10 Backyard Landscaping Ideas From Experts

June 14, 2018

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How often do you find yourself lounging in your home’s backyard, enjoying that deck or patio you worked so hard to install? If the answer is ‘not often,’ it may be that your home’s backyard needs some updated landscaping, to make the space more inviting and to bring in some personality and pops of color.

Note a few landscaping tips and ideas you might try in your backyard, to make the space look its best, and to make it an area you’ll enjoy.

1. How to break up a large lawn

If your backyard is one overly large plot of grass, consider adding a landscaping feature in the middle of the property, rather than just planting flowers along the edges. This feature will break up all that green grass, and bring in some needed color.

A pergola is an excellent choice for the middle of a large lawn, and these structures come in a variety of sizes and styles. Create a path to your new pergola with patio pavers or decorative rocks, and then hang potted flowers from its roof and walls, for more visual interest.

If you prefer some greenery or a natural feature instead of a pergola, opt for a small landscaping tree that provides a focal point in that large backyard space. Consider an apple, Japanese maple, or dogwood tree for both color and fragrance.

You’ll also want to anchor this tree rather than just planting it in the middle of the lawn, on its own. Invest in bricks you can stack to create a border around the tree’s base, and use the same blocks to create a pathway leading to the tree so that it looks and feels connected and coordinated with your outdoor space.

2. To hide an ugly fence

Chain link fences are very economical and easy to install, but not very attractive! You can hide these fences behind a juniper, lilac, or purple leaf plum bush, or a burning bush hedge. These all grow to be thick and colorful and will hide that unsightly fence.

If you prefer some greenery that is a bit more compact, plant grapevines at the base of the fence. Guide the vines through the links as they grow. Grape leaves get very large and full, and these will help to obscure that fence without crowding your backyard space.

3. To add some personality to wood or vinyl panel fences

​A wood or vinyl panel fence means lots of privacy and noise insulation for your space; however, these fences can also be downright drab and dull! Unadorned panel fences often look like blank canvases or whitewashed walls, utterly devoid of color and style.

To spruce up solid panel fences, add vibrant landscaping features, and not just green hedges. It’s also good to consider taller plantings, so those features are in proportion to tall fence panels.

To add this needed height and color, layer your landscaping features. Start with some bamboo, forsythia, or Italian buckthorn, planted close to the fence. Add a row of rhododendron or hydrangea bushes in front of these.

Lastly, plant a row of flowers that grow close to the ground, such as creeping phlox or dwarf impatiens. These layers of landscaping will add color and depth, in the proportion needed for those larger fence panels.

4. For a manicured look

​If you enjoy a manicured, precise look to your outdoor space, start with conifer or boxwood hedges along the border of your backyard. These bushes are easy to trim, so you can keep them looking clean and manicured.

To add some pops of color without losing that neatly trimmed look, invest in outdoor planters in a square design. Add hydrangeas or coleus to the pots, and place these in front of those hedges. The rounded shape of hydrangeas offers fullness, while coleus is a simple but colorful plant. Add square pavers as a border in front of these planters, to finish the look.

5. For a rustic look

To keep your backyard looking natural and rustic, find reclaimed or recycled items you can use as planters. These items might include an old wheelbarrow or washtub, or a wooden wine barrel. Don’t remove any rust or old paint from the surface of these items, as a worn and weathered look adds to their rustic charm!

Avoid boxy hedges, as these will detract from the rustic style you’re trying to create. Instead, choose bushes like Virginia creeper, honeysuckle, or periwinkle, which grow thick and full but without a trimmed and precise look.

You can even plant these bushes very close to each other, so they look a bit wild and unattended. Use split poles or railroad ties for a border, or choose pavers with uneven edges in earth tone colors.

6. If you need privacy

If your backyard fence doesn’t provide much privacy from the neighbors, the right landscaping features can help! Conifer and boxwood hedges, as mentioned, are very thick and dense, and can completely block the view of the neighbors. Laurel hedges have a rounded leaf that isn’t so manicured and boxy, but which also grows very thick and dense.

If you prefer some color to your landscaping features, opt for dappled willow, lilac, or snowball viburnum. These bushes also grow to be very dense, while offering lots of colorful and fragrant blooms.

You might also add privacy in just a select area of your backyard with a trellis wall. This wall itself can obscure the view into your yard, but you can also hang an outdoor curtain from a trellis, or plant lush vines at its base. Ivy, trumpet creeper or honeysuckle are all excellent choices, as these will grow over and around the mesh of the trellis, giving you privacy behind that wall.

7. Maximum impact in a small space

You can still have a beautifully landscaped backyard even if your outdoor space is a bit limited. The right landscaping plants and flowers and a few simple accessories can offer maximum impact in that minimal space.

One tip for those with a smaller backyard is to add blooming hedges, as these offer you both greenery and some bursts of color. Camellia bushes have a vibrant flower that resembles roses, or you might choose rhododendron or lilac for an intense purple color. For something a bit more neutral, look for rose of Sharon bushes.

Another idea for landscaping in a small space is to choose one area of your yard and add a bold feature in that spot alone. A landscaper can assist with building a tiered wall, so you have three layers or levels of various flowers and shrubbery. This type of feature can mean maximum impact in a small space, or in an otherwise dead corner that desperately needs some personality!

To keep your landscaping from taking up too much room, consider greenery or flowers that stay a bit flat rather than growing thick and full. The climbing plants mentioned above, including trumpet creeper or honeysuckle, can be planted along a fence, or you might opt for rows of tall and thin flowers, such as poppies, daisies, or gladiolas.

8. For a simple look

While lots of lush greenery can make your backyard seem very welcoming and inviting, you might prefer a more simple look, with just a bit of green and a few bits of color. If so, you’ll want to add only one variety of shrub or bush that offers some shape, color, and texture.

Fireball shrubs are rounded with a slight red shade, and these can be spaced along a fence or up against the exterior wall of the home. Golden Japanese forest grass is a type of bush that has long, soft, narrow leaves that grow in various green and white tones.

For stronger color, consider azaleas, kangaroo paws, or allamanda bush. These shorter bushes won’t fill up your backyard space, but they have a bolder color and more depth than many ornamental grasses or other shrubbery varieties.

Remember, too, that you can invest in outdoor planters and place these where you want a bit of color and texture, to keep your landscaping simple. Add a few planers along your outdoor fence, or put a planter or two at the edge of your deck or patio, for a bit of color that doesn’t overwhelm your space.

9. Go beyond the greenery

While shrubbery and flowers are suitable for making your outdoor space welcoming and inviting, you might also want to go beyond the greenery and add some additional landscaping accessories. These items can make your backyard more comfortable and even more relaxing.

If your home is in a colder climate, opt for an outdoor fire pit. You can buy freestanding fire pits that have an edge or lip that acts as a table, so you don’t need to crowd your space with both a fire feature and added furniture. If you have the budget, you might even consider an actual outdoor fireplace, built with materials that coordinate with the backyard deck or patio, for maximum visual impact and warmth.

Water features are also very relaxing, and these can help drown out sound from the neighbors. Opt for a small plug-in waterfall that hangs on an outdoor wall, or, if you have the budget, hire a landscaper to build a freestanding waterfall in your backyard. The electrical lines and the pump for this feature are buried so that they’re out of sight, and you can have your new waterfall built around your landscaping greenery or next to a backyard pool, for maximum visual impact and enjoyment.

A pond can also be installed in a backyard, with water-hungry plants for greenery. You can even have a footbridge built over this pond; for smaller lawns, the bridge can be purely decorative, but for larger spaces, the bridge might provide an actual footpath from one area of the yard to another.

10. Adding unique features

​If you want your backyard landscaping to be a bit unique, consider a few simple touches that will ensure your space stands out from the crowd. One suggestion is to create a border for your landscaping that doesn’t go in a straight line! Curve that border outward at random spots, and fill in those curves with a low bush or flowering shrub.

The border materials you use also give you a chance to bring in some unique details. For a rustic look, use split logs or large stones in various shapes and sizes. For something very bold, have concrete blocks or bricks painted in a bright color that coordinates with your landscaping flowers or patio furniture.

You might also use reclaimed items for landscaping borders, for lots of personality around your flowers and greenery. Upside down wine bottles, thick china plates, or pieces of stained glass can be unique. Ask a landscaper if these items would work for your space, and ensure you’ve smoothed down any broken or jagged edges of the reclaimed glass, porcelain, and other such materials.

For an even more unique look in your backyard space, consider hanging framed stained glass sections on your fence, like artwork. Add painted brick pavers in a fun pattern, such as a checkerboard pathway, or create a giant heart in the center of your yard with landscaping stones.

Use landscaping accessories in a fun way, to create a unique look in your backyard. For example, you might put a large outdoor pot on its side, and then plant flowers both in and out of the container. This setup can make it look like those flowers are spilling out of the pot itself. This feature also works if you have a planter that is chipped or broken on one side, as you can put that side on the ground, hiding the damaged area!

You might also plant flowers in a birdbath, or put a wagon wheel on its side and plant different flowers between the sections of spokes. If you have a wicker chair with a broken seat, place the chair over a flowering bush and allow the flowers to grow through it, for a fun look!

Whatever you do with your backyard landscaping, remember to choose greenery that is right for your local climate, and for the sun exposure, they would get every day. An expert landscaper can help you decide on the best choices for your space, and help you create a beautiful, restful retreat in your backyard!

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