Create a Backyard Oasis

Author: Alecia Pirulis


You have a charming house painted in neutral colors and staged to show off its architecture and charm. As for curb appeal – your house is the prettiest on the block with mulched flower beds, containers overflowing with colorful blooms, and a welcoming walkway to your front door. For some reason, your house isn’t selling so you can finally make your move to that great downtown loft or that house in the country. You know what the problem is – the backyard. Whether it is the lack of privacy or the tiny size, it is definitely having a negative impact on your ability to sell. What can you do? Plenty!

First, consider adding a privacy fence. Even if your backyard is the size of a postage stamp, the fence will give the yard the look of a cozy getaway spot. Before you do anything, check with the local building department and ask about permits. You probably won’t need one for a fence, but it’s a good idea to check, anyway. They can also give you information on set-back distance and height. Also, if you have a homeowner’s association, you will most likely need permission before adding a fence. Save yourself aggravation, time, and money and get their approval before starting any outdoor renovations. You might also want a property survey to make sure you are putting the fence in the right place.

Next, consider gardening vertically. Raised plant beds are ideal for tight spaces that lack privacy. Use stone to create walls in a tiered pattern and then fill each to the top with soil. (If you don’t want stone walls, you can go to the lumber yard and get pressure-treated lumber.) Look for tall plants that add even more height (and privacy). Use flour to create a diagram of where you want the flower beds to be and make sure you leave a pathway between for watering/weeding purposes. Keep taller plants in the back and work your way forward to the shortest.

Create an outdoor hideaway. Whether it is a hammock beneath the trees or a stone patio with a fire pit and lounge chairs, having an outdoor living space will add value to your home. Stage it just as you would a room in your home – an open book in the hammock next to a table with a pitcher of iced tea and some glasses, or a tray holding a vase of fresh-cut flowers on the table between the chairs.

Consider trellises, pergolas, arbors, and tall trees to add another layer of privacy and seclusion. If, for example, your next-door neighbors have a second-story deck right above your backyard, place some trees to block their view. Add a trellis (don’t forget the climbing rose, jasmine, or clematis) to create a barrier between you and a too-close next door neighbor. A pergola over your outdoor living space will add shade, privacy, and – with the right climbing vine – beauty and fragrance. An arbor will give you the perfect alcove for a couple of Adirondack chairs.

If noise from next-door neighbors or traffic is an issue, consider building an outdoor fountain. Use your imagination and a little creativity to turn something ordinary into a beautiful outdoor fountain (stacked slate, an urn, or even an old birdbath, for example). You’ll need some type of reservoir for the water (a waterproof tub or basin that will sit below ground), a mesh screen to keep leaves out of the reservoir, a water pump, waterproof material such as plastic lining, tubing, and a nearby exterior electrical outlet. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of making your own fountain, buy a ready-made fountain from the local garden center.

Remember – layering is the key. Start with the fencing; add trees and shrubs; create flowerbeds; accent with trellises, arbors, and pergolas; mask noise with a fountain; and finally, add some outdoor furniture. Now, your backyard is a selling point rather than a drawback for potential buyers.