Great Backyard Ideas

You're feeling inspired after a local garden tour or maybe you envy the glossy gardening pages of a popular magazine. What now? How do you go from a plain backyard to a landscaper-worthy bit of heaven? By assessing your needs, researching ideas, planning your attack and persevering. Whether you want a large or small design, whatever your budget, start with creating a focal point. Be realistic, if you have children or pets--a koi pond may create more stress instead of less.

Sunflower Hideout

It's easy and the payoff is 100 percent delightful with little money or effort. Purchase two packets of sunzilla, mammoth, greystripe or giant sunflower seeds. Flowers grow upwards of 16 feet so prepare to be shocked. If you decide to create a walkway, place a black, fabric weed killer (available at gardening center) down the center. Mark where you planted the seeds along each side with brightly painted rocks. This is an excellent family project.

Sculpture Garden

Bringing art into your backyard creates a unique space, evokes warm feelings and interesting conversations. Think about each medium--a plastic bird, a carved wooden bear, twisted driftwood or stacks of granite or stones. Do you want a bronzed dancer or something like modern art? Consider the value it holds for you and your family. If you'll cherish a rustic lobster buoy because it reminds you of a family reunion in Maine, then use it.

Structures

Adding a pergola, canopy or arbor is another popular favorite. Its lines are crisp and clean, plus it adds a message to anyone who spots it. This garden is special, which is why it announces its entrance. Add climbing green vines or delicate roses and you'll create a wow effect. Structures also add a boundary marker, clearly showing visitors that the backyard is considered private.

Meditation Garden

Escape stress with your own personal oasis. It doesn't have to be large to be effective. A small version may have peace lilies or bonsai plants around a black lacquered bench with bamboo plants. According to the Earth Friendly Gardening and Landscaping, Greenmanshow.com, evergreen plants like hollies or black pines provide year round beauty to your zen garden. If space allows, you may want to include a curved bridge over white pebbles or raked sand. Perhaps a lit walkway leading to sheltered seating will create peace? Or maybe an outdoor labyrinth with beach rocks and sea glass?

Bird Sanctuary

Avid bird watchers know this secret: They don't have to go far once the birds learn to trust them. Research the types of birds that live in your state. Then provide a multitude of feeders at different levels, clustered together for optimum feeding. Including fresh water in their bird bath and a variety of birdhouses will only enhance the variety of birds that will visit your home.

Flower Gardens and Greenhouses

You want a simple escape, nothing too fancy or expensive. Pick out a wooden swing or cushy new glider. Decide whether you'd like it to sit out in the open (so you can view it from the house) or if you want more privacy--surrounding your seat with palms, ferns and pots of red geraniums. Add a water fountain and wind chime to charm your senses. For those that want bigger and better, consider a garden indulgence, a small greenhouse. Think of the varieties of plants and vegetables you can toy with, in your own space. Or maybe you'd prefer a garden pool complete with lotus and water lilies? Whatever you choose, enjoy exploring your options.

Keywords: backyard ideas, landscaping design, garden planning

About this Author

Michelle Bermas is a freelance writer and is currently working on a romantic comedy. She's been published in the "2008 Writer's Market," "The Social Cause Diet" anthology, "South Shore Living" magazine, "Balloon Life" magazine, "The Boston Globe" newspaper, "The Patriot Ledger" newspaper, MA, and more. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Pace University, New York.