Mom’s Secret Garden

My mom, Erika, has always been able to look at something and see possibilities.  One example is the elegant portico that she designed.  It completely transformed the look of her mid-century rambler.

So maybe it’s not surprising that she was able to look at a patch of dead lawn and a few scraggly juniper bushes and see what no one else could:  A lush secret garden.

It’s taken me so long to write about Mom’s backyard transformation because we’d been hoping to find the “before” photos.  Sadly, we haven’t had any luck with that.  I wish I could show you just how desolate this area was.  And it looked tiny.  Not only that, it looked like it belonged to the house next door. 

But there is a surviving “before” photo of the side yard.  In the middle of the photo, you can see the juniper hedge and the dried grass.  

The most interesting feature here is probably the fire hydrant.

The Challenges

Let’s take a look at the major challenges Mom faced with her back yard:

1.  Uninteresting

The back yard consisted mostly of a neglected lawn and some ugly juniper shrubs with weeds growing between their branches.  It was not a place where anyone would want to spend time.

2.  Shallow depth

The back yard is long but very shallow.  It measures about 22 feet from the house to the property line.  

3.  Lack of privacy

There was no privacy and no visual separation between her garden and the neighbor’s.  

4.  Poor soil

The sandy soil dried out quickly.

The Goal

Mom wanted to turn this shallow chunk of land into an outdoor area that would be an extension of her home – somewhere to entertain and to relax.  It needed to be private, beautiful, and interesting. 

Her Plan

Some serious hardscaping needed to happen.  She wanted:

1.  A fence between her yard and the neighbor’s;

2.  In front of that fence, planting beds with new, rich soil;

3.  A curved stone retaining wall to contain the planting beds;

4.  A cobblestone patio between the retaining wall and the house;

5.  Gravel pathways on either end of the cobblestone patio; and

6.  Interesting garden structures to mark the end curve of each pathway.

Quite an ambitious plan.  Some people may have consulted with a garden designer or drawn up formal plans before taking on a project like this.  But Mom knew that if she could just find the right landscaper, she could simply collaborate with him or her.

She interviewed several landscapers.  Some of them didn’t seem to be listening, and others wanted to change her plan.  But she finally found one that “got it.”

A Secret Garden Evolves

One of the earliest “after” photos, a snow scene, shows the low retaining wall and the still-tiny new plants.  I remember what struck me when I saw the new landscaping was how much deeper the back yard looked.  

Backyard snow scene

I had assumed that a fence between Mom’s garden and the neighbor’s would make her back yard look even smaller, but the fence actually had the opposite impact. 

Still, the new fence was a visual distraction, so Mom had an idea.

Treating the fence with a dark stain made it recede into the background.  And, after the plants matured a bit, the dark fence would work as a quiet, neutral backdrop for them.

After the hardscaping was done, Mom took her time finding the right garden structures to place off the gravel pathways.

At the end of one pathway, she installed a charming gazebo.


An early photo of the gazebo.
Backyard gazebo
And more recently.

And off the opposite path, a three-tiered fountain.



I always look forward to the warm season and relaxing on Mom’s back patio.



Back patio looking West

When Mom moved into the house, her dining room had a window facing the back yard.  She has since replaced it with a French door so there is a wonderful, easy flow from her dining room to the back patio.

It’s a great place to soak up the sun.

Gracie with her favorite toy.

The stone retaining wall looks timeless.

Retaining wall

Stone retaining wall


The most recent addition to her back yard landscaping is this little path.

garden path 1

Which has already softened to look like this.

Garden path2

She used a fun mix of materials, including broken concrete, for the retaining wall.

Now in Mom’s back yard, eye candy is everywhere.

sedum on rocks


Angels and Azaleas


Hanging begonias


Chinese lantern


Glass Float


pedestal planter




Roses on gazebo


watering can


There is so much more to see here, and these photos don’t really do her garden justice.  Still, I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour of Mom’s back yard. She is a gracious host, and we’ll be visiting here again.

Erika in her garden.

Disclosure: Affiliate links were used below.

As you may have guessed, Mom has many talents.  She has published two novels:  Cries from the Fifth Floor, a paranormal thriller, and Year of the Angels, an historical fiction novel based on her childhood in Germany during World War II.  So if you get a chance, visit her Amazon author’s page or her website.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only.


Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
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Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
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16 Replies to “Mom’s Secret Garden”

    1. Thanks, Kris, I’ll pass your comments along to Mom! She really enjoys garden design, as you can see. Thanks for visiting!

    1. Thanks Sharon! I’m sure when you get a chance/time to focus on your backyard it will be gorgeous since you have such a good eye for beauty.

  1. Oh my, what an oasis! She truly had a vision and I can see that it has evolved wonderfully! Love it all!! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  2. Oh My Gosh!
    I just love your Mom.
    What a beautiful aesthetic, Boy is she ever a visionary.
    The retaining walls and beds adjoining the fence was a brilliant move. The beds are so lush. Do they require a lot of weeding?
    I love the pergola too. Do I detect some twinkling lights. It must be magical in the evening. Would love to see some of her indoor decor. I’m sure it’s as creative and beautiful as her gardens.
    Thanks so much for sharing Heidi.
    This was a fabulous post. I really enjoyed it.

    1. Susan, thanks for your lovely comments! I’ll make sure Mom sees them. She really does have vision. And yes, the beds do require some weeding! But her garden is her passion. You bring up a good point about showing her home’s interior. I might post something in the future since she’s done so much inside her home too. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you have a wonderful week!

  3. Your mum’s garden is an absolute credit to her Heidi. I like the winding paths and all the colour she has been able to infuse into the area. It must be fabulous to spend time out there together as a family.
    Thank you for sharing her garden at Create, Bake, Grow & Gather this week. I’m delighted to be featuring it at tonight’s party and pinning too!

    1. Kerryanne, thanks so much for visiting and for your thoughtful comments on Mom’s garden. Her garden is definitely a labor of love for her. Thanks also for featuring it on Create, Bake, Grow and Gather!

  4. Your mom’s garden really is stunning and makes the very best use of space. We just moved to our house one year ago and we have an acre and a half. Still, I dream of someday getting to the point that it’s as lush here as your mom’s space is.

    1. Stacey, thanks for visiting and for your comment. How fun that you have an acre and half, that sounds like a fun project just waiting to happen! Much as I love my garden, I still sometimes wish I could start with a clean slate and design something new. But it’s true, it does take time, especially for the plants to mature.

  5. Your mom’s garden is my DREAM garden!! What a talented woman she is, I am so impressed!! I have a garden that needs help and I long to create my own ‘secret’ garden, but I’m struggling with how to get started….I’m saving this post to use some of your mom’s elements when the time comes!

    1. Debbie, glad to hear that! I’ll make sure to let my Mom know that she inspired you. With my own garden, I sometimes feel like I’m lucky to keep my head above water just maintaining it. I’m always impressed at how Mom can see the bigger picture, and turn the picture into reality.

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