CREATING PRIVACY IN A CITY GARDEN
One of the challenges facing urban dwellers today is creating a sense of privacy and enclosure in outdoor spaces without feeling hemmed in and without offending neighbours. The days of complete openness, with just a waist-high chain-link fence between properties, are gone, for better or worse. Here are some solutions to feeling secluded, not cut off. FENCE FIRST The first thing to consider is fencing. Cedar is more natural than pressuretreated wood and ages beautifully. Willow fencing is becoming popular and has a much more “organic” look. Horizontal boards, rather than vertical, increase the sense of space in the garden. Vary the heights according to the views and the overall design. A curved trellis can create a focal point, distracting from unwanted views beyond and breaking up a fence’s straight lines. Instead of fencing all the way around, consider areas of “green fence” made up of cedars or other evergreens grouped in clumps, not necessarily in a straight line. FINDING THE PERfECT SITTING SPOT Find the best place to sit in the garden. Traditionally, the patio or sitting area is right up near the house. This may be the most practical solution (not having to walk too far from the kitchen with your martini), but are there other options? Consider pulling the sitting area far enough from the house to create some planting beds between. What about a sitting area elsewhere in the garden? There’s usually a great little area you hadn’t thought of where you can put a table or bench and make it really private.
UNSIGHTLY VIEW Use trellises to block unsightly views. If you’re tired of looking at the neighbour’s laundry on the line or staring right into their kitchen window, a decorative trellis, solidly built and well placed, can be very useful. If you’re building it inside your property line the 2-metre-high rule doesn’t apply, though it’s usually best to consult with your neighbours first. THINK GREEN Plant as much greenery as possible. If you have a grass yard now, you might want to keep some of it, but rethink how much flat surface you really need. If you have kids and dogs, you obviously need room to kick the ball around, but otherwise you could replace much of it with low-maintenance ground covers, shrubs and trees. This allows you to put your privacy-creating elements elsewhere than simply around the perimeter of the garden. For privacy around your sitting area, some midsize shrubs can do the trick. And if you want to look out your window in winter and see green instead of buildings, plant some mid to large-size evergreens.
ACOUSTIC PRIVACY For acoustic privacy, densely planted evergreens such as cedars, hemlocks and junipers are very effective, as is a water feature or pond. Whether it’s a full-scale pond and waterfall or just a small bowl or wall-mounted feature, the soothing natural rhythms of moving water can mask and distract from all kinds of nerve-jangling noise.
GOOD FENCES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBOURS
All these solutions can enhance their garden as much as your own. Be sensitive to their need for sun and to the view from their side and you’ll be able to live side by side in harmony.