When we moved into our townhouse, our backyard looked a little something like this:

backyard_before3

backyard_before5

backyard_before6

I KNOW.  The horror.  It was literally a dumping ground (for us and others) and the home of about a million mosquitoes.  We would shield our eyes as we drove by, as if that would somehow help us forget how big an eyesore it was.  A whole year we lived like this until Husband finally said, “Wife, I love being outside entertaining.  Let’s fix our backyard.”  Needless to say I had a smile from ear to ear.

The first order of business was to CLEAR THE YARD.  Yes, we could have done this ourselves, but as they say, time is money, and our jobs clearly didn’t leave us the time to do it, so we called in the professionals and shelled out some cash.  A tree company came in and ripped up every living thing from the backyard – trash bushes, gnarly yews, ivy, everything.  It was quite impressive, as what took their crew of 3 guys and a chipper 2 hours saved Husband and I a weekend or more of hard work, mosquito bites, and probably a healthy dose of poison ivy!  Here it was post-everything removal:

i mean, wow, right?

i mean, wow, right?

You would not BELIEVE how much brighter our living room got after everything was removed!!!  It was like an extra light was flipped on!

We had a few requirements to float past several local landscaping companies for the backyard redo:

  • Liveable
  • Manageable
  • Relatively low maintenance
  • A fast growing evergreen screen to line the sidewalk so that we could be somewhat shielded from the cars coming down our street
  • Since we are huge on entertaining and being outside (Husband LIVES for summer), we wanted to look at replacing the postage stamp of a deck (like 8’x’8′) with a larger deck or paver patio

We received several cost estimates and landscaping plans – some not really achieving what we hoped, some everything we wanted and more (but with a $35k price tag to go with it – hel-lo, this is a townhouse, people!).  Eventually we settled on a super friendly guy who translated exactly what we wanted into a plan we could afford.

Based on where the economy was heading last spring (D-O-W-N), we decided to move forward with the landscaping portions of the yard and leave the larger deck/paver patio for when we felt more confident about investing our hard-earned cash into our home.  Hopefully someday we’ll put in a patio, but for now, the existing deck works just fine.  So are you ready to see the finished product?!

a bit more form and function back there, huh?

a bit more form and function back there, huh?

We lined the sidewalk (right side of the pic) with skip laurel, which are evergreen and have a lovely glossy leaf.  They produce super fragrant white blooms in spring and berries in the fall.  They grow really quickly (some say up to a foot a year!) and will eventually fill into a nice screen at around 8-10′ tall.  I was very adamant that the design feel “organic” and not everything lined up in a row, and our landscaper hit it on the head, planting the 13 laurels in a nice curvy pattern.

At the back of our yard, we put in 3 Nellie Stevens Hollies, which, also evergreen, will eventually grow to be a bushy 15-25′ tall and blocking the view from the neighbors behind us.  (I still want to do something about gaps on either side of the oak tree, but we’ll get to that eventually I suppose.)

Along the neighbor side of our yard (in addition to the passive aggressive climbing rose trellis action I put in this spring) is a row of 6 mountain laurels.  They’re evergreens as well and have pretty white blooms in spring and orangey-red blooms all fall and winter, and could grow anywhere between 4-5′ tall.

The best part about our yard, though, is that we actually have a YARD.  OF GRASS.  It’s amazing.  We never thought we could have it because it was so heavily shaded, but trimming up the trees really helped a lot and now we have a swath of sod to call our own!

see that green grass?!

see that green grass?!

I found a patio set on Craigslist this winter – a really substantial and postage stamp-sized teak set that is really comfy to sit in and just the right size.  It even has a super cute petite little umbrella.  And how much, do you think?  Hmm?  $120.  That’s it.  It was SUCH a steal, I couldn’t even believe it.  I drove away really fast so the seller couldn’t change her mind.  🙂

that's a real deal teak set

that's a real deal teak set

I purchased 4 outdoor pillows during the Restoration Hardware huge outdoor sale event a few weeks ago – at $16.95 a pop, I was sold.  I also picked up 3 lanterns from Ikea to hang under the umbrella add a little ambient lighting for our al fresco dining.

adding a little ambiance

adding a little ambiance

Husband got a heavy duty bird feeder (the pressure release kind where only birds can eat out of it) because he likes seeing wildlife, and I strung a strand of cafe lights from it to the tree to add a little party atmosphere outside.

party time

party time

I also put a few pots of edible yummys out on the porch: green peppers, red peppers, jalapenos, anaheim peppers, and a pot of mint.

i love having room to grow things!

i love having room to grow things!

Prior to the redo, we replaced our back door, removing a 1960s, rickety, drafty sliding door, as well as a storm door that swung outward onto the deck (and thus taking up about half the deck!).  We put in a set of french doors (that swung inward, yay) and the coolest thing ever – a retractable screen door from Home Depot.  It’s like a roller shade, but hung vertically and attaching with a magnet in the middle.  The best is that it’s only visible when you want it.

the retractable screen door

the retractable screen door

You will find the both of us out on our porch most evenings (and some mornings, when we haven’t hit the snooze bar a dozen times), drinking coffee, reading books or magazines, surfing the ol’ intraweb, having a glass of wine (for me) or martini (for him), and eating dinner.  I can tell you this: our backyard redo was worth EVERY PENNY.

Now if only those skip laurels would reach 8′ to fully screen us from the street and we’d be set.  🙂

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