Backyard Landscapes: Updating A Classic Grass Lawn With More Modern Touches

Modernizing a back yard with a water feature, new ground cover or even a tree house can be a fun way to improve your lawn or outdoor area.

A backyard was often adorned with a swing set, a playhouse, and maybe a sandbox or tree house for the kids. All of this was tied together with a hefty amount of lawn that required a fair deal of maintenance.

Today's backyards are more likely to have a hot tub than a swing set, and the quarter acre of suburban paradise is much smaller now than it was a generation ago. What hasn't changed is that grass is still a staple of a backyard landscape. Here are some hints to help modernize your backyard and get the most from your landscaping.

After assessing the size of your backyard, be honest with yourself about the amount of time you want to devote to maintaining it. Next, think about your budget. Plants and quality decorations can easily soar into the thousands of dollars range - even in small spaces. Next, think about how you use your backyard. Creating a safe haven for children or pets will require significantly different amenities than modernizing an empty nester's yard space.



Your climate will impact what plants you use to modernize your backyard, starting with groundcover. Grass is no longer the only option for your lawn. There are many clovers, low-growing flowers and greenery that don't ever require mowing. They also are resilient to the wear and tear caused by dogs, children and sports. Of course, you can decide against groundcover altogether. The colored stone once reserved for beach houses or drought-prone climates are now common in environments more traditionally hospitable to plants. Landscape artists often use the stones' colors to create intricate patterns that don't require any maintenance whatsoever.

If you select groundcover but don't have a large budget to work with, you may want to consider bordering your lawn with bark dust or mulch. You can create an island look with the grass or groundcover you choose by applying bark dust at your property or fence line. Instead of a square lawn, you can mold your yard into any shape you choose. As finances improve, you can add shrubbery and plants at the fence line to further modernize your backyard.

Fountains and natural-looking ponds are the latest must-have for even the smallest outdoor spaces. These can be as simple as a birdbath or as complex as a custom-designed, bubbling spring with natural rock, water flowers and koi fish. When adding a water feature, think about how you may want to use your backyard space in the future. A pond may make a beautiful focal point in the middle of the yard today, but if you anticipate children, pets, or backyard volleyball games in the future, it may become a nuisance. Large water features that are difficult to move are best placed at the edge of your yard, away from the house.

Feng shui has gained in popularity in the past several years, and landscaping is not immune to this ancient Asian form of art placement. Gazing balls are cropping in many gardens as a nod to Feng shui, and wind chimes have grown in popularity since they have been purported to increase chi. A modern backyard encompassing some feng shui principles is certain to provide a comforting, relaxing environment.

If you prefer a more ornate lawn, consider planting different grasses or groundcover in a pattern. While this is considerably more work to plant and to maintain, it is an increasingly common feature in a modern backyard.

Tree houses for children have never truly gone out of style, but tree houses for grown-ups are now all the rage. Your lawn can be entirely average and void of any artful touches, but the addition of a tree retreat for adults instantly modernizes your yard. Most major home improvement stores offer sophisticated plans with all the grown-up accoutrements that are relatively easy to build yourself.

Modernizing your backyard can be a fun way to personalize your yard and maximize the benefits of home ownership. With a little forethought and planning, your modernization can provide enjoyment for years to come.

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