Garden design for overlooked gardens: 3 garden designer techniques to make a garden feel more private
For a few fortunate souls, a garden can provide a tranquil escape in which they can be alone with their thoughts in blessed isolation. For the rest of us, and I know from experience that we are firmly in the majority, time spent in our gardens is somewhat more of a compromise.
Yes, a good garden can offer a degree of separation from the demands of busy working lives, but if we feel overlooked by our neighbours whilst we're out there we will never feel truly relaxed.
Whether the cause of this is a single window in a neighbour's rarely-used spare bedroom, or a high-rise apartment building housing several hundred people, the feeling of being overlooked can make most of us extremely uncomfortable. And, as a professional garden designer, many of our customers have cited it as one of the main reasons they are not able to enjoy their gardens as much as they would like.
But there are things that good garden design can do to help, so here are three ways to reduce the feeling of being overlooked in your garden:
1. Designing our seating areas: where would you like to sit?
OK, whilst our neighbours may technically be able to lean out of their window and see into our garden, do they actually really want to? To put it bluntly, if we are not spending our time looking into other people’s gardens, why do we seem to always assume that other people want to waste their time looking into ours? I know we are special, but come on!
Sure, most of us are naturally curious (some of us may even be a bit nosey), but the vast majority of us have plenty of better things to do with our time. I accept, of course, that there are always going to be exceptions to the rule, but they are usually just that- exceptions. So, if we can accept the notion that our neighbours aren’t watching our every move, we can then start to think about how we can reduce the amount of times that we are reminded that they are there in the first place.
The first, and perhaps most obvious thing to do is to ensure that we position our main seating and entertaining area so that it isn't facing our neighbours’ windows. The same goes, if at all possible, for any additional 'occasional' seating in our garden (such as benches and arbours). If we aren't looking straight at the offending building or window every time we sit down to relax then we are well on the way to feeling more private. I know it sounds obvious, but let's focus as much as we can on avoiding seeing the reason(s) we feel overlooked.
2. Hide and distract: using garden design to reduce the visual impact of our neighbours
One of the best ways of reducing the visual impact of neighbouring properties is to ensure that we have some alternative things to look at. This may sound overly simplistic, but if the first thing that catches our eye every time we go out to our garden is next door’s shiny white UPVC window frames then it is no wonder that we are constantly reminded that we have neighbours nearby.
A carefully-positioned focal point (e.g. a bench, a statue, or a piece of sculpture) will always give us something else to notice first. The clue is in the name: ‘focal point’… it is there to draw our focus, to lead the eye and give our garden a sense of direction and purpose.
By the same token, a bit of judicious screening can work wonders. The canopy of a tree or a structure supporting an attractive climbing plant or two can instantly make it harder to see something we’d rather not be looking at. Try to think of it as a kind of reverse camouflage, only what we are trying to do is make it harder for us to see something rather than trying to hide ourselves.
3. Garden design for sound interest: consider introducing some water to the garden
A bit of peace and quiet every now and again can be enormously therapeutic, but being disturbed by unwanted noise from neighbours can be really irritating even if it's not very loud. It can be very frustrating, and significantly limit the degree to which we enjoy being in our garden.
If we can't prevent the unwanted noise (and we usually can't), then we need to find a way to counter it by introducing a relaxing background noise of our own. Whether it's a wind chime or two, the rustling leaves of a few well-chosen plants, or the gentle sound of wildlife, noises that we like can be remarkably good at reducing the impact of noises that we don't.
Gently moving water can be particularly soothing, and there are lots of low-maintenance options for introducing water into a garden. Whilst it is obviously important to consider the safety of children and/or pets (open pools of water or ponds always need careful thought), it is amazing how relaxing the sound of gently moving water can be.
In addition to providing noise, water features can also offer visual movement as the water catches the light. This can be very relaxing in its own right, and serves a more important role as a distraction from less desirable things. Get it right and water in a garden can be a surefire winner.
So, whilst we are going to have to accept that we’re not going to be able to move our neighbour’s house, we can use these simple garden design techniques to try to do something to reduce the amount to which we feel overlooked. If a lack of privacy is an issue in your outside space, do try these simple tips and see if they help you to enjoy your garden more.
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.