Need ideas for increasing privacy in small yard with picket fence

BlauerPlanetOctober 27, 2011

We moved into our house this spring and after just "playing" a bit in the yard this growing season since there was loads to do in the house, I now am ready to get serious this winter and start planning the redesign of the yard. It will surely be a multiyear project :) (my goal is no more lawn...), but the first thing I'd like to address is that we have no privacy from our neighbor on one side. The picture below shows the view into the neighbor's yard from our side.

Our yard is tiny, maybe a little bigger than the neighbor's you can see in the picture, about 50'x50' I would guess.

I'm thinking of a combination of things, annual climbers, climbing roses, maybe one of two taller bushes that don't have too big of a footprint. However, I've not been able to find any good pictures of what it could look like. Any pointers for good books or pictures on the web? I've seen pictures of lattice screens attached to the top of a fence, which I didn't find too appealing.

Or should I think of structures placed in front of the fence? Or some sort of post and wire construction to extend the height of the fence?

Any ideas or advice would be greatly appreciated!

I have the following concerns for any solution:

-space: I don't want to sacrife any of the precious space for anything with too big a footprint, rather vertical climbers

- maintenence of the fence: painting it should still be possible (it's apparently ours... dang... ;))

- cost: we are on an economical budget

- longevity: it'd be nice if any structure wouldn't colapse within 2-3 years

- shade: the far side of the fence near the garage gets about 4 hours of sunlight (afternoon), the fence close to the house only gets about 1-2 hours mostly due to the neighbor's large maple tree

Thanks for any help!

Oh, I just found a picture from the beginning of the summer that shows the left side of our yard including the fence

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Given your parameters, my vote goes to a "post & wire" way of extending the existing fence height and adding some vines. Maybe in concert with a (or some) tree-form shrub if it works into your scheme.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 6:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rosiew(8 GA)

Pretty back yard!

Are you trying for a lot of privacy or just the sense of it with the plantings?

If there aren't existing height limitations you could build supports for the climbers a foot or so in front of the existing picket fence, staining/painting to match, maybe mimicking the pickets but allowing more space between each of the pickets. Know others will supply names of plant possibilities.

Re maintaining the fence, I'm a huge believer in buying the very best products on the market, primer, paint, stain. They will outlast some of the big box products by years.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 6:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

Your goal being "no more lawn," what will that involve? Will any of it contribute to the privacy aspect?

Be specific with respect to what privacy you want: from where, for what. From their yard into your windows? From their yard into your garage door, or onto your deck? Strategic placement of a few plants or objects, not necessarily right at the fence, can often do the job more attractively than something you erect right at the fence. The vine-on-lattice thing works way better in imagination than in fact.

If it were my yard, and I didn't want lawn anyway, I'd make a wide and diverse shrub border along a wide swath of the left hand side of the yard and completely alter the location of your pathway to either border it or go through it.

The fence doesn't look all that painted so is the problem that you are planning to paint it? If not, I wonder whether product needs to be slathered over it at intervals - it doesn't in my climate. If the wood is not resting on the ground - and your pickets aren't - it shouldn't need anything until you want to replace it anyway. If you excused yourself from that constraint, the classic wall of upright evergreens (I favour golden fastigiate yews myself) would be an option.

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 7:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How about using a taller, narrow pergola to grow vines (grapes, hops, etc) along side the entire fence line?
Easily adaptable to your site needs. Can be professionally constructed, homeowner built or bought as a ready made kit.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 9:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rosiew(8 GA)

Blauer, what are your thoughts so far re the comments?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 3:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You people are great! So much input and so fast.

So here's a little more info on what I'm thinking:

- Privacy: We would like to have privacy in the yard. The windows are not an issue. We are in the yard a lot as soon as it's nice enough outside and practically have every meal outside. The neighbors use their yard not as much but often enough, the lady runs a day care out of her house, and they mainly use their back entrance for coming and going. Right now it's so open you bascially cannot not say Hi. And while they are nice, I'd like to have the option of ignoring them once in a while without seeming rude. :) So I guess, we don't need a castle just more view protection from their yard/walkway into our yard, especially our sitting area and my hammock. A picture of the other side of the yard from early summer so you can imagine the whole thing. On the patch of concrete in front of the hammock is now a table with 6 chairs.

As you can see there's not so much sheltering us from the other neighbor either, but it's not so bad. The impression is different because of the oak tree "ceiling" and the rose bush (hard to see, it's hidden behind the tree from this perspective). And I've had some annual climbers grown on 5 ft supports. They came with the house and are not pretty but for now they'll do. Also, the neighbor is never in the yard and we rarely see him coming or going...

Walkway: The first thing I wanted to get rid off was this ugly concrete path, especially since it cuts the yard in half like that. But after I figured out how much it would cost to remove the concrete and then to put down a more appealing alternative, and into how many plants/other yard structures that would convert, my plan for now is to try to develop a plan around the existing walkway, maybe add arches for depth, a focal point in the middle of the pathway, have the "rooms" go off to the side of the path, and stain the concrete a dark color.

No lawn yard: I'm really in a total starting phase. I went outside and measured everything yesterday. When I get it on graphing paper and some ideas down I will run it by you guys.
So far the following ideas are floating in my head:
Since it would be better if the pathway could stay, my thought was to go with the geometry of the space (square) and have square four rooms that go off from the path. The patio will stay where it is. It's convenient too because of the shade from the oak tree. I would like to make the hammock area into a retreat corner. Surrounding vegetation for that should be at least chest high. For the back right side there are a few things in my head but nothing concrete yet. It has the most sun. A sitting spot with a rockgarden. Or with perennials centering around peonies. Or...
On the left side the front may be kept open for a child play area maybe with sandbox. I may actually keep the lawn there or replace it with a no mow stepable groundcover. But I would want to widen the flowerbed or planting area next to the fence at least a few feet. Then something to divide the "childplay room" from the back left. I was thinking of a veggie garden there since it gets decent sun, but I'm not yet sure how much we'll be here enough during the crictical months of the summer. It may have to be a yard to be enjoyed in early and late summer. If not veggies, then I don't know yet.
All this hasn't been scatched out so I have no idea if I'm trying to cram much too much into our small yard and should depart from the four room idea.

Fence: It's stained from what I can tell. And it's worn off in quite a few places. I'm from Germany and I don't know what people do with the fences here in this climate. I'll find out.

Re: the privacy issue so far I like the idea of supports that maybe mimmick the shape of the pickets maybe just part of the whole length. I worry that posts and wires will not look good. I will also look into tall, narrow pergolas, but I find the structures usually too "heavy" for our little yard. Or just plain ugly looking. ;) But maybe there are some out there that could fit the bill.
Karin, what would you do if the pathway was to stay? I liked your thinking, I just don't think it's in the budget...

Hmh... lots to think about... Thanks so much already. And keep it coming.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 7:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

For the most part vines grow quickly. When it comes to post & wires, the wires are within a very short time covered up and not an issue. I have used this many times and find that they are not unattractive even while waiting for them to be covered. (This presumes one builds them in a tidy way using decent materials.) The posts themselves are what you make them. With a decorative top and a nice finish, neither are they unattractive. It's all what you make it.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 8:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks Yardviser. Would you have a picture that I can see how you'd string the wire? What wire do you use? It'd be a great fairly easy solution that would still leave me all the options for what I want to do with the rest of the yard. And I like vines. There are so many beautiful ones.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 9:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

!. Removing a sidewalk might not be as bad as you think. We removed one by simply dropping a sledgehammer on it to crack it up. The problem is getting rid of the pieces; they can be used as either wallstone or flagstone though. I built a wall with mine.

2. With the sidewalk in place (and really nothing wrong with keeping it - probably handy) I think I would play with S-shapes crossing it. The trick is to not let it limit your thinking. Having one straight line does not preclude curves, and it only divides the space in half to the extent that you let this become a reality in your mind. Ignore it while you design, and then just install around it. You can even grow ground cover and other plants over sidewalk - or put dirt or new pavers right over it, depending on its elevation. And also, having one sidewalk does not preclude installing a second one somewhere else - nor does it preclude crossing it, widening it, changing its shape by adding pavers... .

3. A vine can work under certain conditions. It needs to be able to get up to the wires, and also, it will grow along the wires mostly toward the sun. And it doesn't look great in winter, and needs to be groomed every few years, so you have to be able to get up there unless natural jumble is the look you like. I have some clematis on a trellis between me and the neighbour - it is built like a giant badminton net. I am glad I have a bunch of other plants around and under it because on its own this does not provide comprehensive coverage nor look that good consistently. Vine selection obviously makes the difference here.

4. The look of a varied shrub border depends on what you plant, but it certainly works for privacy, and is not rude if you plant small and let it grow in :-) Here is a photo that shows mine, although not that well. Most of the plant material is on my side (the small house behind the foliage). This is only about 4-5 years after planting. You can just make out the badminton net.

5. Restaining the fence - might be a matter of opinion whether this has to be done, and can be done around bushes anyway. If the neighbours care about their side, you can probably do their side FROM their side.

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 11:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

By "picture" I presume you mean GOOD picture? BP, you have smacked Yardie--inadvertantly I'm sure--in the Achilles tendon! I rarely have a picture that does not require the viewer to use their imagination. Sometimes extensively.

The first photo is of posts and wire used to create a fence made of Spanish moss. Both rope and wire were used here. The (stranded) wire is plastic coated, like you would use for clothes line, but it really doesn't matter as it's completely covered. (Don't use rope as it does not last long. It's only for cheapness.) Here the wire is run through a hole bored along the centers of the posts. It's run through, bent down and held by a fence staple hammered in. You could just as easily attach wire to the outside face of the post. It would be easier and that's what I'd recommend since, ultimately, it doesn't show. Using wire will, naturally, give the top of the fence a "swagged" appearance. If you don't want that, you'll have to run 2" x 2" lumber (or something stiff) along the top.

The second photo is of morning glories grown on a vegetable garden fence where additional height was desired. The posts are about nine feet(+) tall. The wire fence is 6' ht and stranded clothes line type wire (again, plastic coated) runs above it at 1' intervals. Here, the wire was attached to the face of posts with fence staples that were hammered in. It's a very quick, cheap and easy solution. (The plants received no care or training. If one were to provide a little it would be pretty easy to make them go where you wanted them to go and do what you wanted them to do. Also, the exact plant one uses will come with its own personality and habits that will determine how easy or difficult it is to work with.)

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 11:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you so much everyone! It's been a little hectic around here, but I hope there'll be more time to think about the garden soon. Once I've completed the research phase and come up with a definite idea I will report back and see what you all think.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 1:32PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Landscape advice for front yard please!
We have just moved into a house in SoCal - zone 10...
Privacy for Small Yard - Help!
Hi All! First time poster - LONG TIME reader! I'm in...
Front Yard Landscape Help! Zone 10a
We are looking to remodel the front of our home. We...
Ditched my landscaper - yellow pine choice
Going to my local Camellia expert's nursery and just...
Need dog fencing layout tips for homestead
We just bought a place on nearly 4 acres that has no...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™