Backyard Makeover – The Before

Welcome to our 1970’s suburban backyard. When we bought the house almost two years ago the interior needed an complete overhaul. It was so bad inside that when my mom went through it she begged us not to buy it. The main floor bathroom had a shower that was being used a litter box. I don’t mean the litter box was placed in the shower, the shower was the litter box – that no one ever cleaned! From mismatched flooring, to moldy walls to electrical that looked like it had been done by a drunk orangutan, the house was a total gut job. Which is exactly what we did. We have completed most of the house and now just small things like kitchen backsplash and some decorating are left to tackle. The backyard, on the other hand, wasn’t so gross, so last summer we really didn’t do too much to it except repair and rebuild a fence. But now that spring is here and we’re excited about spending time outside again, it’s time to focus on getting the backyard in shape. While it isn’t terrible, and definitely doesn’t need the same amount of work as the inside,  it’s time  to make this  space a little more pretty.

Here’s the plan:

The shed that houses the pool pump is old. But we store the pool chemicals here so we need to have something ready to replace it before we tear it down. So this year it will just get a new coat of paint. The air conditioning unit is in the least convenient spot- it’s big and noisy and on prime patio real estate. But it was just installed before we moved it, so it has to stay. I’m thinking of a DIY project – maybe something like this

or this

When we moved in to the house this garden was full of lush ornamental grasses. The problem was the garden was a bit too lush; the grasses weren’t maintained so it was an overgrown mess, and the fence was falling down on top of it. I want to plant a bush that will be low maintenance, drought tolerant, can thrive close to the pool and not have flowers or berries that may drop into the water. I’ve been in love with American Beautyberry Bush for years and I think it will look perfect in the long, narrow garden. The purple berries stay on the plant long after the leaves have fallen off and look spectacular with a light sprinkling of snow.


The shed is sturdy and stores all the pool toys and giant pizza and donut  floaties (an obvious necessity if you have a pool!). But I just can’t handle the brown trim any more! I can’t wait to paint away the boring brown with this nautical navy. I’m so excited! (It doesn’t take much).

Can we also talk about the light on the shed? The weird off-centre flood light is pointed directly at the diving board, for what I can only imagine were the high stakes, nighttime diving competitions that the previous owners held all summer long. The light will be replaced with a pair of these:

Customer Image Zoomed


The lumpy brown jumble in the middle of the picture is new patio furniture that we have yet to properly set up. Also hoping to add a few strings of these.


 At some point, one of the previous owners thought the lawn needed a in-ground sprinkler system. Not sure who they hired to install it but I sure hope they got a discount because I don’t think this is what it should look like if it’s done right. I love the scraggly grass they planted in front to try to hide the pipes and wires! This garden also takes up precious patio space. All of this is definitely going!

Neighbourhood lore is that once upon a time the gardens in our front and backyard would win prizes in our city’s annual summer gardening contest. By the time we bought the house the gardens had been long forgotten and all that’s left was overgrown weeds and the occasional perennial plant that fought to stay alive. In the fall we had to cut down a struggling pine tree. We left the debris in the garden. Believe me this wasn’t my choice. The reasoning was the other pine tree also has to come down and it made more sense to take all the brush to the dump at once. But all I can think of are the rats that have certainly been building little rat houses and inviting all their rat relatives to live with them in their magnificent rat city. I will not be helping to clean this up.

Here’s some shade loving plants that will hopefully (if I don’t kill them) thrive in this garden – once the rats are gone.

Related image


Blue Hydrangea 

Japanese Snowball

It looks like we’ll be pretty busy for the next few weeks. So if you need me I’ll be in the backyard. And who knows, maybe I can train the rats to help with the gardening.