Landscaping for Privacy: Using Plants for More than Aesthetics

A common sight in higher-end neighborhoods are lush, well-kept foliage rising as high as the outer walls of the home on the property. This so-called privacy planting is growing even more in popularity, as homeowners realize it is an easy—and seamless, in terms of the overall design of the place—way to take advantage of that old adage “good fences make good neighbors.”

What Can You Use for Privacy Plants?

Privacy Planting

It is straightforward to forego obtrusive fences and walls by using a multitude of plant species. Although the effects of having bamboo share the space with cypress can be dazzling to the eye, this privacy plant has a positive effect on the environment by effectively reducing your carbon footprint while also extending the borders of your interior living space if you have a back and front yard. Going out onto your front porch still gives you a feeling of seclusion, while also allowing you to enjoy the outdoors.

Although a sort of spatial seclusion is the emphasis, there’s no doubt that privacy planting allows you to explore your artistic side. Evergreen trees such as Arborvitae and Thuja grow quickly and can vault as tall as the second floor of your home by the second year after you’ve had them planted. They can complement any yard! If you already have a fence up but wish to beautify it and close off the many spaces in-between the pickets, consider options like:

  • Clematis
  • Hops
  • Ivy

Rose of Sharon is also a good choice. It’s a lovely bud—but leaves fall off in winter; therefore, it is primarily used in summertime planting.

Deciding on the Pattern of Your Privacy Planting

Of course, the overall pattern must have an eye towards effectiveness; but there’s a lot of room to implement your artistic touch. The first option to consider is a mix of shrubs, deciduous trees, and the layered look that brings these seamlessly together.

Shade trees can really vault upward dozens of feet, shielding a second-story terrace and windows from being easily viewed without obstructing your view of the city or region proper. Similarly, the leaves and branches allow space for sunlight to stream through so that your property is not in darkness during the day.

Landscaping in Bethesda & Potomac, MD

The above are just a few things to consider when thinking about the wonderful benefits and functionality that privacy planting can provide for your property. Contact the landscaping professionals at Botanical Decorators for more ideas. We can help transform your yard into a beautiful outdoor living space where you can enjoy privacy!

Summer Outdoor Lighting Ideas for Your Yard

From simple DIY projects to beautiful professional installations, there are plenty of ways to light up your back yard for summer. Whether you plan to enjoy a romantic evening for two or a party with friends, this is the perfect season to enjoy time outside after dark! Get inspired by these summer outdoor lighting ideas:

Pathway Lighting

It’s helpful to have an illuminated outdoor path, both for safety reasons and aesthetics. Path lights can be as simple as individual solar fixtures you stake into the ground with built-in solar panels that provide hours of illumination after dark. You might also opt for wired pathway lighting for a more permanent installation.

Pool Lighting

If you have a backyard pool, underwater lighting gives you the option to swim after dark. It also creates a beautiful aesthetic perfect for entertaining guests.

Pool Lighting

Tiki Torches

Whether you’re hosting a Hawaiian-themed party or simply want to enjoy a bit of natural firelight, tiki torches are a great option. Stick them securely in the ground or in a large planter to ensure they don’t fall over. You can even use citronella oil so your tiki torches double as mosquito repellant!

Fire Pit or Fireplace

Outdoor lighting is even more inviting when it comes in the form of a crackling fire. You can choose to position a portable wood-burning fire pit on your patio for temporary fun, or you can have a permanent gas or wood-burning fire pit or outdoor fireplace professionally installed for a beautiful finished look. In addition to providing light, fire gives you the chance to roast marshmallows and cook food outside in the summer.

Tree Lighting

To create a romantic ambience, hang lights in your trees. Depending on the look you want to create, you might hang strands of lights, paper lanterns, or little bobbles. Be sure to run extension cords safely for the best results, and remember to remove this temporary outdoor lighting at the end of summer.

Landscaping Lighting MD

Patio Lighting

If you have a covered patio or outdoor kitchen area, overhead lighting is important for entertaining after dark. Achieving this can be as simple as hanging strand lights from the eaves or as high-end as installing wired pendant lights on the patio ceiling.


New York garden designer Conni Cross shares what she’s learned while designing her garden in Long Island, New York—an ongoing project that she has been working on for more than 30 years.

Do research. We are all prone to impulse buying and taking home plants with a pretty face. I’ve learned to research plant varieties thoroughly and to choose wisely when it comes to foundation trees and shrubs that will last for many years.

Incorporate layers. Planting in layers mimics the canopy found in nature. You can fill gaps around foundation trees and shrubs with shorter-lived perennials.

Encourage exploration. Design an outdoor space so that you can’t see everything at once, to create a feeling of intrigue and mystery.

Combine styles. Combining formal plants, such as boxwood, with naturalistic plants, such as Japanese maple, lends structure and balance.

Plant for all four seasons. This is a hallmark of my designs. Choose plants with flowers, berries, bark, fragrance, and compelling structure.

Plan for growth. Whatever the spacing says on the plant label, double that figure. Happy plants inevitably grow larger than their estimated size.

Maintain the space. Regular maintenance is an often-overlooked component of designing a garden. I like to stay true to the original design as much as possible.


Encinitas, Water Wise Garden
Debora Carl Landscape Design
Encinitas, CA

Richly layered plantings of ornamental grasses, perennials, and succulents outline the boardwalk and gravel path that lead from the house down the backyard slope at Debora Carl’s property in Encinitas, CA. Blue chalksticks—Carl’s favorite go-to groundcover—complements repeating peach-apricot highlights of Kniphofia (center) and Cordyline (far left). Photo by: Richard Bloom.

At her property in Encinitas, California, designer Debora Carl created a sleek, modern, color-rich, waterwise garden. Here are a few tips she learned along the way.

Site strategically. Place seating areas and other significant features close to the house where you will be more likely to enjoy them. Elements placed too far away may feel isolated, and therefore may be used less often.

Use color wisely. Combine plants with complementary colors such as blue and orange to create visual tension. Adding another pop of color such as red lends an additional layer of complexity and creates an unexpected surprise. Repeat these same colors to unify the landscape and establish order.

Create visual balance. Use strong, straight lines and axes to define the structure of a garden, and soften the edges with plants.

Tie elements together. Match the color of your exterior paint to a dominant flower or foliage color in a planting bed, then apply the same paint to a piece of garden furniture for repetition and a pleasing composition.

Add a focal point. Use a sculpture, garden art, or an interesting container to give the eye a place to pause and appreciate the surroundings.


Vashon Island, Fountain Garden
David Pfeiffer Garden Design, Inc.

At this home in Vashon Island, WA, a European-inspired fountain was placed outside the kitchen window and next to an arbor-covered dining area where it can be enjoyed year-round. When David Pfeiffer and his partner, David Klein, decided to simplify the garden a few years ago, they removed aquatic plants from the fountain and replaced them with stainless steel gazing balls that constantly move, reflecting the sky as they float on the surface of the water. Photo by: Claire Takacs.

Designer David Pfeiffer and his partner, Daniel Klein, took an undeveloped property on Vashon Island near Seattle and transformed it into a garden with dedicated areas for dining, lounging, quiet contemplation, and entertaining. Pfeiffer shares some of his tips for designing.

Unite garden and home. Design the garden the same way you would design the floor plan for your home. Decide how you want to live and entertain in your garden, and be sure your pathways, terraces, and furniture layouts reflect this.

Remember that less is more. Limit garden decoration and accessorizing. Instead, rely on architectural elements such as arbors, stairs, and walls to unify the house with the garden. Limit the amount of plant varieties, and plant in large textural drifts to help focus the eye. Choose plants that require minimal pruning and watering.

Design based on how you like to entertain. Include dining and conversation areas that accommodate how you live.

Tie it all together. For hardscape and planting choices, hold true to the vernacular of your home’s architecture and the area you live in. It doesn’t have to be strictly native, but use local materials when possible for a regional aesthetic (and to lighten your carbon footprint).

Encourage exploration and discovery. Key features such as a swimming pool or seating should be conveniently placed, but also include destinations like a bench or gazebo farther out that serve as destinations and surprises.


English Garden, Perennial Border
Jeremy Allen Garden Design

This classic English-style perennial border at the home of Jeremy and Beverly Allen in southeast England is more than 100 yards long. The border was inspired by the grand borders at Great Dixter and Sissinghurst Castle Garden and positioned to take advantage of the borrowed views of majestic shade trees and clipped hedging beyond, adding an extra dimension of layering and height. Late-summer perennials—coneflower, phlox, Joe Pye weed, catmint, asters, and ornamental grasses—create a restful tapestry of texture and form. Photo by: Richard Bloom.

Garden designer Jeremy Allen and his wife, Beverly, transformed a dense thicket into a beautiful countryside landscape with neatly defined garden rooms. Here are some of Allen’s tips for designing.

Use strong shapes. Using uniformly straight or curving lines for elements such as hardscape, hedges, or planting beds lends order to a space.

Install structural elements first. Installing hardscape and planting trees, shrubs, and hedges first will define the structure of your garden. This will provide a good stage set to show off other plants and winter interest when perennials go dormant.

Consider how and where light falls. Light and shadows create ambience and animate a space. A carefully placed tree or interesting topiary can create diffused light or atmospheric shadows.

Choose plants that provide consistent form, texture, and foliage. The secret to achieving a good-looking border is selecting plants that continue to provide an attractive overall shape both before and after flowering.

Use repetition. Repeating the same plants throughout a border and in different areas of your garden creates visual rhythm. It also creates cohesion and makes a garden feel whole, even if areas are disparate from each other.

These tips were excerpted from the article “Dream Gardens” in the Winter 2018 issue of Garden Design magazine.