Rescue your Backyard From Boredom

by : Karen Hoeve

You see them everywhere: empty, unused yards and wallflower decks adorned with nothing but a lonely barbeque. All over the country, the typical American backyard is a mass of untapped potential. So unnecessary! If you want to make the most of what your home has to offer, don't take this important living space for granted.

Where the Wild Things Are

More than likely, boring backyards are the way they are because they just need a little love. But the truth is, many of us just don't know how to improve the relationship. We try. We buy hanging baskets and hedges, statuary and peonies but even after all our good will and faith, something seems to be missing. Fortunately, turning the average backyard into a dramatic outdoor living space that everyone wants to be in is easy. What your yard really wants is action and adventure. It wants to remember the wild place it once was. This doesn't mean that you should start to neglect your lawn. Instead, try adding a few water features and lighting or fire elements. These simple additions will put you well on your way to creating an outdoor space that's fun and inviting. There are plenty of affordable and safe ways to do this.

When A River Doesn't Run Through it

You don't need to have waterfront property, a river running through your acreage or an inground pool to have the benefits of water elements in your yard. Fountains, ponds and waterfalls come in a wide range of sizes, styles and price ranges. A small fountain that costs less than $200 is beautiful to look at and soothing to listen to on a warm summer night. Adding running water to your outdoor living area can be as complicated as hiring a landscape artist to build a free-flowing waterfall that serves as a major focal point, to picking up a small fountain from the garden center and finding a home for it in the yard.

Heating it up

If you have deeply fond memories of corn roasts, summer camp bonfires and toasted marshmallows you're in good company. Sitting around and watching the fire is one of the oldest and most fascinating social activities of all time. Fortunately, you don't have to live in the bush to have a fire in the backyard anymore. Small enclosed fireplaces, chimineas and simple torches are heating up urban backyards all over the country. Handled with respect, these bright spots in backyard living can warm up your outdoor living area in a way that few other things do. Many backyard enthusiasts go all the way with this concept and turn a section of the backyard into an outdoor cooking area. Ever want your own wood-fired pizza oven? Brick or stone barbeque? It's amazing how much fun you can have with these. Not ready to hire a contractor? Go for a fully enclosed copper chiminea with a protective screen or even a gas fireplace designed for the outdoors.

If you have small children and want to keep open flame to a minimum, you can always add fire elements in less dramatic ways. Opt for candles in sturdy holders or beautiful yet tame strings of lights hung in the trees or along a fence. Strings of outdoor lights are particularly attractive and make nighttime entertaining extremely comfortable.

Of course, adding fire and water elements are just the beginning of what you can do to add drama to the yard and make it truly inviting. You may consider features like these to be more along the lines of finishing touches - pieces de resistance - that come after you've carefully elaborated on the landscaping, furniture and any covered areas that you want to add. But whether you start or finish with them - don't leave them out!