A backyard oasis

Ideas to transform your outdoor space

Is your outdoor space a beautiful refuge of relaxation? If not, there's no time like the present to transform it into your own piece of paradise.

Landon Kirby, president and owner of Knob Hill Landscape Company, 661 W. Camp Sangamo Road, said "business has just exploded" since the pandemic kept people in their homes for over a year. He continued, "There's been a huge increase in outdoor space work as people are investing in their homes and extending their living space to the outdoors."

Patty Brockmeyer, an Illinois certified nursery professional and owner of Designer Landscapes in Farmersville, agreed with Kirby that people are focused on improving their homes and landscaping with backyard projects both large and small. She said patios are very popular and homeowners are "wanting really nice work done like tearing out old, cracked patios and replacing them with new brick paver patios." A useful add-on to an existing patio is a sitting wall, which provides a little bit of privacy along with plenty of built-in seating.

Kirby said homeowners are also adding shade structures to their backyards such as pergolas, plus outdoor kitchens and expanding existing patios. He noted, "The emphasis is on low maintenance or zero-maintenance projects. People are wanting to enjoy their time at home."

In addition to low maintenance, Brockmeyer said people want their landscaping to look nice, and they also want functionality such as stone walkways that lead to the back of the house and wind throughout the yard. These walkways might lead to places where you can feed and water birds, or where you can take a few minutes to relax and enjoy the beauty. Stone has been so popular that Brockmeyer said, "We have laid more stone in the last 12 months than we have in the last eight years."

The hottest item for the backyard, no pun intended, is the built-in fire pit. Brockmeyer said the demand is so great that there's a shortage of the specific stone used to build fire pits, and it is currently on back order.

If your outdoor space and budget are on the smaller end of the spectrum, there are still plenty of ways to upgrade and add beauty and serenity without breaking the bank. Smaller jobs Brockmeyer highlighted include updating flowerbed edging, removing overgrown bushes to replace them with something more modern and adding color with perennials. She said adding emphasis with fresh mulch, rock or decorative concrete edging is also very popular this year.

Put a trellis in the ground and plant a climbing vine, roses or flowering clematis that will surely pay off next year. Spruce up a deck or balcony with a rug, comfy furniture, a bistro table for two and a couple of tropical plants in colorful containers. Place inexpensive terra cotta pots filled with colorful annuals where they can catch the sun's rays and bloom throughout the season. Add a string of lights and a small water feature for ambiance in the evening. Turn an aged wooden fence into a work of art by painting a mural of the sunset or the beach on it.

If you are craving something that's a little out of the ordinary, add a natural swim pond to your backyard. Kirby said these ponds do not use chlorine. The water is filtered with plants, rocks and a waterfall – just like Mother Nature intended. He said natural swim ponds are usually seen in warmer climates, but there are a few in the Springfield area.

Although we are able to be out and about more this year, it is good to know that you have an oasis of serenity waiting for you when you choose to stay home.

Holly Whisler is a freelance writer from Springfield who enjoys spending time working on her outdoor space.

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