CREATING A SENSE OF PRIVACY
Living screens, sunken terraces and leafy canopies are just some of the design features that will help transform an overlooked or exposed space into a private retreat
Ten imaginative ways to foster an air of glorious seclusion in your outdoor space.
1 LIGHT TOUCH
In a small urban garden, an opaque, frosted or coloured glass canopy over the seating area is ideal for creating privacy. Obscuring the view into the space from above, a glass roof has the bonus of allowing light through – a real advantage in an area shaded by adjacent buildings. For a bespoke design to suit your needs, contact a landscape design and construction company that is a member of BALI, bali.org.uk, or APL, landscaper.org.uk, or a firm that specialises in garden buildings.
2 ON THE EDGE
Position a summerhouse or pavilion so that it backs onto the garden boundary where it is most overlooked; the building’s roof and walls will create a visual barrier and a private space in front. Concealing the structure behind trees or large shrubs can increase the sense of seclusion if it is reached by a journey through the garden via a winding path. Where there is no space for a building, an arbour seat set next to a boundary will have a similar effect.
3 TOP NOTCH
The height of a two metre boundary hedge or wall can be extended using trees clipped into balls or pleached to form a hedge on bare stems. Alternatively, attaching trellis along the top will let in light and provide support for climbers, such as roses and clematis. Pleached and clipped hedging can be bought pre-trained and grown to the height you require from specialists such as Hedges Direct, hedgesdirect.co.uk.
4 GOING UNDERGROUND
Sunken gardens make great retreats and are especially useful in urban plots where boundary fences may cast unwanted shade. Lowering a terrace by just 45cm makes it easier to create a greater sense of privacy with planting or awnings; if you want to go lower, ask a landscape architect to check the water table level and advise on drainage. In a sloping garden, carve out terraces and create an outdoor room on the lowest level.
5 SOUND EFFECTS
Screening noise in a garden is crucial for a tranquil ambience. Water spouts and fountains help to drown out the sound of traffic and noisy neighbours, and ensure your conversations are not easily overheard. The most effective water features produce just the right level of sound – soothing rather than irritating – and form an integral part of the garden design. Water garden specialist Fairwater Limited, fairwater.co.uk, offers a bespoke design and installation service.
6 THE GREAT DIVIDE
Partitions made from rendered brick, trellis or even Cor-ten steel can be used to break up a small or large garden, creating secluded sections in which to conceal dining areas, benches or loungers. In exposed sites, perforated screens will also act as windbreaks, making sheltered nooks, ideal for relaxing. Positioning two or three screens on either side of a small garden, either at 90 degrees to the boundary or angled away from the house, can make it look larger, too.
7 BORDER CONTROLS
Lining paths and patios with perennials, grasses and bamboos is a good way to hide seating areas from view. Plants that die down in winter offer privacy during summer when you are relaxing outside, but will not block out light during the rest of the year. By placing seats strategically, you may find that flowers and foliage do not need to be very tall to make an effective screen.
8 LEAFY GREENS
Trees trained to form a canopy will mask the view of a terrace from neighbouring windows, while also adding an architectural feature to your garden design. Ideal trees for living roofs include Tilia henryana (lime), Acer campestre (field maple) and fruit trees such as mulberry. Many are available ready-trained from specialist nurseries such as Hedgeworx, hedgeworx.co.uk; prune annually in late summer or autumn.
9 COVER UP
A sail shade suspended over a seating area will not only block direct views from upper storey windows, but will also give protection from sunlight and showers. The frame can be adorned with climbers, to enhance the enclosed feel. Check that they will grow tall enough to cover the structure and fix wires to the uprights for the stems to cling to.
10 IN THE WOODS
Trees offer unlimited scope for providing privacy. A small copse planted at the end of a garden will form a quiet refuge. In a large, open space, use ornamental trees to screen off a sheltered area with a dramatic view and edge it with hedges or low walls. In smaller gardens, three or four trees with slim trunks, such as Himalayan birches, will create a snug wooded retreat.