Yards and Exteriors

The Yard – Advice, Please?

I hate showing in-the-rough before pictures without having some pretty after (or at least during!) shots for you, so I’ve been hesitant to share any photos of the brownstone. Those bachelors have not been so tidy! I could really use your help though. (and to make it clear – this is not our stuff. We haven’t moved…

I hate showing in-the-rough before pictures without having some pretty after (or at least during!) shots for you, so I’ve been hesitant to share any photos of the brownstone. Those bachelors have not been so tidy! I could really use your help though. (and to make it clear – this is not our stuff. We haven’t moved in yet)

I would love to be a really good gardener, but honestly, I have no idea where to even start. When we were first married, we lived in Arizona and our yard was mostly gravel and just a small lawn – totally minimal. Since then we’ve lived in places with no outdoor space. I haven’t had the chance to learn about plants and yard care/design. I’m SO excited to finally start now.

We have an upper and a lower deck, both are about 5′ deep and 20′ wide – not super huge, but just big enough for a small grill, a table and four chairs on the upper deck (which connects to the living room). I’ll probably put a small seating area on the bottom deck too (which connects to my office), but I think mostly that area will be for outdoor toy storage. I haven’t figured that all out yet.

As I look through Pinterest and my inspiration folders at brownstone yards, it seems like a lot of them have stone or brick pavers. When we first walked through the house, I thought those flagstone pavers should go out immediately in favor for just grass (right after that astroturf gets pulled up off the deck! yeesh!)

But now I’m worrying about mud. Maybe putting down (prettier) pavers is the best idea?

Okay, all you yard experts – help! What would you do with this space? Ideas I’m bouncing around – a tallish hedge along the back wall for added privacy, some flowers and/or vegetables planted along the sides (I want to take out all those low bushy trees to the left).  Raised garden beds? Maybe a teeny tiny playhouse or a covered sandbox? The yard itself is 20′ wide x 40′ deep (this is a shot from the upstairs landing).

Any thoughts?

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116 thoughts on “The Yard – Advice, Please?

  1. Sunset magazine June issue has a great back yard where old cobblestones are used with Baby's tears growing between/ around them. It is a soft alternative to grass where you could possibly reuse the existing stones. Also, they had a living fence of Black Bamboo across the property. Maybe a good solution for your back fence.

  2. Since you are planning on taking down some trees, you will definitely need to look for greenery to keep the yard looking lush – some pretty vines on the fences would be a perfect solution. I am by no means a "gardener", but the easiest thing to grow (with sunlight) is creeping fig! It is super low maintenance, and has nearly covered the unsightly fence in my sister's backyard in just about a year. Since it easily grows flat against walls, and takes up nearly no space, this could be a perfect solution – you'd still have room to plant flowers and vegetables in front of the vines!

    Good luck!


  3. You have such a sweet little yard! I would leave the pavers, just to save myself the trouble of taking them out, and fill in around them with dwarf mondo grass. It's really short and tough and never needs mowing. I live in the south and I love gardenias but I don't know if they are zoned up as far as you are. They're evergreen and have great spring blooms that smell outstanding. Hostas are great for shade are need next to no care. Personally, I think your small yard tends toward a foresty feel that kids would love to explore. A "tiny playhouse" in a cottage style would be absolutely perfect if you asked me! Have fun creating your great space! It really is beautiful!

  4. This space has so much potential. I can't wait to see what you do with this – it'll be amazing I'm sure! I wonder if you could just use a concrete stain on the pavers that are already there to make them look a little nicer and then fill in the cracks with gravel? Otherwise- a herringbone pattern with brick pavers would be AMAZING!

  5. I am all about using what you have. Our house came with a ton of flagstone and two horribly done flagstone patios. It is amazing how much better it all looked when we rearranged it. We did pea sized gravel in between, but you could easily get your grass to grow in between.

  6. Keep in mind that everything you take in or out has to go through the house…like my daughter's house in Brooklyn, there's no back access for hauling out grass clippings or bringing in pavers or bags of dirt, etc. Keep it simple! A really great raised growing system is Earth Box (earthbox.com)- they look better than wood boxes and are just the right size for a small garden. Have fun!

  7. Hi Jenny! Congratulations on the new home. My advice is to clean it up for this first summer and live in the space, you will learn what needs to be changed. Because you do not know the light patterns yet,it will save you some money on plants by learning how much sun or how little sun your patch of earth receives.

    Good luck!

  8. hello,

    i am a regular to your site. love the DIY's and querky room arrangments, i am from 'bangalore India, and would like to drop a name here 'my sunny balcony' i know there are brilliant landscapers there along with your interior now, to be exterior designer you wont have trouble. but here in Bangalore 'my sunny balcony' is run by 3 or i guess 4 X It professionals. u could check them on face book for a more fresh and different sort of landscapes… u could also mail them and they could for sure work something for u.. I don't know them personally but an avid followers of their artistic creativeness ..

  9. It's actually a great size. I think you can do a lot of what you want. I definitely like softening the edges with hedges/plantings, and a nicely laid paver patio will do wonders. I'm also partial to some lawn. You will love the feel of the grass under your feet in the summer!

  10. Maybe start with a) do you want to mow a lawn? b) do you have a space to store a mower? That usually helps with the grass or pavers problem. Think of it as an outdoor room & you won't go wrong. Think of levels, colour, contrast, texture… then go to a nursery or google for what plants suit your needs best :)

  11. Thanks for all your efforts that you have put in this. very interesting information. i like with express my support of your ideas in your article, and looking forward to your next article.

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