Elana Safronsky, Managing Editor
Wednesday, September 2, 2009 9:27 AM EDT
Summer is (done) drawing to a close, and just before we put away our patio furniture (I know some of my friends keep it out ‘till first frost, but they happen to be smokers) I’d like to get in a few more of Carson Arthur’s advice-packed Outdoor Design Dilemmas. Carson, who hosts HGTV’s Green Force as landscaper extraordinaire, has been lending Stylesheet and you, our dear readers, his expertise in all things backyard living.
Today, Carson tackles a less-than-optimal yard/deck orientation, which essentially has the home owners starring straight at their neighbours. Aside from the lack of privacy, the L shape of the yard presents a challenge in having visiting guest explore its full potential. As usual, Carson has some great ideas!
From David Z.: "Hi Carson. Wondering if you'd be able to help. We bought a house just over a year ago with a lot size of 50x125 feet. As you can see from the pictures, our neighbours have an elevated lot and we're stuck starring at this half a wall of old logs. We planted some cedars to cover some of this up but it will take a while for them to grow and we still don't feel there is enough privacy.
"Our backyard is L shaped with quite a large section located behind our garage. This section does not get much light and is not visible from any windows of our house. We want to make this area warm and inviting so that people will want to make their way over there rather than all communing on just our small deck and we aren't quite sure how to do this.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions!"
Carson Suggests: Hello David,
Well, here are your challenges:
- You you’ve invested in cedars to try to create some privacy, and that’s not ideal. Cedars don’t really like to grow under trees, like the one that you have at the end of the log retaining wall. Even if they do happen to grow, the reality is, they are never going to get tall enough to hide you from your neighbours. Cedars can grow up to 20’ in ideal situations, but they are triangular in shape, which means they are narrowest at the top...right where you need them to be the fullest.
- The configuration of the railing on your deck doesn’t seem to open up into the best part of the garden. As a result, you naturally put your back to the railing and directly face your neighbours.
If this was my home:
- I’d change the direction of that railing right away. Open the deck up to the area that you really want to be looking at.
Privacy Pergola, photo via Carson Arthur
- I’d also add a pergola on the end of the deck closest to the neighbours which is no less then 8’ tall. Under the pergola, add lattice panels and plant yourself a honeysuckle vine or a climbing hydrangea. Building codes may stop you from creating a large fence, but as a privacy panel, you can go as high as 12’. By making this simple change, immediately you’ll notice that you naturally reorient the chairs so that when you are sitting in the yard, your back will be to the lattice panels and hence the neighbours.
- I’d also consider removing some of that grass and add a patio which allows your guests to flow from the deck to a second seating area.
- As far as the garage, that wall lacks any interest and the raised planter is very restrictive as to what you can plant in it. Remove the planter and create a plant bed that includes some ornamental trees which grow about 15’ tall. I’d suggest an Ivory Silk lilac. Create a shade loving bed around the base of your new tree, linking the plant bed to the bottom of the garage. Keep it fresh using predominantly green and white plants so that they compliment your home’s brick colour.
Photo via DakotaLandscape.com
What would you do?
Got your own Design Dilemma, outdoor on indoor? Take a photo, and send it (in jpeg format) along with your question to stylesheet(@)hgtv(.)ca. (Don’t forget to take out the brackets when typing out email address.)
Previously on Outdoor Design Dilemma: When Back of the House is the Front