depth to your yard while creating the privacy you need to enjoy the outdoors.

Large Plants

When you’re trying to maximize privacy in your backyard, it’s best to invest in larger plants for your backyard landscape design. You may be tempted to buy plants in inch containers that are on sale in a local nursery, but you will be waiting a long time for those small plants to provide any privacy for your backyard. It’s better to buy fewer plants, but larger plants that will have an immediate impact on your outdoor privacy needs. For quicker results, choose plants that are four feet or five feet tall, but pay close attention to growth patterns and care and maintenance requirements.

Outdoor blinds 

If you plan to entertain year-round, it’s important to create a backyard landscape design that offers privacy and protection from the elements. You can create both by installing outdoor curtains or blinds that can be opened and closed as needed. With a strong interest by today’s homeowners in outdoor living spaces, it’s easy to find outdoor draperies in a variety of beautiful colours, textures and patterns for every lifestyle. Fabrics are specially treated to resist stains, fading and water, so they’re the perfect solution for outdoor areas where you want to create privacy.

Trees for Privacy

Evergreen Trees

Magnolia Grandiflora, Little Gem is one tree we love to propose, providing amazing privacy due to their large, beautifully glossy evergreen leaves. They also have the bonus of gorgeous, fragrant white flowers starting at the end of spring and blooming sporadically through summer. They work best in a mixed garden with other privacy plantings to give them some protection, but be sure to give them room since they can get large. 

Prunus lusitanica,  Portuguese Laurel is worth mentioning for those of you who have a shadier backyard because they prefer filtered sun. These large shrubs can get to be up to 5m, and just as wide or wider. When you have dappled light and conifers won’t be happy in your partly shady area to provide the year-round privacy you want, these can be just the right plant to use.

Deciduous Trees

While deciduous means that the plant will lose its leaves in winter, they can still make great trees for privacy during the months that you use your backyard the most. They also tend to give you more seasons of interest with fresh spring growth, sometimes flowers, and lush foliage during the summer and typically fall colour. Some might even have interesting bark to provide winter interest as well.

Acer rubrum, common name October Glory is a very fast-growing, large, unique tree for privacy. This tree is a deciduous tree that appears quite like an evergreen and offers the bonus of amazing early autumn colour. They can tolerate damp areas, which makes it a perfect tree for an otherwise tough spot. Make sure to give it plenty of room since it can reach heights of 12m. 

Cercis Canadensis, Forest Pansy is an exotic multi-stemmed large shrub/ small tree that can provide quite a bit of privacy during the warmer months. It has beautiful foliage that transforms to green in summer, followed by a multi-coloured autumn display in a tone of red, apricot and gold. Other attributes of these trees are they are very adaptable to various soils, will tolerate full sun to part shade, have no serious insect or disease problems. Size varies with cultivar, but the average size is 5m tall by 5m wide, which makes this versatile plant a nice fit in many situations.

Lagerstroemia, Crape Myrtle is often a multi-stemmed tree, is also grown sometimes in single trunk form. Most of the time, we choose to climb up the multi-stemmed plants to at least knee or waist height, depending on their size, to provide the best view of their beautiful bark. They can still give you a sense of privacy by giving you a barrier between you and your neighbours and are especially nice near a seating area or within good view because they flower from mid-summer through fall. Depending on the variety, size and bloom colour can vary greatly, and some also offer dark foliage and beautiful fall colour.

When is the best time to plant a privacy border or implement my new garden design?

Planting in autumn and spring is best! So, start planning a season or two before you want to plant.

The sooner you start planning your new garden design, the better! People are surprised by the amount of time and planning it takes to turn a design idea into a reality. So, if you want to renovate your garden next spring, talk to your landscape designer this autumn or in winter.

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Director James Seyffer's love and passion for gardens began at Melbourne University's Burnley campus in 2006. Inspired by this platform, James realised his dream of creating live canvasses that captivate and delights his audiences. His drive and passion were soon rewarded after receiving an award at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in 2011. His designs showcase his love for plants, variations in natural textures and hard surfaces.

In addition, James has over a decade of experience as a qualified tradesman in landscape construction and horticulture. This experience cultivated a sound understanding of how to construct aesthetically pleasing landscapes which are now baked into his design philosophy.

 

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