Exterior & Garden The Victorian House

The Newly Planted Backyard

This is the second of three posts sponsored by RISE’s AND not OR home and garden program. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Newly Planted Backyard Garden

The yard is on its way! Little baby plants, all set in place and ready to do their thing. There were some existing mature plants that I liked and wanted to incorporate into the new design. The boxwoods at the entrance to the dining patio, the lilacs along the fence, and the climbing roses at each end of the garage are all lovely. I’ve added hostas, heuchera, duetzia, viburnum, boxwoods, and I have a few hydrangea waiting to go into the ground too. If you’re interested in plants and flowers that do well in the Midwest summer (and winter) check out RISE’s downloadable list.

Estate Garden Finials as Garden Sculpture | Making it Lovely

Please ignore the awful fencing! Oscar is a cute puppy, but he needs to be restricted because he loves to dig. The plastic garden fencing is only 2’ high and I’m sure the dog could jump it if he tried (especially as he gets bigger), but the combination of supervision, training, and a physical barrier has worked so far. If we only need it temporarily, great! If it’s going to be long-term, I’ll find a more attractive option.

Let’s talk about the roses though — whoops. I cut them waaay down to the ground years ago, and they’re just now starting to halfway resemble their former glory. I didn’t know what I was doing before! I mean, I still don’t sometimes, but I’ve learned a lot. I did a ton of research on climbing roses a couple of years ago.

New Trellises on the Garage

The old rose trellises were falling apart. When I took them down, the paint behind them was cracked and flaking, so that wall of the garage was scraped, prepped, and painted last week. The new trellises are more visually delicate than the old ones, but they seem sturdy and will hopefully last. Roses can be a bit temperamental, so I fertilized them with a product that also prevents pests. I’m training the canes back and forth in a winding S-shape (new, flowering shoots only grow off of horizontal canes), and I planted clematis that should make its way around the roses, blooming earlier for more seasonal interest.


There was snow on the ground not long ago, so all of this came together over the last couple of weeks. (Also, an update on my hand — I sprained it, but it will be fine!).

Backyard Garden Progress

Those giant ball finials are weird in a good way, right? I needed something grand in scale since it’s going to be years before any of the new bushes (very excited about the Mohawk Viburnum!) reach their mature sizes. Itty bitty baby plants are cute, but the eye goes right past ’em. I considered a more modern geometric sculpture, but liked the idea of something with age (or at least the look of it). I also relocated a metal tub planter from a different part of the yard to somewhat hide the back of the barbecue.

Back of the Victorian | Making it Lovely

Grow, New Little Plants!

Garden Details

I added plenty of mulch everywhere after getting the plants in the ground. I’ve gone through all of the effort to weed an area before, pulling things out by the roots or using weed-killer for things like poison ivy, and if you leave that soil bare for even a little while, new weeds come back so quickly. Mulch prevents weeds, keeps moisture in the soil, decomposes and improves the soil, and helps plants survive the winter. Magic stuff! Messy, heavy, and requiring a few trips when you need as much as I did, but magic stuff nonetheless.

The AND not OR approach to gardening is all about finding that balance of what works for you. I like the big initial spring clean-up because it’s nice to be outside in the sun after a Chicago winter, but the weather tips into hot and humid pretty quickly and then it’s not so fun. Getting rid of the weeds that were already out there now and preventing new ones with mulch will make upkeep much quicker and easier.

New Plantings

The Newly Planted Backyard Garden

Gardens are always a work in progress, but that’s especially true of this one right now. I’m going to add a hedge (yew or boxwood) to more formally separate the front and back half of the backyard, and the arch needs something to grow over it. I think I’ll pick up a pair of pedestals for the urns to give them a bit more height, and the flower box on the back porch railing will be filled. Imagine those changes with mature plantings and leaves on the trees — like so.

The Newly Planted Backyard Garden - Projected

You see it, right? We’re also planning for a new fence this year. The section behind the egg chair is in decent enough shape, but it’s shot pretty much everywhere else.

Egg Chair with Flagstone Path

Our egg chair is still a big hit with the kids! It’s “all-weather wicker” (plastic), and it has held up beautifully. It’s tucked away and as the lilacs leaf out and bloom and the new deutzia I planted to the right of the garden stool grows, this area should have a kind of magical secret garden vibe. I’d like to add flowers along the fence too, but that will have to wait until after it gets replaced.

Backyard with an Egg Chair

There are dahlias and a heuchera in the washing tub, and I’ll add sweet potato vines once the nurseries have them available. This photo from a couple of years ago shows the same angle, further on in the season. I love the softness of the trailing leaves.

The trees are only now beginning to bud and I’m hopeful that the hostas and heuchera will take nicely, so the garden is going to be more lush and leafy soon! It already feels like a much nicer place to be. And if you have any tips for keeping the puppy from undoing all of my hard work, I’d be glad to hear them!

The Beginnings of a Beautiful Backyard | Making it Lovely

Sources & Paint ColorsNeed design help? Let's work together.

You Might Also Like...

  • Miranda
    May 4, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Everything looks so good!! I am so excited for you to tackle the fence, too! We have a victorian as well (not with as much detail as yours) and we want to put in a fence next year (deck replacement is the project this year) and I get paralyzed with the options of what will look good with the house and function for our needs. I can’t wait to see what you guys end up with.

    • Making it Lovely
      May 7, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      I’m still in research mode right now! And I need to get moving because: puppy. (And ours looks terrible.) One lattice option I really like is from Walpole because of the unusual 60-degree angle, but I want more privacy than that. I’ll definitely be sharing the final choice!

  • Nicole Matinsen
    May 5, 2018 at 1:10 am

    We got a dog almost two years ago and man, she was a digger! She was a rescue and could dig a very large hole in no time. My neighbor told me to bury their poop in any hole that they dig, and they won’t dig in that spot anymore. Granted, we live on 5 acres in the country, but she is completely fenced in the backyard, so there are plenty of holes where we have buried it. And she very rarely digs holes anymore. Part of that could be growing up, but it has been mostly successful. She used to dig up soo many of my plants that I think I probably cried a time or two. :'( My plants are my babies just as much as my dog is. Your backyard is looking great and I can totally see your vision. Love it!

  • RT BOyce
    May 6, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    Our dogs like to race out of the backdoor, tear around the side of the house, and check the side yard trees for squirrels to bark at. Anything planted in their path is doomed to be stomped flat. But they leave plantings elsewhere alone. The only digging is in an apparently irresistible shady dirt patch along the garage, and then they lie in the trench on hot days. I keep filling it up; they keep hollowing it out. So that’s our dog compromise with the backyard.

    • sarah burke
      May 7, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      RT – I could have written this! My dogs have destroyed all the grass along a path they like to run from our back door, around the back of the house, to the gate in the side yard, and have also created a little burrow in a corner of the house. We’re just going to put pavers in the trail they’ve created and hopefully they won’t then move off to a different section.

  • Peggi
    May 7, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    Everything looks wonderful! I love the giant ball final whatnots! Hmmm. Digging. I had some sod installed last year and had the guys roll out chicken wire under it. They thought I was a little wacky, but I was a customer…It worked like a charm. The trick now is preventing urine burns. Waaaaah. I guess maybe you have a beautiful yard or a spoiled dog. #dogforthewin

  • jess
    May 10, 2018 at 9:10 am

    My friend had a dog that liked to dig, she put in a sandbox just for him, and every few days re-raked the thing to level it out, i think she even buried treats or toys there to encourage him to use it? not sure how long she did that tho. it didnt completely stop him from digging other places where i guess there were some interesting things to smell or discover, but he used it a lot so i have to assume it was better than it could have been. he eventually dug less overall, so like another commenter stated, it might be an age thing.

  • Julie Saldana
    May 11, 2018 at 5:56 am

    I wanna see when your archway becomes green by plant and flower, It bet it will be beautiful. I love your egg chair also, I am looking for this one to put in my backyard with some cute pillows, but in my place, this weather will have rain (sometime), it will be mess up my egg chair. Can you give me some ideas for that? Thank you so much!

  • The Front Yard, One Year Later - Making it Lovely
    May 11, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    […] made it through the winter! Improving the backyard has been my big outdoor focus for this year, but I wanted to give you an update on the front, […]

  • Next Up is the Laundry Room - Making it Lovely
    May 16, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    […] been doing a ton of work outside lately, but it’s time to move on to the interior again. Hey there, laundry […]