Are you looking for backyard ideas to inspire you in your home improvement projects in the yard? The landscaping information and pictures offered here will give novices direction and should provide food for thought even for more seasoned DIY enthusiasts.
For many homeowners, backyard landscaping and front-yard landscaping serve distinctly different functions. The front yard is your display area, the stage open to public view where you can show the world that you have your landscaping "act" together. By contrast, the backyard is not about impressing anybody. Rather, it is all about livability.
What "livability" means, precisely, will depend on your own particular personality and lifestyle. The less sociable you are, the more emphasis you will put on turning the backyard into a relaxing sanctuary, a place where you are more interested in attracting butterflies than people. If, on the other hand, you are something of a social butterfly, you may wish to turn your backyard into the ultimate party zone. It's really up to you.
Whichever way you find your joy, your backyard should be accommodating you in this pursuit. If it's not, then you need to change it. Browsing the 50 backyard ideas in this article is a good place to begin.
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The Backyard Garden: One of the Simple Pleasures in Life
For many, the backyard is a place to open up a gardening space and grow some plants, be they vegetables or ornamentals. If ornamentals are your passion, gather planting and plant-selection ideas from the following articles:Continue to 2 of 49 below.
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Go Wild With Plants!
On the prior page, the focus was on cultivated plants that you can grow in your yard. But do not forget the various types of wildflowers that can spice up your backyard, too. An example is shown in this picture: yellow flag, which is a kind of wild iris. A better choice in eastern North America would be the native, blue flag. Both are good plants for wet areas, such as the one displayed in the photo. But more and more people are becoming interested specifically in native plants.Continue to 3 of 49 below.
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Create an Outdoor Living Space Tailored to Your Needs
The backyard can be more than just a place to grow plants or grill hot dogs. Do you work out of your home? Telecommuters will want to create an outdoor living space conducive to getting some work done. If the conditions are right, who wouldn't prefer working on a laptop out on the patio to being cooped up indoors in front of a desktop computer?Continue to 4 of 49 below.
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What Patio Style Suits You?
"Patio" is a broad term. The patio in the yard of neighbor A can look very different from the one in neighbor B's yard. Your budget and your aesthetic tastes will play a role in deciding between the different styles. Here is another determining factor: How will you be using your patio? If you will not be using it for entertaining, you may be able to get by with a smaller patio than would otherwise be the case.
In terms of style, the patio in the picture above would appeal to someone with modern tastes. The sleek walkway complements the patio nicely. The present article merely skims the surface regarding patios. For a more detailed exploration, please see 50 Outdoor Patio Ideas.Continue to 5 of 49 below.
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Brick Patios: Baked-In Classiness for the Backyard
Being composed of uniform units (namely, paving bricks), brick patios can bring a certain formality to the landscape.Continue to 6 of 49 below.
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Concrete Patios: Practical Choice
When a smooth, durable surface is required, you might want a concrete patio for your backyard. Another virtue of concrete is that it can be poured, making it a practical choice to cover a large area when time is of the essence.Continue to 7 of 49 below.
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Dress Up a Patio With an Inlay
Brick patios—and, to an even greater degree, concrete patios—can be a bit boring. Dress them up with inlays such as the one shown in this image. Here is a photo of a different type of inlay used for cobblestones.Continue to 8 of 49 below.
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An Alternative Patio Style
You can see that the patio in this picture is composed of flagstones of different sizes. That's why flagstone patios can offer a look that is less formal than that provided by brick or concrete. In fact, you can buy flagstones that are completely irregular (not rectangular) if you are striving for even greater informality.
Notice also how critical the patio plants are in making this design what it is.Continue to 9 of 49 below.
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Deck Out Your Backyard
Wooden decks are an alternative to the patios that we have been looking at in the previous slides. The deck option can be particularly attractive on hilly properties, where expensive terracing would be necessary to build a patio.Continue to 10 of 49 below.
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Forget "Sink or Swim," Floating Decks Are the Way to Go
The "floating" deck is a type that is not directly attached to a building. Beginners who want a deck near the house—but who are afraid to compromise their home's siding by attaching a deck directly to the house wall—may want to consider building a floating deck, instead. Why should DIY'ers with little carpentry experience dive into a "sink or swim" project (where sinking can have dire consequences) when an easier alternative is available, right?Continue to 11 of 49 below.
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Deck Railings: Beyond Backyard Safety
The deck railings shown here are nothing special to look at, but they do their job: They help make the deck safe. Yard safety should always be paramount. However, if you can achieve safety and pizzazz, so much the better, right? Browse these pictures of deck railings for ideas to jazz up your backyard.Continue to 12 of 49 below.
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Hedges: a Classic Choice for Privacy
The swimming pool in this picture is furnished with privacy in a classic way: namely, with a hedge of shrubs that is meticulously sheared to retain its size and shape. But there are other ways to make your backyard more private; we will be looking at a few of them in upcoming slides.Continue to 13 of 49 below.
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A "Living Wall" That's Less Fuss
In addition to the traditional hedge, shrubs planted closely together in a straight row and sheared regularly so as to retain a uniform appearance, there is another kind of "living wall" for privacy. It is less formal—and certainly less work to maintain. In this configuration, shrubs and/or trees are sprinkled about along a border. Depending on how loosely they are planted, the level of privacy thereby achieved can be considerable or more moderate.Continue to 14 of 49 below.
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Fencing Out Prying Eyes
Erecting the right kind of fence is another way to make your backyard more private. Some privacy fences can serve simultaneously as noise barriers. Fencing comes in many forms; check out some of them in this photo gallery of fences.Continue to 15 of 49 below.
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Landscape Your Fence Line to Make It Pop
In some cases, you will want to landscape your fence line with plantings, rather than just letting the fence stick out like a sore thumb on your property.Continue to 16 of 49 below.
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Lattice: a Simpler Option
You can buy prefabricated lattice at home improvement stores and simply attach it to fence posts that you have installed in the ground. This makes building a lattice fence an easy task even for beginning DIY'ers.Continue to 17 of 49 below.
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The Barbecue Grill: Simple but Effective
So far, we have explored ways of setting up an outdoor living space (by building patios or decks) and how to make it more private. Now it is time to make use of the livable space thus created.
For true outdoors enthusiasts, cooking outside complements dining outside. One of the simplest ways to begin cooking food outside is to purchase a barbecue grill.Continue to 18 of 49 below.
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Like Outdoor Dining? Then You'll Love Outdoor Kitchens
If your attitude towards barbecue grills is "Been there, done that," then you may be interested in kicking your outdoor cooking up to the next level: Have an outdoor kitchen installed. Cook on kitchen appliances right out there on the patio and serve guests directly, rather than bringing the food out from your indoor kitchen.Continue to 19 of 49 below.
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Stone Kitchens: Durable, Attractive
Take a look at this stone kitchen. Isn't it a marvel to behold? Stone kitchens, in fact, are valued as being both functional and attractive.Continue to 20 of 49 below.
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Pick the Right Plants to Grow Around Your Pool
Water is an important element to add to your backyard, and we will be looking at several ways of incorporating some into your plans. The swimming pool is just one of the more obvious ways. What is not so obvious is how to landscape around swimming pools. Picking the right plants is actually not as easy as you might think.Continue to 21 of 49 below.
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The Font of Backyard Joy
The water fountain pictured here is suitable for a highly formal landscape design, replete with boxwood shrubs and rose bushes, the whole ensemble arranged in a manner befitting a manor. Don't think that you have to "go big" like this, though, in order to treat yourself to the gurgling sounds from a fountain in your backyard. There are many kinds of smaller fountains—suited to small backyards—that you can set up, and we will be exploring a few in upcoming slides.Continue to 22 of 49 below.
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Turn That Container Into a Backyard Fountain
You can buy a prefabricated fountain at a home improvement store, but why not make your own and place your own unique stamp on it? One way to create a water fountain is to convert a container into one. Here are two tutorials based on this idea—but with very different results:Continue to 23 of 49 below.
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Water and Stone: a Match Made in Heaven
Some of the most magnificent water fountains are composed of stone. The one in the picture is quite elaborate; here is a simpler project:Continue to 24 of 49 below.
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Plants Make a Water Feature Come Alive
Die-hard gardeners may prefer water gardens to fountains (although given enough space, the two are not mutually exclusive): that is, ponds with plants (both in and out of the water). Although the splendid example in the photo is rather large, you do not need a big backyard in order to enjoy the union of plants and water. Here are some of the best plant choices for small ponds.Continue to 25 of 49 below.
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Wash Your Cares Away in a Waterfall
You can build a small waterfall out of stones as an alternative to water fountains. Both have a calming effect on your senses, thanks to the sound of splashing water that comes from them. But a waterfall like this has a more natural appearance.Continue to 26 of 49 below.
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Use Stone Creatively in Your Backyard
The creative ways to use stone in your backyard are virtually limitless. Stone is often a central feature in Japanese gardens, such as the one in this image.Continue to 27 of 49 below.
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Rock Gardens: Backyard Rock Stars
A soil with numerous rocks in it tends to drain well. This is a basic fact that must inform our decisions when selecting rock garden plants. But do not feel intimidated: rock gardens are easy to make. Using pictures, this tutorial shows you how to build a small rock garden (it is essentially a raised bed made out of stone).Continue to 28 of 49 below.
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Reclaim a Slope With a Retaining Wall
You will probably want to call on a professional if you need a large retaining wall built. But DIY'ers can easily build small stone retaining walls. This one is complemented by a planting of creeping phlox.Continue to 29 of 49 below.
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Stone Walkways Are About More Than Connecting Points A and B
Look down! That's good advice if you wish to find money on the street. It's also good advice if you have a walkway underfoot that is as gorgeous as this one. Learn how to build a stone walkway and start traversing your backyard in style.Continue to 30 of 49 below.
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Get Off the Straight and Narrow
A curved walkway can be especially effective if your goal is to undertake a leisurely stroll through a spectacular garden such as this one.Continue to 31 of 49 below.
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Make Your Own Stepping Stones
You can also build a path using concrete units, rather than stone. The advantage in doing so is that concrete can be molded into any shape that you desire. The pieces shown in the picture happen to be rectilinear, but in this tutorial find out how to make a path using round stepping stones.Continue to 32 of 49 below.
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Why You Should Be "Living on the Edge"
Hardscape takes many forms. You have been admiring examples of it throughout this article, ranging from paths to patios. But hardscape does not always appear in a starring role. Here, stone is used as edging to set off an "island" planting from the surrounding lawn area. Edging comes in various materials and takes various forms. Consult these tutorials to learn about two different edging projects:Continue to 33 of 49 below.
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Build an Arbor and Trains Vines on It
What makes garden arbors so wonderful is that you can grow wisteria (as in this slide) and other vines plants up and over them, forming a shady nook in the backyard. The pergola is a similar structure.
Astute plant selection will be the subject of the next several slides.Continue to 34 of 49 below.
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Right Plant, Right Place
Proper plant selection requires taking into account a number of factors, including:
- Suitability for your planting zone.
- Sun and soil requirements.
- How well it meets your design needs.
An illustration of factor #3 is provided by the wonderful, dark-blue delphiniums in this scene. Shorter plants would disappear here. But delphiniums are tall perennials well-suited to the back row in a flower bed.Continue to 35 of 49 below.
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Take Advantage of the Glory That Is Late Spring
For the most ardent gardeners, plant selection is often driven by the pursuit of achieving year-round interest in the backyard. There are plenty of terrific shrubs that flower in mid-to-late spring, such as the azaleas shown here. And summer has its showy annuals and perennials. It's other times of year that newbies tend to overlook.Continue to 36 of 49 below.
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Is Your Backyard Ready for Winter?
In one sense, winter (in cold regions) is the hardest season to landscape for, because your flowers are MIA. But, in another sense, it is the easiest season to landscape for, because it is the time of year when evergreens take center stage. When pressed for an answer to the question, "Should you grow evergreens such as Colorado blue spruce trees in your yard?" just look at a picture such as the one above. It's a no-brainer.
Here are some other choice plants for the winter landscape.Continue to 37 of 49 below.
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Bathe Your Backyard in the Colors of Autumn
In climates such as that in the northeastern U.S., autumn can be the most colorful time of year—if you have the right plants in your landscape. Here are some ideas for bringing your backyard vibrant fall color:Continue to 38 of 49 below.
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The Earlier, the Better
It's hard to imagine celebrating spring to the fullest without spring bulb plants, including the wonderful tulips pictured in this red-yellow-white color scheme. But here's the catch: To enjoy their fantastic flowers in spring, you have to sow their bulbs in the ground in autumn. A lot of beginners have trouble remembering that—and kick themselves each spring for the omission.
Some of the earliest-blooming plants flower even earlier than tulips, such as Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise,' one of the shrubs renowned for flowering in early spring.Continue to 39 of 49 below.
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Summer-Long Color and Hummingbirds, Too
It is relatively easy to inject color into your yard in summer. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't still try to pick the best possible plants to grow. Long-blooming perennials are a good choice if you don't want to bother planting new annuals every year.
Sometimes, you get a "two-for." For example, tall garden phlox blooms throughout much of the summertime and draws hummingbirds to your backyard, as a bonus.Continue to 40 of 49 below.
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Attract Wild Birds to Your Backyard With Colorful Berries
Although hummingbirds (prior slide) are in a class of their own, they are not the only wild-bird show in town. Trees and shrubs with berries are a great draw for various other types of wild birds. In addition to mountain ash trees (image), Cornus florida is highly valued as a bird magnet.Continue to 41 of 49 below.
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Butterflies Find These Plants Attractive --- and So Will You
Remember to invite colorful butterflies to your backyard parties, as well. Simply grow plants that attract butterflies and you can skip the formal invitations. They will show up without an RSVP—and you won't mind a bit.Continue to 42 of 49 below.
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Landscape Your Walkway With Great Foliage
Landscaping novices often do not know what areas to focus on when undertaking yard makeovers. Elsewhere on this website, ten components of a beautiful yard have been discussed in detail, offering beginners much-needed orientation.
But the present article is specifically about backyards. So let's focus on a few areas of the backyard that either:
- Deserve more attention than you are perhaps giving them right now.
- Or that are outright problem areas.
A walkway to your back door is an example of the former. Why? Because if you use your back door a lot, the walkway leading up to it is a place where you will be spending a lot of time. Shouldn't it have maximal appeal, then? Why not landscape this area with interesting edging plants so as to make it a joy to pass through?
A smart option here is to line a walkway with outdoor foliage plants. These are plants valued for the display that their leaves put on, rather than for floral displays. Flowers are nice, but the problem with them is that they can be short-lived and/or high-maintenance, generally speaking. By contrast, a quality foliage plant just keeps giving and giving, demanding very little care from you in return.
Which particular plants you choose will depend, in part, on the conditions (for example, sun or shade). Fern plants and hosta plants (as in the picture here) are generally good choices for shade, although some types will also take partial sun. For full sun, creeping juniper or Angelina sedum would be better choices.Continue to 43 of 49 below.
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Landscape Your Walkway With Stunning Flowers
But what if you demand great floral color along the walkway leading up to your back door? For, to be sure, not everyone will be content with the foliage plants mentioned in the prior slide. That's all right. Just be prepared to put more work into making the space look great.
Again, plant selection will be determined, in part, based on sunlight conditions. Annual plants are your best bet because they furnish long-lasting color (most types need to be deadheaded, though, to keep them looking their best). Here are some examples, with sunlight requirements given in parentheses:
Continue to 44 of 49 below.
- Impatiens (shade)
- Begonias (shade)
- Calendula (sun)
- Portualaca (sun)
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Your Septic Drain Field Doesn't Have to Go Fallow
Drain fields for septic tanks are sometimes problem areas. Homeowners who hear that certain plants can damage septic systems (which is true) sometimes become so paranoid that they grow nothing in these areas. But there are, in fact, plants safe to grow in septic tank drain fields. One is pictured here: the lovely, wild purple violet.Continue to 45 of 49 below.
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Grow Tough Woodruff Under Trees
Another area commonly problematic in backyards is that spot under a tree where you would love to grow some plants -- but cannot, because the conditions are just too challenging. Everything you have ever tried growing there dies. Solution? Enter sweet woodruff.
This herb is called "sweet" woodruff because of its sweet smell, which makes it (when dried) a favorite for wreaths and potpourris. But I prefer to think of it as "tough" woodruff, because it can be grown even under large evergreen trees and persevere through such challenging circumstances. Armed with sufficient knowledge in plant selection, you need not leave the space under a tree bare. Instead, dress up the spot by growing ground covers under your tree.Continue to 46 of 49 below.
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Grow Brown-Thumb Specials
Of course, the ultimate challenge to growing desirable plants in your backyard may not come from the conditions. Do you have a brown thumb? Then you are painfully aware of the fact that your own paucity of gardening skills is the greatest challenge you face.
But not to worry: Everyone has to start somewhere, and you have come to the right place for help. Gain practice in gardening by beginning with these 10 plants that are easy to grow. One is pictured above: the lovely perennial, columbine.Continue to 47 of 49 below.
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Dogs and Your Backyard
Pets are wonderful—especially when they're yours. But what if stray animals are trespassing onto your property and causing problems? For canine control, there are dog repellents that you can take advantage of. But even your own dog(s) can cause you headaches, such as when they manage to escape from the yard. So you need to become informed of your options whether your challenge is stopping dogs from entering the yard, or from leaving it.Continue to 48 of 49 below.
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Cats and Your Backyard
Stray cats can also pose a problem. They drive gardeners nuts, what with their pooping in flower beds and vegetable patches. Learn how to keep cats out of the yard.
Cats can be a source of great joy, too, of course. Why not grow your own catnip, give some to your feline pets, and watch them go wild?Continue to 49 of 49 below.
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Build the Kids a Sandbox
Last but not least, be sure that the backyard is a fun place and a safe place for your children. To that end, why not build them a sandbox, that classic play area where children have been whiling away the hours for decades?