How to make an overlooked garden more private
Privacy is an important part of allowing you to enjoy your garden, so when neighbouring buildings overlook your outdoor space it can quickly start to feel claustrophobic and intrusive.
Creating privacy in an overlooked garden can be surprisingly easy and is an effective way to make the space feel like your own again – here are some simple ideas of how to do just that.
1. Sight screens
The first and most obvious option is to physically screen off the line of sight from the overlooking window, especially if it’s just one small window over an otherwise private garden.
You can create sight screens using natural materials like bamboo, timber fencing, or trellis with plants trained up it – you can even train plants to form a canopy if you need to block the line of sight from a relatively high angle.
If you want instant privacy without waiting for plants to grow across trellis and overhead crossbeams, a pergola or summer house is a good option. This can be anything from an open-sided wooden structure similar to a bandstand, right through to a small freestanding conservatory or orangery.
With this you get immediate shielding against eyes from above, although at the same time you’re likely to lose out on sunlight, so it’s often a compromise to find privacy while giving up some sunbathing opportunity.
A single planter can be surprisingly effective. Use evergreen shrubs if you want reliable height and foliage for privacy all year round, or if you care mainly about the summer, opt for something that will grow back thickly each spring for maximum shielding.
Remember that the ‘privacy zone’ behind an object will tend to fan out between the two lines of sight either side of the tree, shrub or planter, so the closer it is to the offending window, the wider that arc should become.
Going back to overhead privacy, and there are plenty of ways to put a roof over your head without building a permanent structure. If you are close to a building, consider installing a retractable canopy so you can have some privacy when you want it, or open up the space to sunlight from above.
Alternatively, freestanding canopies, parasols and patio umbrellas can all give you a small area out of sight of overlooking windows when you just need one small patch of privacy in your garden.
5. Tree pleaching
If your garden’s boundary has mature trees but there are gaps in the foliage, pleaching is a technique common in ornamental gardens to help produce a more consistent weave of branches and leaves.
This involves interlacing or entwining the branches together, almost to create a kind of organic trellis with leaves growing directly on it. Think of a woven willow fence and you have the right idea.
You can use trellis or another supporting structure to start training the branches, if they are not yet close enough together to weave directly, and once the gaps are closed in, this can provide some excellent, effective natural screening with no planning permission required.