7 Interesting Backyard Design Ideas

Any online search will prove that backyards can be so much more than a patch of turf, with creative design solutions showing up for spaces of every size and climate. The following ideas provide some guidance and inspiration for refreshing the planting and hardscape design elements of your property.

Outdoor living room

Create an extension of your indoor living space in your backyard by grouping plush outdoor furniture under a pergola or cabana structure. The addition of a rug and a coffee table will add to the comfort of this outdoor entertaining space. For a cozy evening area, hang string lights on an awning and add outdoor heaters or a fire pit. Mixing furniture with shade-tolerant container plants creates a soft border and adds cohesion with other planted areas of the yard.

Pollinator garden

Many grim stories have recently been revealed about what food would look like without bees. A pollinator garden is an attractive way to upgrade planting beds and will help provide sustenance and habitat for birds, bees, and other insects. Native plants are ideal, as these are more attractive to most species and require less chemical fertilizer input than other ornamentals. Species such as Penstemon and Salvia are native to many parts of America and produce showy blooms. Plant flowering shrubs, annuals, and perennials in masses of at least 3 feet on any side, as an area of this size provides a more complete feeding session for bees.

Less water, more color

It can be confusing navigating the numerous terms used to describe drought-tolerant or sustainable gardening. A common misconception is that lower water-use gardens lack the lushness and color of a garden that requires more irrigation. However, there are many water-wise species that offer dramatic coloring and sculptural foliage. Fernleaf lavender features silver foliage with spikes of blue-violet flowers and requires little water once established. The Agastache species is similar in its irrigation requirements and produces a range of flower colors that are a top choice for hummingbirds and butterflies.

Meditation vacation

Wellness is having a moment in many circles, including landscape design. Turn your backyard into a dreamy spa-inspired retreat by integrating water features, such as reflecting pools, and comfortable lounge chairs or cushioned outdoor sofas. Planting evergreen screening hedges, such as fern pine or boxwood, along your property line will provide added privacy. Using rounded river rock cobbles as mulch or a border for planting areas lends to a clean-lined minimalistic design suggestive of Japanese Zen gardens.

Terraced slopes

A sloped yard may seem like an unusable space, but a bit of creative thinking and grading can create a hidden oasis. Terraced yards provide visual interest that many flat spaces lack, and offer the opportunity to create multiple smaller spaces. Retaining walls with built-in seating are particularly handy when level ground is sparse, and can be designed for intimate seating nooks or larger seating for entertaining. Planting cascading or trailing plants, such as creeping thyme or trumpet vine help soften the vertical appearance of retaining walls.

Geometric decks and boardwalks

Decks that seem like floating rectangles are becoming obsolete, with many homeowners opting for custom designed decks that respond to the contours and existing landscape of their property. Consider the possibility of a multi-level deck that better matches the slope of your backyard, or retain mature trees by wrapping decking around existing tree trunks. Boardwalks are another way to integrate a wood finish into your backyard, and can be used to navigate sloped areas or as a raised walking path through soft grasses and wildflowers.


Container gardens are becoming an increasingly popular solution for urban-dwellers with limited backyard space. A variety of species can be grown in containers, including soft grasses, showy perennials, and even small trees. If an edible garden is of interest, salad greens, peppers, and most herbs are excellent choices for growing in containers. To create the most visually appealing arrangement, combine containers of varying heights and place your favorite or the showiest plant in the tallest container. Grouping containers in odd numbers always gives a better sense of balance. Knowing sun patterns for your space is key for container gardens, especially in urban areas where tall buildings may block sunlight. Shade-tolerant plants such as heuchera and begonias thrive in low light conditions. For full-sun patios, plant a vibrant coleus or create an on-trend succulent arrangement.

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