A spacious backyard provides you with plenty of space for outdoor features like a deck, patio, swimming pool, hot tub or play set for your family to enjoy. However, if your yard is open to your neighbors' homes or even the street, you may not feel comfortable relaxing or playing in the space. With a few key changes to your landscape, you can increase your backyard's privacy so your family doesn't have to worry about prying eyes when they're enjoying your outdoor space.
Adding a fence is one of the most traditional and effective ways to make your yard more private. While a privacy fence isn’t always the most attractive addition to your landscape, it can completely shield the yard from the street and neighbors' homes. Wood fencing is one of the most common options and has an attractive natural look. However, it is prone to warping, rotting and insect damage over time so it isn’t the most durable. Vinyl privacy fencing is more durable than wood and is usually less expensive. It typically comes in a white finish, but you can find it in darker colors that help it blend more easily with the surrounding landscape. Before erecting any privacy fence, make sure to check local building codes to see what is permitted. In some jurisdictions, a privacy fence cannot exceed 6 feet above grade.
If you can’t erect a privacy fence that’s tall enough to effectively shield your yard from prying eyes, planting evergreen shrubs or trees is an ideal alternative. Many jurisdictions don’t have limitations on how high plantings can grow, so you can create a privacy screen that’s as tall as necessary. Evergreen plants also blend with a landscape more easily than fencing, which means they’re often more aesthetically pleasing. However, the drawback to an evergreen privacy screen is that it can take years for the plants to reach the necessary height to provide effective privacy. Choose fast-growing evergreens with broad, dense leaves like the wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), which grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7B to 11; African boxwood (Myrsine africana) which thrives in USDA zones 9 to 11; juniper (Juniperus spp.), which grows in zones 3 to 9; or arborvitae (Thuja spp.), which thrives in zones 5 to 9.
If you only have a few spots without sufficient privacy, erecting an entire fence or planting a series of evergreen may be unnecessary. Instead, consider adding a freestanding trellis to create a privacy screen. When climbing vines and flowers are trained to grow over the trellis, it can shield a specific area of your yard from view. For example, you might place a trellis beside the edge of a patio that faces a neighbor’s yard or in front of a hot tub. Clematis (Clematis spp.), which is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9; black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata), which thrives in zones 3 to 11; and moonflower vine (Ipomoea alba), which grows as an annual in USDA zones 3 to 8, are examples of climbing plants that are ideal for growing over a trellis.
Another option for achieving a little more privacy for your yard is placing a structure in a strategic place so it blocks all or part of your yard from view. Several types of buildings work well as privacy screens, so if you’re thinking of adding a structure to your yard, consider its placement carefully. A garage, shed, greenhouse, playhouse, pool house or workshop can all help make your yard more private if built in the right spot. However, before building any structure in your yard, check local building codes to make sure you’re permitted to add a structure where you’re planning.