How to improve privacy in your garden

Create your perfect outdoor plot, shaded from overlooking neighbours, with our expert advice

The South Oxfordshire Landscape Garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2018 with brick terrace and wall inspired by Brunel railway bridge

Whether you’re completely redesigning your garden to make it more private from overlooking neighbours or want to introduce some clever design ideas to create a shaded spot, follow our expert advice to increase privacy in your garden. In doing so, you're more likely to feel comfortable and relaxed in your garden, and it will challenge you to create a garden design that's much more layered than if you just went for low-level planting and architecture throughout.

Then get more practical advice on how to plan, design and cost your garden transformation.

Focus on the garden's boundaries

garden patio

(Image: © Ton Bouwer/ cocofeatures.com)

Before you begin a garden makeover, assess where you really need privacy and consider both temporary and permanent options to suit your needs and garden’s orientation. A mix of deciduous trees with strategically placed evergreens on a boundary area can offer a more balanced privacy solution giving dappled light screening for the most used months of the year and year-round screening in a specific problem area.

Depending on your size of garden, soil conditions and light levels, plant deciduous trees with light airy foliage such as Betula, Amelanchier, Cornus, Malus, Prunus, Acer and Sorbus. This can provide gentle screening on a boundary area yet still let some sunlight through. Alternatively, a canopy of deciduous trees can often provide a sense of privacy quickly.

In terms of cost, this depends very much on type and size of tree you want to put in place. There are many nurseries where you can buy larger-sized deciduous trees to mix with a semi mature evergreen specimen such as Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaradg’ or Taxus bacatta fastigiata (columnar yew). Many nurseries will deliver and plant trees and hedging for you.

Our tip:

Building regulations state that a garden boundary, fence, wall or thick hedge should not exceed 2m in height.

Screen a secluded seating zone

Roses around an arch near a seating area

(Image: © Photograph Leigh Clapp)

Consider screening off areas within the garden using hedging, shrubs or hard landscaping as opposed to blocking your whole boundary. This can be useful for areas where you’d like a more permanent privacy solution for a specific area where you might dine or sit for longer periods.

You may be able to create a special 'garden room' area using hedging or shrubs within the interior of your garden. Depending on your choice of hedging plant, height and size you plant at, prices can start from a few pounds per metre to a hundred pounds per metre.

You can also create a garden room using vertical wood, stone or metal products, which create barriers allowing some visibility but give more screening. Often this solution can be very expensive per linear metre as it’s usually a bespoke solution to supply and construct, involving both a garden designer and landscaper.

For a temporary solution, a cantilever umbrella (we have the best patio umbrellas) or a shade sail can provide temporary, flexible privacy during the warmer months when the garden is used more often. Shade sails need a solid structure to fix onto but can be put up and taken down and start from as little as £10 to buy up to a few hundred pounds for more durable products. You will need to be able to clip the corners of your sails to either free standing posts and/or a solid structure such as your house.

Extend the height of your boundary 

Pleached trees – trees trained on a rectangular frame on clear stems – can be a great way of extending the height of your boundary. There are various sizes of pleached trees depending on the variety of tree you want, but often per linear metre this can run into hundreds of pounds even before the costs of planting, so be prepared to spend a bit more if you go for this option.

a hydroponic system panel for growing plants vertically

(Image: © Leigh Clapp)

Another option is to grow a living wall or to extend the height of boundaries with a cleverly planted vertical garden. Living walls and vertical gardens don't just give you more privacy – they give you the chance to beautify walls and offer more space for display and production.

On a budget or don't want the hassle of installing new structures? You could increase your garden's privacy substantially with a fence or trellis and climbing plants. Choose vigorous climbing species such as honeysuckle, jasmine, and clematis, and could have a luscious green wall by next summer! The beautiful scent these plants will bring to your garden are a bonus. 

Find out how to design a living wall or vertical garden in our guide.

Install a water feature

The Health & Wellbeing Garden by Alexandra Noble Design at Hampton Court 2018

(Image: © Karen Darlow)

To further increase privacy in your garden, consider installing a water feature. Although a fountain or water bowl won't make a difference to the visual privacy of your garden, it will create an ambient noise that will help make conversations feel more private. 

Add a pergola or arbour

A pergola or arbour may well provide enough privacy in a smaller garden. Even better, if you enjoy DIY, you can build a pergola yourself. Alternatively, invest in an arbour for a fuss-free, instant secluded nook. 

Rowlinson Arbour

(Image: © Cuckooland)

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