Your backyard landscaping should be an extension of what's going on inside your home. Often, regardless of your indoor style, your backyard ends up looking more colorful, casual, and fun. The possibilities are only limited by the terrain, your design skills, and your do-it-yourself know-how.
You can always hire a landscape designer or architect to help your outdoor space realize its potential. A skilled professional can guide you through the process of figuring out a style, deciding who will be using the yard, creating zones of activity, choosing materials and plants, and recommending builders and contractors for everything from swimming pools to outdoor structures to installing irrigation.
Explore 44 ideas that show you how to transform a backyard into your favorite space.
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Privacy and Comfort
This cozy yet spacious seating area has plenty of privacy thanks to privacy fencing and some well-placed perennial grasses that also help absorb noise. The sturdy practical table and benches provide a casual dining space, and the seating area with couch is a perfect place for an afternoon nap or evening gathering.Continue to 2 of 44 below.
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No Patio, No Problem
There's no need to go to the trouble of installing a patio or other flooring. In fair weather, with a level lawn area, just arrange some comfy chairs (wicker with cushions give this a romantic, cozy feel), add some ambient lighting, some large candle holders, and you have a perfectly lovely seating area with impromptu charm. There's plenty of waterproof wicker options, and if rain threatens, just store the cushions and blankets indoors.Continue to 3 of 44 below.
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Landscaping need not be complicated or fussy. This simple design allows an interesting border to the lawn area with simple wooden posts laid in as borders. The gray fencing, gravel, lighting fixtures and planters accent the gray tones in the tree bark, and easy plants like clumping grasses and evergreen shrubs provide interest all season.Continue to 4 of 44 below.
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Retaining Walls Around Patios
If your yard has steep levels or hills you may want to consider a retaining wall. This one has two levels around the seating area, with the lower one providing a space for seasonal plantings and a built in fireplace. The look comes together with a dramatic round metal pergola that supports the beautiful white wisteria vine (a plant that needs a strong structure away from the house, as its growth can become invasive over time). This pergola adds an airy, open feel to the solid retaining wall, balancing the angular walls with circular lines.Continue to 5 of 44 below.
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Paths for Strolling
This concrete path allows plenty of room for walking or placing a chair to linger over the nearby vista. Planting perennials that bloom from spring through autumn makes this walkway a welcoming destination through three seasons.Continue to 6 of 44 below.
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So much can be done with a few well-chosen furnishings. This charming alcove is the perfect spot for breakfast or afternoon tea. The all-weather rug transforms the stone patio beneath it, creating the feel of a small outdoor room, and the filigree metal table and chairs are accented by other metal decor and various objects (clay pots, baskets) made of natural materials in an attractive neutral palette, which complements the unpainted wooden fence. The eclectic look is whimsical yet classy.Continue to 7 of 44 below.
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Defining Space with Structure
With a large backyard space, structural elements are key to defining the space and giving it a shape. This yard is flanked by mature trees on its edge, and so a variety of smaller levels and contrasting shapes creates a pleasing and functional design. The garden shed with fenced in area is the focal point (and the fence is useful for wandering toddlers or pets when you're working!). The flagstone path provides graceful curves and the white stone carries on the color theme of the white fence posts and white painted trim on the shed. Finally, the curved shapes of the flower beds also define the walkway's connection to the larger property.Continue to 8 of 44 below.
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Sometimes you can tell where a gardener lives! This backyard is all about celebrating gardening, with many potted plants, vines with colorful flowers growing over fences and sheds, and comfy green chairs strategically placed to rest and enjoy the view of your accomplishments after a busy morning of gardening.Continue to 9 of 44 below.
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Open Air Fencing
Fences can be necessary and useful structures, but they need not always be opaque or thick for privacy. This open air fence allows plenty of sight lines throughout the garden, including views of the raised beds through the fence. The curved arbor over the gate could hold climbing roses or other vines. The strong structure of the fence, incorporated with the flagstone path, solidifies the location as a central focal point by the shed, and yet the whole area looks airy and inviting.Continue to 10 of 44 below.
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Pavers: Go Big!
Installing a patio with pavers can be a lot of work and requires decisions about preparing the space, leveling, gravel or sand, etc. These large pavers simplify the logistics a bit, and the ground cover growing between them softens the look and breaks up the large expanses of white in this design. There are lots of options for ground cover too, including grasses, creeping sedum, and creeping thyme.Continue to 11 of 44 below.
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This seating area centers around a fire dish but the round structure could as easily be a table or water feature. The real star here is the sturdy rock wall surround built of natural granite blocks, and stairs leading down to the flagstone patio, creating a sunken room effect, with plenty of lush plantings at ground and wall level to add a dose of nature and privacy.Continue to 12 of 44 below.
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Easy Desert Borders
This desert backyard is a series of garden beds and walkways. Gravel is used for a tidy, attractive look and moisture retention in times of drought. The gravel works on the walkway and in beds as an alternative to wood mulches. If the ground covers spill over the edge of the border into the path, hey, the more the merrier! The native plantings and many succulents provide a lush, colorful yet easy-going approach to having a large-scale yet simple garden plan.Continue to 13 of 44 below.
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Stone Steps Lead the Way
The stone stairs and walls make a dramatic entry point for the sprawling lawn and a shady seating destination beneath mature trees. (This furry friend agrees, a shady spot with some cool grass on a hot day is a welcome treat!) The large stone planters are naturally aged by moss and weather, and the abundant flowers include plenty of low maintenance hosta. The large pavers are an easy way to create a patio or walkway below the raised level and leaving some grass in between creates a casual yet intentional look.Continue to 14 of 44 below.
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Nearly every design element in this beautiful off-grid desert property is intended to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. From the native plants to the moisture-retaining gravel to the rain barrels and clever use of found objects, this appealing landscape design shows respect for the planet and a resourceful sensibility.Continue to 15 of 44 below.
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Pools are great for cooling down in hot weather, but what about cooling down when you're not in the water? A shady pavilion and terraced gardens alongside the stairs make this pool feature a comfortable and beautiful place to beat the heat. The cool-warm color palette of perennials is eye-catching and invokes both sun and water.Continue to 16 of 44 below.
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Lawn as Patio
This modern and minimal design features a level lawn area the same shape as the pool, flanked by a simple bed with young birch trees. The simple lines are accented by the clean lines of the furniture chosen. The limited palette of white and brown with touches of deep green is anchored by the perennial beds with low-growing shrubs.Continue to 17 of 44 below.
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For homeowners who like to entertain, having more than one outdoor area for socializing can be a great way to maximize space. This design emphasizes seating areas over garden beds or plantings, with multiple levels and wide concrete stairs tying them all together. The sleek design of all three areas is minimal yet comfortable, with Adirondack chairs around the firepit area and comfortable seating on the lower patio, and a slightly more formal dining area on the upper level.Continue to 18 of 44 below.
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Pergolas and Arbors
The installation of a pergola or arbor can create an attractive and functional focal point for your garden. They can frame an entry way to a seating area or other destination, and also add shade to a sunny spot. This one has a trumpet vine, a beautiful but somewhat invasive flower that can be trained to behave itself if it has a strong structure to climb on. The cozy seating area on the wooden deck is surrounded by easy care hedges and perennials, and the large pavers offer some flexibility when designing walkways.Continue to 19 of 44 below.
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Defining Space with Containers
Using containers is an easy way to create height and depth of space throughout your garden areas without too much effort. This desert garden has an abundance of succulents and native plants in a variety of shapes, from creeping and curvy to tall and spiky, and the containers can be moved around at will to change the look. Graceful wire fence pieces create an open air look and protect the beds from wandering pets.Continue to 20 of 44 below.
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Fire Dish Vista
A wood-burning metal fire dish is a simple solution if you don't want to fuss with propane, gas or installing a fire pit. Plus, a fire feature creates the basis for an instant seating area! The open air feeling here allows a wide view of the gorgeous backdrops of mature trees and forest in the distance, and enjoying sunsets as day turns to night. The black and white Adirondack chairs look sharp against the gray flagstone patio, and the perennial tufts of grass help define the space.Continue to 21 of 44 below.
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Outdoor Open Air "Room"
The willow structure creating the roof lets sunlight through but also creates abundant shade over this open-air patio room. This is essentially a pavilion with permeable roof over a deck that creates dramatic play of light and shadow and provides a cozy seating area in sunny weather. Using waterproof furniture and cushions protects in case some rain gets through.Continue to 22 of 44 below.
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A large backyard full of perennial beds just beckons meandering walks, and placing benches or other seating areas provides small destination points throughout. Mature treed provide dappled shade yet there's plenty of sun for flowers. The curved edges of these beds (precisely what English gardeners would call "herbaceous borders") have natural stone which adds to the woodland appeal of this year round garden landscape.Continue to 23 of 44 below.
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Bird lovers wouldn't be without at least one birdfeeder in their backyard. These are best placed near shrubs or small trees as many birds (cardinals, goldfinches and others) desire a bit of protective cover before they'll venture nearby. This classic wooden birdhouse with tin roof has a vintage look perfect for a rambling outdoor garden. If you have multiple birdfeeding areas, be sure to consider placement in terms of seating and viewing vantage points so you can enjoy seeing the birds from indoors, or from your patio or other outdoor seating areas.Continue to 24 of 44 below.
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Retaining Walls and Stairs
This magnificent design features a rear entry way of stone steps and retaining walls with built-in perennial beds, providing not only practical access to the rear entrance but a marvelous garden space. The rectangular shapes of the pool, patio and levels of planters alongside the steps create a pleasing perpendicular shape with long lines contrasting with the tall shape of the house. The shrubs and planters add softer curving shapes for baance.Continue to 25 of 44 below.
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Simple Patio Design
Patios can be elaborate or simple, and one of the most basic designs includes a flat floor surface, usually of flagstone pavers or bricks, or other natural material. Just add some weatherproof furniture like this simple wicker sofa and chair, and a table, and you have a cozy seating area suitable for many uses. This patio has some shrubs nearby and containers of annuals can be easily moved around to change the shape or look of the space.Continue to 26 of 44 below.
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Lush Patio Surroundings
This backyard is full of lush garden spots, from the full perennial beds and trees to the vine-covered screened porch and the enormous planters. This small seating area has European charm with its metal furniture and ornate stone planters with hydrangeas blooming, and plenty of privacy from nearby shrubs. The container with the large fern can be moved to create space for drinks or coffee.Continue to 27 of 44 below.
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Tropical Plants for Drama
The tropical plantings add color and drama to this southern home, with a flowering vine trained into a tree form, and large-leafed tropicals planted closely together for visual impact and a block of vibrant color.Continue to 28 of 44 below.
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Who says you can't plant perennial beds next to your pool? These low maintenance grasses and other perennials in a range of pale greens accent the mostly white palette here. They also add some organic shapes and visual textures to the straight lines of the pool, buildings and furniture. A festive large umbrella provides some shade for this poolside oasis.Continue to 29 of 44 below.
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This beachside bungalow has touches of Moroccan design (note the dramatic tiles in the stairs) and splashes of color from ceramic planters to enliven the white plaster walls. The plants are an attractive assortment of natives and tropicals suited to this southern California climate. These three dogs seem to love the spacious ease of the sandy walkway and the shady pockets created by lush perennials.Continue to 30 of 44 below.
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Multiple Seating Options
Having more than one seating area, even under one pavilion, is a great option if you can manage it. This gives you flexibility for entertaining, and also allows for different views to enjoy the changing colors and shapes of the garden through the season.Continue to 31 of 44 below.
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Seasonal Colors and Shapes
The gentle texture of this weeping cherry tree in spring is enhanced with multiple clay pots with spring bulbs blooming. The brick beds echo the terra cotta of the pots, adding a warm yet neutral tones against the cool color palette of greens, blues and purples.Continue to 32 of 44 below.
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These terraced gardens with stone steps and decks for walking look over a scenic view of meadows and hills. The native plantings are colorful and their bushy shapes echo the trees and grasses in the distance.Continue to 33 of 44 below.
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The verdant shade gardens of this property may be chock full of luscious plantings including a diverse array of hostas, but still feel open and airy by this open-air iron gate that looks out over a wide meadow vista.Continue to 34 of 44 below.
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Sometimes letting your grass grow just a bit higher than normal gives it a glossy, soft look and feel. This low-key backyard design features a lovely mature tree encircled by hostas and meandering cottage-style flower beds, but tying it all together is a lush expanse of green. Don't have perfect grass? Try adding clover seed for a pollinator-friendly lawn that fills in nicely.Continue to 35 of 44 below.
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Gardens at Sunset
For gardens with a sunset view, consider plantings that will complement the glorious colors of the sky, for maximum enjoyment. Paniculata hydrangea flowers turn rosy burnished hues as summer turns to autumn, and oakleaf hydrangeas have foliage that turns brilliant colors, Many flowering shrubs have foliage that turns colorful at some point in the season, including varieties of ninebark, amsonia, fothergilla, and spirea.Continue to 36 of 44 below.
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Dining Al Fresco
With a level lawn and some cooling shade trees, you can set up a seasonal al fresco dining area to use as often as you wish. Weatherproof furniture options are plentiful these days. Just change up the linens and table settings, add some fresh cut flowers or other centerpiece, and you're ready to entertain outdoors without having to clean the whole house! The shade canopy allows for morning or afternoon meals; evening dinners in summer might need a bit of insect prevention in the form of citronella candles.Continue to 37 of 44 below.
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Curvy, Cozy and Chic
This small seating area is delightfully stylish owing to a tasteful mix of textures and round shapes. The curves are repeated in the egg swivel chair, the central water feature, the decorative woven rug, the cushion chair, and the charcoal grill/smoker.Continue to 38 of 44 below.
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Balancing Shapes and Textures
With so many options available for furniture and plants, an outdoor seating area can be low maintenance by design. This modern seating area has waterproof cushions and a clean propane stone fire dish for easy entertaining. The square lines and gray tones are nicely complemented by planters at a right angle filled with feathery textured perennials in striking colors.Continue to 39 of 44 below.
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Stripes and Shapes
The whimsical design elements here pull together beautifully, with the soft textures of the blooming lilacs and curving shapes of the umbrella the large glass jug forming a pleasing counterpoint to the angular striped patterns of the cushions and rug.Continue to 40 of 44 below.
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Even if you're not spending too much time sitting in your backyard space in winter, adding some seasonal decor can lift your spirits when the winds are howling. This simple Scandinavian holiday scene has winter greenery draping over a bench, birch logs, pine cones, a tree sculpture, and a chunky wooden star to create a rustic holiday tableau.Continue to 41 of 44 below.
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Creative use of lighting can transform the backyard experience. This attractive wicker pendant lamp can be fitted with electric, battery powered or solar bulbs depending on your needs. It creates a nice focal point for this simple seating arrangement of wooden chairs and central table, and the light will have plenty of plants and leaves to filter through to make dramatic shadows.Continue to 42 of 44 below.
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If you're handy with a paintbrush you can create a nice color scheme with used furniture, wood pallets, and other objects to be upcycled. The pale pink works as a neutral here with the small container plantings. The willow fencing makes a perfect backdrop to hang some festive string lights, and is an easy and cheap way to cover up ugly fencing or create some instant privacy.Continue to 43 of 44 below.
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If you live in a zone where you get substantial snowfall in winter. consider plantings that will offer sculptural beauty in a snowscape. The large weeping evergreen tree looks beautiful covered in snow, and this variegated yucca is an unexpected but thrilling sight in this winter landscape. Dormant sedums and ornamental grasses often make interesting shapes in snow and can then be cut back in early spring before new growth begins.Continue to 44 of 44 below.
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This simple seating area in a small garden in Yorkshire, England is surrounded by sensual pleasures of all kinds: a scenic view of mountains, the intoxicating scent of wisteria blooms, leafy plantings, and whimsical Japanese lanterns hanging from the hedges.
What is the cheapest way to landscape a backyard?
Consider spreading perennial ground covers, rather than mulch or sod, to fill in bare areas. Opt for young plants rather than more mature specimens. And check garage sales and flea markets for lawn furniture and other items you can refinish or repurpose instead of buying new items.
What are some landscaping ideas for small backyards?
Make use of vertical space by growing a garden up on a wall or fence. Use floating benches for built-in seating, rather than bulky patio furniture. And select dwarf plant cultivars, as well as ones with a narrow growth habit, to conserve space.
What are some backyard landscaping ideas for privacy?
Train vines to grow on a privacy fence to soften its look. Consider planting tall bamboo, which grows quickly and can form a lush privacy hedge. And install a pergola to provide both privacy and shelter over your seating area.