Planning a backyard patio / landscaping - pics!

leightxJune 8, 2012

Hello all!

I've been lurking for a while, picking up all kinds of useful info. I suppose my problem is I don't know where to begin. This will be DIY - but doesn't have to happen this year. We've lived here for 12 years, and yes - our backyard still looks pretty much like it did when we moved in. It just hasn't been a priority, even though we do spend a good bit of time out there. We have a few issues to address - obviously not all at once. Baby steps!

1) We'd like to expand our outdoor living area. We currently have a covered patio that we love. It has Western exposure though, and that makes it hard to enjoy during happy hour. :( I'm leaning towards adding a second patio under our nice live oaks, but DH isn't keen on that idea for some reason. He could probably be persuaded if it makes sense. It's very hard to grow anything there anyway - no irrigation system. Even Asian Jasmine is struggling.

2) We want to get rid of the grass and rose bush beside the patio. Again - no irrigation, and the hose is on the other side of the house. I'd be ok with planters or something, but grass is a mess of weeds, and the rose is continually overgrown. Flagstone patio perhaps here? Maybe extending out around the front of the current covered patio? We'd like a firepit in an ideal world. Maybe another seating area?

3) Bushes / something along the back of the house. Natives preferred (again, watering isn't all that easy).

4) Same along the fence.

(trampoline is staying - kids would drive us nuts otherwise)

5) The grass is a mess and the yard isn't level. Not sure how to remedy this, but I've been hanging out on the lawn forum as well. We are losing the bermuda battle, and may just start encouraging that to choke out the weeds... The drought last year killed most of the St. Augustine, but the bermuda is at about 60% now.

Any and all advice welcome! Thanks in advance

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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

I highly recommend Austin TX landscape designer Pam Penick, she knows your hood like the back of her hand.
Her design biz is specifically geared towards the DIY'er.
She can help you get on the right track , save you dough, get you inspired and coach you all the way through.

She has a wonderful blog that is linked through her website.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pam

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 8:28PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Because a previous poster was kind enough to come back with "after" photos, we have the thread linked below "on file" which may interest you. You have more space, and maybe a small tree would be a better addition than a patio extension to the side once you get rid of the rose, but this might help you think it through.

I think you are suffering a bit from what we call perimeteritis; you are seeing your yard only as a series of decisions to be made around the perimeter. There are different ways view the yard. For example, where might you want shade, where is it nicest to sit at certain times of day, etc. You could try the plastic chair method of design where you drag a chair around the yard and try sitting in it and pondering what would enhance your experience at that spot.

It is actually not that nice UNDER a tree. It is nice in the shade of a tree. Plus, laying a patio under a tree is a pain. A bit of a fernery there might be more attractive than a patio always covered in tree debris.

About the back wall of the house: foundation planting is what you do to make a house look nice from the front on a drive-by basis. Many foundation plants are therefore quite boring close-up and take up a lot of room. Non-evergreen plants don't grow that well at the foundation (or beside a fence) because they lean for light, so I'd find another spot if you want to grow plants. In the back yard you have way more planting options than the foundation AND can come up with a better use for the space. Maybe, for example, a patio extension in that direction with a pergola over it?

Those are just some thoughts to get you started.

Karin L

Here is a link that might be useful: Flagstone patio extension

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 9:23PM
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Pam's website looks nice - I may eventually give her a call. I wish we had the budget for someone to come out and do the entire thing, but I think we'll have to break it into manageable, DIY chunks.

Karin - not a bad idea about a small tree off the patio, although our original thought was that the patio extension would eliminate the grass / weeds over there, which don't receive much (any) water since the hose is on the other side of the house. So I guess our main concern is eliminating the grass, while giving us more outdoor living space.

The back of the house gets western exposure, which in Texas is absolutely brutal (so a patio is a no-go there). But point taken about perimeteritis. :) I just hate the way the back of the house looks. Maybe a fountain or something along those lines, with some plants on either side, would be a better option. Sun is not a problem close to the house - even full sun plants would be suitable since it receives at least 8 hours of direct sun a day.

We don't mind getting rid of more of the lawn - we need enough for a decent game of fetch with the dog, but the less we need to mow / water, the better. I realize we'd still need to water whatever beds we put in, but I was planning on putting in soaker hoses that I could hook up to the hose when needed.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 11:02AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Hiring a local designer to give you a consultation and/or a design you can implement over time as DIY projects isn't necessarily a budget buster and may in fact save you a lot of money in the long run. Creating shade via deciduous tree(s) close to the back house wall, or by adding a shade arbor there could allow you to expand your living space adjacent your existing patio.

You sound like you have zero interest in caring for/ watering a garden, which makes targeted professional advice to minimize this even more important. Hardscape below existing trees can be a wonderful environment to hang out in, and could make immediate use of shade you already have. Selection of an appropriate paving or decking material commensurate with your budget and maintenance regimen(again close to zero?), is something that can be sorted by looking at all the pros and cons.

Irrigation design that is automated and efficient is highly useful to minimizing your time and attention, and there are simple drip systems on battery operated hose bibb systems along with more efficient drip layouts that are much more logical than simple soaker hoses. Adding more hose bibbs at the other side of the house is probably a very useful simple fix to your existing one hose bibb situation. Again, you can either educate yourself on irrigation how to's and best products, or simplify the process by hiring a professional design consultant to advise you.
As to some of the specific advice Karinl has given you isn't
necessarily true in all situations or different parts of the country.
IE, uncomfortable space under trees and leaning out deciduous shrubs when planted against walls is way too general to be true in all situations. These sorts of design dictates will really depend on savvy design and appropriate species selection much more than saying don't do it. This is exactly the reason that a local designer familiar with your Texan conditions is going to give better targeted advice that doesn't steer you in the wrong direction.

Power to you if you can get useful applicable design advice that walks you through a design process for your situation. On the other hand, I'd suggest you shouldn't expect someone to design this for free, and you could educate yourself by reading up on Texas garden design. To get a beautiful, functional garden design, you either will need to educate yourself to get up to speed, avail yourself of professional advice, or accept that a garden doesn't maintain or design itself and you'll need to put the work in to design/ maintain it to keep it up.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 10:50PM
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I am a confirmed, dyed in the wool DIY'er and with budget limitations that further require this approach. I feel as if I am smart, I know how to research, and so I should be able to learn how to do almost anything well enough to suit me needs.
My previous homes landscaping was my first foray into the field and I attacked it- I read, I went on garden tours, I went to plant shows, seminars, and everything else under the sun to learn the basics.
As a result I had a yard full of plants that had each been moved ten times in order to try and obtain the look I wanted. It was exhausting and this method continued for nearly six years. We joked about my plants having frequent flyer miles- my husband is a saint because he dug, moved things, and did everything I asked over and over and over in my attempts to capture a look.
The money we spent on plants! Only to remove them and give them away when they did not work- it is sickening how much time and money we wasted.

When we decided to redo all of our fencing I took the plunge and hired a landscape designer to make me a plan that we could implement as funds allowed.
I was on a totally tight budget and did everything I could to make it easy for her to do my job- I had a survey ready for her, I had measurements, I had a list of every plant I owned that I wanted to incorporate and a list of those species I did not want, and I had clear ideas of the function of each space within my yard.
She came up with a plan that totally did it for me.
This was in 1996 and I think it cost me something like $350.
The only items I had her company install were three larger shade trees. Everything else we did on our own over the next few years and it turned out beautifully.
I know for a fact that is what sold the house in a very poor real estate market in '07- the house itself had problems but the curb and garden appeal were off the charts and the rear garden was a wonderland.

Which is my long winded way of telling you that IMO spending money on a solid design up front is far cheaper in the long run that trying to do it yourself, especially if you don't have a demonstrated knack for it.
You can spend that much money on plants at Home Depot in one weekend only to have half of them fail from being repeatedly moved or be inappropriate to your needs once you get them home.

It would be FAR cheaper and more efficient, IMO, to work off of a sound design from the beginning.
If you like you can substitute various plants within the design but the solid bones of the plan- the balance, the scale, working with textures- some things just go more smoothly and successfully when you bring an expert into the process.

Of course you can do what you like- but IMO planting a plant one time and having it be the right plant for the specific spot that serves the intended purpose and renders you a gorgeous, easily maintained, well functioning yard- well that's worth the price of a professional design.
I don't have any idea what they are charging nowadays but I do know that this yard will be with you for decades, or at least as long as you remain in the home. It is your daily environment, it influences your life constantly, it is the space our kids grow up in and remember all their lives. Even if I had to skip this years vacation or put off that bigger TV I would try and find a way to insure that my design was sound and the best way to accomplish that, IMO, is to have a pro do it.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 8:11AM
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