Garden privacy ideas: 10 ways to create a private outdoor space

Create a tranquil space with our garden privacy ideas, because even with the best neighbours, everybody needs a little solitude sometimes…

garden privacy ideas showing a dining area underneath a shade sail
(Image credit: Cuprinol)

Want to create a hideaway from the world and need some garden privacy ideas to help you achieve it? Having a quiet, private space to call your own may feel like a tall order if you live in busy neighbourhood or your garden is directly overlooked, but the great news is there are many different ways to gain privacy in your plot, from nurturing a natural screen to building a stylish barrier. 

So whether you have a small courtyard that's overlooked on all sides, a suburban plot with only a small fence between you and your neighbours, or even space that you want to screen off from the house, our ideas will show you how easy it is to create your own private space. 

Read on for brilliant garden privacy ideas, then head to our garden design ideas for more outdoor inspiration. 

1. Grow a screen

clematis growing up a brick wall

(Image credit: Unsplash/Evie Fjord)

A living barrier, in the form of a hedge or climber, is a pretty and practical way to protect your privacy. Some plants grow much faster than others, so if you are in a hurry for coverage, it’s worth choosing carefully and paying more for a larger, more mature plant. For super-quick cover, try honeysuckle, virginia creeper, climbing hydrangea or a clematis montana or clematis armandii. Bamboo is another rapid grower, but it can be invasive and difficult to control. Plants such as hollies and junipers that have thick branches at ground level may help to muffle noise as well as acting as a visual screen. Opt for an evergreen hedge for year-round foliage, or consider hornbeam, which retains its leaves in the winter months. 

2. Soundproof your plot

wicker sofa in front of a dark painted garden fence

(Image credit: Cuprinol)

Music, barking dogs, loud conversations and traffic noise can be extremely intrusive. Any fence will reduce noise to a certain extent, but a Decibel Noise Reduction panel could be up to eight times more effective. Interlocking panels of wood eradicate gaps through which noise can travel. They are more expensive than conventional fencing, but it might be an investment worth making. Try Jacksons Fencing for a range of products. 

3. Install a shade sail

outdoor dining area under a shade sail

(Image credit: Cuprinol)

If you’re overlooked from above, a shade sail provides an inexpensive, temporary barrier. Usually made from durable woven polyester, they are stretched taut and fixed to walls, trees, fences or posts, or they can be freestanding and attached to purpose made poles. Shade sails offer protection from rain and sunshine, as well as prying eyes. An extra bonus is that they come in a huge range of sizes and colours, from classic cream to punchy orange, and they are straightforward to take down and store in the winter months. There is a good selection available at Primrose and Wayfair. Custom-made versions come with a higher price tag. 

4. Add a water feature

modern circular water feature

(Image credit: Solus Decor)

The gentle sound of trickling water is not only calming, it can also mask conversation, so if you add a water feature your neighbours will not be party to every word of your phone conversations or alfresco Zoom meetings. Solar-powered ones are an inexpensive quick fix, but they will only work when the sun is shining. Battery-operated features are another budget option, but anything more substantial will require a water pump to power the flow of water. This may require an exterior socket and cable which must be installed by a qualified electrician. 

5. Protect with a panel

courtyard garden design

(Image credit: Screen with Envy)

Partition an area of your garden with a decorative screen, combining an attractive, artistic feature with practical purpose. This is a versatile choice, as the screen can be moved around when and where you want to shield. Screens may be made from laser cut corten metal, or constructed using a durable wood and plastic composite material. Choose from an ‘off-the-peg’ supplier, such as Screen With Envy or for something extra special, commission an artist to make one for you. Jeni Cairns of Juniper House Garden Design creates nature-inspired hand cut panels. 

6. Grow grasses

Ornamental grasses in a bed

(Image credit: Alamy)

If you want a strong yet informal barrier, tall ornamental grasses are the go-to plant. Stipa gigantea, with gold flowers on grey green foliage, can top 210cm. Fountain grass, or pennisetum, is less lofty but will grow up to 60cm-1m tall, with elegant, swishy flower spikes. Most grasses will thrive in pots and troughs, so this natural partition can be moved around. Most look good year-round, and will put on new growth in the spring. In winter, perennial grasses will not be actively growing, but the faded fronds will add texture and look pretty on frosty days.   

7. Make a living wall

A shaded seating area with ferns and living wall

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

A planter with integral trellis can be used to create a living wall. Add climbing roses such as white ‘Mme Alfred Carrière’ or pink ‘St Swithun,’ both of which can be trained vertically. They will quickly cover the space with foliage and sweetly scented flowers. Try the Forest Venice planter from Wilko for a great-value way to get the effect of a living wall. 

8. Create a secret garden

screens used as fencing to create privacy

(Image credit: Cult Furniture)

Adapt an existing area of your garden to make a hidden retreat. Hurdle panels in willow or hazel can be used to make a private area, while masking an ugly wall and creating added height. Bamboo fencing is a budget alternative. Try Screwfix for a good selection of fencing panels in different styles. Consider screening off the bottom of the garden, or another section, using the same method. Add a comfortable chair, some cosy throws, cushions and a fire pit for the ultimate relaxation station. 

9. Pick a pergola 

dining area underneath a pergola

(Image credit: Cuckooland)

You gain instant shelter and a sense of seclusion from the outside world with a ready-made structure such as a pergola with a built-in privacy back screen. Timber is the most common material for a pergola, but they also come in UPVC, galvanised steel and wrought iron. Pergolas need a level base and may need to be secured into the ground with bolt down fixings. Once in place, climbing plants can be grown up the sides and across the top. Pergolas can be sited on a patio outside the house, offering a perfectly sheltered spot for outdoor entertaining. 

10. Choose large leaves

outdoor chair with comfy cushions surrounded by plants

(Image credit: Sainsburys)

Some exotic plants have giant leaves that create a green parasol effect and are perfect for a tropical inspired garden. Group together on a patio in containers and you immediately gain a sense of seclusion. Ones to try include Canna ‘Musifolia’ with large, paddle-shaped leaves and exotic flowers, a banana palm such as Musa ‘Red Abyssinian,’ Colocasia (Elephant Ears) and Fatsia Polycarpa ‘Green Fingers.’ These plants are tender, so they should be brought inside over winter, or placed in a sheltered porch or greenhouse. You don't need acres of space for a greenhouse either – find the best mini greenhouse in our guide.

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