Backyard Makeover, The Plan

It all started with a rotted board in the deck. What could have been a fairly minor deck repair has morphed into a total backyard makeover. Well, that’s gardening, right?

My 30-year-old deck has been repaired almost every year for the past 10 years. When I stepped through a rotten board last fall, I knew it was time to stop patching and make major changes.*


Here’s how the thought process went. See if you relate!

The deck is rotten underneath in the structural area. It isn’t safe.

I really want a screened-in porch to enjoy the yard.

When I imagine myself sitting in the new porch, I realize there is nothing I want to look at. I’m frustrated with the state of the backyard that used to feel so private. Over the years, Photinias that screened the neighbors died, 3 huge Lady Banks roses that screened noise from the street died, and I removed several humongous invasive Nandinas that created another screen. There’s no longer the feel of intimacy.

Things look really sparse in the winter, and there is no privacy shrubs anymore.

Things look really sparse in the winter, and there are no privacy shrubs anymore.

So before I added on a porch, I needed an overall plan to create a backyard I’m happy with. This was a new thing – usually I just do one project a year and sorta try to make it coordinate with other stuff already there. Needless to say, that led me to where I am, unhappy with the whole shebang.

I called on a few friends for ideas, friends with better visions than I of outdoor spaces. Oh, boy, that opened a can of worms!

Lori, Gardener of Good and Evil (mostly evil right now, wait till you read the work list below 🙂 ) reminded me that since she has known me, I’ve complained about problems with my pond and waterfall. Truth be told, I’ve had problems with the old poorly-made pond since I moved in 14 years ago. She also noticed something I’ve not publicly complained about, but struggled with when trying to design around – there are too many awkwardly placed egress points from the deck. The pathways limit other uses of the deck. I also realized that once I modified my fence 7 years ago, my privacy has been compromised back here, affecting my enjoyment of the yard more than I was aware.

The plan rapidly became:

1. Completely tear down and remove the existing waterfall.

I won't be sad for this to go. It has involved too many backaches, time and money.

2. Rebuild a new waterfall to integrate it more into the surrounding environment.

3. Remove the old bridge (one egress point) and falling-down nautical-style posts surrounding the bridge.

Before we can remove the bridge, we have to:

4. Create a new appropriately-placed walkway through the old pond area, thus immediately giving that space context that it lacked.

To create the walkway, I have to:

A. Remove a bed.

B. Move a several hundred pound boulder.

C. Dig out a 30-year-old dwarf Yaupon and hopefully move it intact.

That boulder and yaupon have to come out.

D. Remove old deck slats in the way.

To remove the old deck slats, I have to:

i. Empty the garden tool shed so it can be moved out of the way.

ii. Cut off existing deck beams that will interfere.

E. Add steps through the old pond area to create a grand new entrance to the backyard.

This will become a lovely pathway with visual interest.

This will become a lovely pathway with visual interest.

i. Because of the new entrance, I have to create a focal scene as you step into the yard in this area. This involved an area that had never been touched in at least 20 years. Sigh. All the other completed areas over the years and the one area that hadn’t been touched now becomes a “must do”.

5.  Privacy plants needed to go into the yard asap before summer sets in. But Lori (bless her heart) also noted that the ugly fence (another mistake – I allowed my neighbor to influence the fence style when it was newly put in 7 years ago) needed to be changed. She convinced me that painting it would help me enjoy my plants more and regain an intimate feel to the yard.

A. Before plants could be put in, the fence needed to be painted. This is the phase it’s in right now.

Which leads me to the cool stuff, finally.

If you’ve ever wondered if you should paint your fence, I think these photos will convince you. I knew what color I wanted, so I had a custom color created at Lowe’s. Here’s the before and after.

This is now going to be the first thing you see as you enter a large part of the back yard. Not good.

This is now going to be the first thing you see as you enter a large part of the back yard. Not good.

It’s already dramatically better! Painting the fence and adding Variegated Pittosporum and a couple of pots makes a huge difference while waiting on plants to grow.

I can live with this easily until the plants fill in.

I can live with this easily until the plants fill in.

I connected the new focal area with the rest of the yard with this new bed.

I added the rock edging to  bridge the new focal area and the side bed next to the neighbors.

I added the rock edging to bridge the new focal area and the side daylily bed next to the neighbors.

And after paint – wow, what a difference, right? I think that sculptural dead tree deserves a clematis or equally pretty vine, don’t you?

I absolutely LOVE how this tree can finally be seen. It's always been a favorite and I never knew how to show it off.

I absolutely LOVE how this tree can finally be seen. It’s always been a favorite and I never knew how to show it off.

*Note: Nothing on that list fixes the deck, which is where this problem started. Isn’t that how it goes? I’ll make it safe to use this year, and a new patio/deck will become next year’s project after the plants have gotten a bit more established. The deck footprint will change accordingly then. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a screened-in porch?

The new view as you enter from the new entrance:


When those Pittosporum and Aralia grow, that’s going to look so lush! I’m hoping it will screen the backyard neighbors’ many structures.


20 thoughts on “Backyard Makeover, The Plan

  1. Very nice Robin! I’m thinking I need to paint my fence too. It’s just way tooo drab and awful.

    go for it, Chris! It can only look better, right?

  2. Wow – just wow. It looks awesome. Like so awesome I want to go out and paint my fence.

    Katina, I totally agree. I’m blown away at the difference. Robin

  3. Wow, you’ve been so busy. Everything is looking great! I love the use of mirrors in the garden. Is that a new addition as well?

  4. Ally, the mirror was in another location. I doubt this will be its final resting place, but it is filling in the gaps nicely until the plants fill in.

  5. Incredible transformation. The new green fence really makes those plants shine. Lots of hard work I know but well worth it.

  6. Wow, wow, wow! Just the change of fence color made a huge difference! And what a lot of hard work – but, oh, I could imagine it as you were describing it, and it’s going to look fabulous! Your sentence about nothing on the list fixes the deck was funny – I hadn’t realized that while I was imagining your new landscape! Good luck with it all!

    isn’t that the way it goes with gardening projects? One thing leads to another to another to another, until the original issue is forgotten. ultimately, it will be better. but I still have to fix that deck!

  7. Pam, yes, paint inside as well as outside, is magical!
    Bob, the hard work is continuing, and I know you’ve had your share of hard work on your own yard.
    Caroline, painting is done, and the next project continues!

  8. Love it! The newly painted fence is a gorgeous backdrop for all those plants. The pathway through the former pond is intriguing. We just planted Aralia along a fence this year, too. Looking forward to see how it all turns out!

  9. Pingback: My new waterfall and grotto | Getting Grounded

  10. Pingback: 6 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Outdoor Home Improvement Project - New England Outdoor - Sheds, Garages, Gazebos, Pergolas, Pavilions

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