I Can See My Neighbors
July 28, 2007 9:31 AM   Subscribe

My neighbors place (it's a duplex or triplex) is just a little too close. I'd like to create some privacy, but I want to keep my windows open (for the air and the light!), and I don't want to build a nine foot fence.

There's a narrow walk between us now and a chainlink fence. My idea is rectangular pots and bamboo outside each of the four bedroom windows and maybe another outside one of the living room windows. They would be living bamboo privacy screens, just wide enough to hide the windows, but not stretch the entire length of the house. I'd love to hear your ideas, too.
posted by notyou to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Where are you, which climate zone are you in, and how much sunlight does the area you want plants in get? Would vines growing on and several feet above the chainlink suffice?
posted by X4ster at 9:50 AM on July 28, 2007

90803 is coastal LA, all of which is USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8-9.

I'd suggest being on the same page as the people in the other house - perhaps they'd be willing to pitch in and do some stuff on their side of the property line.

The classic view-blocking plant for southern California is a bougainvillea, but it needs something to grow on, like a trellis, and I have no idea how that would work in your space. We've got a big white oleander that grows like crazy, but it takes a lot of pruning to keep it from taking over the whole patio. Also: don't forget to fertilize!
posted by mdonley at 10:01 AM on July 28, 2007

(Actually, more like zones 9-10.)
posted by mdonley at 10:02 AM on July 28, 2007

Yeah. Long Beach, CA. Coastal. This is the south side of the house. The neighbor's place is two stories, so it's more or less shady in there all day.

Given the shade, I may have to think about something that isn't a plant.
posted by notyou at 11:35 AM on July 28, 2007

Also keep in mind that bamboo (if planted in dirt) is extremely hard to contain to a desired size and area. It just takes over.

Can you post photos to give us a better idea of what your situation really looks like?
posted by nadise at 11:46 AM on July 28, 2007

Per nadise, here's a photo.
posted by notyou at 12:13 PM on July 28, 2007

Podocarpus maintained as a hedge might be a possobility. The Sunset Western Garden Guide would be your best reference. It will also give you a rundown on the various clumping vs running bamboos.
posted by X4ster at 12:19 PM on July 28, 2007

If you are looking for a solution for inside of the house, there are duette blinds that you can lower from the top of the window. This maintains privacy while letting in light. I love these blinds because I live in the city where our buildings are smack up against one another.

Before I had the cash for blinds, I actually papered the bottom half of our windows with this paper, which is lets light through, but you cannot see through it.
posted by jeanmari at 1:33 PM on July 28, 2007

Jasmine will grow fast and cover the fence, can handle the heat and some varities do well in shade (try the gardenweb forums for specific recommendations). I have a huge one that is rooted in a large pot. As a bonus it smells pretty. Nasturshims might also work, they seem to prefer shade around here and they grow very fast. They need more water than the jasmine though. Ivy will grow in the shade but I personally think it's a bit ugly so it would be my last choice.

All these plants will grow in pots, although jasmine might do better.
posted by fshgrl at 1:35 PM on July 28, 2007

That looks like a tough spot. I think a fence that doesn't look too much like a fence might be the best bet. Perhaps some sort of wood lattice with ivy/vines or something growing up. As per your idea with the bamboo this could be just wide enough to block each window from view.

If the fence would really need to be 9' high, which is pretty crappy, I admit, you could combine a lower privacy wall/trellis/lattice to block the first floor with little awnings over the windows to block the second.

Another possibility is to do this all internally. Some decent wood wide slat blinds with sheer gauzy drapes should be able to be used in combination to let light and/or air in while mostly blocking the view inside.

To be honest I'm not too keen on the bamboo because I've also heard that it's very difficult to contain.
posted by 6550 at 1:42 PM on July 28, 2007

If you're just looking for ways to stop the neighbours seeing into your apartment, I suggest wooden weave (eg: bamboo) blinds - you keep the view, the light and the airflow, but they give you complete privacy. I've worked for a blinds company for 2 years now, and this is what I usually suggest for overlooked windows with customers who don't want to block everything else out. They also tend to be reasonably cheap to purchase.

If you're looking to screen the balcony as well as the inside of your apartment, the bamboo idea sounds cool as long as you can contain it!
posted by saturnine at 2:26 PM on July 28, 2007

Bamboo is difficult to contain, I'm guessing it's dirt there between the houses. If not, bamboo, at least the kind one might use to screen does not grow well in pots unless they are inordinately tall. If you have dirt there would a hedge be okay? You would have to trim it regularly, (once every 3 months) so it doesnt grow up against the house and it would shade your windows, which you may not want. A good CA hedge is wax leaf privet, small flowers smell great,easy to find, and kinda cheap too. Good luck
posted by asia at 2:28 PM on July 28, 2007

Thanks everybody for your ideas so far. A few more details. It's all concrete in that gap. Whatever I grow will have to be grown in pots.
posted by notyou at 3:54 PM on July 28, 2007

With the concrete you won't have to worry about containing the bamboo. The problem with growing things in pots is that anything you plant will need a *really* deep pot (with a lot of soil) in order to grow tall enough for your purposes. Like those half barrel cask things. I'm not sure how wide your space is, but a pot that large may make the space impassable.

Some plain framed lattice trellis-type stuff (the kind the sell at the home depot in 4x8 pieces) may give you the private feel you seek. I know someone who started with the lattice and then hung bamboo shades (a la saturnine) from them for complete privacy. The lattice isn't too expensive and you could likely anchor it to the chain link fence.
posted by ambrosia at 6:12 PM on July 28, 2007

Fargesia species are clumping bamboos that are fairly tolerant of shade. Keep in mind that they may be floppier than you'd like- bamboo tend to be a bit more fountain shaped in the shade. Another vertical plant that works in the shade here in the Bay Area are Cannas- I know Sunset says "full sun" for them, but they do quite well in bright shade. The drawback with Cannas is that they may be semi-deciduous, but I'm thinking less so where you are. The various "gingers" like Alpinia and Hedychium might work for you as well, though again, they may go dormant in the winter. I'm also not sure how tall you need these plants to be, but a four foot plant in a three foot tall pot will at least get you some cover. Do yourself a favor since all these plants love water, and install a drip system, even if it's just a battery operated on the hose bib variety.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:33 PM on July 28, 2007

Translucent shears under your curtains. You can still close the curtains at night for full privacy, and during the day the shears give you privacy and let in light.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:15 PM on July 29, 2007

(D'oh, sheers.)
posted by IndigoRain at 3:16 PM on July 29, 2007

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