Whether you choose fences, screens, or plantings to obtain privacy, you'll more than likely want a plant or structure that's just above eye level or taller. Six feet usually is a good height for a privacy fence. If your concern is privacy only when sitting, say for patio dining, 3- or 4-foot plants or structures will work. Worst is something just below eye level—5 feet or so— because of its distracting height.

Plantings usually are a cheaper way to obtain privacy than fences or screens. Maintenance demands depend on the type of project: a clipped hedge is more work than a weathered fence, but a painted fence is more work than an informal shrub border.

Shrubs and trees, of course, provide a lovely green type of privacy, but fences and screens can do the same if they're climbed by a vine or used as a backdrop for flowers, ground covers, and smaller shrubs (see pages 90-91).

If you must always be assured of complete privacy, plantings alone may not be a good choice because diseases and other problems can create future gaps.

Screens, which can be anything from sections of fence to individually designed panels, are particularly effective when you desire a lighter look than fencing would provide.

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