Landscaping for Privacy – A Review

If there was ever a book written for an anti-social recluse like me it is this one.  Well so I thought, but actually Landscaping for Privacy changed my way of looking at creating privacy and has certainly given me food for thought.

The author, Marty Wingate, starts from the point that we are all living more closely together, that our outside space is more and more precious and that we really don’t want to see, hear, smell or be aware of what many of our neighbours  are doing or have them know our business.  Some people may say that this is a negative comment on society and shows how it is breaking down with us not engaging with our neighbours but in my opinion society has been always been like that.  Most of us are happy to engage with our neighbours but on our terms not have it forced on us.

Whilst Marty looks at a range of issues: fencing out wildlife, preventing trespass, buffering sound, reducing pollution and creating windbreaks there were two areas that really grabbed my attention.  Firstly the whole business of screening unwanted views or from my point of view giving me some privacy from my neighbours.  I live on a housing estate which when it was built was designed to be very open, no hedges or fences in front gardens etc.  However, I like my privacy and so to address this I have planted a laurel and beech hedge and some trees in the front garden.  They went in around 5-6 years ago when I was more horticulturally and design ignorant and they just don’t work (see photo below); consequently I avoid the front garden.  However, the answer is in this book.  Putting a large hedge in isn’t the answer; it might hide the view but it creates a large block of planting often monotone which you have to look at and not get any joy from. Instead Marty suggests creating buffers which are consisted of “a mixture of evergreen and deciduous shrubs to provide a year-round green strip and to let in some extra light during the winter months’. Add some bulbs and perennials and you have something interesting to look at all through the year and you are creating a screen from your neighbours.  It is just so obvious I don’t know why I didn’t think of it.  This idea has fed into my plans for the front garden which will include formalising and reducing the lawn, creating deeper beds and adding layers of shrubs.  I may even pull out the laurel hedge which just isn’t, and never has been, happy.

The second really interesting idea I took from the book was how planting can help improve the ‘climate’ in your home.  I had picked up on this idea earlier in the year in a report on urban gardening by the RHS but this really set it out in a clear way.  You can insulate the house with plants which helps to keep it warm in winter and cool in the summer.  “A ring of shrubs planted within a few feet of the house creates air space that acts as an extra layer of insulation, keeping in the heat during the winter and providing cooling shade in the summer”  This is quite fascinating to me as my house is surrounded on all four side by paving – not my doing it was put in when the house was built – and I have been wondering about lifting some in order to try to plant some climbers up the walls.  Also if you think longer term you can plant trees in such a way that they will provide shade for the house in the summer. “For best results, plant a deciduous tree at least 1oft away from the side or sides of your home that receive the most sunlight.”  You need to choose a tree with a round shape and broad canopy to maximise the shading.  It’s all food for thought and there are plant lists throughout the book to help with that thinking.

Landscaping for Privacy is aimed at an American audience; I hadn’t heard of some of the plants and there are references throughout to sidewalks, city ordinances etc terms we don’t use.  However, the problems are the same wherever you live so it is easy to look at the ideas and transplant them to your garden using different but similar plants.  I particularly liked the ideas for hiding wheelie bins and began to wish that our council would introduce them just so I could have a stylish cupboard!

If you want to hide certain views, stop people or animal walking across your garden, beautify existing boundaries then this is certainly a book worth a look.

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Mark and Gaz says:

    It’ll be interesting to see how you’ll adapt and apply the suggestions made in the book to when you redo your front garden. I like the mixed planting idea, makes perfect sense as the interest and display changes with the seasons. Also instead of the space just being used for monotonous hedge planting, it gives one an opportunity to garden and cultivate it from time to time.

  2. Christina says:

    You are quite right, very few of us think about our boundaries. The tendancy is to plant climbers up fences which in my experience never work. Getting it right for your garden is so very important. I will look out for this book and look forward to your rethink of the front garden, which I know from reading your blog over a long period is something that concerns you a lot. Christina

  3. pbmgarden says:

    This books sounds very useful.Thanks for sharing this information and best of luck with your front garden.

  4. Libby says:

    And the amazon wish list grows yet longer… this sounds like a really useful book. I think you’re being a bit harsh on your front garden though it’ll be interesting to see how you change it. 🙂

  5. Juliet says:

    That does sound a useful book, thank you for telling us about it! “We really don’t want to see, hear, smell or be aware of what many of our neighbours are doing” is particularly true in my case as my illness causes acute sensitivity to noise and to chemicals and I’ve spent most of my time in this garden struggling to cope with sounds and smells from neighbours’ gardens, so planting buffers to help with this is definitely something I need to think about when we move.

  6. I will have to check it out…I like the idea of a buffer even from noise…

  7. This sounds like a really interesting book… I suppose the planting suggestions you highlight will also provide additional habitats for wildlife closer to your house. I love the idea of using planting to improve the ‘climate’ in your home – how interesting. I am new to blogging – thought-provoking posts like this one make blogging so worthwhile. Thank you.

  8. acairfearann says:

    Thanks, I shall have to look that up.
    I like mixed buffer zones for several reasons. They are much more interesting visually, they are often more effective at blocking sound, ecologically they tend to be more valuable, and when every year seems to bring a new bug or disease (the most recent one is taking out boxwoods, the most devastating personally is the woolly adelgid which is destroying the Eastern Hemlock) it means you won’t loose everything.
    We are slowly hiding a very large house from a very busy highway by basically replanting a mixed forest, with an emphasis on conifers. The difficulty is that it has to occur under a fully mature sugar maple/pine/spruce canopy: deep, dry shade. However, we aren’t looking for a result this decade, so we can afford to wait. We also are blessed with enough space. Still, I would like to fill some spots more effectively, especially as a genuine physical/security barrier.

  9. Anna says:

    Thanks for the review Helen – it sounds as if the book contains practical and imaginative solutions. Wonder if there are any suggestions for our privacy issue ~ living in a hollow so all the neighbours bar next door look down on us. Not so much of a drawback in summer when trees provide some cover but I feel like a goldfish in a bowl in the winter. Sounds as if your front garden is in for a major change 🙂

  10. Donna says:

    Yes, thanks for the review Helen – following which, I received my copy from Amazon yesterday. The observation “We really don’t want to see, hear, smell or be aware of what many of our neighbours are doing” is a familiar sentiment and I suspect this book is going to be very useful for a particular friend of mine. Can’t wait to see how you use it to modify your front garden.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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