Today I thought I would give you a tour of my backyard. If you’ve been following my blog you know that I do altered art and mixed media pieces that I sell in my Etsy shop Old Raven. My “quirky” style does seem to carry over into all areas of my decorating life, let me show you what I mean.
My backyard area is fairly small and we have neighbor’s houses pretty close on both sides of us…but still, our backyard is a very pleasant sanctuary where my husband Rocky, Bella our dog, Smokey our cat and I, spend many pleasant hours. We have lots of bird feeders that pull in seasonal birds, the more regular permanent varieties and squirrels. I even had quail nest in my Rosemary last year – it was such a treat to watch the process and the grand finale when 13 baby quail that looked like large cotton balls with legs popped out and immediately disappeared with the parents.
This is a view from about half way down the back gate side walk looking up towards our raised deck.
We have a small raised vegetable garden to the right, along side our detached garage where we grow spice plants and tomatoes and bee balm for the hummingbirds (hummies).
Turning around to look back towards the alley and back gate we continued with the brick pavers and river stones. The pavers are all reclaimed from various places, they don’t all ‘match’ and some were cracked or broken but we don’t care. We love to reuse here and ‘eclectic, distressed’ is our style.
The sign on the gate is kind of a joke, I found this handmade sign in the bottom of an old canal. It was probably made back in the 30’s.
A neighbor had two of these big pots that they didn’t want anymore – yeah for us – we were very happy to take them.
One of my Spring faves – iris, and later, when the Summer heat hits, the green blades of their leaves are a lovely low upkeep border. All the river stones and pavers cover exposed soil that would otherwise just sprout weeds – now everything stays tidy and neat with very little effort and also saves on watering as the stones help keep water from simply evaporating from the open soil.
Back to the deck where Bella loves to lay and watch the activities of the bird feeders down at the far end of the yard and make sure the squirrels don’t hog all the seeds.
Here there’s pots of ornamental grasses, which are perennials, and extremely low maintenance and hardy from Spring through to the first hard frosts. There’s another line back behind the table and below the windows but they’re a different variety that comes in a bit later.
The deck is a very protected area with our umbrella, the shade from a feathery locust tree and a row of bamboo screening us from neighbors to the south.
You might have noticed this on the deck’s front edge. It’s a natural arch of stone that I planted with hen & chickens. I love those little plants…you can plant them just about anywhere with nearly no soil necessary and they come back year after year. When I’m shopping in my favorite 2nd hand stores, I sometimes run onto little knick knacks that I like such as this small metal smiling oriental gent. For 50¢ I added a bit of interest to this garden feature.
I mentioned upcycle and eclectic before and this planter is both. This is what you get when someone pours a cement footing for a fence post. I found this when new construction uprooted it from its place at the edge of an old field. I turned it upside down and put a couple layers of fine wire mesh about half way down the hole. Then I filled it with sandy soil and topped it with more hen & chicks (these plants throw off ‘babies’ all year round, so there’s always new starts to add here and there).
This was a really large footing we found and converted. It’s accompanied by odd rusty pieces I’ve found on my walks in the foot hills. But doesn’t this look good standing on the pavers with Vinca spreading around its base?
I should mention here that my poor husband gets to manhandle these from the fields to the backyard (thank you honey).
This is the patio off the north side of our deck. Again, all these pavers were reclaimed from old construction areas.
Our hanging baskets are filled with perennials and in late Fall Rock plants them, baskets and all, about half way deep into the spice garden soil and they winter over great.
Our ‘gate’ and ‘fence’ are upcycles, too. Rock built the wood frame and hung the metal gate frame and then we filled it in with pieces of garden fencing and a metal garden trellis.
And above the fencing, suspended from the bottom of the planter shelves, are two wrought iron backs from garden benches that Rock found dumped off a trail when he was out mtn biking one day. Together, these all made our ‘fence’ to the north but it leaves it very open and inviting to the side yard, too.
This is an old wood bench I found at a yard sale, it had quite a few holes in it but that was okay. I put in some fine mesh wire in each hole, added sandy soil and more hen & chicks. A brass statue of Buddha (thrift store find) and now the back wall of the garage is very Zen.
The area under the Buddha bench is covered in lattice pavers. These pavers have open squares and if you want, you can plant greenery in them. We went with Irish moss. This area is where Rock has a bike wash station (it’s above, mounted to the garage wall) and he can hose off his bike with ease here and the lattice pavers let the water drain away easily.
Note: We did dig this entire patio area down fairly deep and then lined it heavily with sand before we added out pavers.
Yep, more Hen & Chicks and also a large wood candle holder (thrift store buy) that is topped with a huge piece of obsidian. Obsidian is what Native Americans used to make their arrow points and my husband’s family’s homestead happens to have a mountain made of this stuff. The local tribe traded this very valuable commodity for centuries.
I love popping these little guys into any available space and look at these two plants…they’re covered in babies ready to find their own little special nook.
This old strawberry planter never did take to the strawberries, but it does great as a catch-all for starts from lilies, hen & chicks and coral bells (which I have all over the place since the hummies just love them). And there’s also another cheap thrift store accent here – the metal statue, they always look so great when they’ve ‘aged in’.
If you love plants but don’t have the time/energy to ‘garden’ then container gardening is your answer. And if you go with perennials you’ll save a ton of money, too. Remember, this is still just the start of Spring here in Idaho and these plants will fill out massively for Summer. But notice the plant stands here? One is just another pot turned upside down. When the pot above finally decays beyond keeping (I like things that look distressed though as you cans see), then I’ll put this plant in the lower pot and off we’ll go. The other pot has an old iron water works ring for its ‘stand’.
In the far corner is a grouping of pots on more ‘unique’ stands that include a cement plug from who knows what that was for. The other stand is actually plastic, but looks pretty really, huh? Another wood candle holder is topped by an Antique iron plum bob. Again, these are all perennials that will fill in this corner with overflowing greenery.
I’m sure you’ve seen those fancy outdoor glass topped tables that have the really ornate cement bases? That’s what this was from and was a $5 garage sale find as the glass top had been broken. Like I said, I’m eclectic and quirky – but it works for me.
This is a quick peek up the north side yard off the patio towards the front of the house. River stones combined with some edgers a neighbor didn’t want any more. I like the kind of free flowing look this has. Later, when all those Hosta grow up – this is jammed packed with greenery.
A final view of the patio from a little different angle. We have a padded/covered swing and there’s a single chair and a slider off the side of the deck. It makes a nice place to relax and, if he’s lucky, Rock can be found stretched out in the swing for some well deserved down time.
Now we’re going to move over to the south side of the yard but before we leave the deck take a look at our bird bath set right at the base of the steps from the walkway. This is just a large rock that has a natural shallow dish in its top. We fill it every day with fresh water and the birds, especially the Goldfinches, love taking their baths here. The river stones surrounding it are constantly covered in splashes.
This is one of the first features we added to our backyard (twenty years ago). It’s a small pond, only 3 feet x 8 feet, but it’s perfect. It runs all year round, in the Winter we add a floating heater, but the sound it makes – heaven.
Growing inside the pond is Marsh Marigolds. These guys have already bloomed their bright buttercup yellow blossoms (and it’s only the first of May) but they will stay green and leafy all Summer and die back in the Winter only to reappear very early in the next Spring. I also have ivy creeping up the back on the wall of our south fence. This pond is the Robin’s Jacuzzi and they love it. First thing in the morning and before they go to bed – bath time! It’s also the Summer home of a Western Toad.
Off the west side of the pond is another half buried pot (twin to the iris pot) but this pot can no longer be seen due to the ivy. Just starting up in the center is another Hosta. We love these plants, too. They are super hardy and in another few weeks it will be a giant green umbrella over the ivy.
Notice the bricks, these are a random mix of bricks we salvaged from here and there.
The moss and lichen are especially pretty now, in the Spring. Some of the bricks are crumbling and when one really starts to fall apart we just pull it out and tap in a fresh one from a small salvage pile we have stashed off in a corner.
Some of the bricks we salvaged came from an old brick works factory that used to be on the outskirts of the town I was raised in – Boise, Id. Boise is just right over the hill from our home.
The brick factory, when it was operational, was way out past town but now the city has caught up to that area, the mill’s gone and finding these old bricks with Boise embossed in them was a real treat for me. I love how the lichens and moss have taken over the letters.
It’s a bit narrow on this South side but it makes for a beautiful green tunnel with the moss, bamboo and ivy.
It also makes for a very nice cool and shady spot for a big furry dog.
This is the view from the front yard gate. These pavers are actually junks of cement walkway that was poured in a neighboring portion of our little development. The sidewalk, it turned out, was in the wrong place so they used a jackhammer to take it out in junks. These junks made for perfect pavers to this part of our side yard. Rock really had fun packing all of these around. Once they were placed will filled in with pea gravel.
The raised beds to the left are where we grow carrots, cucumbers and hot peppers. We also have Virginia Creeper running down the top of the fence to the right. We have no idea where this came from, it just volunteered. And it continued to “volunteer” no matter how many times I pulled it up. I wanted Trumpet Vine here for hummies, but at this point it’s Virginia Creeper 1 and me zip. Sometimes you just have to roll with it.
Another angle on the south side and you can see we have another set of steps coming off the deck on this side. You can also see how thick the bamboo wall is. Bamboo is an amazing plant but takes serious consideration BEFORE you plant it. Bamboo is a ‘runner’ and those runners will pop up yards away from the parent plant. We put down extremely thick plant barrier two feet deep into the ground on the brick side of these plants. On the other side is a solid cement pad that was our original patio that we didn’t like because it was too low to appreciate the view out the back – hence the raised deck.
We thought the cement slab would be able to contain the bamboo on that side but -wrong. Every once in a while we get bamboo coming right up through the deck. We also get it coming up in those raised beds way back up the walk way. This is one hardy plant! But it’s also a great evergreen, giving us a shot of green and growing things all Winter long. I’ve seen it bent over double with snow and then when the snow melts off it just springs right back up. And it’s a perfect and beautiful natural privacy screen. It also keeps us well stocked in plant stakes because each time we need to thin out some of it we save the stalks and just trim off all the leaves and stems, they last forever. One stalk can be over 15 feet tall so they come in handy for quite a few things.
Bamboo does come in a huge variety of styles, widths, heights and colors. Some you can plant in pots, others fill in an ugly back corner where nothing else will grow. Just be sure you speak with a knowledgeable gardener before you plant to get the do’s and don’ts.
We love our backyard, it’s a wonderful place to relax and watch nature. And though it’s a bit strange and unusual and nothing you’ll ever find in Better Homes & Gardens, still, guests always comment on its beauty and, more importantly to us, its comfort and ability to relax.
I hope you have your own sanctuary and give upcycling, container gardening and perennials a try – you will ‘grow’ to love it.
Thanks for following my blog, take care and stay well. – Kriss