Help! Neighbors have taken away my privacy

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I moved into a house and have neighbors who constantly come over to the fence - a chain link one they put in - and talk and talk and talk. The conversations are unpleasant. The parents have a grown and unemployed son who lives with them, and then he comes over and complains about his parents. Then they complain to me. They just announced to me that they had cut back their shrubs so that they can see me better. In other words, I have lost my privacy, and they can see me every time I go into my back yard. They come running out of their house and pry and ask me to do things for them (she wants me to set her hair!)

Here is what they did to their shrubs: please see the first three pictures.

As result, here is the view from my side. Please see pictures four and five.

I can't make them regrow their shrubs. They have been very pushy.

So, please, please give me some suggestions for something to fill this space. The are here has dicentra, Hydrangea Snow Queen and Snowflake, several forms of athyrium, epimedium, fragaria vesca reugen, coral bells and so forth. It is on the east side of my property and is part sun part shade, but I would like something that can handle shade since it is fairly heavily wooded.

I immediately thought of a viburnum prunifolium (I had one in my own yard) but am not sure it is the right shape. A cornus alternifolia is too big for the site. Possibly a large fothergilla? The soil seems nicely balanced between alkalinity and acidity. I grew fothergill minor at my old house but it is too small - and it needs sun to color in the fall. I would like to get a fairly large specimen of whatever I choose and get it in no later than this fall. I will go to a garden center NOW if they stock it. I would be so grateful for your help, since I can no longer go into the yard without these people literally running out of their house to get me into the middle of their squabbles.

Thank you!

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Russell, KY(Zone 6b)

Wear earbuds every time you go outside and IGNORE them.
Honestly- just say no.

Northumberland, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

Plant some Toxicodendron radicans along that fence ;-)


Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

That would definitely discourage them from bothering you! LOL Some nice running bamboo would be another thought (make sure to put down a root barrier on your side to prevent it from spreading further into your yard than you want it)

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Plant some sunflowers, maybe Canna's. Something that grows fast & big!

Someone in our town had this problem too. They put up an eight foot high wood fence. The people went to their upstairs to look in, so they added 4 more feet. The neighbor called the sheriff, he laughed at them. Said they could put up as high of fence as they wanted.
This same woman fakes a heart attack about every 4 months, just to get attention. Very sad!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Thank you all so much for your suggestions. I'm going to start with earbuds (they complained to me, if you can imagine, when I did that earlier). The poison ivy sounds like fun!

Weerobin actually came up wit a plant I had been coveting. A Codsall Pink deutzia. Grows 8 feet. Forest Farm has a 3 foot one. I am actually going to pay their shipping, since I got fabulous plants from them earlier in the season. A mind is a terrible thing to lose.


Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7a)

I was thinking some thorny Pyracantha might be a solution. Another option
might be to put up a few high trellises along that fence line and plant
climbing roses, or perhaps ivy if it's a shady area.

The ear buds are a good idea. And developing a sudden, mysterious loss of
hearing might help! If they have to shout at you to be heard it might discourage

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Thank you June,

I actually have a climbing rose in a sunny area that serves that very purpose.

I'm looking forward to blocking the view so that they can't stare. I've been ignoring them, so the latest technique is to cough and clear their throats a lot. And stand where they are supposedly in my line of vision.

They complained that the previous couple avoided them, and that the husband in particular would only grunt when they spoke to him. They lived side by side for 20 years, and when the couple here moved away without a word my neighbors complained about how cruel that was and how heartbreaking it was. So I would feel badly and have a relationship with them. At functions, when I am meeting other people, they come up, interrupt, and explain that I am THEIR neighbor (we saw her first! And she should have waited for us to introduce you to her!)

The people who lived here were simply avoiding the control freak, the passive aggressive and the busybody. I 'm just trying to put a stop to it before they insert their claws any deeper.

Thank you so much for letting me talk about this. I still think the complaint to the sherriff about the 12 foot fence is the best. In my previous community, where fences cannot exceed four feet, I screened out the busibodies with 15 foot smokebushes, tall ornamantal grass and lilacs that grew to12 feet. Thank goodness, no homeowner association here, so I can do as I like.

Thank you again.


Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7a)

We moved to New Mexico from California and I was shocked that every yard
here is enclosed by high cinder block walls. It seemed so unfriendly but these days
I truly appreciate the privacy of those high walls!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

This what I did in my old yard. Climbing roses are great for this, as are grasses and smokebushes. There was a neighbor who practically lived in the alley behind his house, and he would stare into my kitchen windows as I cooked.The giant grass in the photo put a stop to that. The arbor in the second belonged to wealthy neighbors who built the biggest house there but had no window coverings at all - and they would sit in their dining room and stare at us as we ate dinner. They made jokes about it. It went on for three years, until I put in the crabapples and smokebushes and a viburnum prunifolium, and stopped speaking to them. The window coverings went in three weeks later. They were paying attention. The window coverings were just like ours.

I caught on quickly. It became over the years impossible to see the interior of the yard from the sidewalk. And I got the grasses at deep discount. I did get a landscape plan so I could get the bones right. The first picture took care of a lot of problems.

I'll bet there are a lot of stories like this.

Wow, I miss this!

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

This what I did in my old yard. Climbing roses are great for this, as are grasses. There was a neighbor who practically lived in the alley behind his house, and he would stare into my kitchen windows as I cooked.The giant grass put a stop to that. The arbor in the second belonged to wealthy neighbors who built the biggest house there but had no window coverings at all - and they would sit in theior dining room and stare at us as we ate dinner.

I caught on quickly. It became over the years impossible to see the interior of the yard from the sidewalk. And I got the grasses at deep discount. I did get a landscape plan so I could get the bones right.

Wow, I miss this!

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Portage, WI(Zone 5a)

You forgot to mention the problems you have with the wild animals in your own yard (tounge in cheek.) I have an "electronic scarecrow" that keeps the deer away from my apple trees and/or the racoons away from my bird feeders. Has a 9 volt battery in it, a motion dector and it hooks up to the garden hose. Sprays anything that comes close to it.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Sorry for the double post!

What a great idea! My wonderful neighbor on the other side put in an electronic scarecrow to deter squirrels, and it really works. It's so sensitive it was triggered when I walked down my driveway (but was limited in sweep so it wouldn't hit me). It made me jump when it went off, though. Hum...

Portage, WI(Zone 5a)

If nothing else, you are making me feel better about where I live.

Russell, KY(Zone 6b)

When I moved to this home I left a backyard that was 100% privacy screened via fencing and landscaping- you could dance naked in the backyard at high noon and no one would know.
This new yard with see through chain link fencing (gasp!) was quite the adjustment for me.

I have great neighbors- don't misunderstand.
But I am NOT chatty, do not care about neighborhood gossip, and do not want a close relationship with my neighbors. I want them to keep their eyes open for burglars when I am not home and call the fire department if they see smoke and that's about it. Friendly distance- trade phone numbers and emails but hardly ever use them.

It's as much your attitude that determines the tone of the relationship as anything.
When I go to work outside and a neighbor is out I will wave or holler "hello" once and that's it. I keep my head down and do whatever I am doing. If a chatty neighbor wanders over to the fence line I do not drop what I am doing to chat and just keep working. If they want something "hey look at this photo on my phone" I just tell them "maybe after I finish what I am doing."
Now- what I am doing may be nothing more than sitting in a lounge chair admiring my yard, but it's what I am doing and I am not available for chat.
They will move on.

Sure- I would plant arborvitaes or thorny roses or whatever would most quickly block my view, but my attitude towards them would set the tone- don't give them that power.
Take if for yourself.

You don't have to be mean or rude- just matter of factly stand up for your right to choose how to spend your time.
If it is a real need, talk. I've had a screaming neighbor pound on my door and yes, we ran to help her out (her elderly father was driving his car down the side of his yard), but every day chit chat is different and everyone knows it.
Start out being polite but if polite doesn't get YOU what YOU want then change your tactics.
Ignore these schlumps.
Don't be afraid to say what's on your mind- "I'm sorry- I would like to sit in my back yard quietly right now" is a valid thing to want to do.

I mean no disrespect to you at ALL and am not directing this at you personally but here's a funny saying-
If you lay down and act like a doormat don't be surprised if people come by and wipe their feet on you.

Don't play their stupid game.
Do what you want and talk or don't talk but don't feel guilty about shutting them down.
They don't seem to be overly sensitive and when they realize you won't take their bait they will stop.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Thank you, Cearbhaill. You are absolutely right. I am not at all offended.

I fell right into their hands. She's handicapped, and there they are, with her crying over the fact that my friends went to New Zealand and didn't tell them. The person I'm really angry with is me. I'm very relationship oriented and it gets exploited. I'm also an introvert who enjoys my own company.

When I saw that they had taken my privacy, and they actually said they did it so they could see me better, I realized that I'd been had. I should have known better.

So after I wrote this I stopped talking to them or acknowledging their presence. The son ran over to the fence and started babbling. I told him I had a lot of projects and was very busy. He seemed taken aback.Then I went and got my earphones and got down to work.

Since then I have heard them talk loudly to each other, or clear their throats, or sit on their patio in the line of vision their chopping created. They love to bring over their guests and they had some yesterday but I completely ignored them.

I joined their church's choir and the father tries to control when I get there and who I talk to. I am going to get there on time, not early, as he keeps telling me, mostly so he can dominate my company and indicate to people that I am THEIR neighbor, do my job, and get the hell out..

As for the Codsall Pink, I do want it, because now have a clear view of their ugly chain ink fence, their yard, and I want a sound barrier.

What was it I read in a book? I need to unwind the unnecessary intimacies that were pushed on me. And, fortunately, they know absolutely nothing about me.

Thank you, everyone. I need to stop being so "nice" (read doormat). I really appreciate that you took the time to respond to my dilemma.


Grosse Pointe Shores, MI(Zone 6a)

Donna, what an uncomfortable situation!

My first thought was perhaps you could buy some of that bamboo fencing that attaches directly to the chain link, but is much taller. Instant privacy, it's on your side of the fence and certainly looks better than the chain link. Then you can take your time figuring out what plants you might like to add.

How sad that these folks need to involve strangers in their dysfunctions!


Northeast, IL(Zone 5b)

I have a doublefile viburnum (Marie's or Mariesii) that has grown to be about 6 feet tall, 8 to 10 ft wide and very dense. If I had known how gorgeous and good for privacy it would become, I would have planted more, and I still might. I recently bought a cross-pollinator for it and oh, did they both put on a show this spring!

But you might want to start out with a good sturdy wood fence. Instant privacy, you know?

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

That is amazing. I was offered a tiny Mariesi. I used to own five viburnum plicatum tomentosum Lanarths, but they were take out by a severe winter. Here are three of them. Awesome for privacy. What a heartbreak!

The bamboo fencing might be a good temporary solution, It would, however be attached to their chain link fence.

I put in several oakleafs, and they would in time help the situation. Of course, the gap is in the space between the oakleafs.

You know what's really sad? Because they butchered the shrubs they will never grow properly now. They'll be hideous.

Step one. Never acknowledging their presence again. In time, the throat clearing and coughing will stop.

Thank you all.

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Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

That Miscanthus giganteus you so appropriately employed in the past would perform quite nicely in the new situation. In one growing season, at that.

Plant more permanent woody things where you want them, and when they reach adequate size you can eliminate/edit the Giant Miscanthus.

It is the best temporary hedge going.

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

Donna, I just wanted to say I was sorry to read about your obnoxious neighbors. They seem like incredibly rude people to me. It really bothers me that they would go to such great lengths to force themselves into your life at your own expense. Clearly, there is something "wrong" with them. As a fellow introvert I know it would be hard to say something like this, but if you ever do have to talk to them while you're outside gardening, would you feel comfortable telling them that you like to work in the garden quietly and that you'd rather talk to them at other times (like never)?

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)


I would love to grow a giant miscanthus. It reached that size in three years! Unfortunately, this is a shady location, and that's the limitation. In order to accomodate the deutzia I would have to move a hydrangea Snow Queen that I put in place in spring. I am not certain that moving the oakleaf at this time is safe, since it is leafing out. I have moved lots of perennials under these circumstances. I don't want to stress the oakleaf. I have a hydrangea Q Snowflake that will eventually do the job, but it will take years.

VV, you are an expert. Would you wait until fall to move the Snow Queen?


This message was edited May 22, 2012 4:15 AM

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

If you just planted that shrub this spring (last week? Last month?), then I doubt you would have any trouble at all just moving it to a new spot now. I wouldn't wait till fall, but I might wait till the new foliage/growth hardens off.

I would make sure it is fully hydrated before you lift it, and try to do it during a stretch of cooler cloudier weather rather than during a hotter drier sunnier stretch of days. Otherwise, you shouldn't have any issues especially if you are keeping up with watering anyway.

I wouldn't think a shadier situation would slow down the Miscanthus much. It certainly won't look identical to one in full sun, but I think it would suffice till any shrubs you might plant go ahead and grow in.

Anything to screen out those incredibly strange/needy/freakish neighbors - with apologies to all other normal strange/needy/freakish people.

Beautiful, BC(Zone 8b)

Big angry dog in your yard. You need one.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

As long as anger focuses on neighbors, not landscaping...

Beautiful, BC(Zone 8b)

...and new signage. If the neighbours don't get it, they aren't so bright.

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

These ideas sound really great. I am going to order the deutzia, and get my hands on some temporary fencing. It doesn't have to be pretty - almost better if it's not. I used to take very tall wooden stakes and use a staple gun to attach burlap to it. So I am going to take 2-3 stakes, attach the burlap, and put them in the space. It will send a very direct message. And when the deutzia comes, I will lift the oakleaf, move it to a location in which I lost another one, and pop the deutzia in.

Cheap and effective. And I think it will send a clear message. Especially when I give the father (who cut the shrubs) a very cold shoulder when I see him later in the week.

Thank you all!

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

A little late but don't forget clethra. Beautiful and fragrant - many choices.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I actually own one. Thank you.

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Have you been happy with it? I plan on adding a compact one - need privacy but at a distance with a two rail fence. Took out a really ugly butterfly bush -- too old and not producing. Could cut back but it actually not good in that spot.

Beautiful, BC(Zone 8b)

I have a few ideas. This current listing for old skids (free), have them shipped and just prop them up on their fence. If it was me, I'd buy this park model and park it along that fence side. Instant privacy while you work away at the rest of the garden. Sure it is unsightly but it would do the job for now while trees & shrubs grow in. It would also work as a temporary storage. Reminds me, I need to buy the security camera system to catch the person spraying my garden with herbicide. Ugh!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Missingrocie, I had that plant in my old garden. It was really charming and I liked it very much.

Just went to Menards and got three plant stakes - six feet tall (and $1.99 each). Use a mallet to hammer them into the ground. I wanted to use a staple gun that I bought to attach burlap (which I already had) to the stakes but the staples don't fit the gun. So I'm going to run back to Menard's. I'd love to get this in before they get home. Nice welcoming present.

(Zone 7a)

Just don't be surprised if they remove your fencing. We've had neighbors in the past do that. All the ideas you've been getting are great.

Portage, WI(Zone 5a)

Always thought that the laws governing fencing do change from state to state. When it comes down to details, I guess I would not assume anything without looking into it first.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

While they were out, I hammered three stakes into the ground opposite the three chopped shrubs. By the time I could put the burlap on, the son was in the yard, on the side where I was, doing busywork (what is she doing over there?) I waited in the house for a while, and then realized that it was MY YARD and he didn't have to like it.

So I started installing three layers of burlap, right in the space they had cleared for themselves so they could stare and get closer. He cleared his throat a lot. I then put burlap at the top of the three, tied it in, and walked away. I didn't acknowledge his presence.

All of this is on my side of the property line. And there are no laws here governing fences. It's not attractive, but it makes a big old statement. And since I stopped speaking to them after this happened, I think they get it. They are basically cowards. Why else would they bully a woman living alone?

In order to remove it, they would have to come around to my yard and pull the stakes out. Their bullying doesn't go that far. I then going to order the deutzia, think about what other shrubs I would like while I'm at it, and as Viburnum Valley suggested, relocate the oakleaf now.

I feel much better!

(Zone 7a)

Good for you. It's your yard. Sounds like you'll be able enjoy it now.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I found an image of what this location looked like before they carved up their shrubs. this was at the end of April, as I was establishing my new garden.

First pic.

And this is now. Second pic.

See how ugly it is, on top of everythings else?

This message was edited May 23, 2012 7:16 AM

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Beautiful, BC(Zone 8b)

DonnaMack, I hope this works for you and gives you some peace and quiet. From my experience, it may have made things worse. Please watch your back with them.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I'm keeping my eye on them. But these people are cowards. My naivete just provided them with an opportunity.

And, you know, there is another ugly section of chain link fence next to yet another neighbors yard. I'm going to but two plants. Forest Farm is shipping to my area well into June, and the cost of shipping two plants is the same as for. And 1-2 foot plants are $10-2. My house faces north south, and the two houses face east west on another street, so they back into mine. And both have exposed chain link fences. The other house's fence is covered by the many native shrubs that were already there. Because they are so low maintenance, I have been able to put my energy into antique roses, peonies, and perennials.

Amusingly enough there is a pokeweed plant about five feet from the gap. THEY ARE HUGE!! I have two in the yard - you can't get them out. They grow about 8 feet - fast. There are two in my yard, both in front of their fence. I would never have put it in. But it is going to form another natural block in a few weeks, before going dormant in the fall. It's on the right in the picture. I remember them in the garden from last year. They were very, very tall!

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Dearborn, MI(Zone 5b)

Oh, boy. The only thing worse is what my friend Mary Jane did--she had an affair with a neighbor. You can imagine the uproar when her neighbor's wife found out. I had a problem with two women across the street, who sat on the porch all day from May to September, staring my way. So I planted a wide garden across the middle of the yard with a pergola in the center flanked on one side by red twig dogwoods, tall lilies, and Culver's root, and on the other by two big stands of Joe Pye weed, two PJM rhododendrons, and more lilies. Now I can get the mail or water the plants in my nightgown without being on display. All of this garden is in partial shade. Some of it is cut back in the winter, but no one is on the porch across the street then.

Next door we got new neighbors who totally let the yard go, and I planned a solution that I didn't have to use. It turned out that they had a new landscape in the works and were simply waiting for the work to be done. We have no fences in our neighborhood. What I would have done, however, was to install a series of 6 foot x 6 foot panels a few feet apart. They were to have 4 x 4 posts as sides and 2 x 4s for top and bottom rails. The centers were going to be lattice, which is much less see-through than most trellises, and I would have planted them with sweet autumn clematis, which grows fast, stays green through much of the winter, holds its brown leaves until I cut it back in the spring, and does well in our shaded yard. Because this arrangement would only have been about two feet thick when the clematis was growing, I planned to plant in front of it as well.

On our other side, the neighbors don't want to pay for watering, so in the summer, their yard is brown and ugly. That side of our lot has about a 30 foot deep border of woodland garden along the perimeter, and at the far edge I let some of the zillion Norway maple seedlings have their way and grow into saplings. When they get too tall I chop them down and let the next generation take over. The whole thing is shaded, directly under three giant limbed-up spruces (I'm guessing 70' tall), a big mulberry (I know, I know--it's for the birds, literally), and a tulip tree that's even taller than the spruces, so not much besides Norways and honeysuckle can compete effectively for water and root space anyway. They make a nice green screen that blocks the brown next door, but is loose enough to let some filtered afternoon sun through. Wildflowers grow on the inner edge, and I put a couple of half whiskey barrels there, too, for some structure and color. They have heuchera and begonias in them, and add to the screen.

My solutions to neighbors involve plants and structures. My husband's is much simpler--a set of Bose sound-deadening headphones!

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