One of the biggest complaints with gardens is that they are overlooked. You're wanting to sit out in your own oasis and relax when you look up to see windows everywhere with people going about their daily business. Sometimes catching a glance of you as you're reading your copy of 'Hello'. You feel intruded. However, there are some really clever ways to add privacy to a garden rather than build up a massive Donald Trump style wall around your perimeter.

This small west facing garden in Bolton, Greater Manchester, had frustrated its owner due to its lack of privacy and clay soil. She had tried her best but ended up with a bit of a tangle of odd shapes, dying plants and patchy borders. She called Garden Ninja in to help sort it out and add some privacy to a very overlooked garden.

After a detailed consultation, it was clear that the owner wanted a neat and tidy garden that also gave privacy to the terrace. She wanted to get into gardening but had failed so many times with buying plants to watch them die she had given up. The coffin-shaped lawn was depressing. The plants looked like they were growing to try and escape the garden rather than take up home in it. Then there were the low fences, windows and viewpoints from every which way with prying eyes. No wonder she called me in!

Before the transformation

After the transformation using standard trees for privacy and a soft pink planting palette

Privacy in a garden

Privacy is essential in any residential garden, but achieving it can be difficult. Whilst it would be lovely to move your house to an open field, the practicalities often mean you have to work with rather than against neighbours. It’s about achieving the ‘feeling’ of privacy rather than the ‘absolute’ privacy of 8ft high walls.

Simply building up walls or fences can:

A) Annoy neighbours causing disputes

B) Block out light

C) Become an eyesore in their own right

D) Turn you into a horticultural Donald Trump

A better method is to use planting and structures to block or restrict certain viewpoints. It’s about breaking the line of sight rather than blocking it out completely. In this garden we have used standard trees, suited to the soil type and slight shade to help diffuse the views from neighbouring gardens. They also give a real structure to the small space drawing your eyes inwards rather than outwards over the low fences.

Overlooked back garden perspective sketch

Overlooked Garden Solution

Privacy garden design

Overlooked back garden plan design

The first thing was to ensure that the garden felt much more private and nested. By using standards around a circular lawn I created the feeling of being enclosed but not boxed in. It helped to break up the views from neighbouring properties and add a feeling of relaxation to the terrace garden.

The garden was west facing and had heavy clay soil, which had proved a nightmare for the client. By using plants that will thrive in nutrient rich and wet clay soil I build up a plant portfolio to help fill the borders with clean green plants like Alchemilla mollis, Astrantia and Astilbes. Photina standards, Skimmia and Weigela bushes brought ever green structure to the garden and order.

Overlooked back garden design

Mood boards will help you condense your ideas

The circular lawn and pathway gave it a real design style drawing your focus in and making the borders feel really deep and exciting. It forces you to walk around the perimeter which allows you to get up close to the planting. It also means in the wet winter months the client can keep her feet mud free whilst accessing the shed where she can store her tools.

A collection of soft shade loving plants to fill this awkward flower bed

The client was really impressed with this garden. I managed to keep the light levels high, given its west facing and already has enough shadows cast throughout the day. By using careful planting and proportions I gave the feeling of intimacy without walls and heavy structures.

Privacy without blocking out light

Planting List for Overlooked Back Garden Design

  • Alchemilla mollis
  • Aster divaricatus (Carpet of white daisy flowers in drifts)
  • Skimmia japonica (Year round evergreen shrub)
  • Astrantia major ‘Roma’
  • Astrantia major ‘Superstar’
  • Geranium sanguineum ‘Pink Pouffe’
  • Helleborus x hybridus ‘White Spotted’
  • Weigela flroida ‘Variegata’ (Beautiful shrub with trumpet pink flowers)
  • Liriope muscari ‘Monroe White’
  • Dicentra formosa ‘King of Hearts’ (Shady damp lover with grey green foliage)
  • Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dancer’
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