How do you protect your privacy without blocking out the sun and the sky?

 

So the big question, this time of year, turns out to be this: how can my friend Kelly screen her garden, so that she doesn't have to look at her neighbours while they are standing at their (upstairs flat) kitchen sink? We need a solution that covers up those washing-up souls with some sort of transparent veil, allowing a deep calm of privacy to descend. Ah! But which also lets through sunlight. Like a barrier, but without being a barrier. See, it's tricky.

Yes, it's a tough one. It's also a remarkably common one, particularly if you live in a town. But country mice come up with the same question too, wondering how to block the one bit of view that annoying, nosy woman over the road has, into their dining-room. "I want something which will stop the sense that she's gazing in all the time," wails my friend Helen. "I don't want to block our view outwards. Just something not too thick, to make us feel a bit enclosed."

The answer for these folks is not old-fashioned hedges, which are too substantial to leave even a precious patch of sky still visible. Fences can be set aside for the same reason. After much pondering, both town and country plump for something they've seen in a garden-design book: bamboo.

Now, bamboo comes with a deservedly bad rep. Someone planted bamboo in a plot near my country mates about 20 years ago, adjacent to National Trust land. The bamboo has spread wildly, sending out long rhizomatic invaders under the earth, and it now extends about 15 metres down the hill, edging ever closer to a Site of Special Scientific Interest. As a result, a team of National Trust working-holiday volunteers had to come and spend a week of their summer tearing it all out.

And that's unhappy work, let me add. Bamboo is a member of the grass family, all characterised by a botanic oddity. Ever wondered why normal plants get one footstep on them, and are squished, when football-pitch grass seems mostly to survive a winter of abuse?

It's because each leaf contains silica, making grass leaves some of the toughest known on Earth, able to rebend after the most brutal squashing (and also protecting them against grazing). Which applies to bamboo too, making it doubly difficult to clear once established.

So faced with both Helen and Kelly, I got out my favourite bamboo reference book, published in 2010, "Practical Bamboos," said my mum, with a dark laugh. "Not going to be much content in there. They should have called it 'Impractical Bamboos'." She has some bamboo issues, let's just say.

Luckily, the book's author, Paul Whittaker, has a slightly more optimistic view of the world than my mum. Whittaker is keen to emphasise that even in the tiniest plot, there'll be a bamboo that'll do. He recommends clumping forms, such as Borinda, Fargersia and Thamnocalamus, but also points out that the upright Phyllostachys is very good for narrow spots, as long as you contain them with an undersoil barrier.

Here I am biased, because like most people, my heart slightly rises at the sight of a beautiful Phyllostachys nigra, the black-caned bamboo that you see in lots of minimalist plots these days. Plus, I can give it a personal recommendation: I have one in my own back garden, planted c.1996, and it's never caused me any trouble. The long, ebony canes are delicious, adding a magical touch of tropical relaxation, and the fine, delicate leaves leave plenty of sky on view, even if you're lying right beneath it.

I have one proviso: try to look at the plants before ordering, because with black bamboo, while all are black, some are significantly blacker than others. The Palm Centre in south-west London is a lovely place for a wander, and I could spend a happy hour or two perusing their stocks and picking managerial brains. Best news of all? Estimated eventual height: 20 foot. Very neatly and stylishly blocking both those kitchen-happy neighbours, and that nosy woman. While letting the sun shine on.

The Palm Centre, Ham, Surrey, has black bamboo starting at £49.95, palmcentre.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Life and Style
Visitors look at a drone equipped with cameras on a police car at the Gitex Technology week in Dubai
tech
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
News
i100(More than you think)
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
News
i100
News
people
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
arts + ents
Life and Style
tech

Sites using the popular Gigya comment platform were attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)

Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Executive - Software

£20000 - £25000 per annum + 55,000 OTE + benifits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Software Sa...

Argyll Scott International: 2x Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Langley James : IT Project Manager; 6 month FTC; Brighton; £400p/d

£400 - £420 per day: Langley James : IT Project Manager; 6 month FTC; Brighton...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?