our backyard

We moved into our current home five years ago. We had just sold our darling, but major fixer-upper {or perhaps tear-down} 1920’s bungalow and were beyond thrilled to have a new home {read: without rodents and a sagging foundation}.  At that time our eyes were so engaged by the large rooms, functional kitchen {with a dishwasher!}, multiple bathrooms and charming neighborhood that we didn’t think too much about the teensy tiny backyard.  And we definitely didn’t pay much attention to the towering houses surrounding us on all sides.   If we could do it again, we would have bought a home situated on the edge of the neighborhood, but those are the things you learn once you move in.

So over the past five years, we’ve done our best to transform our little piece of land into something usable and pretty. Let me share with you our backyard.

backyard before

backyard after

We decided that since the lawn was not big enough to really enjoy, we pulled it all out and created a large patio for entertaining, a fire pit/patio for our table and a place for the kids to play.


Last summer, Ryan built a trellis {it is our attempt to distract the eye from the ginormous house behind it : you don’t even see it, do you? Wink, wink}.  I love how it turned out {my best friend calls it a totem-pole-trellis} and will really love it when it is covered in flowering clematis vines.


The patio furniture is a new addition awaiting some new pillows.

from the right

The area on the left on the yard is my favorite. The plants have had a chance to grow and the stone path is a look I love. We built in a patio for a fire pit, but currently have our table & chairs there.


stone walk

patio table

table towards house

On the right side of the yard {which you can see beyond the patio below} is a play set for the kiddos with swings {their fave}.  While it is not a big yard, I do like that the kids have a spot to dig, swing and play pirates.

patio towards playset

It is the work-in-progress part of the yard. We’re not exactly sure what to do in that back section where the wheelbarrow is {a mini garden? shrubs?} and I am hoping to finish the path this summer and plant ground cover to add some green to the mix.


There is always work to be done and I’m sure things will change and grow with each new season, but we are happy with what we’ve created so far. Even if we are surrounded by houses on all sides.

Just for fun, I thought I’d share some close ups of favorite plants in our yard.

Do you have a favorite backyard plant? Please share :

63 Responses to our backyard

  1. Sarah May 19, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    Oh Emily,

    I have the perfect idea for that corner with the wheelbarrow (assuming no one else has already suggested it). You should put a big chalkboard on the fence there with tin buckets hanging next to it full of colorful chalk. (I’ve seen this on Pinterest…perhaps you have too. Then maybe some tiny kid’s chairs so they can sit and enjoy their gallery :)

    Beautiful yard. I’m inspired. My yard looks like your “before”. Time to get crackin’!

  2. Alice March 20, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Hi Emily~ Would you mind sharing where you got your outdoor furniture? It is so classic-looking, and I’m having a hard time finding anything. Thanks!

  3. Stacy September 14, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Your house is beautiful & I have fallen in love with your backyard!

  4. Hannah May 25, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    I was wondering what those tall green evergreen trees you have are called? I just love them! Your yard is beautiful! Love your blog!

  5. Julie April 30, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Pull out that creeping jenny! Return it to the store where you bought it! It’ll take over your entire existence! Here is just a sample of experiences with this invasive, non-native plant: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/677/

  6. Susan Krzywicki November 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    How about some native plants in that beautiful garden? What is super-local to you? Ask around and see what grew there before all the exotics moved in – you’ll be surprised at the richness that will be yours. Support the environment, too.

  7. Jess August 27, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Emily, your backyard is magical! I love it! :) I would LOVE to see pictures of your first home! it would be give ideas to those of us who have smaller homes! Do you have pictures?!

  8. Kim July 28, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    Loved this post. We actually have a backyard that looks VERY similar to yours – especially with the large houses in the background! Too funny.

    You asked what some of our favorite plants are, which inspired me to write a post on that topic. Everything must be easy care, otherwise it wouldn’t survive in our yard for long!http://makeminevintage.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/a-few-of-my-favorite-perennials/

  9. Kat July 15, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    I have many favorite plants! I especially love my mother-in-laws garden. It’s beautiful and I find is so peaceful when I visit. Please visit my blog to see pics!

  10. Janean July 11, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    A little over a week ago, I purchased your paper patterned collection and continue to find more and more ways to use the cute patterns, as well as passing on those ideas on my blog and for others who ask! Thank you!

  11. Heather July 10, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    Creeping fig! It’s a great green color and it covers and crawls up a trellis really quickly. Love your yard though. Great job.

  12. Eillim Cintron July 10, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    I really like it!
    I have a question though, I see that you have table cover, centerpiece and a sitting area that seems to have regular fabric to it. How do you do when it rains? do you have to cover it? do you put it away? or is it a special kind that will not ruin or get mold?

  13. Kim July 9, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    Whoa!!! Looking good!
    What a nice space to be in!

  14. Roeshel July 9, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    I read your posts everyday via email so I don’t always get the chance to comment but had to pop over to say – love this before and beautiful happily ever after! What a gorgeous space to entertain and relax. I love it! Drooling over that flagstone and pergola!

    Have a great week, Emily!

  15. Kristina July 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    Your backyard looks like such a restful haven for your family! It is absolutely stunning! Thanks for sharing your life with us :) I get so many emails every day and to be honest most of them I delete without even opening them…but whenever I get one from Jones Design Company my heart skips a beat and I open it immediately! My husband and I just returned from six weeks in Australia where we hardly ever had internet, but every time we did I checked your blog and got excited for all of the new projects I can try! Next up is a monogram “M” wrapped in twine and embellished with a yellow flower :)

  16. Sam July 9, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    I love your backyard also! My favorite flower is a hydrangea but in my 7 years of gardening, I have yet to be successful with them. I had a question . What is the name of your tall slender evergreens behind your pergola? I’ve been wanting some like that but didn’t know what they were called.

  17. Cynthia July 9, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    Interestingly, I am online searching for ideas for backyard makeovers (we’re having our front and backyard pavers installed Monday) and I take a break from that to check one of my favorite bloggers- low and behold- it’s your backyard! You never cease to amaze me. Gorgeous inside and out! If I could think of anything for the back corner- I would suggest a water feature or fountain. Maybe a garden trellis on the fence with the water feature in front of it? We just landed an awesome deal on a fountain and it is so relaxing to listen to the water trickle. My daughter likes to watch her tub toys float around (so it serves a duel purpose). I love how the yard looks so far- as if it’s always been there. That’s what I’m striving for. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Evie @ Brown Paper Packages July 9, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    SO GORGEOUS!! I’m more than little envious! We have much the same problem…houses everywhere…and the previous owners never looked after the lawn at. all. Love, love, love, your Japanese maple too…soooo wish we could grow those here in Alberta!

  19. Chris July 9, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    It looks very nice….just couldnt stop noticing how bunched up all the homes are in the neighborhood. It’s like the taller houses all around can just peak out their windows and stare down at your yard while you are trying to have a private family gathering. Definitely makes me appreciate living in the open air of country living and it’s true privacy.

  20. rachel July 8, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    Emily, it is so beautiful!! Job well done!! Gardening is my favorite hobby. I love all your favorite plants. Some of my favorites for summer are coneflowers, zinnias, moonflower vine, angel trumpet, milk weed (host for monarch butterfly)sweet potato vine( love chartreuse), coleus and duranta. The sweet potato color is similar to the creeping jenny. but it is more like a vine. It is excellent in a container. Happy Gardening!!

  21. Brittany July 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    What an inspiration!!! This is gorgeous!! I can’t way to totally copy you someday. :) I’m actually going to feature this post on my blog so I can always remember all the awesome things you did! Thanks so much!

  22. Aimee@ the Functional Space July 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    What a beautiful little jewelbox of a back yard!! We are SL-O-W-LY working on transforming our outside areas too. I am really looking forward to the day we can sit on our front porch and just enjoy the view. Congratulations on your own beautiful view.

  23. Bonnie July 8, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    LOVE this!!! What an awesome looking backyard. Thank you for sharing. I’ve been staring at my back yard for 4 years now (ok – more like 2 1/2 since we had a few issues when we first moved in) and wanting, wanting, WANTING to make it more…just not quite sure how. You give me hope!

  24. Melissa July 8, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    Emily, thank you for sharing this! We recently moved into a beautiful new home with a pretty small yard and are collecting ideas for a makeover next spring/summer. This is so inspirational and totally the idea I’m wanting to go for. Thank you!

  25. Nicole July 8, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    That is beautiful! Looks like a private retreat! Love the trellis!

  26. Jodie July 8, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    One of my fav’s is the Japanese Willow – and look you have one! It’s right by your firepit, that large pale pink and green variegated plant. They are so hearty and so lovely! Nice job!

  27. Sarah July 8, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    You have a beautiful yard! That’s one of the things I am excited to explore once we get a house here in WA. Gardening here seems like it would take much better than it was in ND.

  28. Dana July 8, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    I just love your blog. You are incredibly talented and I enjoy reading everything you write. I’ve already learned so much from you! Love this backyard. Absolutely amazing!

  29. kayce hughes July 8, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    So beautiful and inviting, I love it. Thanks so much for sharing.

  30. Shelley July 8, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    What an amazing use of space! You always blow my socks off with your transformations :D Great job Emily!

  31. Emily, Timeless Paper July 8, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Your backyard is adorable! Love the landscaping. My favorite plant of the moment is Sky Pencil Holly. Thanks for sharing! You can see them flanking our lounge chairs in this blog post: http://myrtlesandmagnolias.com/?p=67

  32. rosita July 8, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    your backyard is gorgeous! my favorite backyard plant is hydrangea, the old fashioned white kind. and peony. and lavender. :) it’s hard to choose just one.

  33. Emily Peck July 8, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    Hey Emily – your yard is gorgeous, way to turn it into something pretty!!!!! For the Northwest, my favorite plants in the garden (for shrubs) are dwarf blue arctic willow, burning bush, ninebarks, any viburnum, witch hazel, and purple smokebush. For perennials, I love daylillies and wild roses because they fill up the empty space – lilacs and peonies too! For groundcovers, ajuga and corsican mint…smells heavenly! I’ve been documenting our garden/yard this year so there’s more pictures here: http://pecklife.typepad.com/blog/garden/

  34. Pam July 8, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    I think you should write a book, ‘The Not So Big Yard’ :) What an incredible use of your space, so functional and beautiful!

  35. Julie July 8, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    Lovely! Absolutely gorgeous! We have a huge back yard and I find it is much more difficult to create that feeling of warmth that shines from yours. Enjoy what you have! Thank you so much for sharing.

  36. Lisa (from Vermont) July 8, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    Hi Emily, Of course your backyard is beautiful! Just like everything else you touch :) My 17-year-old son said he needed a summer project (yippee!!) so we found a beautiful fire pit “kit” at a local construction company on clearance and bought it. He put it together in a day and we are very much enjoying it! We need a couple of plants to strategically give us more privacy–I’m thinking maybe Anabelle Hydrangeas or maybe a type of tall grass. Can’t decide if I should get something evergreen, since we will probably use the fire pit in the colder weather, too. Hmmmm. Your yard is so wonderfully beautiful AND functional!

  37. kiki comin July 8, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    wow, i love it! my parents live just around the “corner” from you in maple valley, and i find it such a reprieve to go and visit and see all of the plants and trees and flowers that do grow in the northwest. living in vegas, you certainly have to search to find something that will grow (and be pretty!).

  38. Angela July 8, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    I love the backyard that you have carved out for yourselves! It is simply beautiful and lovely. Thank you for sharing plant names – always fun when you are on the readers end! My favorite plant (and backyard plant) is a peony. They bloom lovely flowers in the spring and stay green well into fall. Here is a link to my blog with some photos… http://novemberrose.net/blog/?p=58

  39. Jessica July 8, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    I absolutely love it when you share about your home! Love the trellis and seating area.

  40. Jessica July 8, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    Maybe you could put a water fountain/ mini pond in the corner! :)

  41. Carol July 8, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Your backyard is truly stunning. I love that you pulled out all the grass – that is brave, and it turned out so beautifully. The trellis is so beautiful, and it really does block the house in the background. This gives me major inspiration with what to do with our backyard someday – though it is a lot slopier, so we would have some different challenges. I don’t have any snazzy plants to show you, but we did do a play deck for our kiddos – you can see pictures here – http://johnandcarolshow.blogspot.com/2011/06/our-house-nautical-kids-play-deck.html. I so enjoy reading your blog – thanks for continuing to share your life with us.

  42. Megan July 8, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    WOW!! I had to double check because it doesn’t look like the same backyard. It seems so much bigger then the old backyard. Quick question? How hard is it to keep up the pots? How do you water them?

  43. Erica Fox July 8, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    you are so talented! That is an amazing change!

  44. erin July 8, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    WOW!! That is incredible, Emily! Just wow! What a fantastic use of the space-it’s so serene and inviting!

    Please, please pretty please with a cherry on top do a post dedicated the 1920s bungalow??? :)

  45. meredith July 8, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    totally did a double take on the after shot! what an amazing space you’ve created!!! we just moved from a seemingly huge suburban house like yours (with equally non-private and tiny yard) to a 40’s fixer upper…going from a house with a dishwasher in a nice neighborhood that didn’t have 18 coats of paint on every piece of molding to this is KILLING me, but i’m hoping there’s a payoff at the end. your yard has given me some great inspiration to get going in our unfortunate looking front beds…thank you for including plant names! and thanks for sharing your fab yard.

  46. {darlene} July 8, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    gorgeous! you made great use of every inch! I would love to sit at that table with you and have some tea :)

  47. cailan July 8, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    This is very amazing, Lady! What a lot of work. Curious to know that “stages” of the project and would love to see a rough blueprint of the whole thing. Looks about the same size as our backyard…which could really use some attention.

  48. Elaine July 8, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    What a beautiful oasis! So tranquil.

  49. Lorrie July 8, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    It looks fantastic. I love the different sections you’ve created out of your small yard. Some of my favorite plants include hydrangeas, rose bushes, blueberry bushes, dahlias, lamb’s ears, and lavender.

  50. Angela July 8, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    Wow this looks great! What a great little oasis in the burbs. LOVE the pergola.

  51. Marissa July 8, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Loving the yard. Being someone that lives in a small two bedroom apartment with our three children in a major city…I NEED that space! And I say you put some kind of water feature in that corner. It’s the only thing you’re missing!!! Absolutely gorgeous.

  52. Meg July 8, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    We were given some limelight hydrangea plants last fall. This summer they are already blooming and I can’t get enough of their beautiful white blooms!!!

    In the backyard, we have tomato plants, and letmetellya, we can.not.get.enough. “There’s nothing better than true lovin’ and a homegrown tomato!”

  53. Mareike July 8, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    Very pretty! You have done an amazing job!
    Greetings from Germany

  54. Amanda M. July 8, 2011 at 7:24 am #

    That is an AMAZING transformation! It’s absolutely gorgeous. I would want to be out there all the time!

  55. Shawna July 8, 2011 at 6:32 am #

    that is SO beautiful! WOW! thanks for sharing!
    also, this is a strange request, but can we see some of your bathrooms? i am redoing mine, and needd some inspiration.
    also :), do you know how to make banners? for like a birthday or something?

  56. Holly July 8, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    Wow! That trellis is beautiful and honestly it does really help block out that house. Makes that sitting area very cozy too! I also love how you managed to keep your swingset with your classy garden. Gotta keep the kiddos entertained!

  57. Abbie(Five days...5 ways) July 8, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    Absolute fantastic, Emily! I actually blinked a couple of time when I saw the “after.” It’s usually a good sign when someone’s reaction to a before/after is: “Really? That’s the same space?”

  58. Kate @ My Head to My Toes July 8, 2011 at 6:02 am #

    Love! It! We also have a small backyard, so now you have my brain spinning with ideas. Uh oh for the hubby. My favorite backyard plant is the hibiscus because it is so easy to grow and always blooming.

  59. Susie Davis July 8, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    That’s an absolute marvel. Wow, Emily!

  60. Kathleen Grace July 8, 2011 at 5:13 am #

    I got so caught up in telling you about Buddlia that I forgot to tell you I think you have made the most of a small back yard. It is really beautiful and the way you have planted and added curving paths makes for some nice private spaces. LOVE the trellis! My husband made a pergola over the back porch several years ago and I have a sweet autumn clematis planted on one side. It nearly covered that side the first year and stays green well into winter. Beautiful plant and covers the high pergola so much more quickly than a regular clematis!

  61. Kathleen Grace July 8, 2011 at 5:11 am #

    My favorite is Buddlia, or butterfly bush. Ours is getting redy to bloom and as soon as it does, it will be covered in butterflies. The hummingbirds love it too, as do the hummingbird moths. It continues to bloom until fall and is pretty easy care.

  62. Rachel July 8, 2011 at 5:00 am #

    Wow!!! Your yard looks amazing! Just like your house, you’ve transformed your yard into a beautiful and functional oasis for your family. Love the stone path and trellis. My favorite plant is a “Rose of Sharon.” It loves full sun and is drought resistant & can live in any soil. Looks like a hibiscus and would fill up a corner well. Thanks for sharing your pics. Gorgeous as always!!

  63. paige July 8, 2011 at 4:34 am #

    ok, that might just be the best yard makeover i’ve ever seen. ya’ll are amazing!!! i love it!

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