“Good fences make good neighbors,” according to Robert Frost. So do trees, berms, and a variety of other landscaping tools used to add privacy. Whether you only have space for a few lawn chairs in your Center City or South Philly backyard, or two acres of ground in Worcester, Montgomery County, you probably have spent some time and money to add privacy around your home.
Before purchasing a home, consider how much privacy you need to feel comfortable in your surroundings. If you desire a larger buffer, look for homes with fences or wooded lots. If you are considering a house near a busy road, try to spend some time in the area during rush hour. A quiet road on a Sunday afternoon may become much louder on Monday morning.
Traffic congestion increases around existing homes in even the farthest Philadelphia suburbs, so you may want to add a fence or tree line. If the perimeter of your yard is long and fencing options are limited by your homeowners’ association, evergreen trees are a good way to provide four full seasons of privacy. Blue Spruces are attractive but slow growing, so if you are buying them solely for privacy, get them close to the size you need them to be for your yard. Faster growing Norway Spruces can also be used, or they can be alternated in a tree line with Blue Spruces. Another evergreen that works well for privacy in our mid-Atlantic climate is the fast growing Leyland Cypress.
Arborvitaes, tall evergreens known to have weaker limbs, can also be used, but an occasional heavy snowfall like the ones we experience once or twice each winter in Philadelphia, can damage these trees and leave an uneven border.
Lower growing hedges, such as boxwoods can provide a smaller privacy wall, but they must be trimmed to maintain a uniform shape.
When landscaping, try to visualize what your yard will look like five or ten years from now. Always follow the guidelines recommended for spacing larger trees, as these take future growth into account. Trees planted close together may quickly become too large for the space they are given.
In smaller, urban yards, where large trees take up too much prime outdoor space, adding privacy is still possible. Use fountains to cover the noise of a busy neighborhood and large potted plants or container gardens to add a virtual wall around your deck.
Finally, fencing is the most secure way to keep others out (or small children in). If you like the look of fencing, but don’t want to enclose your entire yard, mix in trees and hedges. Another compromise is lattice walls and pergolas, which provide privacy and can add a natural look with climbing vines.