Top 44 Totally Off the Wall Backyard Landscaping Ideas

Summer is nearly in full swing and more of us are spending much more time outdoors. You’ve already done your spring clean up—what’s next?

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite backyard landscape ideas. These are for all yards, all budgets, and all skill levels. As always, contact us if you’d like any help turning your landscaping dreams into reality. 

44 Landscape Design Ideas for Your Backyard

4 Backyard Fire Pit Ideas

Want to turn up the heat this summer? Or provide the perfect entertainment for evenings under the stars? The solution might be simpler than you think—a fire pit! 

Before trying out any of the following backyard fire pit ideas, make sure that:

  • An outdoor fire is permitted in your municipality (check with local laws before doing anything).
  • A fire pit won’t undermine your homeowner’s insurance policy.
  • You have a good space to have a fire (i.e. something away from foot traffic, low-hanging branches, pets, etc.).

Then, you can choose a shape (square or circle) and prepare a space. First, take measurements based on what materials you’ll use, and ensure that you have adequate depth, height, and width. 

You can either dig out an area in your lawn, or use a dedicated space on a paver patio—just be sure to insulate all patio materials from the heat. 

1. DIY Stone Fire Pit

For a conventional and relatively easy fire pit, you can layer stone. Palletized stone is a premium stone that is slightly more expensive, but will make the job easier as all pieces are the same shape and size. 

2. DIY Concrete Tree Ring Fire Pit

You know the rings that keep flower beds looking neat beneath a tree? Those are tree rings, which can also be used to make a budget-friendly firepit! 

After preparing the space, the concrete tree rings can be stacked on top of each other (just two layers) to make a higher ring. Their ridged design should help them lock into place. 

You can leave it as is, or create an outer ring using the same process. The inner portion (between the two circles) can be filled with gravel. 

At the center, all you need is a small charcoal grill—which will serve as the fire pit and has the added benefit of providing a controlled burn with the option to extinguish at the end of the night. 

All in all, this option will cost significantly less than $100 and require just an afternoon to prepare [1]! 

3. DIY Repurposed Washing Machine Drum Fire Pit

For something even cheaper (and certainly greener), you can source a used washing machine drum. The slotted stainless steel will provide the perfect conditions for a fire—and will look great, too!

This job will require some additional tools (angle grinder, attachments, sanding disk, protective gear, etc.). You may also want to use high-heat spray paint to give the drum a coat of look-good color. 

Since it has a bottom already, this fire pit is perfect for smaller spaces or on a patio. 

4. DIY Brick Fire Pit

Similar to using stones, bricks can also be laid in a square or circle and a base can be prepared with concrete or stone. 

The only difference with bricks is that you’ll want to ensure that you use kiln-fired brick that can withstand heat. Brick paver stones will also work. Bricks are generally pretty porous, so there’s a risk that they’ll explode when exposed to flames. 

5 Backyard Pool Landscaping Ideas

Your backyard swimming hole can become even more of a relaxing oasis. 

There are a few things to keep in mind, however. 

  • You likely don’t want any thorny plants (like roses) or those that attract pollinators nearby a human-populated area. No one wants a bee sting while tanning! 
  • You should also avoid anything that sheds its leaves/flowers/fruits/needles often, as they could make extra work while you clean your pool. 
  • Avoid anything with invasive roots, as it may compromise your patio or the pool and its plumbing system. 

Other than that, low-maintenance plants are a clear winner, as are smaller plants and natives that are already well-suited to growing conditions. 

1. Mimic the look of a lush tropical oasis

Use tropical (or tropical-looking) plants mixed in with succulents and creeping ground cover to fill all corners and crevices of your pool’s border. 

What tropical plants can be grown in our South Shore Growing Zone? Hostas, cannas, and ferns are great for that rainforest look and hardy hibiscus shrubs have tropical-looking flowers but can tolerate cold. 

2. Create a luxurious look with hedges

Using boxwood to make a hedge surrounding your pool area is one of the easiest ways to add a taste of elegance. Even better, it won’t require a lot of maintenance! Just try to keep them in part to full sun (although browning may happen when exposed to summer heat) and water frequently (at least once a week) [3]. 

3. Install an easy paver path

For a quick and easy weekend project, consider incorporating a simple paver path surrounding the pool’s perimeter. 

4. Try out turf

For an eco-friendly and low-maintenance poolside landscaping tip, try synthetic grass! You won’t have to worry about grass clippings floating in the pool, nor will watering or mowing be added to your summer to-do list! 

5. Incorporate a terraced landscaping look

If you’ve got the budget, space, and landscaping professionals to help you out, a terraced garden makes for a great green backdrop to your pool. Once established, low-maintenance and/or native plants, shrubs, or grasses can be used to provide many layers and textures.

5 Small Backyard Landscaping Ideas

1. Container gardening

This is the top tip for adding some green to small spaces. Using potted plants is an easy way to incorporate a little life into a patio, balcony, deck, or small backyard. Container plants are also easy to care for! They can be moved around to achieve adequate light and brought inside during winter.

For something interesting to look at, experiment with different sizes and shapes and bring in some taller plants, flowering plants, and even food-producing plants (herbs, tomatoes, and peppers work great in containers!).

2. Vertical gardening

When horizontal space is limited, the only way to go is up! If you’ve got a fence, wall, or the time to make a DIY vertical garden (like with a pallet) you can add some lush life to even the smallest of spaces. 

Succulents, pothos, bromeliads, and ferns make some of the best picks for vertical gardens. 

3. Hanging plants

If the permanence or effort required for a vertical garden won’t work for you, hanging plants are the solution! These can either hang off a roof or other structure, but can also be held by a standalone hook. 

4. Succulents

Succulents are the quintessential easy-to-grow-anywhere plant. With several mini options, you’re sure to find the shape, color, and size suitable for you and your small space. 

For a really, really small space, you can even build your own terrarium!

5. Dwarf trees

If you think trees and tiny spaces don’t go together, think again. 

You can take container gardening to the next level with some potted dwarf trees. Kumquat is a common choice for warmer regions, while Japanese maples and ornamental cherry/plum/pear trees are better suited for our climate zone [4].  

5 Sloped Backyard Landscaping Ideas

Because we know that we don’t all have perfectly flat gardens, we’ve come up for some ideas for backyards with uneven terrain. 

First, here’s a few ideas if you have a steep hill:

  • If your steep hill is accompanied by poor soils and little sunlight, hardy plants like hosta and astilbe are good choices. Once they’re established, they might help prevent erosion, too. 
  • A terrace can make a steep hill far less severe. Once constructed, it can provide a suitable place to grow a variety of plants.
  • Woodland plants (i.e. those suited for shade and difficult geography) can also provide some life on your hillside. Ferns, rhododendrons, and even daffodils can be grown at a slope [5]. 
  • For extreme slopes, you might want to add stairs. Not only will this provide access to the top of the hill (and the views that come with it), but you can also incorporate flat spaces suitable for planting next to the steps. 

1. Create a hillside rock garden

Big or small, your sloped space can be turned into a rock garden. First, get rid of weeds. Depending on what kind of soil you have (and especially with clay), you might want to add organic matter to create porous and well-draining soil.

Then, create a textured look with different large and small rocks. It’s best to use the same type of rock and place the large rocks before the smaller ones (used to fill gaps). Bury slightly to ensure that they don’t slide down the slope. 

Lastly, incorporate plants that tolerate rocky and dry conditions! Yellow Alyssum, Ice Plant, and Hens and Chicks are good choices [6]. 

2. Use evergreen plants and shrubs that won’t require grooming

Regularly pruning, watering, and weeding on a sloped area isn’t fun for anyone. That said, stick with plants that will require little to no grooming. 

Juniper shrubs are a good choice, as are dwarf forsythia and burning bush. 

3. Use low-maintenance groundcover

Similarly, it’s a good choice to incorporate groundcover plants that won’t require a lot from you. English ivy and rockrose will provide green—and won’t need shearing, mowing, or much other maintenance. They do work better on a sun-facing sloped area, though [7]. 

4. Establish a terraced vegetable garden

If you are motivated enough to regularly tackle your sloped area to provide maintenance (and hungry appetites to feed), you can try a terraced veggie garden. This will require some up-front preparations like drip irrigation and pathways, but it can turn an underutilized space into a food-producing oasis! 

5. Create a cliff

Okay, so this isn’t a small project that can be accomplished on a weekend. But depending on what you’re working with, you might have a perfect yard to establish your own Pride Rock (from Lion King). 

Rocks and slabs can be layered to add depth and keep everything intact, and plants, grasses, and small trees can be scattered to turn an underutilized area into something breathtaking. 

10 Backyard Landscaping Ideas on a Budget

1. Plant perennials

When it comes to what grows, the cheapest thing we can do is plant something that will come back year after year. Annual flowers look pretty, but to save some money (and time) consider supplementing with hardy perennials. 

2. Create a wildlife habitat

Native plants, nectar-producing flowers, and trees and shrubs for shelter are a cheap and easy way to provide habitat for insects, birds, and more. You can welcome animals even more by installing a bird feeder, bird bath, or bee hotel. 

3. Spread mulch

Mulch can help you in a few ways: it looks aesthetically pleasing; it’ll keep weeds at bay; and it will help cut costs on your summer watering bill! Depending on type of mulch, sun exposure, and rainfall, a layer of mulch can even last several years. 

4. Use repurposed items for planters

Save some dough and our planet by repurposing items in your garden! 

Old tires and wheelbarrows make great planters and an old bicycle can provide a trellis for climbing plants. If you’ve got an old watering can or bathtub, fill it up and give it a new life as a growing container. The opportunities are endless! 

5. Incorporate edging

A great way to save money is by emphasizing what you already have. Edging can help your landscape really pop, and it can minimize erosion and keep mulch in place. 

Simply lay logs, metal, brick, wood, stone, or concrete around flower beds, shrubs, or trees—and prepare to notice a big difference immediately.

6. Make your garden useful

It’s nice to have a landscape that looks great—even better when it serves a purpose. For something bright and beautiful, consider planting edible plants like kale or swiss chard. Marigolds and pansies are pretty—and they can be eaten, too!

If there’s no need for you to cut down your grocery bill, you can also incorporate plants that either attract or repel bugs. 

7. Plant a tree

This isn’t a short-term solution, but if you want to save money in the long run, strategically plant a tree sapling so that it can help with energy bills!

A deciduous tree will provide some shade during the hot summer months, and an evergreen can be placed to minimize winter winds and help lower your heat costs. 

8. Make some DIY seating

A pallet is a wonderful—and often discarded—material. It can be turned into anything! 

It can make a planter box, but it can also be transformed into several different types of seating—anything from a simple chair or bench, to a two-seater with a table in the middle. 

9. Create a pebble path

As another way to emphasize what you’ve already got, you can transform any negative space in the garden into a pebble path. This will draw your guest’s eye to your garden, and provide an easier way for you to get around to water and weed. 

10. Incorporate natural elements

If you have an old, damaged tree that will be cut down, or a wooded area nearby, you likely have a versatile resource available: tree stumps. With very little effort, you can transform a few into seating, side tables, or decorative pieces to be placed around your fire pit or on your patio. 

Go Big: 5 Large Backyard Landscaping Ideas

Many of these already-mentioned ideas can also be applied to larger backyards.

But if you’ve got significantly more space you can: 

  1. Use shape to provide an interesting appearance. You can either urve pathways, choose unique garden bed shapes, or create edges that flow around the large backyard. 
  1. Extend your living area and establish an outdoor dining area, outdoor play area, home amphitheater, or even covered living area with a firepit and projector screen.
  1. Install a water feature like a mini pond, fountain, or large water basin. 
  1. Cut down on your lawn (and mowing) by creating pathways and raised beds.
  1. Reminiscing on your childhood by creating a secret garden, a comfy nook tucked away and hidden by hedges or rose bushes and equipped with a hammock or bench. 

3 Dog Friendly Landscaping Ideas

You want your furry friend to be safe when they’re playing fetch, but at the same time, you also want your landscaping to survive! Fortunately, you can have it all. 

1. Avoid toxins

Check out The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) [11], as they have a list of plants that could be dangerous for your best friend. Similarly, avoid using dangerous chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides) in areas frequented by your pets.  

2. Consider your animal’s needs

The needs of your dog are few, but you can tackle some of them in your landscape. 

Provide shade—whether through a tree, hedge, tall shrub, or pergola—and provide a water source, like a bowl, fountain, or even smaller water feature. 

Place these strategically so that your dog’s play area won’t be the same place as your garden bed! 

3. Avoid dangerous materials

They may look great in your backyard, but certain things like broken and sharp chain link fences, small pebbles (that look like dog kibble), and blacktop that can burn a dog’s paws in summer should be avoided.

Desert Landscape Ideas for Backyards

Want to bring a little bit of the Southwestern US to your own backyard? Consider xeriscaping, a minimalist landscaping look that usually uses pebbles and desert-loving plants like succulents and cacti. 

While your plant selection will be a little different in Massachusetts, this water-wise landscape can still work [8]—and, with minimal turf, will keep your water bills down. 

In fact, we have a native cactus here in Massachusetts—the Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa) [9]!

Low Maintenance Landscape Ideas for Backyards

If you want low maintenance (and don’t we all?) consider native plants that already have a leg up when it comes to our climate and growing conditions. You can also choose drought-tolerant plants—especially if you’re a forgetful waterer. 

When it comes to the latter, we have a lot to choose from (many are perennials, too!). Consider yarrow, most types of aster, carnations, purple coneflower, or sea holly—to name just a few [10].

5 Backyard Landscape Ideas: Lighting

To top your beautifully designed landscape off, consider illuminating it. 

Lighting can really add some extra pizazz to your outdoor space—and it can do so very affordably. With a range of lighting options available on the market, you’re sure to find a great option for you. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Use solar powered lanterns to highlight a pathway, making it both safer and more attractive to navigate.
  1. Place lights high in trees to mimic the look of the moon.
  1. Use hardscape lighting, a strand of LEDs with a protective layer of silicone that can be applied with outdoor tape for an under-cabinet-lighting look, but placed underneath steps or around a water feature, an outdoor kitchen, or seating area.
  1. Hang bistro lighting to brighten up a smaller space, like a patio, balcony, or deck. 
  1. Incorporate different styles throughout the landscape to keep things interesting.

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