How to Design Your Landscaping for Added Privacy

By Caroline Gray

There’s nothing off-fence-ive about wanting a little privacy to enjoy your Indiana backyard. Sculpted trees, clinging vines, and blooming shrubs bring peace and tranquility to your senses. As long as you’re getting the yard in shape for spring, why not add some extras to your landscaping for added privacy? A new design will keep nosy neighbors from disturbing you, especially if you have a swimming pool or hot tub in the backyard. With more people moving to Indiana every year, backyard privacy is a goal worth pursuing.

Fencing and Living Walls

Tall wooden fences are a given when it comes to privacy, but they’re not always the most aesthetic. Consider turning them into a living wall of greenery with vines, foliage, and flowers. Choose varieties that grow best in Indiana’s USDA plant hardiness zone – 5b to 6b. Keep in mind how much care your plants need, especially if you add drought-resistant fescue grasses or succulents to the wall. Native plants, such as vines of trumpet honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, and cat greenbrier, are great for living walls. Tall grasses such as bottlebrush and Virginia wild rye add charm to wooden and chain-link fences. Maidenhair, bracken, royal, and ostrich ferns have pretty fronds that swish softly in the wind. Before building a living wall or installing a tall fence, check with your city or HOA for codes and restrictions.

Trees and Shrubbery

Tall trees, hedges, and thick shrubbery block out noise as well as curious eyes, especially when they’re full of leaves and flowers. Evergreens including white pine and red cedar are natural privacy screens but keep in mind, their sap can be messy. Deciduous trees — maple, birch, oak, hickory, and dogwood, for example — are good choices for a spacious yard. While it’s important to prune back branches and stems, the overgrowth can shield you. If you have a hot tub or pool, add some large urns with tall potted plants around the perimeter.

Thorny and Invasive Plants

Thorns are no fun, especially when you brush by them. But rose bushes, barberry, raspberry, blackberry, dewberry, and greenbrier are pretty and will protect your property. Thorny bushes need regular pruning, and you might want to put a small fence around them. Fruiting shrubbery attracts bees, wasps, and other stinging insects.

Bamboo plants are great for privacy, but they are extremely invasive — do not plant them directly into the ground. Prolific bamboos are hard to control, and if they make their way to your neighbor’s yard, it could cost you a lot of time and money to remedy the problem. Large containers keep bamboos from spreading, and you can move them around to different parts of the yard. Before planting anything in your yard or garden, check out Indiana’s invasive plant list.

Privacy Screens

Outdoor screens are available in wicker, resin, treated lumber, fabric, and other materials to shield you from the world. Although they’re not as attractive as landscaping and pergolas, these flexible screens are easy to move. You’ll find a selection of privacy screens at your favorite home improvement store.

Pergolas and Gazebos

Gazebos and pergolas offer various levels of privacy. Constructed with a wooden roof on stone pillars, stilts, screens or metal, gazebos can be open or enclosed. Increase the aesthetics with benches, lighting, and hanging baskets.

Pergolas are roofless structures made of crisscrossing slats of wood. Screens, glass panels, vines, flowering plants, canopies, draping fabric, light strings, and streamers spice up outdoor living to create a cozy, closed-in feeling.

Enhancing the privacy of your backyard depends on how much room you have to work with. Small spaces can be a challenge. Start with a measuring tape, design scheme, catalogs, and a look at your landscaping budget. 

Caroline Gray is a freelance journalist who balances writing for newspapers and blogs with taking care of a 5-acre ranch. She finds it tough to part with any of her garden tools, but says it can’t be hoarding if they’re all meticulously placed on pegboard hooks.