Your backyard is an intimate space that serves as an oasis of privacy and relaxation for family, and the center of outdoor entertainment and dining for friends and guests. Adding a waterscape, a sunken reading nook or a perimenter of privacy plantings will enhance your backyard landscape while adding to its usefulness.
A fountain, waterfall or other waterscape adds motion and sound to the backyard landscape, which enhances your sense of privacy and comfort. Fountains can be found in every style, and can be added to even the smallest landscape, or one devoid of plantings such as in an urban lot dominated by concrete decking. The recent popularity of water gardens also means that materials, liners and recirculating pumps are available to create waterfalls in any size, from a tiny container on a deck or patio to a large natural flowing stream embedded in the ground. Waterfalls and water gardens can also be designed to match any architectural style, from a natural looking woodland garden installation to slabs of concrete and cut drain pipe for an edgy modern look.
Sunken Reading Nook
A quite place to sit makes your backyard a respite from the frazzle of the work week. A small sunken nook minimizes interruption while maximizing cool, moist air on a hot summer day. Dig a pit about 6 feet deep; grade the hole steeply three-quarters of the way around, with a gentle ramp or steps to the remaining quarter. Line the bottom with 2 feet of sand covered with unmortared tile or brick for drainage. Placing the entryway on the northerly or westward side will maximize the shade effects. Line the vertical walls with stone or brick, tucking creeping thyme or other hanging, scented plants between the cracks. Plant tall ferns or perennials along the top to increase shade and the sense of height and privacy. Include a small water feature to further enhance cool moistness in the air and a sense of blocking out the world. Build in a comfortable reading bench or place a pair of lawn chairs in the nook.
Design a privacy plant arrangement that includes several staggered rows of plantings to create a more natural sense of seclusion. Include tall, dense evergreens at the outer row of the planting, then place deciduous shrubs or small trees in front of these, with colorful branches for winter interest, such as white birch, red twig or yellow twig dogwood. Include a shrub or two with beautiful spring flowers, like shadbush or quince, and another with strong autumn color, like burning bush. Taper the line of these shrubs gently down to your lawn or deck space with a series of ferns or hostas interspersed with natural-looking blooms like wild roses or flowering herbs. Keeping the eye moving from low to high and including different colors and textures will give the impression that the privacy planting extends deeper than it does, keeping visual interest comfortably within your backyard while blocking out the view from neighboring properties.