Landscape designers tap many tools to produce privacy

Landscapers in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation, are often asked to provide clients with private spaces that allow for some breathing room between neighbors while still maintaining the size of the yard. They have come to rely on specific plants and trees, as well as fencing and other elements to provide clients with a little seclusion.

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John Freitag, co-owner of Yellow Wagon Landscaping in Ridgefield, planted a row of arborvitae along the back of a client’s property several years ago and the plants are now 12 feet tall. This year, he’s adding a line of burning bushes, a deciduous shrub. “Burning bushes are great,” Freitag told “They grow aggressively, like 8-10 inches a year and they have super dense leaves so you can’t see through them at all and then they get a nice fire engine red in the fall.”

Terry McMahon, a landscape designer with Borst Landscape and Design in Allendale, said each property has its own challenges when it comes to creating privacy. For one client, whose home was on a ridge, McMahon planted a flowering pear tree in order to block the view of neighbors.

“Privacy is a big thing,” McMahon said. “Everyone wants solitude in their own back yard. It’s always the first thing on the list when we meet with clients.”

When it comes to fencing, landscapers need to have an understanding of the zoning laws in the towns where they are working. Virtually all cities have fence height restrictions, for instance, and while some zoning codes consider latticework part of the fence, others don’t.

John Weglarz, owner of Wayside Fence in Fair Lawn, worked with a client whose town had a 4-foot-high fence limit. “We made planter boxes, and in the boxes we used lattice panels that went up to 6 feet, which we could do because it’s considered architectural screening,” he said. “We grew vining materials in the planter box and they grew quickly and thickly enough that it gave her the privacy she wanted.”

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