How to increase your garden privacy

April 12th, 2020
Posted In: Garden style & living, Garden trends & design

I’m going to answer the three top questions on garden privacy.

If you’re interested in finding out even more about privacy, The Middlesized Garden Complete Guide to Garden Privacy is now out in Kindle and paperback in 13 countries. Find your country link here.

So I thought I’d answer the three main questions here. They are:

  1. How do I increase my privacy from above
  2. How to improve garden privacy without blocking light?
  3. 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.

Please note that links to Amazon are affiliate so I may get a small fee if you buy, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay. Other links are not affiliate.

1) How to increase my garden privacy from above?

First, work out exactly where you need to increase your privacy. Windows often have a limited view, so you only need to block that view not screen the whole garden.

Identify which upper window or windows overlook your garden directly and what they can see.

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.

This blog post has more about pruning for privacy and light. And you’ll find my favourite choices for trees for privacy here.

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.

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.

To buy in the United States, see here for Kindle and here for paperback.

Pin to remember garden privacy ideas

And do join us every Sunday morning for tips, ideas and inspiration for your middle-sized (or smaller!) garden. Follow by email here.

3 top garden privacy tips - how to make your garden look and feel more private


20 comments on "How to increase your garden privacy"

  1. Piers says:

    Hello Alexandra, I’ve got your excellent Garden Privacy Book, live in semi detached house, have 2.2m high fences (half hit and miss panels from Jackson Fencing raised off the ground) + 9 Thuja Picante trees highest one is 6ft. Objective is to hide 3 neighbour windows please? Courtyard is small like a triangle – length is 10m, narrow end 2m, widest end 5m. Please help!

    1. It’s difficult to advise on specific gardens but the important thing is to block the sightlines from the windows. And the nearer the screening is to you, the lower it can be. So a screen right by your seating area will probably block the sightlines even if it’s only 6ft high, but if it’s further away it would need to be taller.

  2. C ONeill says:

    How do you gain privacy in your garden when your garden has cat proofing wooden rollers so planting trees or putting up screens would make it easy for our cats to get out and others to get in? We are overlooked by 3 townhouses and I hate it!

    1. Oh, dear, that does sound tricky. I would go for making one part of the garden private with a low screen near the table where you sit – when a low screen is near you, it can hide you well. And the cats wouldn’t be affected because it’s not on the boundary. Sometimes people create a summer hedge of high plants, like grasses and cats wouldn’t able to use these to climb up.

    2. Vicky Colthurst says:

      Hi! I have lots of cats, all rescue, and I put up cat netting right across the garden from side to side. It’s brilliant. No cats can get in or out. And my tall plants just grow through it. You can get it on zooplus or zoopla??

  3. Marina Teramond says:

    Alexandra, thanks for the wonderful article! But I don’t consider planting big trees a mistake) There is one big tree in my garden. It is located at a certain distance from fruit trees, so it does not create shade for them. But there is always a shadow under this tree)) And my family and I love to use this place for a picnic!

    1. That tree sounds delightful!

  4. Sarah says:

    Such an insightful post! I love the idea of adding a gazebo or fruit tree to add more privacy. About a year ago, my husband and I got our fence redone by a local contractor since we both are older and have bad backs. We choose a slatted fence to give our backyard garden more privacy from our neighbors especially now that we have grandkids!

    1. Thank you for commenting. I had to remove the link in your comment as it was directing to an error 404 and also because there has been some misuse of links in comments, and I’ve had to restrict the use of them.

  5. David says:

    Hi Alexandra,
    Really enjoyed the article. I’ve been looking for information to help a business I’m mentoring to add more value to their homeowner customer. Sharing this with them should get them to think more about what’s important to their clients and give them an angle to be more of a consultant rather than just a fence fitter. Will recommend the full guide to them.

  6. S Smith says:

    We often get asked about Garden privacy when managing tree cover. We have often replaced diseased trees with small fruit trees so the client can maintain privacy after the unfortunate removal of a tree. Great to see that endorsed in this article!

    1. Nice to know that people are replacing trees when they are taken out.

  7. Dear Ms. Campbell,
    I was recently made aware of your website through Veulio. We have just launched our gardening services website for Bristol and I was very pleased to read some of the posts on your blog. This one with great tips on garden privacy is a must read! Can we mention these suggestions with our clients? We’ll make sure to tell them where they came from. Thank you for the relevant information and have a great week!

    1. Yes, certainly, thank you.

  8. Blake A says:

    Installing a faux hedge is also a great idea to maintain your garden privacy. Hedge panels are available in multiple sizes and if you want more privacy then you can fit it with sound proofing insulation.

    1. A says:

      Sound proofing? How? I would like that. My neighbors are ugh!

      1. Sound proofing is really difficult in gardens because sound doesn’t travel in a straight line, so sound naturally flows over a barrier. Lots of planting would soften it a bit, and make it less echoey. Sorry!

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