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.
Let’s take a look at the major challenges Mom faced with her back yard:
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.
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.
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.
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.
And off the opposite path, a three-tiered fountain.
I always look forward to the warm season and relaxing on Mom’s back patio.
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.
The stone retaining wall looks timeless.
The most recent addition to her back yard landscaping is this little path.
Which has already softened to look like this.
She used a fun mix of materials, including broken concrete, for the retaining wall.
Now in Mom’s back yard, eye candy is everywhere.
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.
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.
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