House Tour: Backyard

This is one of those depressing updates where the “After” actually looks worse than the Before, at least the two years of before, because you will recall that our yard was redone by the tv show Turf Wars and when it was finished it looked really really really good.  Better than it does now.  But unfortunately it only looked that way for about two minutes, and then it became a giant stress filled pit because we spent all our time trying to keep it looking good despite the fact that it was very high maintenance and impractical for our lives.

So maybe let’s start with the Way Before, from when we first bought the house:

Back Porch

Back of House

Back Yard

The thing is, as terrible as this yard looked, it worked so well for us.  We got a little table and chairs and and an umbrella and I sat out there while Eli played in the grass and I could hose the patio off whenever I needed to.  We added a few things like porch railings and we planted tomatoes in a line around the edge of the yard and it was very non stress. It was not another thing I needed to clean.

Then Turf Wars came in and added all the things, and as part of that process they added nine thousand pounds of black mulch.  Black mulch plus poor drainage plus a dog plus two kids was basically a complete disaster.  We’d have to haul bags and bags and bags of mulch into the yard every year to replace the mulch that had washed away over the winter, and it would look good for about two minutes before it was covered with leaves and scattered all over the (light colored) patio.  The dog and the kids dragged the mulch all over and there wasn’t enough grass for kids to play in and there was nowhere to really plant tomatoes.  And it always just looked so so so so messy.  There was no way to keep it off the patio and the pavers and the paths.  Terrible.

It really really stressed me out that my backyard always looks wretched.  I do want a backyard with some spots to putter and to try to plant a few things but I cannot deal with one more thing that always needs cleaning, so this spring we started making some changes.

The first thing we did was to take as much mulch as we could out of the yard and then we planted grass.  We made sure to plant it so that the patio is edged by grass, not by mulch.  It’s still coming in so it looks a bit long and patchy, but all that area where the pavers are? All used to be mulch, and trust me when I tell you this is SO MUCH BETTER. It does not look better on camera, but it looks much better the rest of the time, and the rest of the time is what I’m interested in, it turns out.

The tomatoes are in a line against that wall made of grape stakes, which works a lot better than having a giant glob of tomatoes in the middle of the yard.  The nice thing about this is that we ever want to sell our house, we can fill in this line with grass and some bushes pretty easily.

Then we added river rocks all along the perimeter of the patio and up against the house and under the porch.  This used to be mulch, and it was absolutely disgusting all the time. It looked awful. I like to think the gray rocks give it sort of Zen vibe. I don’t know, humor me here.  These rocks were really heavy.

Yes, that is a mural. No, I did not paint it.

I have had to throw a few rocks back a few times.  This does not compare to the patio always being covered in scrappy black mulch.  Seriously, I love it so much, angels sing when I walk out into the backyard.

We finally got dining chairs at IKEA last weekend, but I didn’t buy the yellow ones because in person they looked like little kids chairs.  These wooden folding ones were only $10 more ($34.95 each), and they’re not going to win anyone any awards for excitement but they get the job done and they are easy to move around so I can use them for happy hour.  I got six, so you should come over for dinner.

In an ideal world in which every day is not ninety five degrees I’d like to spend all my time outside, and so I also wanted some lounge furniture.  This stuff came from OSH. It’s very comfortable and it was cheap and Mr. E did not hate it. It’s very brown, but I am going to throw some non brown pillows on it.  It does match the yard quite well.

Which reminds me – it’s interesting.  None of this is really exactly my taste.  In an ideal world I would not have all this slate and a mural and a giant metal pergola that only looks like wood and brown wicker furniture, but my ideal garden would be sort of cobbley and filled with tiny corners and fairy gardens and delicate plants that like shade and it would take a lot of puttering.  Like hours of puttering.  It would not be suited to a large dog and a large husband and two messy children, so this  yard to me is a compromise of practicality and quite frankly I can live with that just fine.

This retaining wall was built by the show:

and they neglected to put a drainage hole in it, despite the fact that the patio it’s built on slopes to the corner they put the wall on. (So it can be hosed off and water doesn’t sit on it when it rains.) So that means water pools in the corner of the patio if you try to clean it with a hose.  Extra fun when it’s always covered in black mulch. I did get a quote for $450 dollars for someone to come out with a core drill and make a 4″ hole in it but instead Mr. E and I bought a 1″ drill bit from Home Depot for $19.99 and drilled a hole in it ourselves.  This is when we found out that so much regrading of the yard was done by the show that the area where water would run off into is no longer lower than the patio.  So now I Shop Vac the patio and write rude letters to television show producers in my head.

You can see my two super cheap adirondack chairs from Home Depot.  You have to put them together and paint them.  I ended up painting them red instead of brown because holy god there’s enough brown in this yard already.

The ones from Cost Plus are easier and nicer but these were much cheaper and I had so  much furniture to buy that I went with cheap.  The stupid giant tree that grows above the circular patio drops an absolute metric ton of dry brown crap all over the place.  The hope is that these hydrangeas fill in and disguise the metric ton of brown crap.  It’s also the only place I can keep a hydrangea alive since it’s so hot here and they really don’t like it, but so far it’s mostly just that one hydrangea over achieving and the rest suffering and looking spindly.   I’m not even going to tell you how many times a day I hose off that stupid circle covered in stupid dry brown things. Can no one invent a tree that does not drop crap all over the place?  So far I have had to get rid of a stupid asian pear tree dropping stupid asian pears all over my driveway and a stupid sweetgum tree dropping those ankle breaker sweetgums all over my patio and I am SICK OF THE TREE DROPPINGS.

Mr. E grows these pots of succulents all over the yard. I have nothing to do with this. My husband is basically the Succulent Whisperer.

This is Kevin.

I named it Kevin so that I could tell Mr. E “We need to talk about Kevin” because Kevin is taking over the backyard and dropping his stupid big black dirty leaves all over my patio.  The patio I have to Shop Vac. Kevin’s time here on earth is limited if my husband does not relocate him, but I think he loves this thing more than he loves me, so we’re still in the “giving each other the finger a lot” stage of that conversation.

I wanted a little space where I could do my flower puttering, but it just needed to be a little space and a little flower puttering.  I have neither the time or money or energy to do flower puttering on a mass scale, so this border edge got revamped a bit and we took out the stabby barberry bushes that were here originally.  I still need to mulch this (contained! away from the patio!) but I am thrilled at how many perennials have returned from last year, plus I added a few herbs and that peony this year ($12.50 from Costco!).  I am ridiculously pleased with the sucess of my little border although it doesn’t actually look like much.  I am less pleased with my husbands inability to stand next to an automatic hose reel while it reels in a hose and he does nothing.

On the other side there are some plants that I am not a huge fan of but Mr. E likes.  Azaleas and a gardenia.  At least they are not the dreaded rhododendrons of doom.  Plus they just sit there and look green, so I can deal.

Overall I am so so happy with this yard now.  It just takes your average amount of maintenance and the rocks stay put. It feels like I can take a deep breath when I go out there instead of being all stressed out all the time about it. I have room for my 27 tomato plants and my chard and there’s lots of spots to sit and relax, and there’s a good scope for messing around with a limited amount of flowers and such.  I do think it’s VERY brown and I need to make a trip to Marshalls for some outdoorsy type hoo ha to throw around, and there’s MORE work to do on the driveway side of things, but overall, I am really very pleased.  Seriously, best Mother’s Day present ever, and have I mentioned my tremendously wonderful my husband is for doing all of this and putting up with my crazy demands and my shopping and my spending money and making him haul rocks and work on this yard all the time? Well, he is very awesome.  The best, some might say. With the exception of that hose putting away disorder.  And Kevin.  We still need to talk about Kevin.

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15 Responses

  1. I’m quite excited to get my drink on in that yard.

  2. I think it looks really terrific.

  3. I really love it! I’ve always wondered how “perfect” those yards remain after the TV show leaves. Lots of stuff they do seems so impractical.

  4. “I named it Kevin so that I could tell Mr. E ‘We need to talk about Kevin’…”

    Hilarious!

  5. I like what you’ve done with it — looks like a great place to hang out!

  6. The yard is beautiful. I love it. Also, somehow I wasn’t aware that Turf Wars redid your yard. Do you regret letting them do it?

  7. I just came inside from weeding my overgrown, full-of-tree-droppings, way mulchy, un-landscaped, super shady, in-the-arctic, moss-instead-of-grass, full-of-mysterious-plants, unorganized yard with nothing fun or loungey in it and sat down and read this post and now I need a paper bag to breathe into. Or maybe you should just fly up here and tell me what the heck to do with MY backyard (OMG I AM SO STRESSED ABOUT MY STUPID YARD.)

    And I can’t believe we had dinner in THAT backyard! Which I thought was beautiful THEN!

  8. It looks fantastic! I would love to come over for dinner, thank you. 🙂

  9. I love it long time.

  10. Are those where your tomatoes were last year? Because for some reason my (shoddy, 6-weeks-post-baby) memory recalls them being all up in the area where the stone steppers are. HMM.

    Again, shoddy memory, though.

    Anyway, the yard looks fab. And whether your intend it or not, your posts always make me laugh out loud.

    • yep, last year they were in a big glob where the steppers are. But they were really hard to get to and too close together. E

  11. It looks lovely! It looks like it would be lovely to take the kids out there and sit on the patio while they play.

    Did you have to pay taxes on the services received? I’ve always wondered how Home Makeover gives a poor family a $500,000 house full of stuff without them having to pay taxes on the gift. (I took tax law before that show got huge.)

  12. I think next year I am totally going to try and put some tomatoes in non-raised-bed areas of the yard. I love how yours look. But, I have a feeling that next year I will be adding additional raised beds because I felt kind of constrained by space, and maybe a larger fence around ALL of it and some rocks, because apparently I like to create work for myself.

    I am so jealous of your furniture. We have resisted buying some, for years, because our patio is uncovered and the rain and sun would just destroy it. So, I have cheapie $9.99 Target folding chairs and they are not anywhere near as pretty as yours.

  13. I think Kevin may eat off my fingers but he’s also kind of cute, in that hungry Seymour fashion. Does he sing? If he sings I think you should leave him out there to entertain your guests.

    [I think your backyard looks fabulous!]

  14. Hah, I always wonder if people hate their yard makeovers because of all of the extra maintenance. We watch A LOT of those shows, but I’ve never seen Turf Wars. Will now commence stalking your archives. Love the rocks, the furniture, and the pergola. It all looks so inviting!

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