50 Backyard Ideas to Inspire and Delight DIY'ers

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    Is Your Backyard Bringing You Joy?

    Woman enjoying her backyard, blowing bubbles around her dog.
    Your backyard should be bringing a smile to your face. Hero Images/Getty Images

    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...MORE "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

    Girl planting seeds in biodegradable containers.
    Letting your kids help you start a garden is a great way to get them interested in plants. Elva Etienne/Getty Images

    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:

    1. 15 Ideas for Sizzling Flower Borders
    2. How to Plant a Flower Bed 
    3. 10 Flower-Bed Ideas for Nearly Year-Round Color
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    Go Wild With Plants!

    Boy with blue bucket dressed in blue with backdrop of yellow flag flowers in swamp.
    Flag plants such as this yellow flag grow well in wet soil. Vast Photography/Getty Images

    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.

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    Create an Outdoor Living Space Tailored to Your Needs

    Woman working in backyard on laptop.
    The backyard can be a great place to work, as well as play. Inti St Clair/Getty images

    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?

     

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    What Patio Style Suits You?

    Modern-style patio with metal chairs and table, next to sleek walkway.
    Both patio and walkway here say "modern". Michael Betts/Getty Imagees

    "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...MORE 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.

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    Brick Patios: Baked-In Classiness for the Backyard

    Brick patio with flowers and pergola.
    Colorful flower plantings make this brick patio a joyful place to be around. L Alfonse/Getty Images

    Being composed of uniform units (namely, paving bricks), brick patios can bring a certain formality to the landscape.

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    Concrete Patios: Practical Choice

    Dog walking on concrete patio with desert backdrop.
    Concrete patios are a practical option. Ronnie Kaufman/Larry Hirshowitz/Getty Images

    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.

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    Dress Up a Patio With an Inlay

    Circular brick patio with inlay in the center.
    Using an inlay is one of the easiest ways to punch up a patio. David Beaulieu

    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.

     

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    An Alternative Patio Style

    Flagstone patio with vine-covered pergola and other plants.
    Flagstone offers a less formal look for a patio. Claire Takacs/Getty Images

    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.

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    Deck Out Your Backyard

    Two men on a deck sitting in chairs.
    Extend your living space to the outdoors with a deck. Morsa Images/Getty Images

    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.

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    Forget "Sink or Swim," Floating Decks Are the Way to Go

    Floating deck with table, chairs, and privacy fence.
    Floating decks are a great option of DIY'ers. Brian North/Getty Images

    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?

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    Deck Railings: Beyond Backyard Safety

    Man screwing board into deck with electric drill.
    These deck railings are standard. But you can get as fancy with them as your wallet will allow. Gary Ombler/Getty Images

    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.

     

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    Hedges: a Classic Choice for Privacy

    Swimming pool surrounded by a tall privacy hedge.
    The tall hedge here affords swimmers all the privacy they'll need when using this pool. Perry Mastrovito/Getty Images

    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.

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    A "Living Wall" That's Less Fuss

    Shrubs and trees give this Italian home privacy.
    A mix of shrubs and trees gives this Italian home privacy. Rosmarie Wirz/Getty Images

    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.

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    Fencing Out Prying Eyes

    Privacy fence with ornate metal decorative work.
    This privacy fence is hardly boring. Elena Vasilieva / EyeEm/Getty Images

    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.

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    Landscape Your Fence Line to Make It Pop

    Rustic home, with rustic fence and plantings in foreground.
    Landscaping your fence line makes all the difference. Perry Mastrovito/Getty Images

    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. 

     

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    Lattice: a Simpler Option

    Lattice fence with diagonal pattern, stained.
    Lattice can be set in a diagonal pattern for a different look. Raimund Linke/Getty Images

    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. 

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    The Barbecue Grill: Simple but Effective

    Main with apron and oven mitt grilling food on a barbecue grill.
    The barbecue represents cooking outdoors at its most basic. Robert Daly/Getty Images

    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.

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    Like Outdoor Dining? Then You'll Love Outdoor Kitchens

    Outdoor kitchen with grill, counter top and chairs.
    Outdoor kitchens are beautiful as well as functional. jim kruger/Getty Images

    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.

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    Stone Kitchens: Durable, Attractive

    Stone kitchen unit on stone patio against brick wall.
    Solid choice: stone kitchen unit on a stone patio. Mark Turner/Getty Images

    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.

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    Pick the Right Plants to Grow Around Your Pool

    Four people on lounge chairs near swimming pool.
    Landscaping your pool? Get it right -- or pay the price. Jupiterimages/Getty Images

    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.

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    The Font of Backyard Joy

    Large water fountain set in formal landscape.
    Your water fountain needn't be on this scale to bring you joy. Barry Winiker/Getty Images

    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.

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    Turn That Container Into a Backyard Fountain

    Couple enjoying spray from fountain on patio with palm trees.
    Urns and other containers can be turned into fountains. Image Source/Zero Creatives/Getty Images

    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:

    1. Build a Tall, Blue Fountain
    2. Build a Cascading Fountain
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    Water and Stone: a Match Made in Heaven

    Stone fountain on patio with plants.
    This two-piece stone fountain boasts an elaborate design. Robert Simon/Getty Images

    Some of the most magnificent water fountains are composed of stone. The one in the picture is quite elaborate; here is a simpler project:

    Set Up a Stone Fountain

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    Plants Make a Water Feature Come Alive

    Circular water garden with water lilies, shrubs and perennials.
    This water feature is as much about the plants as about the hardscape. Jason Smalley/Getty Images

    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.

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    Wash Your Cares Away in a Waterfall

    Stone waterfall looking natural with branches and fallen leaves.
    The cascading waters of a waterfall can provide quite a bit of soothing sound. Spaces Images/Getty Images

    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.

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    Use Stone Creatively in Your Backyard

    Japanese garden with water, plants and stone work.
    Japanese gardens are renowned for their use of stone. Chris Caldicott/Getty Images

    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.

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    Rock Gardens: Backyard Rock Stars

    Rock garden scene with rocks and plants.
    If you have large rocks on your landscape, take advantage and start a rock garden. Don Johnston/Getty Images

    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).

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    Reclaim a Slope With a Retaining Wall

    Stone retaining wall with creeping phlox growing on top of it.
    Small stone retaining walls are doable for DIY'ers. Wendy Yessler / EyeEm/Getty Images

    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.

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    Stone Walkways Are About More Than Connecting Points A and B

    Japanese garden with stone walkways.
    You would want to stroll slowly down this path, in order to reflect and observe. Victor Cardoner/Getty Images

    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.

     

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    Get Off the Straight and Narrow

    Flagstone stepping stones curve through spring flower beds.
    This walkway allows you to tiptoe through the tulips -- and much more. Werner Van Steen/Getty Images

    A curved walkway can be especially effective if your goal is to undertake a leisurely stroll through a spectacular garden such as this one.

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    Make Your Own Stepping Stones

    Stone walkway made in sections of three interrupted by grass.
    The great thing about concrete stepping stones is that you can make your own. Cora Niele/Getty Images

    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

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    Why You Should Be "Living on the Edge"

    Lawn circle edged with stone and planted.
    This lawn "island" is edged with stone. Anne Green-Armytage/Getty Images

    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:

    1. Edge a Flower Bed With Landscape Timbers
    2. Install Lawn Edging With a Mower Strip

     

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    Build an Arbor and Trains Vines on It

    Couple kissing under wisteria-covered metal arbor.
    You'd fall in love, too if your arbor were covered in this wisteria. Larry Williams/Getty Images

    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.

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    Right Plant, Right Place

    Delphiniums standing tall amidst a mass of other flowers in a courtyard garden.
    The spikes of dark blue flowers here are delphiniums. Clive Nichols/Getty Images

    Proper plant selection requires taking into account a number of factors, including:

    1. Suitability for your planting zone.
    2. Sun and soil requirements.
    3. 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.

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    Take Advantage of the Glory That Is Late Spring

    Pink azalea bushes in bloom.
    The flowering of the azaleas signals that spring is well under way. Van Hickman / EyeEm/Getty Images

    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.

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    Is Your Backyard Ready for Winter?

    Winter scene with red barn, snow, evergreen trees, and mountains.
    These evergreens would look great even without the snow. Michael Interisano/Getty Images

    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.

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    Bathe Your Backyard in the Colors of Autumn

    Maple tree in fall with mainly golden leaves, some on the ground.
    If you can possibly grow a maple in your yard, make it a priority to do so. Danita Delimont/Getty Images

    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:

    1. 10 Most Colorful Trees for Fall
    2. 10 Shrubs and Vines for Fall Color 
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    The Earlier, the Better

    Red and yellow tulips, with one white one mixed in for effect.
    Tulips provide wonderful spring color, especially when the colors are mixed. ak_phuong/Getty Images

    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 'Arno...MOREld Promise,' one of the shrubs renowned for flowering in early spring.

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    Summer-Long Color and Hummingbirds, Too

    Hummingbird dining at the flowers of a pink garden phlox.
    Hummingbirds love tall garden phlox -- and you will, too. Robin Wilson Photography/Getty Images

    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.

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    Attract Wild Birds to Your Backyard With Colorful Berries

    Robin eating berry from mountain ash tree.
    The berries of the mountain ash tree that this robin is eating are even more orangy than its breast. Don Johnston/Getty Images

    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.

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    Butterflies Find These Plants Attractive --- and So Will You

    Tiger swallowtail butterfly dining at the bloom of a coneflower.
    This purple coneflower drew a beautiful tiger swallowtail. Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    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.

     

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    Landscape Your Walkway With Great Foliage

    Ferns and hosta line shaded walkway leading to garden statue.
    Depending on the variety, hostas can be shade plants or can take a bit of sun. Jason Smalley/Getty Images

    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:

    1. Deserve more attention than you are perhaps giving them right now.
    2. Or that are outright problem areas.

    A walkway to your back door is an example of the...MORE 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.

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    Landscape Your Walkway With Stunning Flowers

    Walkway planting of calendula and delphinium with gate in background.
    Calendula (the yellow) flower brightens up this walkway. fotolinchen/Getty Images

    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...MORE their best). Here are some examples, with sunlight requirements given in parentheses:

    1. Impatiens (shade)
    2. Begonias  (shade)
    3. Calendula (sun)
    4. Portualaca (sun)
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    Your Septic Drain Field Doesn't Have to Go Fallow

    Purple violet flowers growing wild in grass.
    Wild violets provide color in the septic drainfield and won't cause harm. Jean-Paul Chatagnon/Getty Images

    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.

     

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    Grow Tough Woodruff Under Trees

    Sweet woodruff plants in bloom.
    It takes a tough plant to grow under a tree. Sweet woodruff has the right stuff. Raimund Linke/Getty Images

    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...MORE 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.

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    Grow Brown-Thumb Specials

    Columbine flowers with purple outer petals, white inner petals.
    Columbine is an easy-to-grow perennial. Georgianna Lane/Getty Images

    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 ten plants that are easy to grow. One is pictured above: the lovely perennial, columbine.

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    Dogs and Your Backyard

    Man seated on lawn with dogs.
    Dogs can do a lot of damage in the yard. Are you ready for them?. Hero Images/Getty Images

    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.

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    Cats and Your Backyard

    Kitten lurking in the flowers outside.
    Learn how to keep cats from doing their business where you don't want them to. Dipak Maske / EyeEm/Getty Images

    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?

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    Build the Kids a Sandbox

    Two boys playing with trucks in a sandbox.
    Kids can consume hours at at time playing in a sandbox. Jill Giardino/Getty Images

    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?