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Privacy in an outdoor space is important to many homeowners, but should be done with thoughtfulness, strategy, and care. When thinkinga about privacy options, many plants, structures, and design elements can be used to add to the enjoyment this extension of your home can bring.

That’s where our work with our clients comes into play — finding what elements work best for your area and lifestyle is what we do best.

Your Yard Can Be a Secluded Retreat

Whether you live in a bustling city and need a green, private escape from the outside world, or you simply want to add elements that create outdoor rooms amidst an open area, striking a balance between privacy and the function of a space is important. Considering your needs, goals, and what will work best in your home ecosystem can all play a role in designing your future retreat. At Tilly, our goal is to help our clients find respite in their own outdoor spaces.

Ready to turn your backyard into a private oasis? Follow these suggestions to learn about landscaping ideas for privacy from landscape design experts!

Establish Your Privacy Goals

When envisioning your ultimate outdoor room, it’s important to understand what elements will work best for your private space based on where you live by zone, your neighbors and local area, local ordinances, and what will create additional privacy (and perhaps prevent prying eyes!) without impeding on light, flow, your budget, and what level of seclusion you’re looking to achieve.

When establishing backyard privacy, many people look to fences. Think about what fence option is right for you — there are fences that provide a visual barrier while allowing light to leak through, such as horizontal fencing. Oftentimes, though, a fence is used to create additional privacy and block unsightly views, so other styles of fencing may offer more privacy and draw a distinct property line.

Consider your hopes for a secluded yard space: do you want something evergreen (green all year round) or would you be open to deciduous trees that offer more options, but shed leaves annually?

Do you want full or partial coverage?

What is the size of your space and what you can accommodate? Does your dream for outdoor privacy include a seating area, small trees, and a garden? How about a living wall or privacy screen?

Your Tilly landscape designer is here to help!

A trellis that borders a pool and a fence against the property line

Backyard Privacy Ideas: Plant & Tree Options

Certain plants provide great coverage and can create an aesthetically intimate wall of green. Depending on the space you are trying to fill, look for how tall, wide, and leafy they are.

Can you see through the leaves?

What is it like in the winter?

Some species are coverage all-stars. But consider whether you want to block out the world entirely to achieve privacy, or use these clever ways to create separation while optimizing flow, openness, and sociability.

Consider plants’ mature width when you lay them out for planting. To avoid waiting on growth, you can buy plants at the semi-mature size – this costs a bit extra, but can be worth it to host an established array of foliage if it’s a timely priority.

#1 // Screening with Trees

Screen planting is using trees to establish your privacy. There are many great species that will work for total privacy: for example, a row of evergreen trees can offer complete privacy year round.

a fence on one side of a backyard and mature size trees lining another

Deciding what plants to use will depend on where you live and what will thrive in your zone. Some good options are Spruces, American Holly, Emerald Green Arborvitae and Green Giant Arborvitae.

All will grow tall and create established private spaces as living privacy walls.

#2 // Flowering Plants + Trees

Concerned about too much shade or not ready to completely close off your backyard? Look to low-range garden privacy ideas. Flowering plants and trees can form additional privacy in a yard that might have multiple seating areas or even a side yard and main backyard. You’ll be able to partially see through these (especially depending on the season), so keep in mind they won’t completely block off a small space, but it could be the perfect option between a seating area and a garden to create more privacy through establishing “outdoor rooms,” and keep an airy, open nature about your yard.

Evaluating your outdoor privacy needs in relation to the overall vibe of your space is an integral part of the process!

#3 // Tall Hedge Screening

Did you know the term “hedges” is not one particular plant, but a technique for maintaining something? It’s a strategy used to create a homogenous look, elevate a landscape, and provide a barrier as natural walls.

A tall hedge around a backyard to achieve privacy

A hedge is a great way to create rooms out of your space. They act as walls, can guide movement, create a backdrop, or generate privacy. It’s important to remember that most hedge options require trimming and maintenance, and create a more formal landscape look in a garden space. Evaluating if these plants are right for your bandwidth and style is important!

Some of our favorite hedge options include privet, beech trees or hornbeam classic hedging plants.

Backyard Privacy Ideas for Some Seclusion

A tall fence with shrubs in front of it

Shorter shrubs, like taxus or boxwood, are great options for partial privacy. If you’re looking for a natural privacy option that keeps the focal point on a patio area, water feature, or potted plants, short hedge screening provides a backdrop that creates privacy while allowing light to filter in and openness to maintain a throughline.

#1 // Flowering Shrubs

They’re not a tree, they’re woody, and won’t grow above 8 feet tall. They also won’t die all the way back to the ground. Flowering shrubs help establish a diverse planting scheme with pops of color and partial privacy, and many of them offer unique blooms that add interest and even fragrance. Create privacy and a tranquil ambiance with shrubs such as lilacs, roses, little red holly, rhododendron, hydrangeas, and more!

Flowering trees in a front yard to add privacy

#2 // A Loose Border

The “loose border” is an alternative to hedges — our landscape design team call this technique “tapestry planting.” Much like a woven tapestry of vibrant colors, a loose border can be composed of different kinds of evergreen and deciduous shrubs, instead of a series of homogenous plants that line the yard for the above mentioned screening. A garden with more space might be a better option for tapestry plantings.

A variety of trees and plants to create privacy in a front yard

To use this privacy idea, you don’t need a structured design but can include a range of tall plants along your border with shorter layers and ornamental plants below them.

Often, repeating staggered patterns along the planting line creates a diverse but purposeful feel.

#3 // Grasses

We adore the light, airy feel of ornamental grasses, and they come in all sizes. Perfect for layering, you can find a tall grasses or shorter depending on your needs. They create visual interest within a yard, along a border, alone or mixed in with other plants.

ornamental grasses create privacy around this outdoor seating area

#4 // Bamboo

Bamboo is often used for privacy, but there is a certain amount of education that should come with this option. There is clump forming bamboo which grows slowly, or running bamboo which will grow extremely quickly and can take over your garden quickly.

Running bamboo is extremely invasive. It has a beautiful aesthetic look, particularly in contemporary design spaces, but should come with caution. When planting bamboo, you should contain it within concrete to keep it from spreading. Because of its invasive nature, using bamboo in containers for screening is a great alternative to planting it in the ground.

#5 // Living Walls

Flowering vines up a wall create an intimate, inviting backyard forest perfect for those that are patient with plant growth, open to the DIY route, and want to add the visual interest of natural vines to a simple fence or wall. As a privacy screen, living walls can add warmth and separation to a backyard without sacrificing garden growth or texture.

A living wall that act as a privacy fence off a backyard dining area

Backyard Design Structures

Structures such as fencing or a retaining wall are fantastic strategies for immediate privacy but beware: they can disrupt the perceived size of your area and come with a hefty price tag. It’s important to choose the right structure that will work for your budget and mantains the flow of your yard!

#1 // Traditional Fencing

Picket fencing, iron minimalist, horizontal, natural wood, fencing that offers vegetable garden, pool, or patio protection. . . there are so many options, choosing a fence for your space is a choice that will affect the flow and energy of your entire backyard. Have you considered what kind of fence will meld well with your local area, your design style, and the plants you choose for your space? A privacy fence may be your best bet, but there are other options . . .

A horizontal slated fence around a fire pit area with a pergola overhead

#2 // Privacy Panels

Privacy panels can be a fun solution instead of a full privacy fence. They can be placed to fill gaps, or even just to mask a certain view or unattractive utility. Staggering panels can add interest with varying shadows and fields of depth.

A privacy screen behind container plants in a.small backyard

#3 // Pergolas with Screening

One of our favorite backyard “rooms” is the pergola. Pergolas can offer beams for string lights, hanging baskets, and can even have built-in privacy screens, allowing you to pull to one side and establish further respite from the chaos of your day. Our clients enjoy pergolas in both larger and smaller yards as patio coverage, an outdoor kitchen area, seating areas next to the garden, often with flowering vines growing up columns as a garden continuance for added texture and fragrance.

A trellis that borders a pool and a fence against the property line

Combining Textural Elements

In choosing living privacy screens, remember that hardscape and softscape don’t need to be mutually exclusive. A retaining wall as a backdrop paired with crawling vines, tapestry plantings, or tall grasses encircling a fire pit area or patio provides privacy while maintaining a level of design — your garden is interesting, eye-catching, and continues to be an extension of your home when you layer these textures.

A fence with vines up it around a yard

#1 // Double Layering

By this we mean combining hardscape and softscape features. So when fences are layered with plants that serve as natural fencing to become “combination fencing.” This offers an actual fencing border under or behind plants to keep pets and children safely inside the yard without exposing the fence underneath. With combination fencing, our clients gain peace of mind and the tranquility of a private space.

#2 // Containers as Privacy

Adding plants in containers to your space can add height and offer instant gratification when looking to immediately block an unsightly view from your garden. They work well for narrow areas, such as a roof deck, and have the added convenience of being mobile. Our client’s hot tub area, pictured in this rendering, ached for taller plants as a privacy screen. Containers of running bamboo were the perfect choice to encircle a space where privacy is a must intended for maximum relaxation.

Container plants with bamboo and plants to create privacy around a hot tub

When evaluating your need for privacy in your yard, are you taking into account all aspects? Is your property going to mesh well with your neighbors and the feel of your area? If you’re considering adding structures, how do the rooms flow? Is your garden an area that makes you feel a sense of calm or at peace when you arrive? Does it accommodate your lifestyle and add to your quality of life day-to-day, or will its’ upkeep cause you undue stress?

The design and elements of this area are just as important as the yearning for your very own private, tranquil space. Ready for backyard privacy designed by our experts? We’re here to help.

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