Back Yard Makeover

Small back yard makeover

This is where our entire landscape transformation began. My husband came home one frosty January day and said, “I hear if you want trees removed, this is the time to do it.”  I think he barely  got the words out of his mouth before I was on the phone setting up estimates.  We had thirteen trees removed from our itty bitty back yard. Most of them were gumballs.

We had always dreamed of having a yard where our kids could run and play in the grass; laughing as they hurdled the sprinkler.  However, there were a few minor obstacles.  I mentioned the trees, but there was also the fact that we inherited a back yard covered in rocks.

Back yard before

Not much frolicking in the sunshine back here!

We removed every last rock aside from a few we used in the landscape.  We carted them out wheelbarrow by wheelbarrowful.  Back breaking, but so worth it!!

Do you want to see the after right away? Or scroll through all of the before first? I always wonder what readers prefer.  I’m going to give you many befores and afters back to back. How’s that?

Here is the back yard after tree removal and about a hundred wheelbarrows of rocks, from standing at the gate looking in:



And after!

Backyard makeover

We laid sod first. Laying it in July requires a LOT of water.  These photos were taken in August. You can see a few bare patches that didn’t take, but overall the difference is still pretty huge.

The view along the fence:





From the other side before:



And after:

Back yard makeover

A new swingset was a must for the kids.

We built half of it in the rain.


Did I say, “we?” Really, I did help…just not in the rain!

What a good daddy! The kids absolutely love it!


We also replaced the fence ourselves.



This is looking towards the gate, I sure don’t miss those trees!



Big difference!


 These rocks lead to our water hose. This is  one of the ways we were able to reuse some of the rocks.

Peeking out through the gate:



This is the fist picture I showed you:



And the after of this view:

Yard makeover

 Prickly holly bushes were replaced by soft limelight hydrangeas on either side of the steps. I can’t wait to see how these come back.


Behind the swing set:


 I love the soft lamb’s ear in the foreground. It has a really nice form like a hosta, but can tolerate the sun much better.


This is what’s on the other side of the gate:


This is our side yard with a flagstone path that leads to the front. This is often an overlooked area but our outdoor space is so limited, we wanted to take advantage of every inch.  You can read more about this area, including how I recycled granite blocks to create a little patio seating area here.

If you missed my front yard makeover, you can see it here.

These photos were all taken last summer  without sharing them to the world in mind. My grass looks so much more lush and green now than it ever did last year.  My evergreens are so much bigger now, but my perennials haven’t all made their appearance yet.  I wanted to share this early enough to possibly offer ideas to anyone planning a backyard makeover, or to anyone looking to make a few changes.

I will update with fresh lush photos when everything comes in full swing.  This is going to be a really exciting season for me watching everything come back (fingers crossed) and fill in. I hope you stick around to see it unfold, too!

Poof! Like magic! Here’s my back yard one year later!





P.S.  It was an amazing feeling the day we pulled out the sprinklers for the first time. The kids loved every. minute. of. it. (Honestly, I think we enjoyed it even more:)


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  1. I came over via Simple details to see you side yard makeover and I can’t get over the transformation and that you did it yourselves!
    Awesome job!

  2. Absolutely stunning! You guys seriously have done a tremendous job! I’m more of a plant a tree girl than a cut a tree down girl…but those gum ball trees are absolutely useless! Not only do they drop those ugly spiky things but they are also water hogs. I love the way you were able to use some of the existing rocks in your landscape. Really…I could go on and on! I planted 8 limelights and 43 hostas last year and so far they look like they are all coming back this year…just hope the limelights bloom! Crossing my fingers and even saying a little prayer that all of your hard work pays off and everything comes back this year!!

    • Thanks so much, Luisa! I agree about the gum balls…blah!! So far my limelights are starting to come back, fingers crossed we both get blooms this year. Hopefully everything survived the winter!

  3. It is hard to believe this pictures are from the same yard. What a terrific transformation. I love how you have used garden art throughout the yard.

  4. What a fab transformation! It is truly lovely. I’m sure that you’ll thoroughly enJOY your garden.
    Linda at Beautiful Ideas

  5. Stunning back yard, and yes, I see all that work, but the results are fab! Nice job!!!

    Craft On & dance like no one else is watching 🙂

    Visiting from Transformation Thurs@The Shabby Creek Cottage’s linky party
    Suz @MaytagNMom
    NW Illinois
    My Party Project This Week

  6. It is stunning! The hard work shines through. I understand the back-breaking aspect of making over a yard. We’ve done quite a bit with ours over the last 23 years, but still have things we wish to do … one day. I love your results. What a great place to raise a family.

  7. Your backyard is AMAZING! I’m definitely pinning this in case I ever can get around to fixing up our yard.

  8. It is amazing indeed! Carrying out rocks is no small feat. I know from personal experience. Your work should be featured in a magazine spread. It’s beautiful and you’ve created an outdoor space for your family to enjoy. Great work!

    • Wow, thanks for the awesome compliment, Connie! You are so right….if you’ve experienced unloading a backyard full of rocks….you really understand:)

  9. What an amazing transformation! We are in the middle of doing the same thing right now.

    Would love you to show this off at my Give Me the Goods link party where you can link up through my blog and party with four other blogs!

    ~Chelsea @ Married Filing Jointly

  10. Your new backyard looks beautiful — it looks like you did lots of work! Your kids must be really happy that you made the change! 🙂

  11. What an amazing transformation! I can’t believe that is the same yard! If you get a chance, please share this at my Sunday linky party (starts Sat at 6pm)

  12. looks really good!

  13. WOW!! You guys did an amazing job!! SO happy to find your link at Crafty Scrappy Happy!! I’m headed now to see the rest of the yard 🙂

  14. Wow is all that I can say! I really wish my yard looked like this! What a great job and such a great inspiration and motivation for me to get my yard looking a lot better! You can see that a lot of work went into this! Again, thanks for sharing (I found your link on Simply Create) and great job!

  15. What a lush and fun transformation. Perfect for deck BBQs.

  16. What a beautiful transformation! You’re making me look forward to having a nice yard this summer. Love that the lamb’s ear can tolerate the sun well… I’ll have to keep that in mind when I buy plants.

  17. LOVE this backyard makeover!!! I’d love for you to link up a few of your posts at my weekend link party on The Best Blog Recipes if you haven’t already!

    Hope to see you there!


  18. Beautiful backyard! Thanks for sharing it!!
    Krista @thehappyhousie

  19. I just found your blog today and love your yard. Then I saw the master bath and the sectional makeover. You and your hubby do awesome work. If I had started ripping up my sectional my husband would’ve killed me. And he usually puts up with alot when I get one of my ideas! I just added you to my favorites, thanks for sharing.

  20. visiting from nifty thrifty things. This is a spectacular change. I cannot imagine the huge amount of work this was. You must be absolutely thrilled and your kids will have such an amazing summer now.

  21. I just found your blog via hometalk, I love what I’m seeing! Your yard is beautiful! Great job!

  22. Angela says

    Ah maz ing!!! It looks wonderful!

  23. It’s gorgeous! We are working on major interior remodeling right now but our yard needs a lot of help…thank you for the inspiration!

    Have a great week!

  24. Wonderful job! I know this will be an exciting summer watching everything grow and fill in. It really makes it worth all the hard work!

  25. Wow, what a difference! You guys did an amazing job. I found you at the Nifty Thrifty Things party… I’m looking into doing some things to our back yard this summer. Ours doesn’t have as many problems as yours did.. but it’s just kind of boring right now. We are putting up a swing set similar to yours within the next few weeks for our boys’ birthdays this month. 🙂 Next I really want a patio or deck area so I can relax while the boys are playing. Thanks for sharing this!

  26. Wow, you all did an amaaaaaazing job on your backyard!!! It’s so beautiful, and you created such a wonderful place for your children to play.
    Mary Alice

  27. Fabulous transformation! There was a lot of hard work involved but you’ve created a wonderful family living space!

  28. What a great transformation!

  29. wow, that was some before. this is a much more livable and enjoyable after. congrats nd well done!

  30. You backyard is gorgeous.

  31. Fabulous transformation and definitely worth all the work. The gate, beds & accents are fabulous. This is my dream yard!! We inherited an extremely large rock garden in ours which took several summers to turn into a normal, just soil garden, so I feel your pain with the rocks. I wish our yard was a bit smaller so we could do some lovely beds like yours. 2/3 of an acre sounds great until you have to maintain it. Would love if you linked this to my Craftastic party:

    • Thanks so much Cheryl! I complain that our yard is too small, but I can’t imagine maintaining a huge yard….but all that space would be nice! Give and take, I guess:)

  32. WOW! What an incredible transformation. Our backyard/deck area is on our “To-Do” List this spring and I’m so excited to start tackling it. Thankfully, our grass is in great shape, it just the deck & flower beds that need a lot of work. Your pics are a huge inspiration to me!

  33. looks amazing!!! great job!

  34. Absolutely beautiful!!

  35. Beautiful! I love the stone walkway. Wanna come help with my yard? 🙂 We don’t get much rain…

  36. My backyard is in terrible shape and you’ve inspired me to create beauty! Love your blog and thank you!

  37. Love what you did, it’s a completely new yard! Definitely keeping Lamb’s Ear in mind when I’m putting in some new plants this spring!

    I feel your pain on rock removal! The previous owners of our house looooved rock way too much, but put in 5 different kinds, interspersed with bright red mulch (what were they thinking?!). How did you dispose of your old rock that wasn’t reused?

    • Thanks, Leah! My husband hauled most of it away in his dump truck. He was able to get rid of it through his work. I know just how you feel with all that rock…best of luck to you 😉

      • I think I need to meet someone with a dump truck 🙂 I don’t know what to do with it, so I’ve been posting it on Freecycle and occasionally throwing a couple shovel fulls in our trash!

        • I thought about posting ours for “free” too. You may get some takers. My neighbors are having someone else remove all of theirs. I think a landscaping company, maybe you could hire it out? I feel your pain, though 😉

  38. whitney saenz says

    Ok, as someone with a backyard full of rocks… that we HATE… I have to ask, what did you do with them once you wheeled them out of the yard. Sounds like a stupid question, but we don’t know where to even begin to get them gone after hauling them out!

    • whitney saenz says

      nevermind…. just read the above comment! OOPS!

    • Oh no! You are where we were last year! We HATED those rocks. The back yard was pretty much a useless space. We tried to creatively use as many as possible. We put them around our a/c units and under the hose. I think we dumped some under our deck, too! Best of luck to you, Whitney…you will be so happy when they’re gone 😉

  39. What a great transformation. Yard work and landscaping is back breaking work but totally worth it. Especially when you have kids that love to play outside! Great job!

  40. I can hardly keep myself from going outside and working on my backyard! Your creativity and hard work have inspired me!

    • Thanks so much, Robin! I was out there yesterday with my son and it was amazing to see how everything is coming back to life. I really love to be out there 🙂

  41. Wow, your backyard looks absolutely stunning – what a great job! Amazing! xxx

  42. You guys did an amazing job. Your yard is gorgeous.

  43. I love your backyard makeover! I am thinking of planting some flowers or perennials under some trees in my backyard. It looks like your yard is shady — what plants have you found work well in light shade? (If you don’t mind me asking!)

    • Hi Lauren! For the shade, I like hostas, coral bells, astilbe, and hydrangeas to name a few. I’ve also had good luck with box woods. They are great for adding year round shape to your garden (as well as the azaleas). I also love a perennial called Brunera I believe, that gets tiny little blue flowers. I’m not sure what zone you are in, so your best best bet would be to visit your local nursery to see what they offer. Also check out what plants are thriving in your neighborhood. I did a post on how to create a landscape from scratch as well as an update on my back yard showing what it looks like one year later. You can find them easily under the ‘DIY Project Gallery’ tab. Hope this helps! Planting a garden is hard work, but so rewarding. Have fun!! 🙂

  44. I just visited your blog and was completely in awe. Your design transformations are simply gorgeous. .and the backyard ..all I can say is WOW!!!

  45. Christy, this is an amazing makeover! What a beautiful retreat you have in your backyard. I bet some happy and fun memories are (and have) been made. 🙂 Love!

  46. What a transformation! I know you really enjoy using your backyard now. The great thing about it is that it is functional but small enough to easily maintain.

    • You’re exactly right, Paula! We really enjoy it and it’s very manageable, although looking a bit sad right now for winter lol. It makes it more exciting when spring arrives 🙂

  47. This makes me very happy!! I love your back, side and front yard! You did a great job. Our houses are on top of each other too, but we are still 4 hrs from the beach.
    🙁 I also love love love the gate!! So pretty!!!

  48. Beautiful transformation!! Question: where did you get your swing set? What’s the brand? We have a small yard and it looks like the perfect option for our space. I’d appreciate a link! Thanks!

  49. how do you get those beds in backyard so mounded; what is the trick to that; no matter how much i dig,cant seem to figure it out; nev. comes raised enough; do you have to pile dirt ? thank you;

    P.S. Your work is fantastic; my hat goes off to you. love all your projects.

  50. This is such a beautiful yard and garden! My husband and I are currently going through the same backyard trouble and I would love any tips as I am not a gardener but trying very hard to become one! We laid sod the first summer we were in our home and it didn’t come back. The next summer my husband planted seed with no luck. I am currently saving to have professionals lay sod and then do everything else myself and am struggling to figure out the best plants to plant. Your posts are definitely inspiring me!

  51. Jeff Murphy says

    Awesome! Great job!

  52. Holy bananas! Honestly, that is a remarkable transformation considering you really did not hardscape the area at all – just some trees and rocks out, grass, playhouse and hammock in…fantastic work. Amazing before and after shots for sure.


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