New directions in garden privacy screens
Garden privacy screens have really changed alot in the last few years. There are lots of new, exciting designs.
As more houses are built, gardens get smaller and more overlooked. Privacy is increasingly difficult. But new companies have poppped up, making garden privacy screens a design element as well as a functional one.
The main new development is the patterned metal garden screen. It’s usually laser-cut and made of corten steel or powderised aluminium. You’ll see them in many show gardens – where screening your design from your neighbour’s is key.
However there are also new contemporary designs in traditional materials, such as willow or other woods.
If you’re considering your garden privacy as a whole, rather than just thinking about a new screen, then see my book The Complete Guide to Garden Privacy, currently available on Kindle and paperback in 13 countries. It covers choosing walls, fences, trees, hedges, screens and arbours for garden privacy. See here for your country link.
If you prefer to watch a video, you can see most of these garden privacy ideas here:
How much garden privacy can you expect?
If you live in a town or you have neighbours, then don’t expect total privacy in a small garden. Aim for one or more private corners.
This is where garden shelters with screening work so well, especially if they’re at the bottom of the garden. You probably don’t want them near the house as they’d screen light from your windows. But further down the garden, a garden shelter with a screen can make a private outdoor dining room or place to relax.
Distract the eye with partial screening
I asked Mat Webb-Jenkins, MD of Stark & Greensmith Ltd about their garden privacy screens and fences. He explained that when you give the eye ‘something to rest on’, then you distract it. That’s why screens with patterns and gaps do work as garden privacy screens, even though you can, technically, see through them.
Screening practical areas or eyesores
Mat Webb-Jenkins says that there are two kinds of people who often want privacy screening to distract the eye or screen new extensions. ‘We often get people ringing up to say “my neighbour has built a really ugly extension, and we don’t want to have to look at it”. Or you get others calling to say “we’ve built a really gorgeous new extension, but our neighbours are being completely unreasonable and say they don’t want to see it.”
As an extension is often quite sizeable, it’s probably a question of distracting the eye rather than covering it up altogether. Or make one part of the garden private from the view of the extension.
Jacksons Fencing say that ‘Double pergolas are great for flanking walkways to create a feature path or even a terrace, and for separating patios, creating extra privacy when dining. You can add growing beds with tensions wires between the posts for climbers, which would eventually give a green screen effect.’
This would look good with espaliered fruit trees, which can make a great garden privacy screen.
Trees or screens for privacy?
You can consider planting a tree or trees to screen an eyesore, but a towering conifer could take over your garden (and all your neighbours’ gardens). There’s more about trees for privacy in my previous posts – the important thing is to consider the line of sight. Don’t fall into the trap of surrounding the edges of your garden with the tallest trees you can manage. Consider having one or two trees, placed to interrupt the line of sight, whether it’s a window you want to screen or a view you want to block.
It may not matter if the tree is deciduous – if you only need privacy for the summer months when you’re out in the garden, then you’ll have a much better range of trees to choose from. Before choosing your tree, consider if it’s suitable for your soil and climate and find out how fast or high it grows.
Francesca Sideris, Design Director of Langlea Garden Design, says that trees draw the eye into the garden rather than allowing you to focus on what’s beyond the space.
Know the law about screening for garden privacy
In most parts of the United Kingdom, you can’t have a fence higher than 2 metres without getting planning permission for it. Councils vary as to whether you also need to get planning permission for trellis on top of that.
The guidelines around hedges are less strict and rely on how the local council interprets them, but generally you’ll need to keep an evergreen hedge below 3 metres. See here for more about hedges for privacy.
And wherever you live, you may have local laws or regulations restricting how high hedges, trees and garden structures can be.
But I see thousands of pictures of small urban gardens in London with high fences and trellis so you may live in a part of the world where nobody worries much. Or you may get your neighbours insisting you reduce the height of your screening!
But garden structures can be higher than garden privacy screens
A sloping roofed pergola or bench can be an excellent choice. Pergolas, gazebos and other garden structures can be 2.5 metres high. If they’re more than 2 metres from the boundary, they can be up to 4 metres to the top of a pitched roof, with eaves no higher than 2.5 metres (UK legislation).
Depending on what you are trying to screen, this can give you lots of privacy. And because your pergola or gazebo is lower near your neighbour’s boundary, you won’t block their light so much. Even if there is no legislation where you live, it makes sense to consider your neighbours when creating privacy in your garden.
Garden privacy screens in front gardens
Many people prefer a thick evergreen hedge screening their front windows. But if you have a wonderful view – for example if you’re close to the sea, like the front garden below – then you may want to make your front garden special. This garden below was designed by Langlea Garden Design and has stone seating and a stone firepit.
Drop your terrace down a level
This is a heavy earth-moving solution, but if you’re landscaping your garden, you may be able to create an extra private seating area by having tables and chairs at a lower level than the garden privacy screens. The advantage of this is that even a 4ft high screen would give you about 8ft of privacy, but wouldn’t block your views of the rest of the garden (or your neighbour’s light).
With more garden shows coming up, I’ll be returning to the subject of garden privacy again. And I’ll be looking out for other new garden trends, so do join me, either on the Middlesized Garden blog or the Middlesized Garden YouTube channel.
Shop my favourite garden tools, books and products
I’m often asked for recommendations, so I’ve pulled together several useful lists of the books, tools and gardening products I use. You can find them on The Middlesized Garden Amazon storefront. Links to Amazon are affiliate, which means I may get a small fee if you buy, but it won’t affect the price you pay. And I only recommend products I use myself and think you will like.
For example, if you’re new to gardening, I’ve done a list of the essential gardening tools you need, including the brands I use. Or if you want to make your gardening more environmentally sustainable by composting, using a water butt and minimising single-use plastics, see my list of Favourite Sustainable Garden Products. (You could read How to Create An Easy Sustainable Garden first)
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