We all want privacy. No one wants to feel like they are living in a bubble—remember the horror of The Truman Show. Unfortunately, in this modern day and age, privacy is becoming harder and harder to come by, even in our own homes.
Land has never been at more of a premium, which means homes are often built in close proximity, and some backyards feel more like communal areas than sanctuaries. Even if you live in an older community with lots of space, your backyard sanctuary isn’t immune to the effects of neighborhood change—your next door neighbor building a deck off the back of their house, the construction of a nearby road, or more people moving into the area.
The most enjoyable part of being in your own space is the fact that nobody can see you; you’re in your own private world. This peace and quiet is the sense of serenity that you want in your backyard. The good news is that you can still enjoy privacy in your own backyard with the help of a landscape design professional. They can look at the issues you’re dealing with—from noise to visual disturbances—and create a landscape that gives you the retreat you deserve.
Implementing Visual Barriers
Many of the techniques your landscape designer will employ are aimed at enhancing the sensation of “enclosure. The first step is to create borders that employs visual screening to separate you and your yard from neighbors and passersby. There are two principle techniques for accomplishing this:
1 Living Privacy Walls
The right type of trees, planted in the right place, and using appropriate spacing can create a living wall that offers you a privacy screen from the rest of the world. Depending on your budget, you could plant fast-growing and long-lived evergreens such as Cryptomeria or Arborvitae. Or you could plant slow growth trees such as Holly or Spruce that have had more time in the nursery to grow 16 to 18 feet tall for immediate privacy. Avoid the temptation to plant inexpensive trees such as Leyland Cypress because they rarely last more than 10 to 15 years.
Typically, your landscape designer will use a mix of species and groupings of plants to achieve a natural-looking buffer zone that doesn’t present like a one dimensional, homogenous mass. This method of organizing landscape plantings to capitalize on the aesthetic effects of height, breadth, depth, and variety is referred to as landscape layering.
2 Constructed Privacy Walls
If you want to enhance the feeling of privacy in your backyard even further, you can install an attractive fence or stone wall behind the border planting. In this way, the fence is either partially or fully hidden, but still there in the background to underscore your feeling of privacy. And unlike a living wall, a constructed wall is a solid barrier against uninvited guests, human or otherwise. It also offers an additional layer of insulation from noise.
Creating a Sense of “Enclosure”
Sometimes, it’s not possible or necessary to transform your entire outdoor space into a private sanctuary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t carve out a small area of your yard for an “away” place—a private sitting area or space for contemplation or meditation.
Your landscape designer can help you figure out how and where this space will work best. You can make the area completely from plants, include a small water feature, and even add an arbor to provide partial shade overhead and enhance the feeling of seclusion. Just remember to think small and cozy as that’s a big part of what makes this retreat feel so special.
Introducing Soothing Sounds
Neutralizing the effects of distant noise or the voices of your neighbors is key to a proper backyard sanctuary, and that’s where properly sized water features can help. Water features can contribute to the tranquility of your outdoor space by offering a soothing sound that neutralizes distant sounds. The key is to scale the size of your water feature to your space.
A landscape designer can help you figure out the appropriate level of sound. The loudness level and tone are controlled by balancing the volume of water running through the system with the distance that it drops before landing in a pool or hard surface (the farther the waterfalls, the louder the splash sound). You can think of this adjustment as a form of “tuning” the sound so it fits the setting.
As water features go, a garden fountain can be particularly effective in a smaller backyard. Garden fountains are less labor-intensive to construct than even small waterfalls or ponds. They offer a comparatively straightforward way to introduce soothing sounds of tranquility into your backyard environment.
Planting Mature Shrubs and Trees
When you want privacy, planting large trees and shrubs offers an immediate, though expensive, solution. It means you don’t have to wait for smaller plants to grow to get the sanctuary you desire—you could plant in the morning and have your privacy problem erased by the time you return from work in the afternoon.
A landscape designer can help you think about the total sensory experience you want in your backyard, which requires effective layering and grouping of plantings by size, shape, color, and textural characteristics. When planted correctly, the right shrubs and trees can have an enormous impact on your sense of privacy and seclusion.
Envisioning Your Backyard as a Sanctuary
It’s normal to want privacy in your backyard, whether around your swimming pool, the outdoor kitchen, or dining area—the last thing you want is to feel that neighbors or passersby are staring at you. This desire for privacy can be especially important when a neighbor adds an addition to their house that includes windows or a two-story deck overlooking your yard from above.
The good news is that you don’t have to just accept a lack of privacy. A quality landscape designer can create a total sanctuary experience in your backyard by adding a privacy wall, creating an enclosure, installing water features, or completely modifying your landscape. They’ll know what to do to reorganize your space, using a variety of techniques, to add, restore, or enhance the feeling of privacy in your yard.
If you’ve been thinking about investing in a landscape design project, our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.