You’ve created your dream yard with an outdoor kitchen, beautiful flowerbeds, and hot tub you can enjoy after a hard day’s work. But how do you enjoy your oasis without the world (or your neighbors) looking in? Don’t fence yourself in. There are plenty of ways to landscape in San Antonio for privacy without installing an unsightly wall.
Many people plant vertical gardens such as the one pictured above to get the most of a smaller yard. You don’t need much room to grow flowers, greenery, or fruits and vegetables when you go vertical. This rising trend can add dimension to your backyard and give you the privacy you crave. Plant it as high as you’d like. Your living wall will also serve as an excellent windbreak.
Bamboo Screens and Fences
Bamboo screens and fences are trending right now because they’re an eco-friendly and less expensive way to create privacy. They’re easy to attach and can be fastened to the ground or used as a free-standing screen. You should stain them and seal the edges to keep water and debris from causing wear.
Note that we’re talking about cut bamboo. Dr. Jerry Parsons, recently retired horticultural specialist from the Texas Cooperative Extension in San Antonio, famously nicknamed the bamboo plant “Damn-boo.” He says ornamental bamboo is useful as a screen or windbreak, but “some bamboos SHOULD NEVER be planted this side of Hell!!!” He calls the plant an aggressive creeper. “The aggressive bamboo can indiscriminately emerge through concrete walks, home foundations and even in darkened garages!” While good fences make good neighbors, planting bamboo can make enemies of your neighbors when they’re trying to get rid of it.
The best thing about privacy hedges is you can trim them to be as tall or short as you’d like. The worst thing? You’ve got to trim and prune them constantly!
Besides providing privacy, the hedges are a great sound barrier for blocking out street noise. They also serve as a windbreak. Evergreens work best, as they stay thick year-round. Texas evergreen natives that work in San Antonio include:
- Yaupon holly (the one with the unflattering Latin name, ilex vomitoria).
- Cenizo (also known as Texas sage).
You can also peruse more Central Texas recommendations for evergreen privacy hedges from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Pergolas block out the sun as well as nosy neighbors. Add curtains, and you can open them when you want a better view or a cool breeze and close them when you want privacy. You can also install smart louvers that will open and close with the touch of a button. The advantage here is your furniture will be protected from rain and strong winds.
To create more shade as well as privacy, add climbing vines on the top and sides. Go a step further and add a vertical garden to one side. Grapevines will grow quickly and fill in the area, but the grapes you don’t harvest in time could leave a mess on your seating area.
Unlike pergolas, gazebos are typically round or octagonal with a roof overhead. They can be as simple or as elaborate as your budget allows. While most are open, today’s gazebos come with optional screens and curtains to keep out bugs and prying eyes. Don’t want curtains? Use hanging plants around the perimeter.
Trellises are easy to build … and even easier to buy. Add climbing plants or vines, and you’ve got privacy without blocking the occasional breeze. Use them as a fence, or on the side of a pergola or hot tub to keep out wandering eyes. Place a couple of lattice structures on wheels for a portable screen.
Multi-level garden beds are sometimes easier to care for. You won’t have to bend over to water and prune plants, but you may have to do some climbing. When you design your privacy garden from the ground up, you can go as high as you’d like.
You don’t need a layered structure for an elevated landscape. Start by planting taller, deciduous trees in the back, followed by smaller shrubs and bushes in the front. Add a bed of flowers or ground covers in front of those. You have the elegance of a tiered garden, privacy, and a barrier that blocks street noise.
Keep in mind, these ideas will only give you limited privacy. If you plan to use your hot tub in the altogether, look up. We recommend an enclosed gazebo or covered pergola if you don’t want to put on a show for neighbors looking out their second- or third-story windows.
Main image credit: Vertical garden, Scott Brenner, CC 2.0