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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 :

    64 thoughts on “our backyard”

    1. Hi! I’m so anxious to see more!! I have a very similar story to yours! Had an old house … full of rodents… big backyard though! Sold it and bought a brand new house, tiny yard. For some reason I can’t see the rest of your photos? Is this an older post? I’m dying to see more of your pictures, is this something you could look into for me? Thanks!

    2. 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’!

    3. 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!

    4. 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. 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.

    6. 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?!

    7. 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!

    8. 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!

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

    10. 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?

    11. 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!

    12. 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 :)

    13. 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.

    14. 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.

    15. 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!

    16. 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.

    17. 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!!

    18. 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!

    19. 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.

    20. 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!

    21. 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!

    22. 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!

    23. 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.

    24. 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!

    25. 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.

    26. 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:

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

    28. 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.

    29. Lisa (from Vermont)

      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!

    30. 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!).

    31. 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…

    32. 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 – I so enjoy reading your blog – thanks for continuing to share your life with us.

    33. 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?

    34. 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??? :)

    35. 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.

    36. 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.

    37. 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.

    38. 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.

    39. 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!”

    40. 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?

    41. 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!

    42. 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!

    43. 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.

    44. 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!!

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