Your Backyard Landscape is for You
Landscaping Your Backyard Just for You
I’m going to just come out and say it. My backyard is ugly. And I know better. It’s not that my yard is cluttered or weedy per se, it’s just kind of a conceptual mess. It has a few nice features like a nice deck with a view, but the better features don’t fit together and they aren’t exactly what I would choose.
I’m blaming the former home owner and builder. It’s my suspicion that in the construction phase, my backyard got the last little bit of attention and probably less of the budget. This is not unique to my house. Most new homeowners who build are tired at the end of the home building process. New homeowners that buy are usually willing to sacrifice a good backyard for other options like square footage, fancy finishes and good resale value. Most of us generally accept a little turf, a few trees and some scattered bark as ok. After all it is the last line on the budget sheet and the backyard is, well, in the back. But, then we start to actually live there.
That’s where I find myself. Currently, what should be my super sweet outdoor sanctuary is mostly a vinyl fenced container for some Kentucky bluegrass, a few trees, odd shrubs, some misplaced rocks, 2 dogs, a trampoline and a random assortment of balls (2 boys). But, I want more from my backyard. And I deserve more. After all, it’s my property, my little piece of paradise. So I’m planning something better, and hoping I can help inspire your backyard dreams as well.
Dream it, plan it and build it just for you.
I’m starting my new backyard plans with dreaming, brainstorming and research. Pinterest, Houzz, and assorted other home and garden sites are proving to be incredible assets. I suggest these sites strongly to help you dream up ideas for your own backyard paradise. However, don’t simply imitate. If you do you will end up with somebody else’s backyard. Instead, use some of the brilliant ideas you can find online to fuel your own personal creativity.
In putting my plan together, I’m realizing that the rules for backyard landscaping are a lot different than the rules for landscapes in the visible front of your home. This is good. Landscapes for the front require a degree of adherance to neighborhood norms, conventions and sometimes HOA or community rules. Boring.
Out back you usually have creative license to do what makes you happy, no matter what that is. Perfect!
I want the backyard that I want. And you should have the backyard you want. My dream backyard includes open space for play, a few nice settings to relax, some nice foliage, space for entertaining and some interesting personalized details like natural rock water features. Your best backyard is likely different. It might be whimsical and fun, classically groomed, peaceful and serene, or totally dedicated to sports and activity. Whatever you want is exactly what your backyard should be, it’s entirely yours. Here are a few ideas to help in backyard landscaping, just for you.
Function = form, but is the inverse true?
Good backyards are functional. Too often though, they also look functional. Patio, check. Turf, check. Foliage, check. But great backyards, and there are fewer of these, are functional and truly beautiful. These are places you want to spend your time. To marry form and function it takes not only the right pieces but the right combination of the pieces in just the right places. A professional landscape designer will definitely help, but it’s not always necessary to hire this out. You can pull off your perfect backyard by doing your research, making a plan and tapping into your own artistic senses and personal preferences. Start by making a list of the right pieces for your backyard masterpiece.
Here are some items that function well and look incredible.
Trees and Foliage
Trees, flowers, grasses and shrubs can be your yard’s best features. They can also be the source of headaches and a lot of maintenance so choose well. You don’t need a certified arborist or master gardener, but you do need to know what you’re doing. Start at your local independent nursery. Talk to the experts there about the best,most interesting low maintenance, plants and trees for your area. Know how much sun different areas receive and how much irrigation you want to do. Explain your ideas for your backyard and work out a great foliage plan before you buy.
Gazebos and Pergolas
These little roofed outdoor nooks can be designed in whatever style you prefer, modern, ornate, classical. Gazebos offer a little more protection from the elements and pergolas are mostly designed for shade. Both make a great places to relax, to read, or to get together for conversation with friends and family. Gazebos and pergolas can be used over outdoor furniture settings, fire pits, or hot tubs. They range from DIY projects, to simple economical kits to very impressive ornate custom options.
There is no denying the appeal of running water. It looks great and it sounds even better. Almost nothing adds more “wow” to your backyard ambience. Waterfalls, fountains, ponds, and all kinds of other assorted water features are available to help you plan. Be sure to plan this one out well. You’ll need to understand the space, topographical and water requirements for a good water feature to avoid challenges down the road.
This is an odd and non-descript category, I know. But only you know what activities are important in your life and the lives of your family members. If you have kids, you’ll probably want some turf for playing. You might want a sport court or a putting green. A friend of mine is considering a mini BMX dirt track with jumps around the outside of his yard. You might want a giant weaving loom. Who knows? You do. But be sure to plan for both a space and the right stuff for your activities.
Benches, Sitting Areas and Outdoor Furnishings
I see way too many backyards that look pretty good but don’t really have many usable areas. Sitting areas like benches, picnic tables, outdoor furniture sets, and all kinds of other fixtures can make different parts of your yard more usable. Benches and other sitting areas can be simple and understated or ornate and showy. Your sitting area can be built-in as part of a deck or free-standing in the yard . Remember, you get to choose.
Pools and Hot Tubs
There’s no question that the overall enjoyment of your backyard is enhanced with a pool or hot tub. If you like to swim for excercise, you may choose a lap pool. Most will choose some sort of decorative pool with a coordinated design theme. A hot tub is perfect for relaxation and for yards where you don’t want to occupy a large amount of space with a pool. Most hot tub models feature comfortable contoured seating and targeted jetted massages. In-ground hot tub installations are increasingly popular for their combination of first-rate comfort, hydrotherapy and aesthetics.
Patios, Decks and Outdoor Living Rooms
These multipurpose outdoor spaces are hot. They can range in appearance and function from a simple understated concrete patio all the way to a highly designed exterior room with well planned furnishings and decor. Dedicated outdoor living spaces make excellent locations for entertaining and relaxing. You can style them exactly to your liking and outfit them with all sorts of functional ammenities like fire pits, furniture settings, BBQ grills and even full outdoor kitchens. The most simple of these are easy DIY projects and the more elaborate will require your AMEX Platinum.
Put the pieces into your plan.
The next phase of your backyard landscape design starts with an overhead layout plan that includes areas for your selected pieces above and for specific purposes. Even if your yard is quite small, you should maximize space and function by setting apart specific areas. If your backyard is already landscaped you may have to reimagine the space for your plan. You can use landscape design software to help you layout your outdoor space, or you may simply sketch it out on a sheet of paper. Either way, you’ll get much better results with well planned areas. Draw in the outer edges, contours, and other constraining elements of your yard and then let your imagination run wild.
At this point you may realize, as I am, that not everything fits into your backyard plan or your budget. This is when it becomes important to be flexible. You have a big list of important pieces for your perfect backyard. Think about why each of these items is important. If a pool is important because it provides relaxation but you don’t have space, try out some other ideas like a space saving hot tub or nice furniture setting under a gazebo. You’ll be able to relax, and you’ll save space for other items you also like. Think about the look you’re trying to attain, the feelings you want to have and the types of activities you want to enjoy in your backyard. Go back to Pinterest or Houzz for more ideas if necessary. You are pretty likely to find alternatives that fit into your plan better than if you try to cram in everything into a small space or spend your entire budget on one item. Only you know what’s most important to you and your family. Prioritize and place the pieces where they make the most sense.
With a great plan in place you can go ahead and get it done. Be sure to plan enough time and resources. Hiring a landscaper you trust to execute your plan is always a safe option. However, if you’re up for it, grab your shovel, pull on the gloves and get to work yourself.
When you step into a truly great backyard you almost immediately get a glimpse into what is important to the homeowner both visually and in practice. You and I deserve to make our backyards a true reflection of our own personalities and how we prefer to enjoy our time at home. Make your backyard yours.