Creating beauty in your own backyard

By Jolie Breeden

Spring has sprung and for many, that means growing thoughts of turning their backyards and patios into a place to get away from it all. For some though, the thought of taking the lawn from lost cause to lush landscape might be overwhelming. Fear not, though. With some planning, ready cash, and a little sweat (blood and tears not required), an outdoor oasis can be within easy reach.

Whether you’re down to hire a landscaper or want to dig in yourself, there are a lot of options for making your outside space as livable as it is inside.

“People are spending more time at home as opposed to traveling,” said Sean Angelo, general manager of Budget Home Center in Longmont. “They still want their peace and tranquility, but they’re creating that at home now.”

The lawn and patio industry has heeded that trend, so it’s easy to find what’s needed to make walking out the back door into a relaxing getaway. From outdoor kitchens in a box to lawn furniture that rivals your couch’s cushiness, you might just find your favorite happy hour patio is your own.

But creating a yard you’ll love isn’t as easy as just picking plants and patio furniture. Before you get there, there are decisions to be made and digging to be done, and experts agree it’s best to start with well laid plans.


Give Yourself Great Ideas

Even if think you know what will bring you backyard bliss, it never hurts to look for new ideas—and they’re everywhere.

“Relax, take a walk, notice what’s around you,” suggests Mike Woods, landscape designer for J&S Landscape in Longmont. “Take notes, visit some of the demonstration gardens. There are lots of ways to learn really fast.”

There are plenty of people to help, too. Many community programs offer gardening and landscape classes for beginners at this time of the year. And places like Budget are happy to walk potential customers through what’s available.

“They can come in and browse through catalogs and see what we have on hand,” Angelo said. “For those who have a budget, we can lead them toward what will work in that range.”

Of course the Internet is always handy, and sites like Pintrest can help you organize the many ideas you collect. You can also find free apps and software that let you try your hand at designing, see what your plan might look like, and create material lists.


Plan for Success

After you’ve unearthed a trove of good ideas comes the harder part—figuring out a plan that works for you. There are a number of factors to consider.

Westminster real estate agent Lalaena Gonzalez-Figueroa and her husband Christian Figueroa, who owns a construction firm, are on their second do-it-yourself landscaping project. They approached their project from a property angle, balancing what they wanted for their family along with practical matters such as resale value and water usage.

“It’s important to use the house you have and your situation as your guide,” said Gonzalez-Figueroa. “For us, it was it was really thinking about what we wanted and needed as a family.”

Time, too, is of the essence—and not just the time it takes to install your dream yard. Whatever plan you come up with needs to fit your lifestyle, as well, Woods warns.

“Everything is going to take a certain amount of maintenance,” he said. “Realistically, people need to ask themselves how many hours a week can they put in and still have it be fun. If you want a lot of roses, you’re going to be spending a lot more time than if you have a lot of shrubs.”

Hand in hand with time goes money, and the sky is rarely the limit when it comes to grounds keeping. Most folks will want to set aside at least part of their budget to deal with the unexpected, especially if they’re hoeing their own row.

“A lot times, people just don’t realize the hidden infrastructure of the landscape,” Woods said. “It’s often more expensive than they imagine.”


Break Ground

When you’re ready to get down and dirty, you have two choices—hire a professional or go it alone. Both have their advantages.

Going the professional route can definitely alleviate the overall stress of a project. Landscape professionals can offer expertise on everything from design to installation and their experience and contacts can give you a good idea of what it will cost. The problem is, if you’re just now getting started, you might have to scale your backyard dreams down a bit.

“If you’re calling a landscaper to do something in April or May, you’re catching them when they’re really busy,” Woods said. “You simply can’t expect the level of service that we’d all like to give in the spring. If you start thinking about the job you want to do in April in November, you’ll be much better off.”

The answer might be to take on some smaller projects now—install a bench, put out some potted plants—and save the lion’s share for later.

But if you can’t wait, or if you just want to get your hands dirty, there can be a lot of satisfaction in doing it yourself. The key is to take on projects in bite-sized pieces and realize it will be a process, possibly a long one. But there’s no need to worry if the going is slow, Woods said.

“Slow down, take a breath,” he said. “It doesn’t have to get done right away. Let yourself live there for a while. You can do it a little at a time.”

More important than making it on time is making it fun. Your memories of creating your haven will become part of the experience. That was one of the drivers for the Gonzalez-Figueroas to take on a father-and-son install of an outdoor kitchen.

“This came up as the perfect opportunity for them to do a project together,” Lalaena Gonzalez-Figueroa said. “It’s a learning experience and when we enjoy it, we’ll also enjoy the experience of them doing it together.

Whether your planting annuals or building a pergola, though, your outdoor project will surely add to your enjoyment. As Gonzalez-Figueroa aptly points out, it’s not just something on the to-do list, it’s a reflection of you.

“This is where you live, this is where you play, and for a lot of people this is where you work,” she said. “It isn’t just where you live, it reflects your lifestyle.”



Live with your Landscape
If you didn’t think a sustainable landscape could also be beautiful, Colorado’s demonstration gardens will show just lush and lovely native grasses and plants can be. Visit a few below for ideas that will save both water and time.

Northern Water Conservation Gardens
220 Water Avenue, Berthoud, CO 80513    800-369-RAIN

Lefthand Water District Peterson Gardens
6800 Nimbus Road, Longmont, CO 80503, 303-530-4200

Daylily Demonstration Garden
2145 Centre Ave., Fort Collins, CO 80526,  970-416-2486

Colorado State University Extension Xeriscape Gardens
One DesCombes Drive, Broomfield, CO 80020, 303-464-5577