Inspired Designs for Do-It-Yourselfers

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Thanks for your interest and patronage. I'm currently on long-term hiatus and not accepting design or coaching projects. Please visit my website, Digging, for DIY-friendly gardening info. For additional sustainable-gardening inspiration, check out my books, The Water-Saving Garden: How to Grow a Gorgeous Garden with a Lot Less Water and Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard.

Relaxing back-yard retreat

An ordinary expanse of St. Augustine lawn is transformed into a relaxing retreat by shrinking the lawn to a manageable size and adding an inviting patio surrounded by native perennials, roses, and a Mexican plum. A small container pond with a bubbler pump provides the musical sound of moving water.

Welcoming entry garden

A ho-hum foundation planting came out in favor of dynamic yuccas and ornamental grasses, while a plain sweep of lawn was reduced and given curvier definition, making room for drought-tolerant flowering perennials and grasses in a new bed along the street. But what really makes this new garden inviting is the gracious stone path that flows from curb to drive and front door, replacing a skimpy, concrete L-shaped sidewalk.

Texas cottage garden

A traditional front lawn, with no entry path from the street, was removed entirely and replaced with a generous limestone pathway and a sunny, Texas-style cottage garden filled with native plants. It succeeds as a colorful and welcoming entry for visitors; a lovely view from inside the house; a buffer between the front door and the street; and a hospitable home for birds, butterflies, lizards, and other wildlife.

Tex-Zen retreat

A complete redo of a once-average back yard created a comfortable dining patio, a yoga platform overlooking a pond and waterfall, and serene Asian-style touches like this bamboo-and-basin fountain. Photo courtesy of Robyn Roberts.

Playspace makeover

The design of a gravel play area had grown stale. The goals were to replace hot, glaring pea gravel with something cooler to the feet and eyes and to better integrate the playset into the garden. A smaller, mulched play space, a rearrangement of the playset, and the addition of a small, curving lawn solved the problems. Now the area is welcoming to both kids and adults and pleasing to the eye.

Creating good flow

This back yard had nice structures already in place but suffered from a feeling of closeness, with no room to step off the deck, and a lawn that was so squiggly it was difficult to mow. Adding a broad gravel path off the deck and ironing out the excess curves of the lawn gave a better flow to the newly replanted garden. Photo courtesy of Karl Arcuri.

Gathering space

Faced with a dying lawn and a bare perimeter fence, the homeowner desired instead a roomy entertaining area for gatherings of family and friends around the table or, on cool evenings, around the fire pit. She also wanted to reduce her lawn maintenance and create prettier views from inside her home. A garden plan outlining new hardscaping features (patio, paths, shed screen, lawn shape), which left the bulk of the plant design to her, best suited her needs. The winter transformation shown here, from bare, open space to a welcoming patio, is striking. A few anchoring plants were included in the design, and the homeowner will plant the remainder over time.

Shady side garden

A muddy, dark side yard, its scattered stepping stones overgrown with English ivy, is transformed into a stop-and-look shade garden. A new brick path, intersected by a rectangular mosaic of limestone bordered by brick, welcomes visitors through the cool, shady oasis into the back yard. A wire obelisk in the middle of the path, lit at night from below, makes a striking centerpiece to the garden, which is planted with a variety of evergreens and shade-loving perennials. Visible from the back deck and from the dining and living rooms inside the house, this narrow strip now provides beauty as well as utility.

Stepping into a wildscaped ravine

Working with the homeowner to provide better access into her steep back-yard ravine and make it more inviting, we sketched out a staircase of mortared limestone to replace slippery mulch-and-timber paths, plus a terraced seating area for bird-watching. The homeowner did all the stonework and terracing herself! Native and adapted plants along the stairs add evergreen structure and must hold up to daily visits by deer.

I work primarily with do-it-yourselfers who implement their designs over time, as money and time allow. It can take a while, therefore, for my designs to be fully implemented and ready for their "after" pictures. If you'd like to contact me by email or phone, I will be happy to discuss my experience with you. Meanwhile, please know that I'll add more pictures to the Portfolio page as they become available.