A San Jose, California, family provided both brains and brawn to transform their backyard from a kids' hangout into a dream garden.
Here, a generous patio is also an outdoor dining room, where curving beds frame the space and offer soothing views from every angle.
Grass and a tree with a tire swing were fine for active, growing kids. Once the youngsters reached college age, though, the family decided it was time for change.
Within a few months, the garden became an oasis. The flagstone-ringed pond was a father-son collaboration: Dad designed; son and friends assisted with the installation. One of the daughters drew up the final garden plan.
One of the daughters -- now studying landscape architecture in college -- drew the final landscape plan, which divides the 2,900-square-foot yard into a series of garden rooms. The family also hired a landscape architect to guide the process.
Any successful makeover starts with a good evaluation of the site. Analyze what's already there, including trees, shrubs, and paving. Determine what to save and what to remove.
In this case, the family stripped the plain side yard bare before turning it into an elegant walkway.
A society garlic border and a fresh pathway add elegance to this newly defined small space.
For style on a budget, the family opted for raised planters covered in stone veneer (Drystack Ledgestone in caramel from Cultured Stone, 1-800-255-1727).
An affordable alternative to rock, the veneer has the rustic, multi-toned look of the real thing but is manufactured from Portland cement and bits of stone.
Decorative and functional, a dry-laid flagstone path is bordered by ferns and red-flowered Cuphea ignea. A thick layer of mulch keeps soil moist.
For greatest impact, the family planted in layers: short plants and trailers in front, tall plants in back. The colorful, low-care plants include artemisia, penstemon, rosemary, and salvia, with a Japanese maple as an accent.
Blue and green foliage around the pond enhance its serenity.
Clockwise from bottom right: Lime asparagus fern, pale variegated grass, blue fescue, and yellow Japanese forest grass are texturally diverse yet not overwhelming.
Flowing water is an important element of any pond; not only does the sound mask street noise, but it also keeps a pond from becoming a breeding ground for mosquitos.
This waterfall is fringed with lime green Houttuynia cordata.