Help -- how to design landscape

I know, kind of a stupid question but I'm going to ask anyway. I'm located in Charlotte, NC, zone 7.
We're in new construction. Our lot is a rectangle. Small, about 60' wide by about 130' deep. House take up most of it and in the backyard we have an inground pool with a wood deck around it. We put in a fence and it's an aluminum black wrought iron looking thing, 4 feet tall. Unfortunately the fence was decided upon and put in before the pool was put in.
With such small lots our neighbors are really close and there's minimal privacy.
I have a mulch bed around the pool now but I'm concerned that if I plant big stuff there that it's going to cut off the rest of the yard from the deck. So I want to plant at the outside edges of the yard.
These two photos show the deck, yard and the fence somewhat. http://portfolio.carolinadeckpros.com/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemIdH2 and http://portfolio.carolinadeckpros.com/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemIdG9
Our yard drops off in the back and then flattens out for about 10 feet.
I'm thinking of putting a 3 to 4' border near the fence and planting taller perennials and some bushes but I need to be able to maintain control of whatever I plant so it doesn't grow through the fence and doesn't expand too much into the yard. I've tossed 4 or 5 ideas around and not sure which is the best approach so just kinda looking for opinions.
My latest thought is a nice perennial garden all the way around the yard with some larger bushes or magnolias as 'base' plants then some nice shastas, cannas, maybe some vining stuff climbing up the fence in between. Eventually enough stuff so that it pretty much blocks the view through the fence. I was considering stone with fabric for a mulch with a pt 4x6 for a edge board. The yard gets full sun all day until around 5pm in the summer.
Problem is, I'm unsure of everything from the plant choice all the way down to the soil.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks,
Mark
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I can't help with design ideas, but I can suggest some books that will be a HUGE help with regard to plant selection. Both by the late Henry Mitchell, who was the garden writer for the Washington Post:
"One Man's Garden" "The Essential Earthman"
They're an easy read. Each chapter represents one of his newspaper columns. His plant descriptions come from actual experience in what sounded like a very challenging garden in a neighborhood with smaller properties than yours. And, since he discusses things that grew well (or not) in Washington DC, they should be applicable to your climate too.
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Mark wrote:

http://portfolio.carolinadeckpros.com/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemIdH2
http://portfolio.carolinadeckpros.com/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemIdG9
You're probably going to want to consider plants with minimal 'litter' production too. Otherwise pool cleaning could be increased. And you might investigate 'drip irrigation' too.
Find some books as Joe suggested, approach some neighbors and/or visit some houses in more established developments (sometimes garage sales will afford an opportunity to discuss plants and swimming pools with 'strangers'.)
There may be a forum for your area at www.davesgarden.com . you may even find a neighbor there!
Carl
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to reply, change ( .not) to ( .net)

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http://portfolio.carolinadeckpros.com/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemIdH2
http://portfolio.carolinadeckpros.com/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemIdG9
There are a couple of garden design programs available to download on the internet, some are even free. Do a google search. It might help you a bit with the actual design.
Jen
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Thanks all for the advice. I guess I'll do some more reading.

http://portfolio.carolinadeckpros.com/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemIdH2
http://portfolio.carolinadeckpros.com/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemIdG9
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