Privacy in the Garden

Privacy is a common concern in Sydney’s densely populated inner suburbs, but even in more luxuriously spacious properties, adjacent buildings – especially apartment blocks – can turn your garden haven into a goldfish bowl. But the kneejerk solution of building tall walls can leave you feeling boxed in. The challenge then is to gain a reasonable degree of privacy without inducing claustrophobia.

Degrees of privacy

No one wants to feel on display in their own home or garden, but a full block, like a solid wall, is not always necessary or desirable. Most commonly, what’s more important is simply a sense of privacy. This can be achieved with an open solution that shields your garden from casual glances, but which you can still look out of if you want to. The advantages of this sort of solution include a visual softness (much less harsh than a solid wall), retaining air flow into the space, and framing – not blocking – views.

Privacy structures

Having said all that, solid walls do have their place and a beautiful masonry wall can be a striking visual feature in the right setting. The trick is to balance it with other materials, perhaps employing a more open scheme on the other boundary lines. The options are endless but might include spaced timber battens, a perforated metal screen or something looser still, through which we can wind a climbing plant.

Privacy invasions can come from all angles and it’s common, especially in urban areas where apartment blocks proliferate, to have people looking down on you from above. A solid structure, like a pergola, is a good solution here that enables you to get clever with angles – an ideal situation will be a roof of deep but slender battens that block out nosy neighbours from above, but still allow a clear views of the sky from directly underneath.

Planting for privacy

Strategic planting is a great way to get a sense of privacy – whether filtered or absolute – but the ever-popular lilly pilly hedge is not usually our first choice; bay trees and podocarpus are two of our faves, but there are so many more options available, including bamboo, which gets a bad rap for shedding leaves, but is ideal in certain situations where you need something skinny and high. Pleached trees are a great alternative to the standard dense hedge, giving you a shield of foliage from one metre up (or thereabouts), but leaving the ground level free for a contrasting plants, giving the garden a greater sense of space than a solid green wall.

Climbers are another favourite privacy tool that allows flexible degrees of privacy – a loose weave for a subtle screen, or something denser for full blockout.

Even potted plants can give just the sense of privacy you need and are commonly employed on balconies, where what you want is often not so much an absolute screen as simply something to define the boundary and filter a view.

There’s always a solution to a privacy issue, but these more subtle tools can solve the problem while actually enhancing the look and feel of your garden.


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