Landscaping For Privacy and Hiding Garden Eyesores


WE ALL HAVE THEM: This topic covers some of the more unfortunate reasons that we landscape our properties: Screening a neighbors playset, unsightly views and other garden eyesores. We all have them, the ever present air-conditioning units, the neighbor's dilapidated shed, the power pole installed in back of your property. How you approach these landscaping challenges is very specific to the item you wish to screen. 

Let’s explore how you would handle each eyesore challenge. I have broken the strategies down into categories:

1. UTILITIES: This includes air conditioning units, downspouts, propane tanks, well heads, poles, anything that although you don’t want to see it, but you still need access for maintenance, etc.


a.      Restrict Access: AC, Propane and well heads, as well as septic clean outs will require regular maintenance. Leave panels and a few areas open to allow access for these services. Downspouts can be screened by burying them OR using a rain chain, see sample on the right.

b.      Don’t Block Vents or Circulation Patterns: For example, the AC units need to have free  circulation around them. They also send our hot vapors that most plants find challenging. Leave plenty of room from the units to the first shrub. Use medium hardy evergreens such as Gulfstream Nandinas, Goshiki Osmanthus, or Carissa Holly.

c.       Don’t Plant Shrubs that are Inappropriate or Too Large: Your first knee jerk reaction here is to surround each one of these with large Nellie Steven’s Holly or Green Giant Arborvitae. Don’t do it!- you will achieve a better result by distracting the eye in these cases and use medium height shrub mixtures around the offending object. A small fence or wooden arbor may also be the solution here to screen the area without being overbearing.

SEE example Below of a simple but beautiful A/C screen using cedar panels:

2.       UNSIGHTLY VIEWS and to PROVIDE PRIVACY: This includes items like your trash cans, neighbor’s RV, boat, junk cars OR screening the new hot tub you just installed from your nosey neighbor.


a.    Use a Mixture of Heights and Textures: ‘Good fences may make good neighbors’, but a straight row of Leyland Cypress will only tell your neighbors ‘I don't like you! Use a                variety of height and textures as in the picture below to gain your privacy, without your                neighbors knowing your true intention. This design includes ‘Little Gem’ Magnolia,                      Cryptomeria as the backdrop to Warminster Broom, Encore Azalea and perennials to draw        the eye in  a colorful way.

b.     Go Vertical: Maybe a cedar vertical trellis or panel may be installed in a key area and     planted with an evergreen vine. An Iron Trellis may also be a good idea in this area- or a planted vertical garden planter. Great vines for trellis or arbors are Carolina Jesssamine, Confederate Jasmine.

These suggestions also work well on slopes and other areas, that are unsightly in their own right.As in all cases, make sure you do proper bed preparation and water plants fully until establishment.

About the Author:

Lori Hawkins, RLA, ASLA has been a registered landscape architect and active in the landscape design/build industry for over 25 years. For additional inspiring project pictures, design ideas, or great garden gifts, take a look at these websites: