How To Create Privacy In The Garden

How to create privacy in the garden?

There are several options if you have a large area.

But take a narrow garden, add in a small urban space, and you’ve got yourself a challenge.

So is the case with my rooftop garden in Tel Aviv. It has no privacy on 3 sides. The front of the rooftop is abutting the street and looking straight across to another building, all with terraces.

How to deal with it?

First, I had raised containers built the length of the front which is about 20 feet. The width is only 2 and a half feet. Because of this, it’s difficult to plant more than some grasses, or small bushes and trees.

I needed erect ornamental grasses for the back of the border. I was lucky enough to find Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’. Known as switch grass, it’s an erect, silver green grass, known for its showy flowers. They can grow up to 7 feet tall with feather like panicles up to 2 feet tall. The flowers are pinkish red and eventually turn to a silvery gray. In autumn, the plant turns to a golden yellow. When the sun filters through, it takes on an orange hue which is breathtaking.

An introduction from the oh- so- talented Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm, this native grass is a perennial that just keeps on giving. It’s drought tolerant, deer resistant, does well in sun, can handle clay soil, and is non-invasive.

Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’

For the middle of the border, I chose Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ – Dwarf Fountain Grass. It’s  clump forming, has green foliage, grows up to 40 inches tall when it flowers – July through September – and can handle full sun to light shade.

Although it’s overshadowed by ‘Northwind’, I thought it had some excellent characteristics and would offer a transition to the front of the border plants.

The front of the border – this is where I had a chance to play. My rule of thumb,  especially in a small garden, is to be bold, use several of one variety, and always -repetition, repetition.

I chose to use 4 plants based on their shapes, flower and leaf colors, and textures.

The 3 silver leaved plants, Pelargonium sidoides ‘Burgundy’, a gazanzia variety with pink flowers, and a lavander variety, give the front a cohesive look. Add in Carex ‘Prairie Fire’ with its outstanding brazen color and the sharp edges of the container are immediately softened – draped with a subtle tapestry of shapes and colors.

I have never created a garden where I’ve been totally pleased with the results. But with this one I am. Maybe I’ve become more accepting as I’ve gotten older, maybe it’s because I’m working with such a tight space, or maybe I just love this slice of a garden on a rooftop in the city.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. How have you created privacy in your garden? If so, how?

About Fran Sorin

Fran’s book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, now considered a classic, was groundbreaking when published as no one had written about gardening in the context of creativity, spirituality, and transformation.

In addition to being a recognized garden expert and deep ecologist, Fran is a broadcaster, journalist, Ordained Interfaith Minister, and Soul Tender.

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13 Responses to How To Create Privacy In The Garden

  1. Michael Cook August 16, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    I tried watching the video, and it’s private, too! You may need to adjust the settings on your YouTube page, if you want people to see it.

  2. Diane August 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    To begin with I planted 135 Leyland Cypress on the perimeter of my 1/2 acre then created deep shrub borders into the turf to reduce area of lawn…

  3. Fran Sorin August 17, 2013 at 12:12 am #

    Eddie – It was a mistake. They’re now public. Thanks for letting me know. Fran

  4. Fran Sorin August 17, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    Diane -
    135 leyland cypresses is pretty impressive. I used them as a divider between my neighbor’s driveway and mine. They are such fast growers that for the first years I loved them. BUT as you probably already know, they become wild and require quite a bit of maintenance. AND when healthy, they are stunning. Thanks for sharing. Fran

  5. Andrea August 17, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Fran,
    Thanks so much for this. I garden on a second floor balcony and was thinking of doing this exact thing (grasses for privacy) however I live in Maine (zone 5) and am afraid that if I invest in some big ornamental grasses they may not survive the winter. Do you have any tips for helping perennials through the winter in a situation like mine?

  6. Fran Sorin August 18, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    Hi Andrea -
    You’ve got a great variety. Here are a few that are hardy through Zone 4.

    Feather Reed Grass – up to 6feet high and 4 feet wide
    Botanical name:Calamagrostis x acutiflora. (I’m in love with this grass – have used it several times)
    Hardy in Zones 4-7

    Indian grass – up to 8 feet high and 2 feet wide
    Botanical Name: Sorghastrum.
    Hardiness: Zones 3 to 8.

    Maiden, eulalia, or silver grass – up to 8 feet tall and 4′ wide
    Botanical Name: Miscanthus sinensis.
    Hardiness: Zones 4 to 8.

    Switchgrass – up to 5 feet high (I think it’s closer to 6′)
    Botanical Name: Panicum virgatum.
    Hardiness: Zones 4 to 9.
    *** What I’m using in my garden

    All are terrific grasses. Enjoy! Fran

  7. Janet Sarandon August 18, 2013 at 3:17 am #

    I already watched the video. It’s great! I learned so much from your video. I’m thinking of doing this at my balcony. Thanks a lot! :-)

  8. Debra Lee Baldwin August 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    Great topic, Frannie. When my neighbor put a chain link fence along our property line, I planted ivy on my side and wove it through. Took three years, but it’s now covered!

  9. Fran Sorin August 19, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    Thanks Debra. Chain link fences are pretty darn ugly so covering them ASAP is a must. Smart move with the ivy. Even on the East coast, it will give you throughout the year coverage~

  10. Fran Sorin August 20, 2013 at 3:10 am #

    Janet – am glad that the video was helpful to you ~ Fran

  11. Benny August 22, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    I am so glad your article really helped me.

  12. Moss September 6, 2013 at 4:58 am #

    Great ingenuity with limited space there, I’m finding privacy is becoming more of a requirement when designing new garden than it ever has been. Using the 4 plants based on texture etc is an idea I might have to keep in mind myself for the future!

  13. Fran Sorin September 9, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Am glad you enjoyed the article – this is just one of many ways to create privacy but on this particular site – it worked well. Fran