Taking a walk through Bill and Patty Long’s backyard in Portland’s Bethany neighborhood is a lesson in space management. The 15-by-20-foot sunken garden packs a big punch with its arbor, patio for outdoor dining, and diverse garden beds that attract and hold the attention of guests. Here, the Longs have hosted wedding receptions, cocktail parties, and festive neighborhood barbecues.

The postage-stamp-sized yard does have its limitations, though—most notably, a lack of privacy from neighbors and the residential street. But fences and privacy walls can be imposing and give a small, otherwise inviting yard an institutional feel. To keep the setting serene, the Longs enlisted the help of garden designer Amy Whitworth of Plan-it Earth Design (503-239-0105, plan-it-earthdesign.com) to create a living wall (also called a privacy planting) that would border the garden beds with softer, more colorful lines than a standard wood fence.

The result is a private backyard garden with character and an earthy, open feel. If you follow these steps, you too can create a living wall that provides privacy without boxing in your tiny yard.