These garden screening ideas will improve privacy in your outside space, whether from overlooking neighbors or from other parts of the garden – if you have more than one acre to work with (lucky!).
From all-natural screens, to solid metal structures and clever planting tricks, creating more privacy needn't be harsh or ugly looking and it can actually become a stylish part of your garden design. After all, we're all creating outdoor living spaces right now to make our gardens the most cozy and comfortable of places to be, in all seasons. So whether you want to sunbathe in peace, or have your 10th family BBQ of the week – why not –, with careful consideration of style, screening materials and positioning, you'll be able to make your space more private in a way that suits your needs, tastes and budget too.
How to get privacy in an overlooked garden
When it comes to protecting your garden from prying eyes, you have lots of different options, from pergolas and canopies, to strategic planting, natural garden screens and more. When choosing the best course of action for your space, the main thing you need to understand and work with is the sight line. By sight line, we mean, what the overlooking person can see – be that from a window, their own garden or from a nearby walkway. To understand this better, it's simple. If you can see them, they can see you.
We spoke with Chris Bonnett from Gardening Express who says, 'creating privacy outside is great for those who want some space to relax, out of the way of prying eyes. Even one single planter can be surprisingly effective when shielding a garden from the outside world. Go for something that is easy to care for.'
- Find more garden ideas on our dedicated page.
Can you create more privacy in a garden cheaply?
Choosing simple ways to increase privacy like planting and DIY can make this job really budget-friendly and nonetheless effective. The experts at Gardening Express say that aside from DIY solutions, 'Another alternative is wire fencing, as it is a quick to install and unbelievably cheap. Growing climbing plants like a colorful clematis or ivy up the wire will create a private space and a great place to nature spot.'
So it can be done. Always start by assessing where you really need privacy and consider both temporary and permanent options to suit your needs and garden’s orientation. This will make it a lot easier to find a happy medium, which is pocket-friendly too. And remember that unless you want to zone off your entire garden – for which you will need to check what's allowed beforehand – you will be able to get more privacy in other less dramatic and very clever ways.
- Find more garden ideas on a budget in our roundup.
1. Work with your garden's boundaries
Working with your garden's natural boundaries is one of the first things to consider when looking for more privacy in your space. Depending on your garden's size, soil conditions and light levels, you could 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. And at this stage if you already know you want or need to add a boundary wall, you can start getting that project underway.
Top tip: Building regulations state that a garden boundary, fence, wall or thick hedge should not exceed 2m in height.
- Small space? See how to make a small garden look bigger.
2. Balance evergreens and deciduous options
If you actually love the idea of full on privacy (and trees!) then choose a mix of deciduous trees with strategically placed evergreens for a more balanced privacy solution that will give you gorgeous dappled light also. Alternatively, a canopy of deciduous trees can often provide a sense of privacy quickly. Bamboo (see above) is a fantastic instant screen, too. It grows quickly and is green all year around.
- For more garden landscaping ideas and advice check out our guide.
3. Work with a sloping garden
If your garden is sloped but overlooked, you can use this in your favor. A retaining wall may be enough in itself, but add more greenery to that first level for heaps more interest, height and therefore privacy. Bonnet says 'Evergreen shrubs are good to achieve a reliable height and plentiful foliage for privacy all year round. But for a more colorful and bright look, add a few large plants such as this pink, hardy Palms of Phormiums – they are forgiving when they haven’t been watered too.' This screening option is an effective sloping garden idea that will of course work year round.
4. Create a small and subtly private corner
If you have a favorite garden seat or bench where you like to read and chill, you can simply place a small tree or tall plotted plants close to you as this may be enough to deter attention. Not only will this protect you from neighbors' eyes, but it will still allow for light around the rest of your garden, and will be decorative too, as opposed to if you'd have gone for something large and far away which would just cast shadow onto your entire outdoor space.
- Like that chair? You'll love our roundup of the best garden furniture too.
5. Use a canopy for overhead protection
For a little shade over a decking area where you tend to wine and dine, a fabric canopy can be a lovely and organic looking choice. Visually, super stylish and perfect to screen off eyes from up above (the neighbors' kids' toy drones included!) it's the perfect way to be subtly private in your outdoor space.
- Find more patio ideas in our edit.
6. DIY a garden screen
Building your own privacy screen is a great way to use up leftover wood or even old doors. Bonnet says 'Privacy screens are the ultimate easy garden DIY project to achieve a concealed area. Apart from nails and a hammer, the quirky yet functional partition can be made solely out of old doors or wooden pallets. To brighten up a dull garden, give the screen a lick of bright paint.'
- Find the best exterior wood paint for the job.
7. Carefully consider the positioning of outbuildings
Whether you're intrigued as to how to build a garden room from scratch or looking to add another type of outbuilding to your backyard, think about its positioning to help the flow of your space as a whole but also to block out any spots you want to keep totally private.
8. Choose low seating in a built up courtyard
If you need privacy from up above where you are in an enclosed space, choosing low seating is not only cozy but also a simple way to feel more comfortable from onlookers. Deter attention furthermore and up the pretty factor by stringing lanterns and other garden accessories across the opening to stylishly obstruct the view from the outside.
- Find more classy and clever garden lighting ideas in our edit.
9. Use climbers romantically
Consider screening off areas within the garden using hedging, shrubs or hard landscaping as opposed to blocking your whole boundary and this will make for a more atmospheric finished look.
Perfect for areas where you’d like a more permanent privacy solution – where you might dine or sit for longer periods in the summer time. Climbers like ivy and roses work really well.
10. Choose modern laser cut screening
You can also create a little more privacy using vertical wood, stone, laser cut metal products or even composite. These are often super modern looking so great for contemporary spaces and they create barriers but still allow for some visibility. Perfect if you have an outdoor kitchen space. Yes it can be a little more expensive per linear metre as it’s usually a bespoke solution to supply and construct, involving both a garden designer and landscaper, but it is an investment.
11. Set up that outdoor cinema you're dreaming of
Put up the big screen in your backyard for a cinematic experience that will not only look good but also feel super exclusive too. Hang your screen in a spot where you want to block sight lines out, grab your favorite outdoor rug, all the cushions, all the popcorn and you've the perfect setup that is only yours to enjoy.
- Find the best outdoor projectors for the job.
12. Be bold with a parasol
For a temporary solution, a cantilever umbrella or another of the best parasols about can provide flexible privacy. Easy to install, one of the cheaper garden screening ideas going, and stylish if you look in the right places, this will make a classy addition to your patio.
13. Create a bright flower hedge
What more lovely a way could there be to interrupt that sight line than by means of a wildflower hedge? Functional and fabulous, choose tall and bright flowers such as delphiniums, foxgloves and more for a pop of color to last all summer long – when you need it most. You could even opt for ornamental grasses or a mix for added interest and levels.
- For more help on how to choose plants for gardens take a look at our feature.
14. Greenify a garden trellis
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. Remember also that your garden screening doesn't have to be solid, but just a distraction to onlooker eyes and enough to make you feel comfortable and secure in your surroundings. So a trellis adorned with a living display is ideal.
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.
15. Or, max out on height with living walls
Growing a living wall will not just give you more privacy but it will give you the chance to beautify any ugly looking walls too. The more expensive option would be pleached trees – trees trained on a rectangular frame on clear stems – that look great when 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.
16. Prune screening trees for more light
Remember that if you're going for trees as your garden screening options, don't get them any bigger than they need to be. You can however, prune for more light. The aim is to create an open shape and to avoid stimulating lots of unruly growth which will happen if you cut across a branch for example. So keep trees as low as they can be to still hit that sight line, and prune for best effect.
- Learn how to prune apple trees like a pro.
17. Extend your view with see-through garden screening
An easy way to create screening that isn't a solid fence is to put up a see-through screen, such as a slatted panel, which shows off the view beyond your garden or patio. Why do this? If your garden is small and the view beyond is quite green, it gives you what's called a 'borrowed view' – a classic garden design trick to make your space feel bigger.
18. Use screening materials to hide ugly boundaries
Now this is a clever idea. If the screening you've already got is an ugly wall or fence and you need a quick, green fix, particularly in a space that doesn't get much sunlight, or that has a solid surface with little room for large pots, artificial plant panels are the way to go. Better still, you can weave real plants through them as climbers in narrow pots to create a more natural look. We like Fejka artificial panels from Ikea.
19. Install a water feature to create background noise
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.
- Find more garden water feature ideas.
20. Add a pergola
A pergola may well provide enough privacy in a smaller garden. Even better, if you enjoy DIY, you can build a pergola yourself.
21. Or, an arbour
Alternatively, invest in an arbour for a fuss-free, instant secluded nook where you can while away warm days feeling totally at ease.
22. Make a statement with a border
One of our more bold garden screening ideas that we adore fyi. It does the job of adding much-needed privacy, as well as a beautiful contrasting color and a cool texture too, creating the perfect backdrop to show off fancy planting. It's an investment, with a price tag to match but not one you will regret. Find this with other finishes available at Primrose.
23. Go au natural with a bamboo screen
Like the natural and slightly boho look of bamboo? Bamboo makes for excellent garden screening and is the easiest way to cheer up a severe-looking garden wall. Find slatted bamboo fencing from Thompson & Morgan has the benefit of being quite dense, so you will get proper protection with it.
24. Add curtains to an outdoor room
For the perfect outdoor living area where you want privacy from all angles, adding billowing curtains to a covered spot will not only look gorgeous and very chic but it will also mean that when you want more privacy – be that from neighbors or the kids – you can hide away easily.
25. Don't forget your front garden
Want a completely natural scheme that creates privacy without the use of screening materials as such? Pick your plants wisely. Especially in front gardens, bushy trees with dense foliage, such as acacia, yew, and junipers can easily provide enough screening to not need anything else.
You can also use bamboo, but bear in mind that some varieties can grow very tall very quickly, so you'll need to keep it under control by regular trimming.
- Garden fence ideas: Stylish designs for your front or back garden.
What is the best garden screening?
There are so many elements that come into play with garden screening. Not only will you want to create privacy, hide eye sores and minimize noise in your garden by use of good screening, but you'll also want to protect light levels and your garden's aesthetic also. So choosing options that aren't overbearing is key.
Most gardens are overlooked, especially if you live in a terraced house, either by windows from the houses backing onto yours, from other floors in your block if you live in a flat, or from people next door. And the way that many people used to solve this was by planting conifers around their entire border. As lovely and effective as that is, the downfall here is that these trees grow very large, overbearingly so and they will then cast a lot of shade on your garden space over time, which isn’t necessarily what you want. Find the best option above to suit your garden space.
- See our guide to container gardening for planter inspo.
How much does garden screening cost?
In terms of cost, this depends very much on the type of screening you go for. Shop bought screens, trellis and the like cost anything from £25 and upwards and if you're choosing natural boundaries it depends on the type and size of plants or trees 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 also which in itself can be expensive.
The DIY route and working with nature is of course the cheapest solution and often the most effective (and satisfying) way too if you ask us!
Time to enjoy your own space 🌞