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.