July 07, 2021

Plants, shrubs, and trees can provide much more than just beauty to enjoy; they can also create visual screens that provide you with much-needed privacy.

I live in downtown Portsmouth, NH and each of my neighbors’ houses is about 20’ from my house with driveways in-between. It is a typical old neighborhood built between 1900 – 1930 with a mix of Bungalows, 4-Squares, and New Englanders. The culture on our side of the street is to have fences on all three sides of the backyard, while the “culture” on the other side of the street is to keep your yard open to the neighbors – including backyard neighbors. This “culture” is difficult to disrupt after so many years of everyone looking out their windows and seeing the same thing. Note: if you are moving into such a neighborhood, I suggest being very careful about disrupting the visual experience of so many houses – that is, if you ever want anyone to talk to you … and why move into such a neighborhood and not want to talk to your neighbors?

We are a close neighborhood filled with respect for one another as we communally live our private lives. I love my neighbors, and we have created our relationships filled with boundaries. At the same time, we listen to each other’s dinner parties, celebrate births and graduations, and help each other through loss and hardships. The boundary piece is essential for success, and I attribute plantings as an essential part of that story.

We planted bamboo between our front porch and the driveway that has now created a beautiful “wall” between our porch and my neighbor’s porch. You can see a peek of my husband’s truck, and it’s nice not to feel like we are entertaining right by our cars. I’ve also planted small trees in the front so that I can see (and hear) them when people walk by, but they rarely notice that I’m sitting outside.

The driveway also has a tight row of arborvitae that slowly grow into a “green wall” to provide our houses some privacy (yes, our kitchen sinks line up perfectly, so we often find ourselves washing dishes together). And the backyard has a row of arborvitae that is roughly 25’ now so that we don’t see our backyard neighbor at all. (Good thing here, he has no electricity and has let the house go into disrepair, so it’s not necessarily something that I want to look at).

Lastly, I like to use large pots at the end of my driveway to keep cars from parking next to the patio. While this also extends the patio area, it provides privacy from people walking by.

Utilizing plants to perform for you is a beautiful way to find peace within you and your neighborhood.