The Case

A person visiting the website is buying a new house in an estate, literally at the urban rural fringe, right where town meets the countryside. The house in question is not new and some landscape work has been carried out there already.  It’s a corner site where the house and garden are largely open to view almost all the way around.  The challenge therefore is have a look at the existing landscaping arrangements with a view to retaining useful elements where this is possible.  The brief is to advise the householder on ways of establising privacy on the site.  

Everybody is budget conscious and where you can keep some stuff that already exists so much the better.  Of course it must make reasonable design sense to do this.

We need to create some screening to reduce or eliminate the completley open view that passers-by have into the property, views into both the garden and the house.

First of all we need to establish if there are any planning restrictions on establishing enclosures on the property.  Is this an open plan housing scheme and are we in fact allowed to enclose some or all of the property if we want to do so?  This is a question that must be asked locally before the reader starts work.

Secondly because the nature of the surrounding gardens and the immediately adjacent countryside are generally open we really don’t need to shut everything down completely by setting up a completely visually opaque perimeter.  We don’t want tall hedges and fences all  the way around as it will make the place claustrophobic and reduce light and air circulation.

The house-owner in this instance has expressed a liking for wrought iron as a type of enclosure.  This is a good solution as it will fit in nicely with the urban / rural character of the area.  This can be left as  a standalone wrought iron fence in order to avail of the view where required. It can be combined with hedging or shrub planting where privacy is needed.  It can be used all the way round if reguired to give some definition to the boundary, or it can be confined to specific parts of the boundary.

The art of choosing a hedge in this, or in any location, is a bit of a challenge as it is both a visual entiy and a physical barrier between your private space and the public space surrounding. Because this is a corner site the feeling one gets in the garden is that you are almost public property.  With this property this is also true of the rear garden which is also open to public view.



A previous owner has established quite a large pebble/alpine type garden between the roadway and a section of the property, mainly to the rear garden area.  There are a few shrubs planted in this bed and it is bounded on the garden side by an open trelliss-work fence.  The net effect of this visually transparent arrangement is to draw more attention to the private garden area than if it did not exist at all.

A low double skinned wall has been built all the way around and this has been back filled with topsoil and planted using a variety of low growing shrubs and herbaceous plant material.

In this instance we are concerned only with the perimeter of the site and with establishing a reasonable degree of privacy for the owner.  We are not concerned with the design of the garden space inside the perimeter.

Recommendations

Use the existing low stone wall as a base for a wrought iron fence where required backed by hedging or mixed well chosen shrubs selected to grow to 5 to 6 feet in height and no higher.  Take account to the spread of these shrubs before planting and allowand room for them to meet as they mature rather than crowding each other out, or never meeting at all.

If sufficient good-quality topsoil exists between the skins of the low wall and provided the bottom of the resulting planting bed is not sealed with concrete or other mineral content use this as a planting bed to establish good quality hedgeing.  The existing material can be re-used elsewhere in the garden if required.

Hedging should consist of plants like viburnum tinus (grow semi formal & allow to flower in winter), beech (may present a feeling of slight insecurity in the winter as the leaves do turn brown.  However they don’t fall off before the new leaves form each spring), some cotoneaster species (look around at what works locally before deciding), Escallonia (Has been adversly effected by hard frosts in recent years.  Privet (old fashined but still a good and versatile hedge)



Some useful shrubs in this regard are Mangnolia grandiflora, Photinia x fraseri “Red Robin”, Ilex auiafolium or other hllies as available (these also help to secure a perimter and can be used to vulnerable parts of the boundary), Grasses and bamboos as available locally can provide excellent screening as well as providing relaxing movement and sound to the space.  Small trees like ornemental prunus, apple and pear can be used to good effect and you can use fruit trees themselves to provide both food and a measure of privacy 

Hedging to provide a good level of privacy can be grown to 6 feet in height and anything higher should be avoided to prevent establishing a claustrophobic feeling in the garden.

A good view of rural countryside exists to the front to of the dwelling.  An option for this space is to maintain hedging at a lower height of 3 to 4 feet and to plant 3 No. or 5 No. garden trees in the front garden.  While this will not provide total privacy it will allow views of the countryside from inside the house and garden and will also provide a degree of landscape integration both visually and ecologically with the surrounding countryside.  Varieties of birch are good for this purpose and if Betual jacqumentioii is chosen it will provide the added interest of clear white bark during the winter months.    

Where the pebble/alpine garden exists there are a number of options:

a) Dig it up and incorporate it in the wrought iron/hedging proposal above – Gain more space in the garden

b) Leave it in situ and plant shrubs to match existing in sufficient quantity to provide effective screening – Lower cost option

c) Replace the wooden trellis with a board on board or similar visually opaque wooden fence – low cost option.

At the vehicular/rear entrance a gate/door needs to be fitted.  This is easy to do if a wooden fence is being incorporated in this area.  Add some pillars and make doors to match the fence – instant privacy.

The boundary to the very rear of the site has a newly planted Laural hedge which if fertilised, maintained and allowed to grow to 5 or 6 feet in height will provide good and effective privacy.  This is well established and will grow quickly.  When trimming this hedge do it manually with a secateurs taking branch ends as opposed to the usual uniform cut used on standard small leaf hedges.  This will result in a less formal appearance but will avoid the appearance of large laurel leaves cut across the middle and turning brown at the edges  

A single selection from the above options or a combination of them in any chosen location will provide privacy.  Naturally planting will take time to mature and solutions such as board on board fencing will be an instant solution.

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