We have a very plain back yard. Nothing special. One rusted tool shed, one old swing set with pots of thyme underneath, and one gas BBQ grill on the patio with a cracked concrete floor - no awning. Also there is one small vegetable garden on the opposite side of the yard, a couple of nondescript bushes, one half dead pine tree and one crape myrtle.
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Do you have a picture of the existing yard you can post to help us 'vision'?
I have no idea what sort of things will grow in a yard where you are, as I am in northern Sask, a long way from you, but as a rule of thumb I would think of making some flower beds, and have some pots on the patio. If you don't need the swing set, get rid of it. If you can't afford a nice looking tool shed, you could plant some shrubs or climbing vines (maybe you can grow climbing roses?) to cover it up. A nicely tended veggie patch is attractive, and you can plant flowers along the edge, like marigolds or anything else that you like, to give it a nice border. If you have room, perhaps you have some sort of fruit bushes that you could put on the edge of the garden to act as a hedge between it and the lawn. I grow raspberries as a back hedge in my yard. Every patio needs some sort of focal point. I have a firepit, but perhaps that is not practical for you. Could you have one of those portable firepits or something like that. Some sort of table and chairs for outside dining would be nice. Since you don't have any awning, perhaps the standard round table with umbrella is the way you should go.
I would also suggest that you walk around your neighbourhood or town and see what sort of plantings other people are growing. Do you get a lot of rain where you are where you can tropical like growth, or is it very dry where you might want to look at decorating with cactus and rocks and such?
Here in my town, we use a lot of driftwood from a local lake to decorate our yards. I have a large log for seating on my patio.
I always like to plant some fruit trees in the yards that I have had. Here we are quite limited, but I always plant some apple trees. I expect you would be able to have a much greater variety where you are.
Take the swing set, paint it and hang different lengths of chain or rope, use your imagination and hang plants from them. Also paint the shed and if you have an artistic flare paint shrubs and flowers on the sides.
I would invite the best of the wild material in the area. If you are in the desert, then there's no sense in getting married to a watering schedule to grow plants that like tons of water. Look around in the undeveloped areas and make use of what you see. I'm relearning gardening and I no longer make rows, rather patches, like natural. I don't plant big stuff up against my house, and I don't plant things destined to grow big into a dinky spot, like under a window. Best of all, now that I want my garden wild, I only weed non-natives and I love gardening more than I ever have after all these years. Lovely grasses, lots of shrubs, swaths and patches of flowers, all mixed together and all drip-watered. I started by having a dumptruck haul in some nice sandy dirt with compost, rather than trying any longer to bust up the hard clay. May you have much joy in this bit of the Earth.
i have lived in the country for most of my life; and have recently moved into our small town.
Never underestimate the value of paint. Anything can be made to look new with a little paint. Rustoleum makes a good spray paint for metal that is rust resistant.
Also, a few well placed plants in the ground make a lot of difference in how things look. I agree with the person who said you might want to look into native plants for your area. They will be hearty for where you live. You want plants that will thrive and not take a lot of work. Lush, green plants add to a look of luxury and make people think someone took the time to care about the yard.
There is another route you can take. Thats the shabby shiek look that is popular in today's interior design. This country look would leave the rust and add the plants. Just be sure to remove any trash that may be laying around. Junk doesnt work with this look. It has to be well thought out. I dont think I'd hang plants from the swing set, but thats just me. I'd prefer my plants to be in the ground for your situation. One hanging plant by the door is nice, but I cant see that several hanging from a swing set is going to look right.
Dont forget that you dont need to spend a lot of money to fix up your yard. It does take effort though. Any yard that is shown a little love will make others notice the work that went into it. It adds value to your yard. Ask for slips or seeds from your friends and neighbors. You will be surprised at how many people who have plants are eager to share them. Also, now is the time to scour clearance racks for leftover plants and yard items. Add to your yard each year. You will find it will always be a work in progress. Like housework it this work is never done. (grin)
No trash in this yard - just a dog that messed up the beautiful St. Augustine lawn we used to have (BD - Before Dog).
Wow. I hope you are checking back every now and again, so you will see thsi response.
First things first. :) Remove the dead pine. A dead plant tree in the yard will make the entire yard look terrible.
Next pick a color scheme. Yes, a color scheme. I would go with gray as a base, with yellow flowers and red for the furniture...unless those colors clash with your house. Then I would choose white for all the flowers, with a neutral and one (bright) color for pop.
Take all the lower branches off the crepe myrtle and any wood that is pencil size diameter or smaller. You are turning it into a small tree basically. This can be a focal point. Plant a low growing ground cover underneath it...or spray out the grass and put down pine-straw to give it a neat, finished look.
Next, spray paint the swing set a soft green or gray. Then plant an early blooming and a late blooming clematis at the base of alternating legs of the swing set.
Paint the door to the shed a bright, sunny color (white, yellow, or red) that blends with or matches the trim on your house. Confederate Jasmine is another beautiful vine that is suited for your area. You may want to plant one on the corner of the shed. If you attach copper wire to the building for the jasmine to climb, it will not rust and doesn't corrode. If there are windows in your shed hang some type of curtain on the inside, so that it appears finished. Hang a wreath on the shed door. In other words make it look finished. A small bench somewhere near the door will make it an inviting spot. Place a potted flower on the ground next to the bench or on one end.
This holds true for your door into the house as well. Paint it an inviting color and put a potted plant close by the entrance and suddenly the whole look of the house changes.
Next, scrub the patio really good and apply a stain. I would suggest charcoal grey or dark walnut. (If you painted the swing set gray stick with the same color family.) Add a few large pots of flowering shrubs. A rose or two and some seasonal flowers (petunias, marigolds, etc) Add a pot of miscanthus or bamboo for a tropical feel and for the wonderful sound it makes when the wind blows through it.
Add a table and chairs you pick up from Freecycle or at a yard sale. Paint it the bright (pop) color.
Say for instance you have painted the swing set gray and added the yellow flowering clematis at the base of one of the legs, then stained the patio gray, and added pots of yellow marigolds along with some ornamental grasses and a couple of yellow roses, then paint the table and chairs a bright red. Add a yellow candle in the center of the table and a pot of yellow zinnias by the back door and on the bench by the shed. Paint the back door fresh white, yellow, or even red. Just don't get to matchy, matchy.
As time progresses you can add foundational shrubs and flower beds. A bird bath in the corner of the 'L' with a sheperds hook holding a bird feeder would not only look good, but it would add some wildlife to your yard.
Most of these things can be done cheaply and quickly to give you an almost instant update. Yard sales, Freecycle, and Craigslist are good inexpensive sources for many of these things.
Finally, add some cushions to the chairs and invite your friends over for a B-B-Q.
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