The simplest way to create privacy is to put up a big, plain wall between yourself and the rest of the world. Fortunately, there are plenty of more decorative and interesting privacy solutions for your garden. Your yard does not have to look like a fortress to feel comfortable and secluded.
A big problem with putting up a fence, plants or some other sort of privacy screen is that it closes your garden in as much as it blocks everyone else out. Rather than surrounding your whole garden with a privacy barrier, screen off one area of it as a retreat and leave the rest with a spacious, wide-open look. If you have a large, thick evergreen tree in one corner of your garden, use it as one side of a privacy enclosure. Create a semicircle of hedges around it with a small gap to enter and exit through. Place a bench inside along with a few small feature plants, and use it as a quiet privacy retreat.
If you have a garden shack or workshop, add a small walled garden onto the front of it. Grow vines and trailing plants such as spider plants to give it a wild, overgrown look. You can enjoy the solitude of a miniature private garden while puttering with landscaping or home improvement projects in your workshop.
Rather than creating a whole privacy wall around your garden, use staggered screening to create an interesting labyrinthine layout for your landscape. Place bushes, trees, bamboo screens and fences at different distances from the street so that they overlap, blocking a viewer's sight while leaving the yard open. These staggered sight blocks will serve as a privacy screen for the back half of the garden, and will also create interesting optical effects for viewers walking past them. Add a path winding around the different elements of your privacy layer to the street and they suddenly serve as features, both blocking your garden and gradually revealing it to visitors.
A privacy fence can look forbidding and paranoid from the street, decreasing your landscape's curb appeal. Change your privacy fence from a "do not enter" sign into a welcoming work of art by putting up a mural. Draw a nature scene--such as a sunset or a forest glen, a mural featuring local landmarks and people from your community, or anything else that interests you--on the side of the fence facing the street.
Alternately, line your privacy fence with unusual artifacts for a quirky, decorative look. Attach lawn art, seashells, signs, sculptures or old toys to the outside of it. It will give passersby something interesting to look at and give your house a unique place in your neighborhood.