How to Create Privacy in the Garden

January 12, 2024 by

Al fresco living is here to stay, with outdoor spaces functioning as home extensions, blurring the boundaries between indoors and out. People seek the same privacy outdoors that they enjoy indoors, but that patio, deck or balcony can’t become a secluded retreat if the space is on view for the world to see.

Creating Privacy in Urban Gardens
City dwellers often have outdoor spaces surrounded by towering skyscrapers that give neighbors an unobstructed view. Containers with tall plants and potted trees can do double-duty blocking views while turning the space into a secluded green island within a concrete jungle.

Privacy Garden Ideas
Whether you have a sprawling suburban yard or a small urban patch of concrete, here are some privacy garden ideas to help you create an outdoor sanctuary that offers peace and solitude away from my neighbors’ peering eyes.

Determine Your Goals
Decide whether you seek complete privacy from all directions or just around a portion of the space. Consider whether you want year-round coverage or only during the months you’ll spend outdoors.

How much privacy you want and the location will determine how high the screening needs to be. A low porch or patio may only need screening three to four feet high, while a raised deck may require taller plants to form a private visual barrier.

As some plants grow faster than others, consider how quickly you need screening and how much time you’re willing to spend on maintenance.

Locate Your Property’s Sight Lines
If you can see them, they can see you. Begin by locating the property’s sight lines — the places from which neighbors or passersby can see you. That may be from a window, another property, or a nearby sidewalk.

Consider Your Space
Begin by evaluating your site’s size, location and growing conditions, such as soil type, exposure to light and wind, and access to water. Learn what plants thrive in your growing zone and when to plant them.

Choose the Best Screening Plants
Tall, solid fences and walls may provide instant privacy but can make a space feel cramped and confined rather than cozy and comfortable.

Natural fences of strategically placed trees, plants and shrubs can block views while introducing texture and color into the garden. Unlike built fences, trees and shrubs have no municipal height restrictions.

Shrubs, Hedges and Trees
With their dense foliage, evergreen shrubs and trees fill out in a year or two to form a green living fence that provides year-round screening.

Though it might be tempting to plant a long solid wall of one type of shrub or tree and call it a day, interplanting evergreen and deciduous plants helps build resilience against pests and disease. Consider mixing evergreens with small flowering and fruit-bearing trees and shrubs.


Flowering shrubs form lush barriers, adding color, texture, and sometimes fragrance. Many grow 6 to 10 feet or more with large clusters of blooms and thick foliage that provides colorful screening.

Fill a large flower bed with elegant and easy-care hydrangeas that tolerate most soil types. They will fill in quickly in full or partial sun and can grow to a mature height of six feet or more.


With deep-green foliage and lacy flower clusters on tall stems, the thicket-forming elderberry shrub can reach heights of up to 10 feet with dark edible berries that attract birds to the garden.

For a fragrant garden, the lilac shrub’s plum-lavender plumes can reach five feet and upward, making it an aromatic and colorful screening option. The plants will attract butterflies and hummingbirds and provide lovely cut flowers for the table.


Layer Tall and Short Plants
Layering shorter bushes and other plants below a row of evergreens or tall shrubs will fill gaps and add visual appeal. Plant the back layer with the tallest plants, the middle layer with airy varieties like medium-height ornamental grasses, and the bottom layer with flowers such as foxgloves or snapdragons that will grow to a maximum height of one to two feet.


Don’t Forget Ornamental Grasses
For a naturalistic look throughout the seasons, tall, quick-growing and easy-maintenance ornamental grasses such as ‘Pink Pampas’ cortaderia offer screening to fill the garden with color, texture, depth and motion.


Plant Vines on Trellises
Trellises, lattice fences and pergolas covered in self-clinging vining plants such as clematis and the vigorous purple ‘Cup and Saucer Vine’ provide lush screening with lots of visual interest.

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A colorful climbing vine, morning glory will quickly spiral six to seven feet up a trellis in areas with full sun. Cold-hardy wisteria tolerates frigid temperatures in locations with harsh winters. The vine will tangle itself up and around a pergola or arbor with generous grape-like clusters of lilac-blue flowers, dispersing its sweet fragrance around the garden.

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With some advance planning and patience, you can create a private sheltered oasis for your eyes only.

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