Design & Decor - Design Ideas

Backyard camouflage

Judith Adam
Photography by
Shelagh Armstrong (illustration)

Taming the massive façade of a neighbouring house

A wide border of fast-growing trees, shrubs and groundcover will help mask the neighbouring structure, while shade-tolerant woody plants will partly conceal the high walls and establish a sense of privacy. (The key to rapid, dense growth in woody plants is consistent watering during the growing season.) The greenery of spreading trees will cover and soften the expanse of plain brick wall.


Pyramidal evergreens can be planted between the windows of the wood-slat section, allowing neighbours an unobstructed view while hiding the stark cement foundation below.

This new border of trees and shrubs will establish a relaxed, forest-like feel and will be complemented by two levels of cedar decking. The existing slope is uncomfortable for walking, so jumbo-sized slabs of natural flagstone can be used as steps to the lower level. A small Japanese tea house will offer privacy and protection from the elements, as well as a much-needed focal point.

s: Full Sun
f: Part Shade
d: Full Shade

The Plants:
Dwarf lilac
(Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin') 21.2 m, 1 1.5 m, s f, Zone 4

Anderson spreading yew
(Taxus x media ‘Andersonii') 21  2 m, s d, Zone 5

'Elegantissim' red twig dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima') 21.5 m, 1 1.2 m, s f, Zone 3

Weeping Nootka false cypress
(Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula') 210 m, 1 6 m, s f, Zone 5

Blue beech
(Carpinus caroliniana) 27 m, 1 6 m, s d, Zone 4

'Blue Danube' Savin juniper
(Juniperus sabina 'Blaue Donau' a.k.a. 'Blue Danube') 21 1.2 m, s f, Zone 5

Oak-leafed hydrangea
(Hydrangea quercifolia) 21.2 m, 1 1 m, s d, Zone 6

European beech
(Fagus sylvatica) 215m, 1 12 m, s f, Zone 5

(Vinca minor) 215 cm, 1 60 cm, s d, Zone 4

Van Houtte's spirea
(Spiraea x vanhouttei) 22 m, 1  3 m, s f, Zone 4

'Filifera Aurea' Japanese false cypress
(Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera Aurea') 23 m, 1 2 m, s f, Zone 5

Shadblow serviceberry
(Amelanchier canadensis) 28 m, 1 2 to 6 m, s f, Zone 4

Sweet woodruff
(Galium odoratum) 21 20 cm, f d, Zone 4

Pagoda dogwood
(Cornus alternifolia) 25 m, 1 8 m, s d, Zone 4

Hick's yew
(Taxus x media 'Hicksii') 23 m, 1 1 m, s d, Zone 5

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