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If you can see your neighbours, they can see you

Carson Arthur

Carson Arthur

For many years, that five-foot fence with the piece of lattice on top combined with a few strategically placed trees was the default method for creating privacy from the neighbours. Then houses started to change. Bigger houses on smaller lots became the norm. More square footage on the inside meant that houses were being built taller and wider, closer to the property lines. As a result, the traditional fence was no longer enough when it came to backyard privacy.

So now what?

Trees are still a great option to create privacy, but you have to do it right! In my opinion, so many straight rows of cedars have been planted in Canada that they don’t even look odd anymore. The other challenge with evergreens is that conifers are pyramidal in shape, meaning that they are wide at the bottom, and small on top…right where you want the privacy.

Instead of planting a row of cedars, try combining them with a few fast growing deciduous trees. I love using any of the poplar family like aspens or Tulip tree with my evergreens.


Here is how I add great privacy using a row of trees.
• Create a line with landscape paint, string or even a hose on the ground.
• Start at one end of your row by placing an evergreen on the backside of your line.
• The next evergreen is planted 2-3’ down the row on the front side of the line.
• Third tree in the row is deciduous, again on the backside of the line. 2 more evergreens on the front, followed by another poplar on the backside and so on for the length of your privacy hedge.
• The leaf trees fill in the empty spaces around the top of the conifers and by alternating types of trees along the row, it looks visually appealing in your yard.

carson-pergolaIf you can’t wait for trees to grow, try a pergola which is my favourite way of creating privacy from those two-story houses that look down into your yard.

Pergolas are simply four posts and some cross pieces of wood that loosely create a roof over a deck or patio. The reason that these structures work so well is actually a bit of a visual trick. The pergola overhead provides the eye a visual-distraction. It gives the eye something to focus on and even though the neighbours may still be able to see into the yard, your guests don’t notice them because of the pergola. The one down side of pergolas is the cost to install. Consider a pergola as a true investment in your home.

Not sure where you need the most privacy…try standing on your deck or patio and really take a good look around you. Who do you see? If you can see your neighbours, then your neighbours can see you! Try some of my suggestions at creating privacy in your space and enjoy this summer in your private sanctuary.

-Landscape designer Carson Arthur is host of HGTV’s new Home to Win show. He is also the outdoor expert with City TV’s Cityline and wrote the sell-out book Garden Designs for Outdoor Living in 2015. More at Click here for previous columns

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