How to Create Privacy in your Gilbertsville, PA Backyard


If you want a fast growing, easy-care evergreen, you can’t beat an arborvitae. Within a few years their dense foliage will fill in and create an ideal living fence.

Nothing could be more distracting to you and your family than a neighbor observing how you are relaxing in your own Gilbertsville, Collegeville, Pottstown or Malvern outdoor living space.  It’s not like they are spying on you.  It’s just hard not to glance over when there’s nothing blocking their view of your backyard – or vice versa, for that matter.  In addition, sometimes you’re looking for a little peace and quiet without the neighbor popping in and engaging in conversation.

Fencing isn’t the only option

Fences definitely keep neighbors out but that’s not necessarily the neighborly message you want to send.  Although erecting a fence is one solution, it’s not always a good feeling to be ‘fenced in’ on your own property.

Block a View with Trees and Shrubs

An example of a deciduous living fence that sheds its leaves in the winter.

Evergreen trees and shrubs are good choices when you want year-round privacy.  Evergreens are popular because of their fast growth and constant foliage.  Tall evergreens planted close together provides a nearly impenetrable partition and creates the greatest sense of privacy, but be aware, it can cast deep shadows.  A tall arborvitae is one of the first plants you think of for a privacy screen.  It’s the go-to evergreen for lining a fence.

Deciduous trees and shrubs (lose their leaves over the winter) are another option when privacy in the summer is more important than in the winter plus you have the added advantage of pretty blossoms in the spring and great colors in the fall.

Mixing the foliage of evergreen and deciduous trees, along with shrubs layered at their base, can also create a handsome privacy screen and even give the appearance of a woodland garden at the edge of your property.

A little spacing between trees is ok and minimizes the living-in-a fishbowl effect.   Your comings and goings are less obvious.   Trees and shrubs have so many advantages:  they add security to your property, block the wind or an eyesore, and even can muffle highway noise.  There’s no doubt that a privacy screen is a valuable landscape enhancement that is not only functional but beautiful.

Different Options for Planting Trees and Shrubs

Leyland Cypress is a fast growing evergreen. Photo credit: The Tree Center

Plant in a straight line.  There’s often a desire to just plant one shrub or tree all around the perimeter of your property.  It gets the job done but planting them all in a row is more formal, and not as natural looking.

Staggering the trees.  This can look more natural and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.  This has a more informal look when you mix up a selection of trees, shrubs and perennials/annuals.     Yes, you lose more lawn space this way, but it gives you a little more privacy right away instead of waiting for trees to fill in when planted in a straight line.  Layering a few deciduous and evergreens, and even some perennials will give you an attractive and natural look.

Strategic Planting.   Another idea to achieve privacy is by planting a screen close to the areas you use most, like your patio vs. 40 yards away.     Some strategic planting around a patio can specifically change your view and gain privacy that you’re looking for.

Tips for Selecting Trees and Shrubs for Privacy – Plan Ahead!

Although arborvitae is durable and adaptable, it’s biggest problem is deer browsing.

Ask yourself these questions before choosing trees.  How high and wide do you want your privacy trees?    Knowing the final size of the tree or shrub you choose in relation to its placement in the landscape can help you visualize what the end result will be after it matures.  Keeping their mature sizes in mind will allow them the proper space to grow without crowding each other.

Your space will often dictate if you need a narrow or wide tree.   And of course, shade and soil conditions are other factors to consider.  More trees will grow in the sun but some are shade tolerant such as Sky Pencil Holly and American Holly.

Planting and Maintaining Privacy Trees and Shrubs

When planting, it’s important to consider the distance apart.  Dense screen trees should be spaced slightly less than half the spread of your choice.  Clip and prune regularly to maintain the height you need.  Don’t hesitate to prune lightly as it grows instead of waiting until your trees reach their perfect height.   Clipping regularly will keep a hedge dense.

Water your newly planted trees well once a week during their first growing season and after that during spells.  Once established, many trees are extremely drought tolerant.

Here are just some of the privacy trees and shrubs that might work in your backyard.

Black Dragon Japanese Cedar Cryptomeria. Photo Image: The Tree Center. An evergreen in the cypress family that has dense foliage and a wispy, attractive look. Can get large and perfect for planting layers of shrubs in front.

Thuga Emerald Green Giant Arborvitae.  This is one of the most classic ‘privacy screening’ plants out there especially when good size and rapid growth are what you need.    Grows really tall and dense and can be placed near one another to create a natural wall-like effect.

Emerald Green Arborvitae.   Similar to the Thuga Green Giant, but more useful for shorter hedges and because of their shorter height, they make perfect year-round privacy in evergreen landscaping.

Leyland Cypress.  Fast growing evergreen and used often for screens but can be prone to disease.

Cryptomeria.  This evergreen of the cypress family has dense foliage and a soft and wispy look that makes it attractive.  Can get quite large and is perfect for planting another layers of shrubs in front.

Skip Laurels.  These evergreens can be a nice midsize barrier.  Read more about Laurels and how attractive and reliable they are.

Holly.  They grow quickly and dense.  You can prune and shape as you wish.  Different varieties of Hollies offer a variety of colors and shape and birds like the fruit that some bear.

Spruce.  Has unique color and texture and when planted next to a Holly, it provides nice contrast.  You’ll find different varieties of colors, features and growth habits.

Japanese Cedar.  These are large evergreens with an unusual shape.  They make a unique statement in the landscape.

Deciduous Trees – If winter foliage is not an essential requirement then deciduous trees, which lose their leaves over the winter, can be a terrific choice also.

Giant Grasses.  Some of the huge ones can reach quite high and can form dense clumps that need no trimming and give a different look, especially scattered among a grouping.

Creating the Privacy You Desire

Skip Cherry laurel. Photo Image: The Tree Center

Privacy is essential when it comes to being able to relax and unwind in your own backyard.  If you’d like to learn about your privacy options for your Gilbertsville, Collegeville, Pottstown or Malvern backyard, talk to Whitehouse Landscaping.  We will help you define your goals and recommend the best plans for a privacy screen that will help you achieve your goals.   We recognize that every backyard is different, and every situation calls for a different landscape design.

Let us help you achieve the privacy you want so you can start getting the most enjoyment out of your backyard.  Call 484-300-4290 or contact us on our website and let our team turn your property into a private oasis for your family.