Q. How can I make my small back garden more private?

Create a secluded haven with screening plants and a pergola, says Louisa Gilhooly

Secluded haven with screening plants and a pergola

by Liz Potter |

Our gardens are private sanctuaries, places to escape from the outside world. But alas these days it’s rare for a garden not to be overlooked by the houses that surround it. Garden screening is the key to making your garden feel more private, whether it’s blocking neighbours’ sightlines or hiding an ugly view. A screen can become an integral part of your design if it blends seamlessly with the rest of the scheme, so there’s no need to resort to planting a leylandii hedge, which will get too big, block light and suck all the moisture from your soil.

Almost all gardens have some form of fencing around them, so it’s surprising how often their potential is overlooked. If yours is unsightly, give it a new lease of life with a fresh coat of paint or decorative trellis panels along the top, where you can encourage climbers to scramble.

If you’re installing new fencing, check the government’s Planning Portal (www.planningportal.co.uk)toto) make sure you comply with building regulations regarding its overall height.

You can also make boundaries feel taller, without feeling hemmed in, using evergreen trees or shrubs. In a smaller garden this might feel like giving up valuable planting space, so one option is use tall, standard-trained trees placed strategically, or to train a row of leafy pleached trees into a ‘hedge on stilts’.

The seating area of any garden is typically where you want most privacy, and making this a covered space not only adds a bit of height in the garden, but also allows you to create a secluded hideaway in which to enjoy your garden without feeling as if you’re always on show. Camouflage it with climbers and surround with plants for fragrance to help it blend in.


Planting plan for small overlooked garden


1 Arbutus unedo Large, bushy shrub with glossy, dark green leaves, attractive bark and clusters of white, bell-shaped flowers in Sept. Strawberry-like fruits follow. Full sun and well-drained soil. H and S4-8m (13-26ft)

2 Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’ Upright perennial with deeply cut foliage and exquisite pale grey-blue delicately veined flowers. Part shade and moist but well-drained soil. H90cm (3ft) S60cm (2ft)

3 Quercus ilex Large evergreen oak tree with attractive finely cracked black bark and a rounded crown. Happy being clipped. Prefers a sheltered spot and well-drained soil. H12m (40ft) S8m (26ft)

4 Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White’ Green leaves with silver-grey spots and funnel-shaped, white flowers Mar-Apr. Loved by early-flying bees. Best in reliably moist soil. H30cm (12in) S45cm (18in)

5 Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ Clumps of slender, arching yellow-edged green leaves that look good all year. Moist, well-drained soil in sun or part shade. H30cm (12in) S35cm (15in)

6 Asplenium scolopendrium Rosettes of arching, strap-like, glossy fronds with undulating edges look good throughout the year. Plant in full or part shade. H and S50cm (20in)

7 Brunnera macrophylla Mid-green, heart-shaped leaves on long stalks emerge in spring alongside tall sprays of tiny forget-me-not-like blooms. H40cm (16in) S60cm (2ft)

8 Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ Erect clumps of spiky green foliage with horizontal yellow bands that turn russet in winter and feathery flower plumes in summer. H2.5m (8ft) S1.2m (4ft)

9 Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Blue Barlow’ Perennial with fresh green spring foliage and tall stems topped with deep purple blooms. Sun or some shade in well-drained soil. H70cm (28in) S50cm (20in)

10 Lupin ‘Noble Maiden’ Herbaceous perennial covered in tall spikes of densely packed, creamy-white flowers in summer. Deadhead for a second flush in Sept. H90cm (3ft) S45cm (18in)

11 Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Magical Revolution Blue’ Mophead, pale blue flowers take on deeper blue tones as they age, flowers June-Sept. Attractive winter seedheads. H and S90cm (3ft)

12 Achillea ‘Moonshine’ Grey-green, feathery foliage and tall stems topped by flat heads of gleaming yellow flowers from June-Sept. Needs well-drained soil and full sun. H80cm (32in) S50cm (20in)

13 Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’ Perennial with fragrant pale lilac blooms and a carpet of foliage. Ideal under a deciduous tree in moist but well-drained soil. H35cm (15in) S50cm (20in)

14 Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’ Evergreen climber with perfumed white flowers Mar-Apr. Frost-hardy so plant in well-drained soil with shelter from south-facing wall. H5m (16ft) S3m (10ft)

15 Clematis ‘Frances Rivis’ Compact clematis with hanging purple flowers made up of slightly twisted petals Apr-May. Fluffy seedheads follow. Sun or part shade. H3m (10ft) S1.5m (5ft)

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