Outdoor privacy screens are more and more popular as we settle into suburban life or urban living, but still desire a bit of seclusion, serenity, and personal life in our own yards and gardens. Some outdoor privacy screens, such as fences, may run the length and width of your entire yard; others, such as lattice sections, may define a particular outdoor space or conceal an unattractive features. Still others, composed of living material such as hedges or bamboo, can start small and grow with each passing year.
The most basic function of an outdoor privacy screen is, as the name indicates, to provide some measure of privacy to a portion of your yard, garden, or other outdoor living space. Outdoor privacy screens can do much more than that, however; they can also offer protection from the sun and the wind (yes, and from nosy neighbors), can hide or camouflage unattractive elements (such as central air conditioning units or compost bins), and can also be used to highlight the architecture of your home, features of your garden, or particular outdoor areas.
Outdoor privacy screens can be divided into two basic types: those made of non-living material, such as metal, wood, or laminate vinyl, and those made of living material, such as hedges, grasses and trees.
Non-living privacy screens can be as basic as a tall wooden fence around a backyard. Other options include free-standing, pre-fabricated privacy sections, usually solid on the bottom two-thirds and with a lattice-type grate on the top third. Metal trellis work can also be used as a privacy screen.
Living privacy screens are created by planting and training shrubs to grow as hedges, planting bamboo in a row, using tall grasses as a type of fence, or carefully choosing and planting trees that will create a barrier and privacy screen.
A third type is possible, as well: a combination of non-living and living materials that, together, compose one complete outdoor privacy screen. An example of this third type would be a section of metal trellis covered in flowering vines, or wooden fencing supporting English ivy, or a combination of large grasses and lattice sections.
For the avid do-it-yourselfer, creating an outdoor privacy screen can be a job that takes anywhere from a few hours to a few weekends. It all depends on the scope of your screen, exactly what you're wanting to create privacy for, and the materials you want to use to create the screen.
If you're thinking of using a simple free-standing, pre-fabricated lattice, it's simply a matter of digging holes for the posts to go in, anchoring and leveling the posts, and filling in the holes.
If you're building a fence or installing long sections of lattice work, you're going to need more than a few hours. You'll need to define the fence or lattice location, clear the area, dig holes for the supports, install the supports, and install the fencing material or lattice. Plan on at least a weekend, more if you're doing a longer section of fence.
If you're going to create a living privacy screen, you'll need to plan enough time to purchase the material you wish to use: bushes to train into a hedge, bamboo, tall grasses, or slender, upright trees. Once you've purchased them, plan the spacing, prepare the ground, and plant. Be sure to water and fertilize as needed.
When creating an outdoor privacy screen, be sure you know and have marked your property line in the particular area in which you are working. You don't want to plant a row of trees or install lattice work on your neighbor's yard, so check your property lines before you start working.
Check for nearby power lines, low-hanging tree branches, or other obstacles that may be affected by an outdoor privacy screen. If you are planting trees or large shrubs as your screen, consider their full-grown height when planning the location.
Check the view from all sides. Staring at the screen straight-on gives you one idea of what it will protect, but what about from an angle? From the other side of the street? From a nearby corner? From the other side of your yard?
When using living material for a privacy screen, be sure you consider its full-grown size. How will you contain it once it fills the desired area? If using something that spreads easily (such as privet hedge or bamboo), consider adding a deep edging material while you do your planting.
Outdoor privacy screens serve an important purpose: they create a private area in your yard or garden so that you can enjoy the space as much as you enjoy the interior of your home.
Privacy screens also serve to define and help create particular outdoor living spaces, such as a sheltered, shady corner with a bench for reading, or a secluded hammock for napping, or a children's play area safe from the view of passing traffic, or a cozy outdoor eating area for al fresco dining with friends.
Outdoor privacy screens provide comfort by sheltering you from the sun, the wind, and the noise that surrounds your home. They can reduce the invasive roar of traffic and make you feel secluded even in an urban or suburban environment. They also help to hide unattractive features in your yard or garden and increase the curb appeal of your home.