Alternatives to Traditional Fencing for Privacy

Spending time in your backyard with friends and family is something that many homeowners look forward to, especially in the warm spring and summer seasons. Whether you want to plan a family cookout or kick back in your favorite lounge chair, creating a backyard landscape design with adequate privacy and a comfortable atmosphere can have a big impact on the enjoyment of your outdoor activities.

Outdoor living spaces are popular features for most homeowners but rising real estate prices have made houses with large yards less affordable for some. As the demand for outdoor spaces grows and large houses occupy small lots, backyard privacy is at a premium.

Building a fence is one of the most common solutions to privacy issues, there are times when this isn’t feasible due to cost or local building restrictions. Some homeowners are simply looking for more unique options. Here are some other landscape design ideas that are alternatives to privacy fencing that will create maximum privacy and enjoyment in your backyard:


Planting shade trees is a good way to obscure a neighbor’s view from a second-story window or terrace. They can grow from 25 to 70-feet high, depending on the species. (Good options for Missouri and Illinois include maple and oak).

When planted near a property line or in the backyard, their large canopies provide privacy, as well as shade in hot summer months in the Midwest. Deciduous plants like these lose their foliage in late fall, so during the colder months the bare branches allow the sun to shine brightly into the house for added light and warmth. Evergreen plants will act as a buffer and barrier and provide maximum privacy for your backyard landscape design year-round.St. Louis expert landscaping privacy screeen

Hedges and shrubs can also provide excellent privacy for backyard settings, whether the yard is large or small. Where space is tight, fast-growing evergreens like arborvitae are a popular solution in the St. Louis region. They separate adjoining yards and block sight lines out of windows when privacy is needed.

Unlike fences and walls, shrubs and hedges can provide a year-round privacy screen and they’re not typically restricted by city ordinances that limit their height. If you plant a private hedge, it’s best to plant individual shrubs at least 12 inches apart and bring soil up to the branching trunk. For the first year, hedges will require proper irrigation to survive, and they need to be trimmed properly to prevent overgrowth.

Planting a mix of deciduous trees, shrubs, evergreens, perennials and flowers create a natural look for your backyard landscape design. Stagger evergreens in the background, then step down the height with deciduous plants and perennials that provide different heights, textures and colors. Layering your plants creates better depth and visual impact in the yard. It also allows you to replace seasonal, smaller plants when they die with a variety of new seasonal plants in different colors, shapes, sizes and textures. This creates an easy way to change your privacy requirements throughout the year.


You might be tempted to buy up all the $1 containers in the clearance aisle of your local landscaper. But when you’re trying to maximize privacy, it’s best to invest in larger plants – otherwise you can find yourself waiting many years for those small plants to provide any screen for your property! For quick results, choose plants that are four or five-feet tall, but pay close attention to growth patterns and care and maintenance requirements. We can help you pick the best plants for your property.


Another way to use plants to your advantage is through container and vertical/hanging gardens.

Raised planters and container gardens will add height while creating good volume, proportion and privacy in your backyard. You can design a series of container gardens that define your property boundaries and establish a visual buffer between you and the neighbors.

For those seeking a symmetrical look each container can be filled with identical plants. If you like a less formal, more organic look, fill the containers with a variety of plants that offer different sizes, shapes, textures and colors. For easy maintenance use native, low-maintenance plants, shrubs and ornamental grasses like blue fescue, dwarf arborvitae, rosemary or lavender.

“Vertical gardens” are another popular way to create maximum privacy in urban areas where homeowners have small plots of land (or no land at all). They can be used in spacious backyards, too! These gardens are grown on wooden trellises, open panels or metal grids that have structured support systems. The plants used can vary from climbing vines, annuals and perennials, as well as helpful herbs and vegetables. A vertical garden can add height and depth to your yard while creating the privacy you need to enjoy the outdoors. Edible veggies and herbs to spice up your food can be another benefit!


There are many green alternatives to the standard privacy fence


A stone wall will add maximum privacy and unique visual appeal to any style home. With a variety of materials to choose from including granite, marble, limestone, slate, stacked stone and flagstone, it’s easy to build a stone wall that complements the materials on your house, as well as your backyard landscape design.

Your stone wall cost will be higher compared to building a fence, but it will last a lifetime with minimal landscape maintenance. To reduce material and labor costs, construct a shorter stone wall, about four feet in height, then add a two-foot wooden lattice or fence to the top. A lighter material on top will soften the hard edges of the stone and give the wall unique style. If your home’s exterior is wood or siding, a lattice or wooden top can tie the two structures together.

For those with limited space, a tall solid fence or wall may feel too confining. You can instead enclose defined areas like small patios and terraces, decks and outdoor kitchen areas in other ways. Options include open panels, trellises and arbors.

By building an enclosure around your outdoor spaces, you can create privacy for outdoor activities and entertain without creating perimeter boundaries around your property. Open panels, trellises and arbors allow you to create maximum privacy with climbing vines, hanging baskets and colorful flowers. Garden structures provide an appealing, affordable option for backyard privacy in small spaces.

Movable screens provide an easy, affordable solution for privacy around patios, decks, porches, outdoor kitchen areas and pavilions. Screens can be designed and built in a variety of materials, patterns and colors to enhance any type of backyard setting. Solid screens will provide maximum privacy, as well as protection from sun, rain, wind and noise. Open screens will provide light and ventilation for overcast and hot days.

If you plan to entertain year-round, it’s important to create a backyard landscape design that offers privacy and protection from the elements. You can create both by installing outdoor curtains or draperies that can be opened and closed as needed. With a strong interest by today’s homeowners in outdoor living spaces, it’s easy to find outdoor draperies in a variety of beautiful colors, textures and patterns for every lifestyle. Fabrics are specially treated to resist stains, fading and water, so they’re the perfect solution for outdoor areas where you want to create privacy.

Some of the most unique options for privacy screening (though not necessarily the least expensive) would be using some form of large sculpture or even a building as a barrier, such as an outdoor shed.


Although you may not be able to see your neighbors, you may be close enough to hear them when you’re in your backyard. If you’re in a neighborhood where houses are built on smaller lots and close together, you may even hear intrusive noises like dogs barking, buzzing air conditioner compressors, TVs and stereos, even regular conversations!

By adding an outdoor fountain or other water feature to your backyard landscape design, you can mask unwanted noises and replace them with the soothing sounds of nature. Depending on the size of your yard and budget, we can help you design a more custom outdoor fountain or provide pre-made models to choice from. When selecting a fountain, note that the further water falls, the louder it becomes, so choose a fountain size and style that provides the right amount of noise reduction and privacy with a soothing level of sound.


Whatever the size of your backyard, you can maximize privacy to enjoy the outdoors. By blocking the eyes of peering neighbors and the sounds of intrusive noises, you can spend time in a backyard that’s comfortable and peaceful year-round.

Environmental is one of the top rated landscapers in the St. Louis region, including neighborhoods like Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Maplewood, Chesterfield, Ballwin, South County, even throughout Jefferson County and metro Illinois. For any questions or to get a bid on your next project, call one of our experienced experts at (636) 225-3848 and tell us you found us online, or contact us online directly if you’d like!

Tory Catanzaro

Owner, Environmental Landscaping



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