Garden historians believe that the very first gardens were created as places of refuge from enemies. Although my worst enemies these days are rabbits, raccoons, and deer, I still have a desire for enclosure and privacy. Perhaps this is because I live in a Chicago suburb where the houses are close together and the lots are long, narrow rectangles.
Although I like my neighbors, balancing the demands of privacy and neighborliness dominated my thinking as I faced the challenge of designing my own landscape. While I wanted privacy, I didn’t want to fence myself in or keep my neighbors out entirely. To achieve privacy without erecting a fence, I identified the key areas of the garden where I wanted to minimize the living-in-a-fishbowl effect. I also considered the features in my neighbors’ yards that I wanted to “borrow.” I then came up with creative ways to stop the eye or steal the view, depending on the situation. The result is a garden that does not shut me out of the neighborhood but at the same time offers places to go when I want privacy.
By using a combination of strategies to block, divert, or steal views, our yard is now a haven with no walls. Although it is possible to see our neighbors and say hello, we don’t feel that it is required with each coming and going. Our yard is a private place of refuge, even though neighbors and an elementary school are only steps away.