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How to add privacy to your back yard

Turn your yard into a private retreat with these ideas

If you feel like you live in a fishbowl, it may be time to add some privacy to your personal outdoor space. Whether you have an exposed expanse of yard or a postage stamp-sized spot that is open to the world, you can make a few practical changes and additions to keep the outside world from looking in.

Privacy fences are the ultimate barrier from neighbors and unsightly intrusions but may not be the most practical solution. Nor will a wood barrier prevent the clamor from nearby noisy streets or an abundance of neighborhood children. If your budget and zoning ordinances allow, a brick or concrete block barricade can deflect some of the sounds.

A down side to these types of structures is that they are very appealing to burglars, as your neighbors ultimately can no longer see what is happening.

An existing chain link or slatted fence can easily be turned into a semi-barrier, thus eliminating some eye traffic. Box hedges and fast-growing trees planted around the fence perimeter will afford some privacy and can still look open enough to deter thieves. Some holly trees are fast-growers, gaining between 3 feet and 8 feet in height annually; bunch them can be together or space them out to create height along the fenceline.

You may simply want to improve on the cozy environment and camouflage a few "urban" appliances such as air conditioning units and lawn equipment. Try layering or grouping vegetation around these unsightly areas. Do not, however, plant too closely to windows or doors. Again, you want to keep security in mind when deciding where to plant.

An arbor can have multiple uses around small decks or in an area where people tend to congregate. You'll have sun protection in the summer and still gain some light during the winter, depending on what type of greenery you choose. Fast-growing vines include the five-leaf akebia, or chocolate vine, and will cover an arbor in a hurry.

Always check with your local nursery to discuss the plants that will best suit your lifestyle. Ask about location and know what type of soil the plants will be rooted in before spending money.

Large, decorative planters are another option. Many evergreens and shrubs will thrive in pots and can survive temperature fluctuations from summer to winter. Look for dwarf or fruiting trees to add height and mix them in with lower, fuller plants around the deck edge.

If you do not want to invest in a multitude of plants, consider hanging bamboo shades outdoors. They can be attached to a frame made of plastic pipe and are strong enough to withstand most weather woes, excluding strong winds and torrential rains. Like potted plants, they won't have to stay behind when you move and can be used just about anywhere.

Hanging plants or ornaments can also create a visual barrier if you have a balcony. The outsider's vision trains on the greenery or decorative object rather than on the inhabitants and you will still have a view. Think twice about chimes, though; they can be most annoying to those who don't enjoy the constant tinkle of metal-to-metal music.

Use good taste when making changes to your outdoor decor. Your neighbors will be happy and you can sit back and enjoy the seclusion.



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