My backyard received a major overhaul a few years back for my daughter’s graduation party. Buoyed by that success, new features were subsequently added, such as a pretty pergola, which offers a lovely place to dine on a summer’s evening. Adding creature comforts will take your yard to the next level, turning it into an outdoor room that everyone in the family will enjoy.
If you would like to create a backyard haven of your own, here are 8 elements you should consider including:
Start at the Gate
A garden gate offers a visual transition from “the real world” to the sanctuary of your garden.
My personal preference is an arch, covered in climbing roses or clematis. This suits my cottage garden style to a T. But there are so many options, from columns, to an actual swinging gate, to a looser interpretation created using live tress, shrubs, or flowers. The important part is to make it clear that you are entering a special place.
A recent article, “Gate sets your garden sanctuary apart” at the Denver Post sums it up well. “A gate marks an important transition: like the front door of a house, it deserves special attention. Gates restrict access, but they also awaken anticipation. They are physical, visual and psychological thresholds.”
An Abundance of Beautiful Flowers
My garden style runs toward overblown peonies, roses, irises, and azaleas in shades from shell pink, to fuchsia, to vibrant purple. But there are thousands upon thousands of options available.
One trick is to try out annuals to see how you like a specific color and size in a particular space. The investment is small, and if you decide that orange really isn’t your color, you won’t have to dig up and rehome pricey perennials.
Another is container gardening, which is effective for even the smallest yard. The beauty of containers is that they can be moved, rearranged, and regrouped throughout the season.
And containers need not translate to just simple, traditional clay pots. I prefer a teapot, wheelbarrow, vintage tin, or even my children’s old red wagon! I think that some of the best choices for container gardens are the ones that add a dash of unexpected whimsy and lightheartedness to the garden. (Click here for more Container Gardening Tips.)
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
My yard is rather private (many years ago a veritable forest was planted to either side of the yard, creating a live wall of sorts). So, I am fortunate that I can achieve a “secret garden” feel without resorting to stockade fencing.
For planting a live wall, I love Rose of Sharon. This grows quickly and can be turned into a lush “hedge” in just a few years. It does self-seed, so some may find it too invasive. But for me, the wall of gorgeous spring blossoms makes up for the fact that I need to monitor and pull quite a few “volunteers” throughout the yard.
Other screening ideas include box planters filled with tall plantings and trellising.
If you have an unattractive fence, a quick climber, such as honeysuckle or trumpet vine can soften the look. Both are rapid growers and will require pruning and maintenance. Climbing roses, such as New Dawn (charming pale pink with dense petals) provide a longer-term solution.
Please, Have a Seat!
When purchasing seating for the garden, think comfort. I have been tempted in the past, by beautiful Instagram and Pinterest images, of stunning, but ultimately impractical seating options. I have to keep reminding myself that the garden is a sanctuary and leisurely comfort is the goal.
If you have the space, designate two seating areas, one for dining and one for lounging.
For dining sets, a comfy back, cushions, and arms will ensure that dinner parties are long, relaxed, and enjoyed by all. Dining sets can be purchased at any home goods or home improvement store. When choosing, also think about the durability of materials, your climate, and how long you would like this set to last. I recently had to trash a wooden table that (after many, many years) had finally given up the ghost. But regular maintenance had kept it going well beyond my expectations, even with harsh East Coast winters.
For lounging, there are so many options. Think about curling up with a great book and a glass of iced tea. Where do you want to sit? My choices veer towards wicker chairs filled with squashy down pillows, or stretched out in a traditional Adirondack chair (book forgotten). Or try a decadent day bed, lounger, and classic settee.
If you are hosting get-togethers in your garden, activities and games will get the party started. Yard games such as croquet (or Pall Mall, for Bridgerton fans), bocce ball, and cornhole are easy to set up and require no permanent installation (unless you are a serious competitor). Even a badminton net can be easily erected for a weekend.
As a more permanent idea, a fire pit creates a wonderful conversation area, warmth and a reason to gather… in additional to an excuse to eat s’mores! You can easily dig one and line it with rocks (far from the house, but within easy reach of the garden hose). Or choose a self-contained unit that can be moved to various spots. (Always check safety information such as clearances. And, never use a fire pit in an enclosed space.)
Add a Water Feature
A simple fountain or a small pond and waterfall are a wonderful addition to any garden and provide an element that many don’t think about when designing an outdoor space – sound. The recent article “All About Garden Fountains” at This Old House describes why water features are so important, “Few things soothe like running water. If you don’t happen to have a meandering stream in your yard, there’s another way to harness water’s therapeutic benefits: a garden fountain. It provides the same calming qualities and can dramatically lift the look of your landscape.”
While beautiful, when adding a water feature, you will also want to make sure that it is safe. Click to read How to Make Your Pond Child Safe here.
Inject Your Personality – Make the Garden Special
And, don’t forget those small details — a charming welcome sign, a cute birdhouse, or maybe a cozy hammock are just a few. Here’s where your personality can shine. Some ideas include:
- Convert an electric chandelier to a “candelier” for ambiance. Or hang strings of Edison bulbs like a mini beer garden.
- Add a riot of shades by painting each chair a difference color.
- Fill in cracks in a sidewalk or concrete patio in using mosaics made of broken dishes.
- Add bunting in festive colors or patterns that coordinate with an event (the Union Jack for the Queen’s Jubilee, for example).
- Hang a windchime (either store bought or handmade).
- Create small surprises. I collect tiny chairs, which I nestle in pots of flowers. Not everyone will notice them, but those who do are sure to smile! Or use permanent marker or paint and write inspirational words on smooth stones. Scatter about (this works well if you have rock borders).
Go for Broke: Erect a She Shed
A she shed can be used as a home office, a crafting or artistic space, a unique spot to entertain the girls, a yoga studio, or just a place to read and dream in peaceful solitude.
If you already have a garden shed or other small structure in your yard, you are ahead of the game. If not, sheds can be purchased online, delivered and installed easily. They start at about $2000 and go up from there. But, if you’re handy, a DIY wooden structure from The Home Depot can be had for under $1000! (Learn more about She Sheds here.)
Thanks for visiting! While you are here, take some time to enter our brand new giveaways. And, if you liked this 8 Ways to Create a True Backyard Haven post, please visit the Gorgeous Gardens tab and Susan’s Garden on Pinterest for even more inspiration.
DO YOU NEED A PRODUCT REVIEW? GET FEATURED HERE! If you have a fashion, beauty or style product line and want an honest evaluation, or if you would like to create a giveaway or promotional event, please contact us.
DISCLAIMER: No financial compensation or product samples were received in exchange for this 8 Ways to Create a True Backyard Haven post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers.
Susan Said… WHAT?! is your guide to real style for the way you live. From fabulous fashion and accessories, to gorgeous gardens and stunning interiors, plus the latest products and tips for throwing parties, weddings, and events of all kinds. Susan Conforte McNeill is a wife, mother, author and entrepreneur. Susan is also the co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait!