Outdoor spaces where I’ve lived over the years haven’t been very functional. I blame myself. Once the gardening bug bit, I viewed each potential new residence more for garden potential than anything else. Functionality never entered my mind.
The garden I abandoned three years ago contained more than 600 varieties. When I bought the place nearly two decades ago, I visualized a garden worthy of a spot on the hoity-toity ladies’ garden tour. Deer, drought, fire ants, and Bermuda grass conspired against me. Throw in heat, humidity, budget constraints, and the size of the yard, and I never stood a chance.
A walk through the garden was pleasant enough, but the overall setup wasn’t conducive to lingering. The peculiar lot lacked even a sliver of privacy. Landscaping helped, but only so much. The blazing afternoon sun made sitting outside unbearable. Never mind the mosquitos.
Three years ago, I downsized to a smaller house (1200 vs 1800 square feet) and yard (from a full acre to four-tenths of an acre). Best move I ever made. Beyond any doubt, the backyard is more functional than anywhere I’ve lived before.
Similar homes on small lots in other developments felt claustrophobic. In my neighborhood, every house backs up to one of several tree-filled buffers. Some yards are more private than others. Between the terrain and fencing, mine is one of the most private lots in the subdivision. I could walk around in my birthday suit. Not that I would, because sure as I did, I’d lock myself out of the house or something. But I could.
The patio is steps away from the open floor plan kitchen and great room where I spend most my time. Between the privacy and the delightful eastern exposure, I’ve spent more time sitting on the back patio here than at all my previous residences, combined. Even on the hottest days, sitting on the shady patio is pleasant and comfortable.
I’ve spruced things up a bit in the backyard, but have added no permanent plantings. I put out a few tomato plants, scatter a couple of flats of annual flowers around for color, and that’s about it. Upkeep is quick and easy, leaving more time to enjoy my little sanctuary.
I’m still hoping to work with a professional landscape designer to transform the little yard into the paradise I know it can be. Though private, because the yards are small, I can hear what’s going on around me. A big, loud water feature will solve that problem. Maybe next year…
[Updated from a post originally published in April 2013.]