EVERYONE DREAMS OF IT

Creating that perfect space in the backyard that is the pinnacle of relaxation, fun and fanciness – of turning what can be a ho-hum green space into a spot where, when the weather is right, you’ll want to spend all day, every day. When it comes to creating the ultimate outdoor space, regardless of size, the only limit is your imagination – because in the end, it’s all about style and ambiance. There are endless ways to reinvent your backyard and with this in mind we’ve compiled a few inspired ideas to help you create your own personal getaway.

LAPS OF LUXURY 

During the hot summer days when you were a kid, chances are, you had at least one friend with a pool. I did, in fact, that friend lived right across the street from me and I spend most warm days anticipating getting that phone call that started with, “do you want to come over for a swim?” Story short: having a pool is pretty awesome. Not only does it makes you popular, but it is cool, refreshing and good exercise.  These days, there are so many kinds of pool to choose from: above ground, in ground, lap pool, salt water, fresh water etc., but it’s definitely an expense. So while only you can choose which type of pool you want to ultimately install, here are some things to take into consideration before taking the plunge:

Do your research. Know what it is you want so that when you are talking to a pool designer, you are able to have a dialogue with them. Get together some pictures of what you want, so you have them on hand to show whomever is installing your pool.

Decide on a shape. Typical rectangular shaped pools give a timeless look and are great if you want to swim laps or have kids that like to play games. Kidney shaped pools tend to blend better with the landscape and are a bit more natural. They are also perfect if you want to eventually add a waterfall or grotto.

The main difference between salt water and fresh water pools is that salt water creates it’s own chlorine, whereas fresh water needs to have chlorine added. The costs for a salt water pool are more initially, but the running costs are lower than that of freshwater. Saltwater pools tend to be less tough on the senses, as there is not the smell of chlorine emanating from the water; it also means the water is gentler on the skin.

LIGHT IT UP

Nothing sets the mood quite like lighting, and when it comes to backyards, there are endless possibilities. A quick trip through a home store will reveal tons of different options ranging from solar powered lights to mini lights to a fully wired backyard setup. Here are some of the most creative ways to use lighting in your backyard.

Mason Jars These have been kind of a thing for a while now, but for good reason…they are surprisingly versatile. You can use them for canning AND you can use them to create cool lighting situations in your backyard. Stick a candle inside, string them together, hang them on a shepherds hook, hang them from a tree…the options are pretty endless.

Strings attached
These look nice wrapped around a tree truck, strung across a pergola, strung from branch to branch, draped overtop of bushes or even woven through lattice. They come in all shapes and sizes (paper lanterns, dragonflies, run of the mill mini Christmas tree lights), and the simple addition of them can turn a backyard from blah to beautiful in no time.

Come on baby, light my fire Nothing says summertime like nights spent outside around a bonfire. While these need to be contained if you live in the city, there are still plenty of nice firepits available at home stores. If you want to go the DIY route, firepits are relatively easy to make yourself. Check out diycozyhome.com/33-diy-fire-pit-ideas for some inspiration.

Bright ideas: Create a canopy out of lights by cementing wooden poles into pots, attaching eye hooks on the top, string the lights through,  and there you have it, instant light cover. Hang lights from the underside of a deck umbrella. Use solar lights to light up pathways in your backyard, or as accents throughout your garden.

DOWN TO EARTH

For some it’s a form of therapy, for others it serves a practical function such as a source of food or for purely cosmetic reasons. For me – it’s a way to exercise my black thumb (this year is the year I successfully grow cucumbers and sunflowers – I can feel it!!)  This year, inject a little whimsy into your personal green space and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Living Green Walls Green walls are basically vertical gardens that are self-sufficient: they have been around for quite a while, but are really booming in popularity now. They are great for privacy in backyards, and if you are tight on space, they are perfect. They work well as noise buffers, and can add much needed visual interest to an otherwise boring wall. Vertical gardens come in all different shapes and sizes…they can consist of entire walls covered in greens, or various planters attached to an existing vertical structure.

Unique Containers It’s easy to get creative when thinking of planters; you can essentially use anything that has a hollow bit. Things to consider when choosing your container are colour, height and texture. Planters are perfect if you want to grow some flowers that otherwise would be much too invasive in the garden. Ideas for planters: old bikes with baskets, birdbaths, whiskey barrels, old wheelbarrows, old vintage buckets, old bathtubs, old dressers, old sinks, antique scales, old chandeliers, birdcages…the list is fairly endless.

Native Plants There are many reasons to use native plants in your garden, not only for yourself, but to help out the local wildlife and the community at large. It will help limit any invasive species from taking over your garden, native plants are easier to maintain once they are established, and it will create a unique ecosystem in your backyard that will attract lots of birds, butterflies, etc. Native plants are more likely to thrive and less likely to succumb to any local disease and pests. Any local landscaping companies would be able to assist you with planning a native plant garden. Some plants that are native to Southern Ontario include: Serviceberry, Redbud, White Pine, Witch Hazel, Trumpet Vine, Red Osier Dogwood, Honeysuckle and more.

Low Maintenance Lawns Sure, the green, green grass of home can be beautiful, but it is also a bit expensive to maintain as well as time consuming. There are plenty of other ground covers to consider when you are thinking of revamping your lawn or garden. It is aesthetically pleasing to have different types of lawn cover and there are a variety of textures, colours and options.

CREEPING PERENNIALS – stay low to the ground, and are good for creating green carpets. They resist weeds, and let air and water get to the roots. They look nice in rock gardens, in between stepping stones and can thrive in full or partial sun.

CLOVER – a plant that smells good, is cheaper and is easy to maintain. It feels nice on your feet and can grow in most types of soil. It doesn’t need to be cut regularly, just trimmed every so often to encourage new growth.

THYME is pretty (it has pink or white flowers during the Spring). It is easy to grow and feels nice underfoot. It needs full sun and well-drained soil to thrive.

INSIDE OUT

A lot of people would probably live outdoors during the summertime if they could, and with the growing popularity of “outdoor rooms” that dream is a little closer to coming true. You can now have outdoor kitchens, outdoor living rooms or even outdoor bathrooms. 

Outdoor Kitchen It needs to be functional and positioned well in accordance to the rest of your patio/backyard. The kitchen can be simple and include just a BBQ and prep area and storage unit, or you can go more involved and include a fridge, BBQ, sink, storage and prep areas. An outdoor kitchen normally works best against a fence or wall or in a corner. You’ll also want to leave enough space to incorporate a seating area that is close to the cooking area. Essentially, close enough that you are not having to walk far distances with plates of food, but not so close that you are smoking out your dinner guests. You’ll also need to choose a spot close to outlets and a water source.

Outdoor Living Room Open air rooms are great additions to your home…not only are you making it more enjoyable for yourself, but you are adding value to your home. Outdoor living rooms are remarkably simple to create, and it doesn’t have to break the budget. Key components: an outdoor rug, some comfy seating, some mood lighting, a table and you are well on your way. The cool thing about furnishing outdoor living rooms is you can include a mish mash of furniture and it will still look cool. Check out some local thrift shops and see what kind of furniture you can pick up cheap. Oftentimes, vintage pieces are perfect for outside…all you may need is a coat of paint and a little weatherproofing. Candle lanterns can be great for mood lighting, and are easy to move around. If you are able to cover your outdoor room with a pergola, all the better, as it will give everything better protection from the elements. You can then get a fast growing climbing vine (Trumpet Vines, Clematis, Black Eyed Susan’s, Wisteria to name a few), and you’ll have yourself a space you’ll probably never want to leave.

Outdoor Baths & Garden Showers This kind of seems like the lap of luxury, and you probably wouldn’t want to have one of these if you are located in close proximity to your neighbours, but if you have a big house or live in the country…why not? It kind of imparts a bit of a tropical feel, and will make you feel far away from home, even if you are right in your own backyard.

Outdoor Oasis We have reading nooks for the wintertime (ideally on a cozy cushioned couch with a cup of hot chocolate in hand), and reading nooks for summertime (a hammock perhaps?), but becoming popular this year is the idea of a garden retreat (think of a tree fort, but for adults, and not necessarily, you know, in a tree). This can be a little library, a place to nap during the day, a craft barn, a cute little gardening shed…whatever your heart desires really. If you don’t already have a structure to convert, consider constructing one using cedar,  as this highly revered, durable wood is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect attacks.

By: Megan Pasche