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Even though I’ve been working hard on the laundry room lately (here’s a sneak peek of the latest update, but more to come soon!), the trees coming down last month and the increase in temperatures have me thinking about exterior projects a lot. While I’m not yet ready to pull the trigger on any one project in particular (my allergies are keeping me indoors for the next couple of weeks, and I won’t start on these until the shelves & counter are all done in the laundry room… so close!) I did want to share with you some inspiration I’ve been pinning lately (see my outdoor projects here).

1. Tree bench?

There’s only one remaining tree in the back yard after removing the rest back in March, and I’d really like to see it looking more purposeful. So lately, I’ve been thinking about what a small bench would look like at the foot of the tree. Not only would it add some seating, but would make the yard look more inviting to a guest (and how awesome is this suspended book shelf idea?). I really like the idea of adding some plants below the bench too, but with my brown thumb, I may just want to stick to gravel or mulch. I found a fantastic tutorial from This Old House, which makes me all the more confident that I’ll be seeing this project come to fruition this summer.

2. Outdoor Lights

I have always wanted string lights in the yard. I just love the soft and cozy feeling it adds. Plus, I’m willing to bet that it makes any yard, even mine, look dressed up (don’t believe me? the next time you see a pretty picture of outdoor string lights, cover up the top part where the lights are displayed… it almost always takes the “it” factor away). Maybe I’ll start by running some lights out to the remaining tree once the bench is in place.

3. Landscaping along the fence

Finally, I’d like to create a real and workable landscaping plan for the back yard. With the removal of all but one of my pine trees, it’s kind of like hitting a reset button on the ideas I’ve had before. All of the shade I used to count on is no longer there, which opens the door to new landscaping possibilities. The first major hurdle will be moving the huge mound of soil and tree mulch from the area that once had all of the trees, but after that, I’ll need to pick an area and start digging (literally). I think one of the first areas that could really use some help is the right side of the yard, where my neighbors have left their fence to rot. Not awesome, and not often pictured on this blog, but also not worth getting into some kind of discussion with my neighbor about it (after all, my yard is hardly the envy of the neighborhood!). So the simplest solution is to find something that masks it a little. Here’s an older pic from some yard cleanup I did a year and a half ago where you can see the fence I’m talking about:

I think a pretty good solution is to install some raised garden beds (which are pretty cheap and easy to build) and some flowering shrubs of some kind that can tolerate the shade/sun mix on that side (neighboring trees that aren’t in my yard still keep this area shaded in the afternoon). Or, I could nix the garden beds and simply plant something that doesn’t require any upkeep, like Annabelle hydrangeas (as you might already know, I LOVE hydrangeas of all kinds), or knockout roses (whom I’ve been told by one reader requires practically zero upkeep). But still, I do think the raised bed makes things a little nicer. The yellow knockout variety are a favorite of mine in particular. Update: I wound up building garden beds along the whole fence line, then filled them with gardenias. Check it out here!

raised garden beds

I don’t plan to actually try out herbs & vegetables in this spot, so the lack of full sun should not be too much of a problem. But then again, I don’t have a green thumb, so these are still just ideas kicking around in my brain!

That’s about it for now, but I think these three ideas are in the top spots for what to do about the yard this summer. As always, landscaping is a slow-moving monster, so I’m doing my best to think of small ideas that will eventually add up to one awesomely entertaining outdoor space. What landscaping projects do you have planned this summer?

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  1. We also have a neighbor situation and we planted alternating azaleas and knockout roses along our back fence. Its only been 2 years, but they grow so fast that it is already making a difference. And like you said…low maintenance and can handle full sun. I love the raised bed idea too!

  2. Raised beds are easier to weed. Just sayin’

    If you plant at ground level and don’t have a good hard border between your planting/mulch and the grass you’ll find your grass and weeds creeping into your plant beds. It won’t take long either.

    1. Fair point. I’m pretty lazy about weeding, so perhaps for the sake of weeding I should just raise the beds!

  3. If you don’t have full sun you will be disappointed with roses. They need a good 8 hours of direct sun. If they don’t get it they are subject to all kinds of diseases and don’t bloom well. There are a lot of beautiful shrubs that like varying degrees of shade (like hydrangeas!) and careful selection can give you bloom from early spring to fall. Many even have fall color and/or berries.

    This summer I am adding a perennial border. Next year another shrub border and an asparagus patch. I am never satisfied.

    1. Ok, very helpful to know! I’m definitely still learning when it comes to plants. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Raised beds are super fun! I added 2 along the side of my house a few summers ago and planted hydrangeas, bougainvillea and lantana and they are out of control growing! The lantana especially grows up and out rapidly so some trellises might be helpful for keeping them upright. They’re in pink, yellow and red so you can mix them up.

  5. I’m such a huge fan of fairy lights outside! It makes outdoor parties all the better. I like all of these projects though – might have to try some of these out!

  6. A friend of mine planted the yellow knock out roses and she replaced them with the red because she said they got too “leggy”.

  7. I love the lights! I have a thing for them. lol My backyard/patio needs major work, so when I finally get around to doing that, I will definitely be putting up lights.