5 Tips for Backyard Privacy Using Fences, Plants and Other Screens

Posted On: May 22,2018 By: Todd Thomasson

Private patio with fireplace and treesThere’s nothing quite like the serenity of enjoying time in your own backyard. Whether you’re lounging by the pool, sipping a glass of wine by the fire pit, or even just trying to share a private moment with your family over an outdoor meal—it’s great to be able to enjoy those moments outside.

That is until the neighbor strikes up a conversation. Or maybe they’re staring at you from an upstairs window. Whether you are friendly with your neighbors or not, the truth is that everyone wants some privacy once in a while.

You should be able to step outside of your house and enjoy some moments outside without always feeling as though you have to interact with the neighbors. Just like you should be able to lounge poolside or have your kids swimming without feeling as though there are prying eyes on you.

This is where a privacy screen becomes incredibly useful. There are a lot of great ways to incorporate privacy into your yard that don’t just require a physical fence (although they can also be helpful).

Privacy for backyard patios is undoubtedly a hot topic. Let’s explore some of the best ways that you can achieve it so that you can regain your personal space.

1. Privacy is All About Placement

One of the most important tips to remember is that creating privacy largely comes down to the strategic placement of the elements within your landscape. You can create very effective privacy backyard screens with the thoughtful placement of structures like outdoor fireplaces and pavilions. You might also consider adding a shed or even building a pool house as these structures will provide you with useful space and screening.

The key to making this work is to take time to consider the placement during the design phase. After all, one of the walls to your pavilion or even its roof could very easily screen out your neighbors’ entire view of your outdoor living space, but only if it’s turned at just the right angle to provide that screening. The same goes for the use of the outdoor fireplace, shed, pool house, or any other structure being utilized for screening purposes. There must be thought given to the angles and the layout of the project as a whole.patio with outdoor fireplace and trees for privacy

Placement also matters for privacy plants (which we’ll talk more about next). While there is often an inclination to just plant trees all around the perimeter of your property, better privacy is actually achieved with a screen planted close to the areas you’ll be occupying vs. 50 yards away. While thought is typically given to what types of plants are installed, a lot of homeowners (and even inexperienced landscape companies) fail to give a lot of thought to where they’re installed. And this can make all the difference when it comes to effective screening.

During the design phase, an experienced designer will work on a plan that incorporates the neighbors’ houses or anything else that you are attempting to screen out, and then work from there. This allows them to look at the big picture instead of being close-minded and only looking within the confines of the perimeter of your property.

But keep in mind, this is not something that every designer will do. Recognizing the importance of how the finished product will affect views and privacy screening is something that comes with experience and expertise.

2. Plant Selection Matters for Privacy Landscaping

You can also create privacy screening with the right plant choices. Plants that are dense or tend to grow wide or tall make good privacy plants for the backyard. But you don’t necessarily have to go for huge trees in every situation. A lot of it comes down to placement.

Rock Water Farm private patio rendering

Knowing the eventual size of the plants you choose relative to their placement in the landscape can help you get a sense for what kind of screening will be offered as plants grow in. Rock Water Farm also offers 3D virtual reality renderings in some situations that would allow you to visualize what standing at different parts of the property and see how it will look in the future.

Some examples of privacy plants include several of the following plant ideas.

Green Giant Arborvitae

The arborvitae is probably the most-thought of plant when it comes to privacy screening. That’s because this type tree grows tall and dense and can be placed near one another to create a natural wall-like effect. The Green Giant variety is even taller than the typical hedge variety of arborvitae that a lot of homeowners use. These “giants” can grow as much as 3 feet per year and reach a height of 40 feet.

Holly

Due to the fact that holly trees grow dense and quickly, they can be a great choice for privacy. We particularly like the Emily Brunner Holly tree, which takes a pyramid-like shape as it grows. There are also shrub varieties of holly, such as the Nellie Stevens Holly, which grows in a very dense and uniform shape. In general, hollies are easy to care for and manage and are also known for being fast-growing. An Emily Brunner will grow to be about 20 feet tall while a Nellie Stevens can grow as tall as 25 feet.

Cryptomeria

Due to its broad size, this evergreen of the cypress family will give you some great privacy screening. Its densely packed green foliage has a soft and wispy look that also makes it an attractive addition to your landscape. It is also very fast-growing, shooting up as much as 3 to 4 feet per year and reaching a height of 30 to 40 feet. Just keep in mind that this tall and graceful tree can thin out as they get larger. For that reason, it would be beneficial to add another layer of shrubs in front.

Ornamental Grasses

Believe it or not, ornamental grasses can also go a long way in creating privacy. We particularly like the gracillimus species for its ability to grow tall while remaining relatively compact in nature. It has a “fountain-like” appearance to it as it reaches maturity and certainly offers some aesthetic appeal.

3. Make it Aesthetically Appealing

When you think about laying out a landscape with privacy in mind, it’s important that you don’t forget aesthetics. Sometimes homeowners think the best way to create a privacy fence using privacy plants is to line them all up in a row. But that doesn’t look natural. After all, trees don’t grow in a straight line in nature.

Instead, think about staggering the trees. This not only looks more natural and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but it will also start to create a privacy effect sooner than having all the trees in a row. Rather than having huge spaces between trees during their growth period, the visibility will begin to be blocked much sooner.

tree-planting

When it comes to aesthetic appeal with your privacy plantings, you also want to think about color. There’s an inclination to use a lot of arborvitae in privacy screening and that’s undoubtedly an ideal plant for that purpose. But don’t forget to add some color and some variety in, as well. For instance, you could use two different evergreen shrubs to give you slightly different textures and leaf variations instead of a wall of all one tree type.

planting-mulching

You also want to think about layering in color. By planting some shrubs with darker color green leaves or even variegated leaves in colors like burgundy in front of a staggered row of Green Giant Arborvitae, you’ve now made the landscape much more interesting and visually appealing. You might even layer in some variegated perennials in front of that which offer different bloom times. This will really make the entire scene “pop,” and will give you ongoing interest throughout the season.

4. Building a Berm for Backyard Privacy Landscaping

Another successful way to create privacy on your property is to create a berm. Berms are mounded hills of dirt that are constructed to block out views. If designed and built the right way, the end result is a natural looking solution to privacy.

Of course, you don’t want it to look as though you just have a giant pile of dirt on your property. At Rock Water Farm, when we incorporate a berm into a design, we add a variety of trees and shrubs on top of it.Pool with privacy plantings

These can be particularly effective in pool areas. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to plant a giant tree to create privacy in your pool. After all, when you’re standing in the pool, you’re no longer five or six feet tall. You might only be a foot above the patio. So a small berm with some small shrubs planting in it would be more than enough to screen out anyone’s view of you and your family and friends in the pool.

It all comes down to “site lines,” and this is something that (again) must be paid attention to during the design phase. If you have a neighbor whose home is on a hill, then screening out the site line from their windows may, in fact, require something taller. It’s a matter of taking the time to look at those site lines and find the solution that works best.

5. Get on a Fertilization Plan for Your Privacy Plants

One of the big gripes we hear about privacy plants and creating privacy landscaping is that it “takes too long.” Homeowners are impatient about getting those trees and shrubs to grow faster so that they can begin to feel that sense of privacy they’ve been looking for.

We understand that completely. After all, you’ve invested a lot into your home and your landscaping and you’re ready to be able to enjoy it.

landscape-design-walkway-planting-2

While there is no magic solution to get your trees and shrubs to grow overnight, you can help them grow faster than average by adding fertilization to your landscape maintenance plan.

Getting on a regular fertilization schedule will absolutely speed up the growth of your plants. Plus, they’ll grow healthier, too. By supplying the nutrients they need to thrive through fertilization, your plants will be able to thrive. Think of it as protecting your investment. By the third year, you’ll likely see the biggest growth period and feel as though your landscape is truly coming together the way you imagined.

Creating the Privacy You Desire

Privacy is such an important element of being able to get the full enjoyment out of your backyard. You work hard all day long and sometimes you just want to come home and relax on your patio or by your pool without always having to get into a conversation with your neighbors.

And on the weekends, you want to be able to use your yard as your own private oasis. You’d like to be able to think of it as an “escape” or “retreat” from everyday life. That also includes not having to see into your neighbor’s yard every time you walk outside—particularly if it’s uncared for. The last thing you want to be viewing when you’re trying to relax in your backyard oasis is an unkempt property.Pool and patio with privacy trees and plantings

It’s not that you don’t like your neighbors. But we all need that private time that we can have for ourselves or even just for our family or closest friends. After all, you worked hard for the beautiful space that you have in your backyard and now you want to be able to truly appreciate it by enjoying your time out there.

By involving a landscape designer in the creation of your outdoor living space, you’ll be able to implement solutions that will give you the privacy you crave. With the proper design, you’ll get privacy solutions that are functionally purposeful in blocking neighbors’ views but is also aesthetically appealing to look at, enhancing the overall beauty of your yard.

There’s no reason you should have to feel like a prisoner in your home or that you have to hide out just to avoid the neighbors or their watchful eyes. With the right solutions in place, you can step outside any time you wish and have your yard all to yourself.

If you’d like to find the right privacy solutions for your Ashburn, Aldie, or Leesburg, VA backyard, talk to an expert, choose a solution that rocks, and then get ready to truly relax.

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Todd Thomasson

Written by Todd Thomasson

Todd Thomasson, founded Rock Water Farm Landscapes & Hardscapes in 2005. Having grown up with hard working parent role models and a strong work ethic, Todd put his Landscape & Turf Management degree from Virginia Tech into action as the lead stone mason and landscape designer for the new company. Over the years, the responsibility and opportunity of running this company has been shared with other members of the Rock Water Farm team, launching one of the leading property maintenance companies in Loudoun County. Todd is still rooted in his passion for design/build projects and continues to run the company, working with clients to design, build and maintain perfect outdoor spaces with his team.