Our yard is again! If you’ve been round right here awhile, you’ll know our decrease yard has been a years-long course of—which I name out as a result of for many of us, that’s the truth of designing an out of doors house. Very few of us have the funds (or foresight) to do one massive “install” that ends in a fully-finished yard or house. Plus, the place would the enjoyable be in that? Adam and I get a lot pleasure from all the time having a inventive outlet at house. Typically, we deal with one massive undertaking a yr, and after 12 years of dwelling right here, our house is a lot nearer to our final imaginative and prescient. Though I doubt we’ll ever actually be completed.
Plus, this slower method has given us time to dream, get inventive, and permit the design to evolve as our personal private types have developed over time.
In reality, I’m really grateful we didn’t have the funds to totally end out the yard once we first moved into our home. I in all probability would have achieved issues lots in a different way, and I’m glad that my now 38-year-old self is making among the design selections that my 25-year-old self wouldn’t have understood. So, because it’s been a very long time coming, let’s do a fast recap of how the decrease yard has come collectively since we began actually engaged on it three years in the past, after which I’ll share the newest images so you may see what new modifications we’ve made this summer time.
Sign up to get monthly #ZumaBeachHouse updates delivered straight to your inbox.
Thanks for Signing Up!
Looks like you’re already signed up or your email address is invalid.
For the first 10 years that we lived in the house, our entire focus went to the top level of our backyard design—it’s the much smaller space that our living room opens up to and includes our pool, so naturally we put our budget into this space that was most visible, and got the most use. We would look over the railing at the overgrown forest that lay 30-feet below the pool deck and imagine what it could look like with a
little lot of work. We knew this space had tons of potential, but also knew that it would be a massive project, and we wanted to wait until we we were ready.
Phase 1: Levels and Terracing
In 2019, we decided to start the project of terracing some of the backyard areas to make them flat enough to be usable. Our backyard is majorly sloped, and I learned that there’s really not much you can do on a hillside like that without building terraced walls and bringing in enough dirt to fill them in. We dreamed of a backyard where our kids could explore, where we could gather around an open fire and have campfire-style dinners with friends, and really, where we could just be truly immersed in nature.
Phase 2: Firepit and Steps
The next year, we’d leveled things out enough to bring in gravel, and we added a massive fire pit and stone steps leading from the upper terrace down to the lower two terraces.
Phase 3: Plants!
We also made the very exciting decision to add a lot of plants, turning it into a lush garden of olive trees, rosemary, loads of agaves, and boxwood. It really felt like paradise, and even Architectural Digest ran a story on our backyard space.
Phase 4: The Big Freeze (Goodbye, Plants)
Then in 2021, the big Texas freeze happened, and like everyone else in Austin, we lost almost all of the plants we’d added. It was heartbreaking to see our new olive trees have to be cut back to the stump, huge agaves completely froze, and much of our ivy and jasmine vines we’d been cultivating for years didn’t make it. We let everything go dormant for a year, and then finally in spring of 2022, we could see what was still alive and where we needed to start from scratch.
The backyard design lesson we learned the hard way? Native plants are the ones that are going to outlast the elements. The heartiest plants are the ones we used as the dominant varieties when it came time to replant, and we avoided the more tropical varieties like palms, plumeria, bougainvillea, and agave americana that just can’t take extreme cold.
Phase 5: Wood Deck and Raised Vegetable Garden Beds
This summer, we began the next phase: a big wood deck and raised vegetable gardens—something I’ve dreamed of having here for years. When I first started planning the vegetable gardens, I envisioned a very simple project. Bring in some dirt, build the frames, and call it a day. However it turned into a massive undertaking. The ground here was so un-level that we actually had to build two additional levels of terracing just to get it flat enough for Adam to add the raised beds.
Building the stone terracing took a pair months, so when that section was completed, it was time to replant the areas of the yard that had died off within the freeze.
Phase 6: Replant, This Time With More Native Varieties
Adam’s 2022 planting technique embraced extra detrimental house, grouping the brand new vegetation in “clumps” with a couple of complementary varieties. Not solely did this add top variations that made for a good looking total yard design, it additionally gave us essentially the most bang for our buck because it didn’t require spreading vegetation out in each space of this expansive house.
After the freeze, we reduce a lot of the vegetation that seemed useless, however left them within the floor to provide them an opportunity to come back again. We have been pleasantly shocked that the olive bushes got here again as stunning olive bushes, which we pruned into domes and embraced as a part of the pure design. The jasmine vines alongside the perimeter fence additionally got here again, and although it was unhappy to must “start over” from the bottom up, we’re amazed at how a lot they’ve already grown up the fence in a yr.
In an effort to make use of extra native varieties, listed below are the vegetation we centered on:
- Japanese Boxwoods
- Cherry Laurels
- Indian Hawthornes
- Mexican Bush Sage
- Little Ollies (they did wrestle within the freeze, however they got here again)
- Whale’s Tongue Agave
- White Guara
The finish outcome was a extra free-flowing, natural design utilizing heartier vegetation that may stand up to the weather (if correctly cared for.) It really feels extra aligned with our Mediterranean-inspired aesthetic and I like the place we’ve ended up.
Adam and his dad constructed this deck out of Ipe wooden. I’m excited to have an enormous, even floor for yoga periods, dinners with buddies, and stress-free at sundown overlooking the vegetable gardens.
Adam and his dad also built our three raised vegetable gardens, and I’m so excited about this next phase! These will be my own project, and I’ll be sharing lots more about how they built the beds (and what I’m planting!) in a separate post next month.
Phase 7: Here’s What’s Next
What else is subsequent for the yard? Well, we’d prefer to create extra pathways resulting in totally different areas of the house, and we wish to carve out a path via the woods behind the yard so the children can discover. I additionally wish to plant wildflowers in a clearing again there, and sometime I’d prefer to put a pizza oven close to the vegetable gardens, too. But that’s all for future tasks! For now, we’ll be enjoying horseshoes, making s’mores, and absorbing these remaining days of summer time within the yard. And I’ve undoubtedly received my work reduce out for me as I begin planning my fall backyard.
What questions do you have got about our yard design? Drop ’em within the feedback.