Text by Nancy Johnston
If your back yard is just a place you cut through to get to the back door from the garage or somewhere you let the dog run around, you are missing out on what could be your own little oasis from the storm of life. Inside our homes we surround ourselves with things of beauty and things we love because our homes are our refuge and remind us of what is good about our lives. Since we don’t stay indoors all year round why not create the same feeling outside by turning your backyard from drab to fab!
Transforming your yard can involve changing the “hardscape” which refers to the ground and all construction materials or the “softscape” which refers to all plant material, or both. The first step is to assess your yard. An approximate yard size is necessary before you can even begin to calculate cost. Photographs of the area from different viewpoints in the yard are very useful for planning purposes. Then you need to decide how involved you want to get.
At the one end of the spectrum you can hire a landscape architect that will consult with you and handle the whole project. Alternatively you can hire a reliable landscaper and give him your plan or work with him to develop a workable one. Either way you are probably going to need some professional help in order to carry out the transformation unless you are an avid gardener/designer with a passion for manual labor and are committed to a long-term project. If that’s the case or if you don’t want to go all out and intend to just accessorize, you might not need the services of a professional landscaper. A one-time consultation with a landscape designer or architect who will offer professional advice and give you a set of drawn up plans may be sufficient. As well there are numerous software programs that help design outdoor space and some nursery and garden centers offer softscape advice and even planting plans as part of their service.
Just like any other time you hire a professional, do some research, get some quotes, check references thoroughly and view work completed several years previous so you can judge long term results. Get everything agreed upon in discussions, including start and finish dates in writing.
Yard size, budget and function are the top considerations when planning a back yard makeover. Count on a budget of anywhere from $2,000 for do-it-yourselfers with modest plans to $15,000 for a piece de resistance. Following those considerations are material and color. Decide whether wood, iron, concrete or other material will blend best with your garden theme and how the ornamentation choices will mix and match with each other. Is there any existing material hard or soft that can be incorporated?
As far as themes go, you can carry your indoor theme outside or choose a new one from many existing outdoor themes such as traditional, modern, Asian, Mediterranean, Japanese, Southern or Tucson inspired, or eclectic. Another option is to create your own theme.
There’s no doubt a certain ambiance can be affected by the choosing and proper placement of garden/yard accessories. Consider the tranquility of a water fountain, the mystique of hidden garden art or perhaps a centerpiece sculpture. The visual appeal of some wrought iron artwork, a sundial or a statue, a birdbath or some other personal treasure can add to the overall effect. Whether you choose the natural, classical or whimsical style of ornamentation, it’s important that your yard reflect your personal tastes.
Keep in mind while garden ornaments can provide focal points, they should also draw the eye to the natural beauty of the landscaping and enhance it as opposed to distracting you from it. Native grasses, shrubs, flowering trees and bushes, a gazebo or outdoor living enclosure and lighting on paths and in corners, highlighting certain plants or objects all help to complete the look.
The next time you pass by the back yard take a moment and imagine yourself basking in the glory of your own luxurious oasis. It all starts with a vision. Of course some spare cash comes in handy too!