After fighting with out of control trees and weeds for nearly three years, some kind help from a neighbor and a stumptastrophie — the most out of control part of our yard is now a blank slate (well almost — I’m still raking up pinecones and other pine tree debris). Now it is time to figure out the master plan to make this side of the yard a little more presentable — preferably before the weeds try to take over again. Oh the joys of living on a corner — it is like having two front yards!


The space I have to work with is about 45 feet by 45 feet — a pretty large space. With our soon to begin master bath remodel (yes, that project is still a go — countdown to demo is about a month!) we don’t want to drop a ton of cash on the yard this year. It would be nice to make a plan that we can work on a little every year.


I came up with the rough idea above — something that is not just lawn — since adorable husband Jim hates to mow and we already have tons of grass for him to take care of. The area around the remaining large pine tree it pretty shady so I’ll have to take that into consideration when selecting plants. I’d also like to plant some lowish shrubs that would restore some of the feeling of privacy around our tiki room and also give us something pretty to look at when we are longing in there — the pink ovals would be some sort of shade loving flower.

In the middle of the yard, the large brown oval is a raised bed with a smallish decorative tree placed in the middle (maybe a Japanese maple?). My Mom (who loves to garden) suggested getting some knock out roses — which I like and would do well in this spot since it gets full sun through out the day. I’m also interested in some decorative grasses and other plants to fill the space. The easier the care, the better since I have so much yard work to do around here.

I also thought about using some patio pavers to even out the driveway and add a decorative strip (the brown area). This doesn’t have to be done right away, but I think it would look very nice.

What do you think I should do with this side of the yard? I am completely open to suggestions of how to fill this large space!


23 thoughts on “IDEAS FOR THE SIDE YARD?

  1. I am in the middle of a landscaping project myself! My suggestion is a broad one: Visit a local NATIVE landscape nursery and only buy trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, etc that are native to where you live. If you start planting something simply because you ‘like the way it looks’ you will be doing yourself and your yard a disservice. Non-native plants will take over your yard and squeeze out the ones that should be there in the first place. Google ‘native plant landscaping’ and get some ideas there! Good luck!

  2. Since you have such a large space to cover that you don’t necessarily want to mow, maybe consider a meadow mix. It’s grasses and wildflowers that you can let grow or mow if you feel like it. Then you can take it out as you expand your permanent plantings.
    Definately go with native plants, and I always pick ones that are a zone hardier than where I am so that a hard winter won’t kill them.

    • Saundra A — that is a great suggestion except — the invasive weeds go nuts on that side of the yard. I fear if I did a meadow mix there would be loads of weeds coming up and spreading their seeds all over the rest of my yard like they have been doing. I think I need something a little more controlled for this area. Still — it is a great, low maintenance suggestion that I could still use on the other side of the house. I’ll keep it in mind. 🙂

  3. FYI – shade loving flower is usually an oxymoron in my experience! Go for foliage color and texture in the shade (hostas n such if they are hardy where you are).
    Oh-and think about putting in daffodils and irises this fall for easy care, early & late spring color.

    • The area does get some sun, but not too much. I would say it is a 40% sun area. I have tons of hostas around the yard and will always be adding and dividing to make them more profuse. I might just put some hostas over there too! I like the bulbs idea for sure!

      • I was thinking and realized that heaths and heathers might be good choices. You can get ones that bloom different times of the year & once established seem to be neglect resistant. What most people don’t realize is that you can get different colors & textures- grey spiky kind to chartreuse to red or yellow tipped. Might be worth looking into.

  4. I enthusiastically endorse native plants too. As a homeowner, I have installed native landscapes (including a complete prairie!) in both IL and WI. Based on our extreme fluctuations in weather, native plants are the hardiest and most forgiving. After the plants are established, they will withstand severe droughts (and require less frequent watering and no fertilization) as their root systems extend deep into the soil. I would not recommend a Japanese Maple to be placed in an exposed area. They are fragile trees which require protection from harsh weather conditions.

    A great place to start to learn about native plants is Wild Ones, a WI-based organization dedicated to natural landscaping. ( Their website is packed with information about landscaping with native plants and local resources where one can purchase plants. For a guide to landscape plants of the upper midwest, consult this website maintained by the faculty of UW-Madison: After you have performed some preliminary research, I’d see if one of your local nurseries which carries WI native plants offers a complementary landscape consultation to assist you in your plant selections. Nurseries will often provide this service if they are assured that you’ll be purchasing plants from them. It never hurts to ask for help.

    Good luck!

    • Thanks for the link — I’ll check it out!

      I’ve heard japanese maples can be hard to keep — one of my neighbors has a beautiful one, which is why I thought I might be able to pull it off, but perhaps that isn’t the right plant for the space. I’ve got more research to do!

  5. Kate, I would just call a landscaper, or go to the nicest, largest garden center. Let them make you plan. You can tell them your wants, needs and ideas, they will happily incorporate them. The plan is usually done for free, and you can still do as much, or as little, as time and money allows-but you have a master plan. This way the correct plants are chosen. You’ll save money in the long run, by not planting things that won’t survive, or get too big, only to have to dig them up and replace them.

    I have gone the other route, buying things I thought looked pretty or interesting, or suited the sun/shade requirements. It’s at the local place, so it will grow here in Illinois, right?? I wound up with a hodgepodge, patchwork of unrelated plants, with half of it being dug up after a year or two. I would get to those garden centers and loose all focus. Now, for my 1955 ranch, I have a plan, drawn up all pretty, and I know what I need to get, where to put it, how far to plant it from this or that, and I have a cohesive look to my yard.

    • No matter what, we will have a plan — preferably one that we can work on a little every year. I’ve gardened without a plan before (at my last house) and I see now how important they are…

      I also try to only buy plants that will fit the space I have available, the conditions of the space and the amount of care I am willing to put forth. I’ve left many a pretty thing at the garden center because it didn’t work for me — I try not to impulsively garden!

  6. You like the minimalist look, and the less you have to take care of the better you will feel about it. that is a BIG area…just a suggestion, put lots of square 12 inch pavers around your oval, creating a surface to take colorful adirondack chairs or a picnic table out there during beautiful weather, no grass at all. Perhaps paint the pavers a cool retro color to really pop! Then put some nice decorative rock, like small river rock around that up to the drainage ditch. No mowing for Jim, and no weeds,( or only a small amount!) (put down weed block) that you can take care of quickly. Keep flowers in large pots on the paved area,…less work, and if you get tired of the look, you change them.

    It could look very tidy, and you and your husband have more time to spend in your backyard! ( Or work on the inside of the house) A decorative screen block wall, or wire gabion boxes filled with larger river rock along the brown strip…If you keep an eye on Craigslist, sometimes you can find screen blocks that are being sold by someone who is doing a demo, that is how we got ours. Keep it easy, you will be happier, and you can do it a little at a time like you said.

    If you put plants in the oval, try some ornamental blue fescue grass, (it is beautiful and not much care needed).

    The river rock could go in first, separating room for the pavers, or vice versa,so that you could buy one thing at a time and work on that project, and it would look nice while you are working on it.

    River rock is inexpensive by the ton, and cool, clean, mid century looking… with great drainage too… and pavers are not too bad, especially if you find them 2nd hand or at a salvage store. if you paint them, it won’t matter what color you get!! I know it sounds like a lot, but if you break it down one project at a time, it is something you could do over a lot of time and still have a nice look meanwhile.

    Best of luck!
    Jacquie Y

    • Those are great ideas Jacquie, but we already have a screened porch and an oval patio, so we really aren’t looking for more hardscaped area for patio furniture — especially outside the fence where Leo can’t run free — he doesn’t like to be left out of the party!

      I have some ornamental blue fescue grass in my corner garden that is doing very well — I may put more of that on this side of the yard…and I do love ornamental grasses!

  7. Anxious to see what you do! We live on the inside of a circle (kind of like a cul-du -sac, but in reverse) and so it’s like we have two front yards, too. We have lots of shade and mature oaks and would love to have flowers, but I think our lot is too shaded for that.

  8. Good luck with your yard! Japanese Maples are beautiful but may do better closer to your pine tree. They need at least partial shade. If you want a tree for the oval bed you might consider a dwarf fruit tree like a cherry or an apple. They have beautiful spring flowers and are very hardy. You might check out which sells bare-root trees and shrubs at very good prices and have guides on what works in your area. Definitely, find a local nursery as well as they have tons of great advice.

    • Thanks for the tips vintage13. I’m thinking this project will have to wait until next year. I have too much on my plate with my bathroom remodel! I’ll keep your suggestions in mind.

  9. Pingback: RETRO RANCH REVAMP RESOLUTIONS 2014 | Retroranchrevamp's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s