Everything in this slideshow
BEFORE: Overgrown Side Yard
Side yards are a commonly overlooked space. With a little planning, you can make something out of the narrowest of spaces.
AFTER: Create a Hidden Patio
This industrious homeowner created a shaded patio in his side yard. Made from salvaged slate tiles and accented with garage-sale finds, the new patio is a perfect private getaway filled with personal style.
Why it works: Using salvaged finds, such old bowling balls and dumbbell weights, offers lots of personality without costing a lot of money.
The long, narrow space made it tough to create one seating area, so the homeowner created two “mini rooms” — with seating options at the front and the back of the space. Hint: Use a screen, such as tall container gardens, to help separate spaces feel even more like distinct rooms.
Mixing paving materials is an effective way to make an impact. Here, stone chips transition to pea gravel, which transition to flagstone. Hint: You can do the same with any materials — from bricks to gravel to stone and even concrete pavers.
- More Side-Yard Solutions
BEFORE: An Unsightly Air Conditioner
Don’t let an air conditioner take away from the look of your yard. Most can be covered quickly and easily with plantings — just leave a couple of feet so air can flow freely.
AFTER: A Lush, Low-Care Planting
This corner not only looks better, but the plantings also help save energy by shading the air conditioner for part of the day.
Why it works: Low-care plantings look great and don’t take up a lot of time. This planting incorporates tough plants such as daffodils, switchgrass, blue caryopteris, blue fescue, and purple-leaf Joe Pye weed. While beautiful, they’re also relatively deer-resistant choices. Hint: Look for native plants to help make your plantings lower maintenance. Plants from your region usually hold up better to pest and disease problems, as well as weather extremes.
A simple color scheme makes this garden feel planned out and easy on the eye. Silver and blue foliage from lamb’s ears and the grasses create a cool note that’s accented by the blue caryopteris and dwarf butterfly bush.
- Ornamental grasses are great screens — here are other ways to use them in your landscape
Video: Design Tips to Make Over Your Yard
Watch this quick video for five easy design strategies to help you with your garden makeover project.
BEFORE: An Average Yard
It’s not uncommon for homes on small city lots to have an uninspired yard. If you want something more, you can create an urban paradise, even if your lot is 45×120 feet like this one.
AFTER: An Exceptional Backyard
These Midwestern homeowners weren’t afraid of a challenge — and their progress certainly shows it! They filled their yard with character, including a small water feature at the back and a handy patio right off the back of the house.
Why it works: A big patio creates outdoor living space, which adds resale value to the home and makes the back yard more comfortable. Hint: When designing a patio, keep in mind convenience; the closer to your back or side door, the better.
A variety of evergreens provides year-round privacy (and act as windbreaks). Hint: Mixing evergreens and including selections with different needle colors (such as golden or blue varieties) or plant shapes (such as columnar or weeping) creates a rich, complex background.
The small water feature next to the patio adds a lot of ambiance. The sound of running water makes any spot feel more relaxing. Hint: A water feature is also a great way to attract birds to your garden. Their songs add another layer of pleasant background sound.
- Check out top evergreens for adding privacy
BEFORE: Ugly Slope
This unfortunate corner really took away from the good looks of an otherwise attractive house. It was a nightmare to try to maintain — and these insightful homeowners came up with a great solution.
AFTER: Beautiful Terrace
A terrace is one great way to handle a difficult slope. Though it was a rather expensive solution, doing the work over several years made this remake reasonable.
Why it works: The new wall created a pretty backdrop for a new patio. Hint: While the patio looks great, the additional outdoor living space added resale value to the home and made the new terrace a better investment. We love how the same stucco was used on the wall as the house; it helps tie everything together.
A stairway at the end of the wall still makes access easy from one side of the house to the other — and is a lot safer than trying to traverse a muddy hillside.
A row of new evergreen arborvitae at the top of the slope creates a beautiful backdrop and adds privacy.
- Learn more about some of our favorite privacy-providing evergreens
BEFORE: Empty Bed
This Midwestern homeowner inherited a bare bed next to her front door when she bought her home. Having been unplanted for a couple of years, it was quite an eyesore!
AFTER: Lush Planting
Here’s another example of what a difference you can make in just a weekend. The first step was incorporating lots of compost into the soil to recharge it — then the fun part: the planting!
Why it works: The purple color theme creates a great accent to the yellow house — and gives the planting some warmth and visual depth. Hint: Purple-leafed plants are beautiful by themselves, but they become a powerful garden-design tool when repeated throughout a planting. Shots of silver from dusty miller and a cobalt-blue container are a perfect way to create more interest.
The bed looks great all year long thanks to plants with multiseason interest. Dwarf Alberta spruce, ornamental grasses, and variegated red-twig dogwood, for example, give it great looks in winter. A bunch of spring-blooming bulbs start the gardening season, and then a mix of easy-care annuals and perennials take over from there. Hint: Keep your planting low-maintenance with a layer of mulch to stop weeds and conserve moisture.
- Get more ideas for front yard beds with our easy front yard garden plans
BEFORE: Overgrown Shrubbery
So many houses have overgrown shrubs that mask the house and create an unwelcoming environment. Tackling these monsters can be a tough job — but well worth it when you unmask your home’s hidden beauty.
AFTER: Plentiful Plantings
The toughest part of this makeover was getting rid of the big, old evergreens. From there, the yard became a fresh slate for a mix of stones, boulders, and easy-care plants.
Why it works: The landscape feels lighter and more open thanks to the silvery-blue foliage of ornamental grasses and perennials. Hint: Don’t forget to add plants, such as ornamental grasses, that look great in winter.
A raised berm to the left of the front door gives the landscape more contours and creates interest. And by raising the plantings up, it also helps decrease street noise.
A new pair of redbud trees in the front yard will eventually grow up to provide more privacy. But the trees’ small stature will keep them from overwhelming the house. Hint: When you plant trees, keep a sense of scale in mind. A giant tree next to a one-story house will make the house seem even smaller.
- Notice the difference from a new house color? Try remaking your home with Color-a-Home
BEFORE: An Unsightly Corner
Many people don’t think much about the backside of their garage — but this little-used space can be a great spot for a dramatic butterfly garden, a cutting garden, or even a mini patio.
AFTER: A Pretty Patio
This charming flagstone patio creates a perfect retreat for this Midwestern gardener.
Why it works: The garage wall adds privacy and shade to this patio. It’s also a great place to hang outdoor-friendly artwork. Hint: The artwork softens this wall; other ideas you can try are to paint a mural (if you’re artistically inclined) or to plant containers will tall, upright plants or vines to help mask the wall.
A mix of annuals, perennials, and shrubs creates a beautiful planting with season-long appeal. Hint: As one season ends, replace annuals with a new crop to keep your garden looking fresh. For example, flowering cabbage and pansies are a colorful fix for summer-worn petunias.
- Patio-Planning Tips
BEFORE: Too Hot to Live Outdoors
This house in Southern California had a small patio that baked in the hot afternoon sun — and reflected more heat right off the white-stucco walls. It begged for a makeover to make it more comfortable.
AFTER: A Cool Outdoor Retreat
This multistep project created lots of living opportunities — and less mowing. Though it was a big project, it definitely paid off — not just making the yard more comfortable, but also adding resale value to the home.
Why it works: Moving the patio away from the hot walls made the space more comfy. Adding a pergola created even more shade and privacy. Hint: Creating a ceiling or walls with an outdoor-friendly fabric will give you more privacy and shade if your patio is in a sunny, exposed area.
Plantings around the patio and pergola help soften it and create visual interest. Hint: Using fragrant plants will add extra appeal to your borders.
Installing an outdoor fireplace gives your outdoor living spot even more versatility. It can help take the chill from cool nights, create perfect ambiance, and give you more outdoor cooking options (we can’t resist roasting marshmallows over an open flame).
- Top Fragrant Plant Picks
BEFORE: Plain Patio
Many homes, especially newer ones, are stuck with a plain cement-slab patio. If this is your situation, you can dress it up — without spending a lot of time or money.
AFTER: Patio Perfect for a Family Dinner
This fun makeover really added charm to the backside of a suburban house — and added style to an otherwise bland patio.
Why it Works: A bold red color theme really catches the eye and warms up the cold feel of the cement. Hint: Look at using warm or bright colors, especially if you have a gray, beige, or white house.
An outdoor rug hides the cement and adds a playful splash of color, texture, and toe-tickling softness to the cement. Hint: You can find rugs in just about every color, shape, style, and size for a great bargain. (Many are made from recycled materials, too.)
A series of container gardens along the edge of the patio creates a boundary between the lawn and patio. This makes the patio feel more intimate — without your having to erect a structure such as pergola, arbor, or trellis.
- Have a deck instead? Check out our deck makeover ideas
BEFORE: Bare Entryway
The area around your front door is a big part of the first impression your home gives off. This Pacific Northwest home had an empty bed next to the front door that really needed help.
AFTER: Beautiful Front Entry
It didn’t take much to dress up this front garden — in just an afternoon it went from bland to beautiful.
Why it works: Because the house has some formal lines, a row of boxwood along the sidewalk looks right at home. A pair of tree roses flanking the front door accents the formal feel.
While the planting looks great spring to fall, it was also designed for winter interest. The boxwoods, as well as a dwarf Alberta spruce, provide evergreen color and the ornamental grasses look great in the down season, too.
Another aspect we love about this planting is that it relies on foliage — so it consistently looks good all season long. When you rely on foliage for color and interest, you don’t have to worry about what the bed will look like when it goes out of bloom or try to match plants that bloom together. Hint: If you want to add extra color, drop in annuals or perennials as accent plants.
- More on front yard landscaping
BEFORE: Unkempt Corner
Make a statement in your landscape by filling in a corner. It’s a great way to make mowing easier and add another touch of color to your landscape.
AFTER: Beautiful Backdrop
Out went an old mulberry whose roots were pushing up against this home’s foundation. It opened the door for this lush planting.
Why it works: The curved edge of the bed softens the 90-degree angle of the corner and creates more visual interest. Hint: Unless you have a formal, geometric garden, incorporate curves as much as you can in your landscape design. They’re typically much more pleasing to the eye than straight lines.
A series of easy, colorful plants including mums, pansies, spiraea, and purple smokebush makes this border a knockout. It’s another great example of how foliage color and texture can be just as pretty as flowers. In winter, red-twig dogwood, a dwarf mugo pine, junipers, and ornamental grasses add texture (and a place for birds to hang out).
A tree-form smokebush in a big pot creates a dramatic focal point. Hint: Use containers in beds and borders. They’re perfect for being able to swap out color in an instant — and move to fill in any bare spots.
- More on gardening for nature
BEFORE: Tough-to-Mow Slope
Sloping front yards can be a lot of work to maintain — it’s not easy trudging up and down with a mower, nor is trying to keep the slope properly fed and watered any fun. If you’re facing a situation like this, put in some plantings to dress up your slope and give you more time to enjoy a beautiful front yard.
AFTER: No-Mow Slope
It’s a big project, but you can do the same thing without feeling overwhelmed by making it a multiyear project. We love the result: a lot less work (no more weekly trips up and down with the lawn mower) and a lot more beauty.
Why it works: This front yard planting is filled with plants that look good in all seasons to create an ever-changing display. Hint: Autumn and winter can be tough seasons to plant for; look for fall-blooming perennials and small shrubs and trees with great fall foliage to get through autumn. Look for small evergreens, grasses, and plants with interesting habits (such as corkscrew willow) for winter good looks.
This planting also takes advantage of color to create extra impact. The contrasting purple-and-chartreuse color theme looks great and personalizes the garden. Hint: To create extra impact, look for colors that will accent your house colors.
A thick layer of mulch makes maintenance easy; it keeps weeds at bay and reduces the need for watering. Hint: Another great slope solution is to plant densely; tight plantings help hold the soil so it isn’t washed down the hill.
BEFORE: A Cookie-Cutter Landscape
Just because you live in the suburbs doesn’t mean you have to have a cookie-cutter yard. This Midwestern home had just a single crabapple and a few spiraeas when the homeowner moved in.
AFTER: An Eye-Catching Landscape
It didn’t take long to spice up the yard. This homeowner added a wider bed around his crabapple and filled it with colorful perennials that stay showy spring to fall.
Why it works: The free-flowing bed in the front yard looks great from all angles — which is especially important because this house is on a corner lot. Hint: Don’t forget the way your garden will look from inside your house. It should look just as good — if not better — from your windows as it does to the rest of the world.
A small retaining wall breaks up the slope, giving the yard a little extra oomph. Hint: Whenever you can add contours, such as berms, or break up a slope with a wall like this, you add lots of extra interest.
Stone edging around the bed matches the wall and gives the planting a finished look. Hint: Using edging around your beds will keep the lawn from creeping in — so you won’t have to constantly spend time pulling the turf out.
- Tips for creating a flower-filled front yard