Show Us Your Biggest Design Challenge: The Backyard

You know how blogs are criticized for only showing perfectly posed and styled photos? I admit that I do it myself with the Home Tour - I will pile random nonsense in the hallways before snapping photos because no one wants to see the pajamas, toys and trading cards that usually scatter the kids' rooms.

But as part of Kelly's Korner's challenge today, I am showing you my biggest design challenge and it ain't pretty: The Backyard. And I will talk about how The Engineer and my totally different outdoor philosophies contribute to this challenge.

Duh duh DUH.

This is partly my fault because I leave our outdoor decor out all year long, which makes the cushions and the rugs gross. I ended up washing the West Elm rug that was out here and bringing it inside. The cushions were a lost cause and were chucked. But wait, it gets even better.


My beautiful trailing vines? Gone. Thanks, polar vortex. I lost several plants to the extreme cold this year and now the wall is bare again. It is not always this stark (in fact it looked quite lovely in this Outdoor Decor Post from 2012) but an unseasonably cold spring has prevented me from getting out and making any progress and it looks it.

It is not always this dire, last year I was very proud of the yard as can be seen in the Great Gardening Post. But the patio has always been a challenge. Probably because the Engineer and I have such different outdoor philosophies. I come from a family of gardeners and landscapers. My grandmother's yard was a masterpiece full of beautiful plants and rose bushes - she was quite the gardener. My mother and aunt have followed in her footsteps with beautifully maintained yards. Both of them also love to garden. My dad is very outdoorsy and loves the water, so he likes to live on the lake or have a pool and hot tub in the backyard.

I like to garden, as can be seen in the links above and The Engineer appreciates that. But we differ on outside decor. Growing up, his family was not into outdoor landscaping and activities. Today, as long as he has a nice grill, he is in good shape. And let's face it, outdoor decor projects are expensive  - much more time-consuming than just painting a wall. So he looks at any big outdoor ideas as a project manager would: are we going to get a big enough return from the money spent? Will we use it?

It is one of the delicate negotiations of marriage that I used to steamroll right through - longtime readers know that patience is not a virtue of mine. So my goal now with the backyard is to create a space that we both like - functional, beautiful but not over the top and overly expensive. A piece of cake. (Help me.)

Happy Weekend!

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  1. No, no, no! You're looking at this all wrong. What you have there is potential! Oodles and oodles of potential. OK, maybe I'm putting a happy spin on it, but the good new is, you can really do almost anything you want here.

    So, here's what I think. I think you should put some kind of structure on that wall, which will help fill it up while you're growing whatever you decide to put there. Then I would repeat that structure on the wall on your patio by your table and chairs. Maybe a very large-format lattice like this:


    You could grow a shade loving annual vine grown out of pots up the one on the patio (maybe a pot at either end, or get a huge trough-like container and put vines on the ends and fill the middle with hostas, etc.

    As for the big wall, what direction does that face? Whatever you plant there, I'd amend the soil with lots of compost and manure ... anything to help moisture retention. The problem with planting on a wall is that it's often very dry there and I'll bet that's what got your vines as much as the polar vortex (or rather, the combination of the two).

    Alternately, you could consider one or more espalier trees for that wall, but that requires a pretty good deal of patience as as you mentioned, that's not your strong suit. And obviously, I know a little something about being impatient.

    Back to the patio: Containers on the corners planted with similar color schemes and lots of height would certainly brighten it up, or what about creating a garden bed off the edge there? That could help give it color, but also help give you a bit of enclosure there as well.

  2. Thanks for stopping by! I agree, a mirror would look good and some different colored frames on my wanna be gallery wall. Thanks for your suggestions!

    I'm not a gardener so I can't help you there but I think a big canvas would looks good on that brick wall behind your table. Maybe something like this - http://www.pinterest.com/pin/35184440813093277/. Or some pallet art - http://www.pinterest.com/pin/256001560039566240/.

    1. I love the idea of a giant reclaimed wood art piece for that wall. Now to find just the right one. :) Thank you for the great suggestion!

  3. I have no clue about my backyard either. But I wish part of mine was covered.


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