As building lots shrink, our need for privacy grows. Uniform rows of fencing are a boring, if effective, barrier to prying eyes, but more creative options exist. Think outside the box for your backyard, and build an outdoor space that shows off your personality while ensuring your privacy.
Trees and Shrubs
Ever popular, living evergreen screens such as western red cedar (Thuja plicata) add privacy and beauty. Narrow forms are often called fastigate forms, such as hogan cedar (T. plicata 'Fastigata'). Space the plantings appropriately for their mature sizes, and give the plants room to grow. For a natural, informal look, Colorado State University suggests planting varied groupings of evergreen and deciduous trees with understory plants. If the yard is large enough, create privacy by staggering the shrubs and trees rather than creating a single border. For example, a large tree at the property line complements a smaller tree or large shrub closer to the home. Together, the plants screen unwanted views even though they are planted in separate locations.
Bamboo is a fast-growing, thick screen that sets your house apart. Be careful when choosing a bamboo, as running forms are invasive and nearly impossible to control once they escape a root barrier. Clumping bamboos spread slowly, but may reach fence height and higher within weeks. Many bamboos are hardy, and the foliage is elegant and graceful. "Sunset Western Garden Book" recommends 'Golden Goddess' (Bambusa multiplex 'Golden Goddess'), a clumping, hardy variety that grows 6 to 10 feet tall.
Etch older, wooden-framed windows and hang them between two posts as a functional piece of garden art. If digging through antique stores isn't your style, create your own stained-glass window, or even a framed selection of wrought-iron scrollwork, pressed metal or patterned tin to block a view. Make sure any wood is sealed properly from the elements.
A metal, vinyl or wooden trellis doesn't need a wall for support. Anchor the base of a sturdy trellis with concrete and grow vining flowers or plants as an outdoor room divider. Climbing roses and clematis grow well together, and a red roses peeking among blue clematis flowers will prompt passers-by to take another look. Plant mounding shrubs or flowers at the base to prevent a top-heavy appearance. Place smaller trellises in large planters as mobile screens. Don't use flimsy construction for stand-alone trellises, though, as the weight of the plants quickly overwhelms a weak trellis.
Fencing is often uninspired. However, you can dress up fences with a bit of creativity. Anchor eye hooks along the top and base of cement block walls, run wire through the anchors, and grow grapes, Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) or flowering vines to create diamond patterns. For wooden screens, use a jigsaw to cut multi-sized circles, leaf shapes, letters and other designs into cedar fence boards before nailing them to the cross rails. Even using various shades of wood stain on individual planks, especially when the boards are set at different heights, creates a playful background for foreground plants.