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Susquehanna Life

Garden Shed: What’s In Your Backyard?

Jun 11, 2021 04:42PM ● By Erica Jo Shaffer

The front yard for most is about curb appeal and “what the neighbors will think.” The backyard however can showcase your outdoor groove. Which outdoor vibe best describes your space, or what you aspire it to be? Use this article to inspire your imagination to let your backyard reflect the real you! 

The Green Thumb: A white gate opens to reveal a paradise of neatly manicured flower beds filled with textures and colors. You love to dig in the dirt, shop for new plants and know the name of all of them. Your thumb glows green as you enthusiastically share the news about the flower bud that popped open this morning, or the way the morning light highlights the Laceleaf Japanese Maple. You love the overall look, and all the treasures, and frequently are guilty of leaning down to pluck a weed out of a flower bed without missing a step.  

The Professional: A wee side path from the gardener’s yard leads to your rose garden. These are show gardens, with lots of visits from friends, garden clubs and garden tours. This space might also contain Dahlias, Cosmos and Zinnias. These gardens are more labor-intensive, yet you will confess to the effort being a labor of love as you hand visitors a fresh-cut bouquet. The flowers are luxurious and plentiful. They are perfectly staked and disbudded. A fertilizer schedule hangs in the perfectly quaint potting shed, which is attached to a mini greenhouse full of orchids. Details are noticed and appreciated.

Natural Grower: This garden might look messy to some, with some “weedy” areas (they are for the pollinators), muddy areas (those are for the butterflies) and a dead branch or two in a tree (homes for woodpeckers or owls). The shrubs are not clipped into squares. A birdbath (or three) are placed among hummingbird feeders. Occasional squeals of delight erupt when you discover another monarch caterpillar on an Asclepias. You want to make a difference in your little slice of Earth. No chemicals are sprayed, and dandelions grow freely and abundantly. A colorful honeybee box sits in one corner, opposite the compost bins.

Vegetable Grower: If it can’t be eaten or be helpful in some way, it’s not needed in your yard. Raised beds might occupy much of the yard. Teepees for beans, and cages to keep robust tomato plants from falling over, provide practical structure. Visuals include chicken wire fencing for pesky rabbits, and maybe a scarecrow with pie plates dangling to scare birds away. A big sunflower patch along an edge welcomes pollinators. The “fragrance” of organic fertilizer wafts in the air. Your conversations tend to lean toward, “who grew the neighborhood’s first ripe tomato” or “how many jars of pickles got put up.” There may also be talk of trapped groundhogs or marauding corn-stealing raccoons, spoken with a clenched jaw.

Play Area: Dogs and kids run and frolic. Playsets and slides abound. A worn path has been carved around the perimeter where the dog inspects and oversees her territory. Grass growing is nearly impossible, and yet laughter and excited barks fill the air. A colorful ball lays patiently waiting to be picked up. Bicycles lean against a big backyard tree. The branches on the tree are perfectly spaced for climbing. There is talk of a badminton net, and other recreational opportunities.

R&R: The smell of something on a grill hovers in the air as your family prepares for dinner. The pool was open a month ago, although it’s a bit chilly for nighttime swims. The patio allows much time for relaxing after another long day at the office. Dinner is served outdoors, and the striped umbrella provides the perfect ambiance to complete the mood—and to shade your family from the late afternoon sun. A fountain audibly adds to the soothing scene, as a trickle of water travels over the edge of the basin. In the early mornings, with hot tea and bare feet, you sit quietly watching the sunrise before heading out into the world. Paradise elevates with tropical plants in bright blue pots clustered in the corners. There is no place like home.

Neighborhood Green Space: There might be a tree or two, but the big feature here is the perfectly perfect lawn. Freshly sharpened blades cut to a consistent short height every time. Not one weed shares space in this yard. The grass is the greenest. A lawn fertilizer/weed killer schedule is strictly maintained to grow the best darn lawn ever. A sense of pride oozes as you survey grass perfection from an elevated deck. 

Our backyard spaces are as varied as we are. Some of us enjoy close contact with nature; digging and arranging, inspecting and noticing.  Some of us want to sit and relax outdoors, alone or inviting friends to join us. No matter how you choose to experience your outdoor space, may it be deeply enjoyable.  


Erica Jo Shaffer has been hugging trees and chatting with flowers for over 30 years.  

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