Privacy screen for my yard
May 11, 2007 9:29 AM   Subscribe

What can I use for a privacy screen in my yard?

There's an area in my yard that I want some privacy. The line of sight goes about 75 ft across my yard, through large gaps in a bushy area (thanks, unfilled bushes), across another 100 ft in a vacant lot, and another 50 ft to someone else's porch. The block needs to be at least 5 or 6 ft high and maybe 10 ft wide to be effective.

* Planting trees, bushes, or a hedge will take years to be usable.
* Putting a structure like a shed there is too expensive.
* Erecting a wall of some kind would be too garish and ugly.

Is there something simple here I'm overlooking, or do I have to bite the bullet and put some kind of structure there?
posted by hodyoaten to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
10' x 6' ? Plant some Jasmine, or a Morning Glory Vine, by the end of summer you'll be gapless as they grow like crazy (especially the Morning Glory)
posted by zeoslap at 9:36 AM on May 11, 2007

I'm having trouble visualizing your yard, but it sounds like you have a lot of open space to fill. The Washington Post published this excellent article about how to camouflage open spaces to create privacy instead of walling off with bushes. The key is to create layers that distract you from the unsightly areas. This allows you to space out your plants a little, and save some money, even though the article doesn't explicitly say that. Good luck!
posted by redarmycomrade at 9:38 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

If there is nothing at all in the gaps, pop up a trellis so the vines have something to grab onto, and you could even attach some netting to it for a bit of privacy now, you'll be amazed how fast these things can grow
posted by zeoslap at 9:39 AM on May 11, 2007

Have a long term plan.

1) Start with a trellis, plant vines.
a) The trellis provides some privacy immediately.
b) If you use Virginia Creeper as your vine, you will get lots of privacy within two years. (The creeper is deciduous, but presumably you spend less time outside in the winter so it’s less of an issue.) A climbing rose will take longer to really be an effective privacy screen, but you might be willing to be patient for the sake of the blooms.

2) Plant evergreen trees/shrubs/bushes on the sunny side of the trellis. In five to ten years you will have year-round evergreen sound dampening and visual privacy. At this point you can decide to take down the trellis that has started to get a little worse for wear. (You would also have to root out the creeper which will have thoroughly installed itself by then, but you can worry about that later.)

Remember that gardening is cyclical. Whatever you plant starts out too small, then is the right size for a while, then either dies or outgrows its spot and has to be removed. If you can adjust your mind to the garden as an ongoing project, not something that is installed once and then complete, you can let it go and enjoy it.
posted by kika at 9:44 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you want plants to do your screening for you, and you're okay with doing some pruning and other work every once in a while, I've heard good things about bamboo. It grows fast (too fast for a lot of people; YMMV).
posted by chowflap at 9:46 AM on May 11, 2007

I'm fond of this kind of bamboo fencing, it's easy to install, inexpensive and not as visually 'solid' as a wood board fence would be.
posted by jamaro at 9:53 AM on May 11, 2007

Thirding the lattice/trellis. You could plant morning glories and moonflowers, or a climbing rose and clematis, or jasmine and one of the above, or something more native to you that strikes your fancy.

It'll take a bit for anything to grow, but you could back the trellises with a weatherproof fabric for now.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:56 AM on May 11, 2007

I don't know how expensive this would be, or how it would work with your existing yard, but I like the look on this website for privacy blinds.

You can probably get the trellis roof and supports built easily, then install some fabric blinds. The trellis style will also be a good starting point for using greens and vines as shade in the future. The greenery would look wonderful in the summer, but you can use the fabric shades when the greenery dies back.
posted by saffry at 9:58 AM on May 11, 2007

Bamboo Privacy Fencing.
posted by MD06 at 9:59 AM on May 11, 2007

Where do you live? Some plants grow very quickly, but the whether or not they are appropriate for your location and how quickly they grow there depends on where you are.

Also, you mention that the shed is "too expensive." How much are you willing to spend?
posted by Robert Angelo at 10:05 AM on May 11, 2007

Oh, also, I have created some privacy by putting an umbrella in my patio table and keeping it open all the time except when the wind is high. It wouldn't cover your entire open area, and it might be useless depending on line of sight, but maybe it gives you some ideas. For me, the placement is just right to give me a little more privacy inside the house near a sliding glass door.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:16 AM on May 11, 2007

Bamboo spreads and can be a nuisance if you don't surround your bamboo plot with a buried stainless steel barrier, which adds greatly to the cost. Bamboo is best for blocking the view of a neighbor's upstairs window as it is tall. The right shrubbery can be an effective screen in a couple of years, which comes before you know it. I would ask at your local nursery what is right for your area, and conditions. In the meantime a small bamboo or other privacy fence might suffice.
posted by caddis at 10:19 AM on May 11, 2007

Climbing vines like peas, morning glory etc. grow very fast and can cover an area you're describing in a month. Put up some cheap/inexpensive garden fencing for it to grow on. Keep that up while a more permanent, evergreen screen grows in.

Bamboo spreads in a potentially destructive way, even with a barrier sunk into the ground to block the roots.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:30 AM on May 11, 2007

I have heard that it is in fact illegal to plant bamboo in some locations, because it is so invasive.
posted by amtho at 10:31 AM on May 11, 2007

Certain varieties of bamboo are invasive. Others stay where they are planted. Please read up on this or talk to a nursery/landscaper.
posted by kc0dxh at 10:33 AM on May 11, 2007

We just this month put up a bamboo privacy fence like the ones linked above. We used pound-in fence posts, and attached galvanized fencing to the posts, then used black zip ties to attach the fencing, as it's quite flimsy. Works great, and looks good, too.

We also planted some bamboo. We did a bunch of research, and found that, really, there are no non-invasive species, just some that are less invasive than others. We built planters out of preserved wood, nailed reinforcing mesh to the bottoms, set them in place, then poured 4 inches of concrete in each. We filled the planters with dirt (you don't need good topsoil, just dirt), then went to a local park where they're trying to eradicate the plant and dug up a bunch of roots. The first year, we got little bushy plants, but now, the second year, we're getting nice big tall stalks.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:08 PM on May 11, 2007

Here's where we found the best deal on bamboo fencing. Some places had cheaper fencing, but then charged a bunch more for shipping. Our local hardware stores had the fencing, but it was a lot more expensive.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:14 PM on May 11, 2007

Seconding kc0dxh, there are two types of bamboo. The invasive stuff spreads by sucking the friendly stuff by budding. Even the sucking kind is easily contained in planters.
posted by Mitheral at 12:26 PM on May 11, 2007

We have this same issue, and we use a trellis with bougainvillea - it's an effective privacy screen, insanely colorful, and gives us a neat little shaded nook - we've put a bench nearby. It grows quickly with little water, lots of sun, and frequent trimming and fertilization, so it's not necessarily a multi-year deal, though we are located in southern California, where it grows like gangbusters. Also, perhaps consider buying more mature plants at the nursery, or even small trees.
posted by mdonley at 1:49 PM on May 11, 2007

I don't know where you're located, but before you plant anything, find out if there are deer in your area. Deer have become significant pests in many places. A privacy hedge that you just spent 100s of dollars on could be eradicated in one night by a few hungry deer.

If you do have deer, there are varieties of hedge material that are less desirable, but only your local nursery or extension service will be able to point you in the right direction for your area. We use white pine, kept pruned to remain bushy, as our privacy screen. It's evergreen and the deer never touch it.
posted by Flakypastry at 2:40 PM on May 11, 2007

We put in some phontinia a couple of years ago and it is now probably twelve feet tall, bushy and a complete screen along that side of the yard. It doesn't grow so fast without lots of light and water though.
posted by caddis at 3:37 PM on May 11, 2007

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