How it started, part 2 — Back yard

Redoing the front yard was much easier than the back yard. After our 2006-2007 remodel, the front yard was a blank slate so we could landscape it exactly the way we wanted it. The back yard, on the other hand, already had landscaping even though it was dull and uninspired. After our remodel was finished, the back yard looked even worse than before because all water to the property had been turned off for three months. The lawn had pretty much died together with what scraggly plants there had been along the fence. In hindsight, we would have been better served by tearing it all out and starting over, but unfortunately we chose the harder route: improving what was there area by area.

The landscaping contractor who installed the hardscape and sod in the front yard also laid new sod in the back yard. The improvement was immediate and dramatic.

Back yard with new lawn, July 2007
Back yard with new lawn, July 2007
Since the soil under the bay trees seen in the photo above is pretty much impenetrable—dense mat of roots near the surface—we bought large glazed pots at Costco and planted a variety of plants with large or tropical-looking leaves. Here's one of these iterations:

Pots under bay trees
The area outside the dining room had been nothing but wood chips and suckers from the ornamental pear tree. Since it gets very little sun, we decided to plant a woodland garden with hostas, ferns and other shade-tolerant perennials.

Woodland garden outside of dining room, fall 2008

After discovering bamboo, this area underwent even more dramatic changes (see this post).

The first thing we did along the fence behind the lawn was to plant some pots with perennials. This area gets a lot of sun during the day. The pots worked well to a degree but made the planting strip look like a holding area in a nursery.

Summer 2008
In 2009, we got rid of the pots and planted sun-loving perennials like salvias, rudbeckias and echinaceas directly in the ground. By the summer of 2010, they had filled in nicely.

Same area, summer 2010
The northeast corner had been terraced by the builder in the early 90s and we had tried various planting schemes over the years, none too successful or attractive. This time we decided to continue the woodland theme from the area outside the dining room and do something similar here, although with different plants.

Northeast corner, fall 2008
After falling in love with bamboo, we added a bamboo fence to set off the area and planted smaller succulents and ornamental grasses in the areas that get more sun. There's still room for improvement but we'll give the plants some time to mature to see what needs to be modified.

Terraced area with bamboo fence, July 2010
The northern side of the yard had always been our vegetable garden. Our long and hot summers are perfect for tomatoes so every year we had a tomato jungle in that area.

Veggie garden, summer 2008
The original raised beds we'd built in 1997 (see above) had rotted to the point of falling apart so in January of 2009, we built 2 ft high planter boxes out of plastic lumber. We went with ChoiceDek sold at Lowe's because it was cheaper than Trex, but it's basically the same product.

Planter boxes out of plastic lumber
This area still looks pretty much that way now, in the fall of 2010. However, many other areas in our back and front yard have changed quite a bit after I discovered—and got obsessed with—bamboo...