Privacy Screening: Back Yards and Side Yards

Whether you’re living in the heart of a city like Seattle or in the suburbs of Bellevue and the Eastside, privacy can be a commodity. Even without nosy neighbors, having the right amount of screening can make your yard feel like an urban oasis, free from neighbors looming overhead – a serene space far from the trials of city living. Here are some options we like to keep your backyard stylish and private, without offending your neighbors:


For a natural look that gives more of a sanctuary vibe than a “Keep Out” one, tall plants can be a great choice. Some options include pyramidalis, which as the name suggests provides a pointy tower of green, and Lawson cypress, which can reach sixty feet in height without trimming. (We don’t recommend Lawson cypress unless you have plenty of room!) For a green wall, laurel hedges grow fast and offer a solid block of visual cover. English yews also provide a wonderful, fine textured hedge – but grow very slowly.

Not all of these are a good fit for narrow spaces – literally, they won’t fit, and some need regular trimming. While it can take a while for some screening plants to grow into their full size, there are some trees can be installed at 10 feet of height instantly. Most will still need trimming to stay reasonable, the laurels need at least one trim a year. This can be an opportunity to “pleach” trees, that is train them into a specific shape through trimming, if you’re interested in a more ornamental look.



One plant that is almost synonymous with screening is bamboo. Known for spreading fast and growing tall, it can provide screening in most areas. And conveniently, once it reaches a set height it stops growing.

What you might not know is that there are two types of bamboo: clumping and running. Based on their different root systems, running bamboo tends to expand more, while clumping does as the name suggests and clumps.

While it makes sense to want a screen that expands quickly, we recommend using clumping bamboo as it is far easier to control. While it can take two to three years to achieve sufficient root mass, once the mass is there, each bamboo clump or stalk reaches its full height in just one season of growth!

Fences and Other Structures

If you want a more solid and instant barrier, a fence is one solution. However, in most cities, fences can only be six feet tall, with an additional two feet on top that is 50 percent transparent. For some examples of what that can look like, check out our completed work page.

Beyond a standard fence, we can also install an independent screen that vines could grow on. They can be up to 10 feet tall and look like a traditional trellis, or a more modern assemblage of posts with panels or cables between them.

They become structural elements within the space and when placed strategically can provide screening and seasonal interest.

The nice thing about these screens is that they’re versatile. Not only can they cover the edges of a yard, they can sit on a patio to help break up the space or create spaces within your yard. They can combine materials with different textures, colors or pattern – and when lit at night become focal points in your landscape.

For a free consultation on how to turn your yard in to an urban oasis, give us a call at 206-551-9872.