Gardening: Does your garden feel a bit too exposed? Seven solutions to stop nosy neighbours spoiling summer
Hannah Stephenson reveals simple and stylish ways to keep your outdoor space feeling private and peaceful
Nosy neighbours – they can be a right nuisance, can't they? Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy your garden haven with family and friends, those nosy folk are popping their heads over the fence for a gossip, a snoop and maybe even an invitation.
Even if your neighbours aren't a nuisance (they might be quite lovely), being overlooked from an upstairs window or through a gap in a hedge when you're having your lunch outdoors or topping up your tan can feel like an invasion of privacy.
So if you don't want to be overlooked, but also don't really want to put up an 8ft fence around the perimeter of your plot, what are the options?
1. Bamboo: Julian Palphramand, plant buyer at Wyevale Garden Centres (wyevalegardencentres.co.uk), says: "With neighbours often being in close quarters, particularly in urban areas, Brits are turning to plants as a way to screen from any prying eyes.
"Towering, upright grasses and fast-growing evergreen bamboos have seen a huge surge in sales, providing privacy while also evoking a sense of calm and order in the garden."
There are lots of new clump-forming bamboos (fargesias), such as Fargesia 'Red Panda', which can be planted in the ground and offer attractive stems and dense cover, offering protection from the wind as well as subtle privacy.
Phyllostachys works well if kept in a pot, as it has tall, evergreen foliage. But beware of planting it in the ground because it has invasive runners, causes havoc with neighbours and doesn't really contain itself. Plant it in a large container which can hold plenty of water.
2. Tall perennial grasses: Again, these can be planted in pots or in the ground to provide some protection from prying eyes. Tall perennial grasses such as Miscanthus ('Silvergrass') or the perennial sunflower Helianthus x laetiflorus will provide a decorative screen during the peak summer and autumn months spent outdoors.
3. Pretty climbers: Climbers are a great way to add height to fencing, particularly the Trachelospermum ('Star Jasmine'), which has the dual benefits of providing both attractive screening and fragrant scent through the summer months, producing star-shaped white flowers from mid to late-summer. Other good climbers include the climbing hydrangea Hydrangea petiolaris, as well as clematis. If you plant a variety of clematis to climb up a trellis, you can get colour throughout the year, too.
If your boundary wall isn't high enough, hammer in some posts on your side and erect some raised trellis which climbing plants can scale to increase your privacy and add colour and scent to your plot. Both clematis and star jasmine can be grown in large containers.
4. Evergreens: If you don't want a hedge to take over to the point that you need to get on a ladder to trim it, think about planting a closely spaced row of evergreens in a line of planters, clipping them to make a neat potted hedge.
5. Pergola: If it's your patio area which you particularly want to screen, consider putting up a pergola, which can be covered in climbing plants. This not only give you shade in the heat of summer but means you'll be able to eat your dinner outside in privacy.
6. Panels: If you don't want to go the whole hog with solid brick walls or solid fencing, try installing hurdle-style panels made from willow, hazel or bamboo, which feel more natural and eco-friendly, blending in better with the garden.
7. Alternative walls: Of course, you could go all contemporary and erect some eye-catching decorative screens (although some of the better ones come at a price). Harrod Horticultural (harrodhorticultural.com), for example, offers Laser Cut Screens in different designs which add interest, made from 3mm-thick aluminium and powder coated for a long-lasting, weatherproof finish.