King palms in large pots provide leafy screening where it's needed most―above the fence―in this Newport Beach courtyard patio.DESIGN: Linda Jacques.
"I might have been a goldfish in a glass bowl for all the privacy I got." ? Saki
Saki (Hector Hugh Munro) wrote those words in 1904 in his book Reginald, but they hit home with considerable force in 2001.
Growing populations that crowd today's cities and housing developments make many of us feel like overexposed goldfish every time we walk out into our yards.
For better or worse, many of our homes take up most of their lots. What's left, typically, are narrow strips of ground in front, side yards barely wide enough to walk through, and backyards that feel like the stage in an amphitheater because neighbors on both sides can peer down from their second-story windows.
No wonder, despite our coveted Western weather, we're reluctant to venture into such gardens. In settings like these, even lighting the barbecue feels like a performance.
It doesn't have to be that way. The goldfish bowl suggests the solution. If fish have a few retreats within their glass bowls where they can go to escape the public eye, they're happy; you don't have to build a wall around the whole aquarium.
Humans are the same: We don't need to be totally enclosed to enjoy privacy. In fact, in a small yard, total enclosure can seem like imprisonment.
And the chance to peek out at the world from a veiled hideout makes you feel like a kid in a treehouse again. You can see them, but they can't see you. Delightful.
Here are some ways to create private hideouts within a "fishbowl" garden.