We knew that we would like a private backyard before even looking at houses. When we put in the offer on the house, we know a private backyard would be a lot of work. The property is in the shape of a triangle, with an elevated road running along the hypotenuse. The entire back yard is visible around both sides of the house.
Our initial idea was a regular privacy fence. We found a good deal on panels that would make the fence 8 feet high, and constructed a small section to test them out. The test was successful, but I couldn't get over the feeling of how tacky a big fence would be.
We decided that plants would be better. After a lot of research, our best bet was to try some (40) of these:
They were all planted more than a year ago. Here's what we got so far:
It doesn't quite match the ad, but this is Wisconsin after all. Plants don't thrive in Wisconsin -- they survive. And these have a long way to go before they block the view from the road (which is on the horizon in the picture).
Blocking the view from the other direction was much quicker. It was a bit expensive, but after planting, it fully grew within a couple of months!