Blotting out the Neighbours

“It’s not that I don’t get on with my neighbours but…..” This is the standard response I always get whenever I ask about that unmentionable ‘P’ word…. PRIVACY. You see, privacy is the number one concern among around 90% of my garden design clients. After all, nobody wants to live life in a goldfish bowl  do they? Here trellis blots out the neighbours:



When we moved into our house my neighbour didn’t like it that we were intent on putting up taller fences to create a bit of seclusion. ” No matter where you go I will always be able to see you!” was the threat. But now, with 6 foot tall fences ( the legal limit), close weave trellis, trees, pergolas, tall shrubs , palisades and climbers , we are cocooned in our own secret little garden, safe from prying eyes.


I always maintain that everyone should be able to sit outside in their greying frayed dressing gown ( or string vest and pants if youre a bloke) with a large glass of wine and be able to have a good old sob without being observed by nosey neighbours.

How to do it? Add fences up to 6 foot- I like 5ft closeweave fences topped with 1 ft closeweave trellis ( that means with 1inch holes or centres- you’d have to be pushing your face right up to it to see through). Here’s a ‘before and after:



. Then paint them black, grey or green to blend them into the background,

Plant tall yew hedges. You can buy them already at 6ft to 8ft tall and herbaceous perennials look fabulous planting against them. Here are some around a ‘Hot’ knot garden – this is just 2 years old here:


Mine at the end of our garden blots out dog walkers in the park who try to peer in as they walk past. I’ve sculpted it into a wave which I like too:

Pergolas and palisades add valuable height as they usually go in at 7ft . Add climbers and you can add another one or two foot onto that height again- again , only 2 years old here:


A small garden with pergola hiding view in the distance:


My own garden with its green oak pergola and close weave trellis on top of the fence:



A ‘before and after’ to show how effective pergolas are for obscuring views:

Put tall things close to where you sit and they blot out a really wide spectrum, like this palisade in my garden :



A tree near a seating area:


And another pergola:


My own garden again. I like trellises coming in from the side to hide seating areas:



Trees- pay a bit more and buy them mature as here, to blot out those windows:



I also firmly belief that our gardens are sanctuaries, not only for ourselves, but also for our friends. So a distraught friend who wants to tell you the intimate details of her relationship breakup should not have to worry about being overheard by bat-eared neighbours. ( I actually like my neighbours, honestly- it’s just that I need to be private). I therefore usually like to incorporate a summerhouse into most designs as their insulating walls absorb many secrets and never ever tell:

Here is mine, with a view of the pond and the soothing sound of trickling water- very comforting:


And another one, converted from an old play chalet:


And a very pretty one in a client’s garden providing a lovely focal point from the house:


Sometimes lack of privacy comes from the blank faces of windows staring into our gardens. Trees can be best at blotting these out. This one acre site had a whole road of windows looking in on it all along its boundary. I imported lots of my favourite blocking trees from Italy, evergreen Holm Oak, or Quercus ilex, and we went from this to this:



On a smaller scale, this semi had a contemporary internal revamp with lovely bifold doors but they just opened up even more of the view to a huge block of flats staring back. The owners were miserable.


The answer? Two Quercus ilex pleached trees placed close to the house forming an arch- job done.



One of my pet rants ( and I have many, believe me) is that you should always be in control of your own boundaries. Never rely on next door’s trees or shrubs for cover- they might move or chop them down. Instead, put in your own cover, blocking prying windows, adding private seating  and eating areas  and creating internal interest to draw your own eyes away from your neighbours. Then put on that old dressing gown and get out there and enjoy the privacy. There’s nothing to compare with an al fresco meltdown.


  1. Nosy neighbours as a source of inspiration? Yeah, I can work with that… Seriously, this is really incredible, I really like the knotted garden, it really stands out.

    Thank you for these great pictures and ideas!


  2. Your work is really amazing!! I have enjoyed every single photo on your blog and wished I could be a character inside them..What can I do to be like you? Putting into consideration the knowledge and finances to modify the environment in such like a manner. I always dream of having a home that will be serene, beautiful and a nice place to be always.


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