Backyard Garden Tour – Shade Project

Our front yard and side yard get lots of shade from our big pine trees, but our back yard gets very little shade. The concrete retaining walls also seem to magnify the heat back there, making it unbearably hot at times. To make the backyard more comfortable, we came up with a plan to make more available shade.

All of the garden structures (seen here) will eventually be covered with the climbing roses, providing some shaded areas. The wooden pergola also has some shade fabric on the top to provide shade where the shade from the fig tree ends. The rest of the garden needs some serious shade fabric, but it is not something we wanted covering the garden all the time. I wanted to make sure that the birds and other wildlife are still able to access the garden, without being blocked by shade fabric. I also wanted to make sure that the roses, vegetables and fruit trees get the full sun that they need. We decided that we would install a shade fabric system where the fabric is on cables and has a pulley system so it can be drawn over temporarily when we want some extra shade, and pulled out of the way the rest of the time.

My husband came up with the plan to attach one end of the fabric system to the house and the other end to some poles behind the wooden fence. He put the wooden fence in front of the concrete retaining wall because the retaining wall was dangerously low in some areas, and I was afraid our son (or one of our pets) would climb over the low wall and fall off the cliff on the other side. The soffits on our roof were in really bad shape and need to be replaced anyway, so he tore them off so he would be able to attach into the area. It looks pretty awful temporarily.

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The big gazebo was not part of the original plan (he wanted to build a gazebo in that area but I felt that would take too long since he has so many other projects). Therefore, he wasn’t able to calculate the height of the gazebo into the equation. So in order to let the fabric go over the top of the gazebo, he had to extend the height of the poles. Doing that added so much weight that the fence then had to be reinforced.

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My husband added these funny looking (for now) beams along the fence to support the extra weight of the super high poles. To appease me for how strange they look, he promised me that eventually he will make some little tiered shelves on them so I can prominently display some of my favorite potted plants. I think it will look really cute once it is actually finished.
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Over part of E’s garden, he installed shade fabric with a 30% light reduction. It has less light reduction than the fabric we selected for the pulley system, so I was okay with it being left up all the time. He tied that fabric into the fence and house. We eventually plan to create a bit of shade over the rest of E’s garden with some climbing vines reaching over the area, but the pergola in that area needs to be replaced first.
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This project is far from finished, but I can’t wait until it is all installed!

*Update: for those who have asked, my husband purchased the shade fabric from http://green-tek.com and the pulley system from http://www.teksupply.com/

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Backyard Garden Tour – Furniture

These chairs were old Craigslist finds that we had from our old house. I painted them a while back, and we recently got new cushions for them. They are fun and colorful in E’s garden area. 🙂

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These chairs float back and forth between our firepit area and the patio table. I found them for the firepit, but they happened to come with a table, which we then decided we wanted to use anyway.
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Once we found this amazing patio umbrella (Pier 1), we really started enjoying using this patio table. We can have some snacks at the table while E runs around in his garden. 🙂
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Originally, we wanted to find Victorian style circular tree benches that would go around each of the dwarf fruit trees. We couldn’t find any anywhere, even after contacting companies in England. We looked into having some made, but did not like the idea of spending somewhere in the range of $10,000 or more for a few benches. So instead, we found three benches like this at the Rose Bowl Flea Market (for a total of $110!), and circled vintage chairs around the other two trees. I like the end result much better than our original plan.
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We are really into hammocks. We have a few different hammock chairs around the pergola now, and we also put up hooks for our big hammock as well. We have a stand for the big hammock in our downstairs yard, but that area is not as nice as the upstairs now so we are using it more up here. We have had some great weekend afternoons with all of us cuddled up in the big hammock.
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I also have my little reading area set up, so I can read while E runs back and forth on the fake grass area. He loves to run laps around the little area. 🙂
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We also got a chimnea that we move around the garden at night since our firepit table isn’t very portable. We initially tried a propane powered one but it was absolutely awful (didn’t produce any noticeable heat) and we much prefer this wood burning one.
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Backyard Garden Tour – Garden Accents

One of my favorite things about our backyard garden is all of the whimsical accents we added. We did a lot of shopping, and I collected some items that I just love peeking out in various areas of the garden. Our son E also loves to chatter at all of the various little garden animals tucked away in all the various corners. 🙂 Most of the items shown below I found at Home Goods, Big Lots, 99 Cent Store, the Rose Bowl Flea Market, Amazon.com, Craigslist, and my favorite antique/vintage store, Magnolia and Willow in Long Beach, CA. The items that I ordered on Amazon can be found here.

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I love this bird bath that we found at Big Lots!
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I have two thermometers set up, one in the shade and one in the sun. I like to keep an area on the temperature in both areas so I can make sure to move our son elsewhere if it gets too hot out.
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This is the beautiful hummingbird feeder that started this fiasco. I am going to put it back up, just without any liquid. 🙂aliciainwonderlandblog28

Pretty bird feeder! The birds haven’t really been using it since they have tons of things to eat from all of the plants around the garden, but maybe one day they will go in there for a snack. 🙂
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I absolutely love having a gazing ball, and was happy to find an unbreakable one on Amazon. I had originally purchased a glass one and realized that was a bad idea to have out on a display stand once our son started walking.
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Isn’t that the cutest little birdhouse? Another great Amazon find!
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This little tree seems like it is supposed to be a dwarf apple tree, but never fruits since it is shaded by the huge fig tree (poor planting location decision by previous owners). To give the poor little tree a little more pizazz, I started turning it into a windchime tree. Some we got new and some were vintage finds. All three of us absolutely love the sound of all of the windchimes! We don’t collect many things, but we are going to start collecting windchimes. 🙂aliciainwonderlandblog35 aliciainwonderlandblog36 aliciainwonderlandblog37 aliciainwonderlandblog38 aliciainwonderlandblog39 aliciainwonderlandblog40 aliciainwonderlandblog41 aliciainwonderlandblog42 aliciainwonderlandblog43 aliciainwonderlandblog44 aliciainwonderlandblog45

I have nicknamed our backyard Alicia’s Wonderland Garden (the hashtag I use on Instagram is #aliciaswonderlandgarden). You can’t have a Wonderland garden without a white rabbit, right? I am going to be making lots of re-purposed teacup accents soon to continue the theme, and eventually we will put up our Wonderland themed signs from our wedding. 🙂
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Backyard Garden Tour Continued – Garden Structures

Continuing my detailed tour of our backyard garden makeover! This post features all of the various structures that we have in our garden.

The first structure is our big wooden pergola. My husband built this when we were at our old house that we were renting. He built is so that he would be able to take it apart and bring it with us. The diagonal pieces needed to be replaced, so my dad cut us some new ones (they still need to be painted though). I planted some David Austin Malvern Hills rambling roses in big terracotta pots around four of the posts on the pergola., and eventually they will be climbing all over the structure (this is a photo from a few weeks ago, and they are growing like crazy now!). The pergola is extra special since we had our smaller wedding reception under it in the patio at our old house (we had two wedding receptions…long story). 🙂

Under the pergola is the artificial turf that my husband installed. He started with laying down a layer of base gravel, leveling and compacting it down, then a layer of decomposed granite, also leveled and compacted down. The fake grass that he chose was from a local supplier, Thompson Building Materials. My husband compared artificial turf at a number of places, including big chain stores, and liked this one the best. Apparently it is Thompson’s own product. It is super thick and soft, and has a 15 year warranty, which is much longer than most other artificial turfs that are available. If you are in Southern California and thinking about replacing your lawn, I would definitely recommend checking out Thompson’s.

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Part of my original design included a couple of gazebos with climbing roses. I wanted a smaller gazebo for this area, with this little table and chairs, and I found this one on Amazon which was an amazing deal (available here). We just spray painted it white, and the whole thing cost less than $100! I added one of the little chandeliers that was leftover from our wedding decor. 🙂

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There are David Austin Generous Gardener climbing roses planted around this gazebo. 🙂
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Originally, the thing that started this whole garden makeover was the fact that I saw an amazing bridge at Home Goods. I took a picture of it and texted it to my husband. I also saw an amazing gazebo and a cute tripod trellis, and I sent him pictures of those too. That started my planning and convincing for the whole project. 🙂 We ended up getting the bridge, and painting it as well. It is in an unfinished area for now, but eventually we will be building a pond-less waterfall behind it (pond-less since it conserves water and is not a drowning hazard for small children).
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We also ended up getting the tripod trellis, which got spray painted (like almost everything else). I planted a non-toxic version of jasmine on each corner. If you are planting jasmine and have animals or kids, be sure that you select a variety of jasmine that is not poisonous (some are poisonous and others are not). The ASPCA website is always my go-to resource when I am unsure if a plant will be toxic to our furry kids or our son.
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When we were planning our wedding, we purchased a metal arbor at the Rose Bowl Flea Market to set up at the entrance to our wedding reception. We loved the idea of incorporating decor that would later become part of our garden at home. We brought the arbor with us when we moved, and it is in the center of the garden.

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It also has David Austin Generous Gardener climbing roses planted on it and a chandelier from our wedding. 🙂
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Last major garden structure is our big gazebo! This one was a big ticket item (also from Home Goods), and it took a bit of convincing before we brought it home. 🙂 The one that I originally saw there was actually sold out by then, but we ended up liking this one a lot more. It is the only thing that we didn’t paint white or cream, and I kind of like it that way. It has a beautiful shabby chic, chippy finish already, and I love the muted green color on this one. This gazebo has iceberg climbing roses planted on each corner (purchased from Armstrong Garden Center). Like the others, this gazebo also has a wedding chandelier. 🙂 This is where we keep our fire pit and we have had some cozy nights under this gazebo already.

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All of the roses have really taken off since I took these pictures! Once I am a bit more caught up, I will post more updated photos. 🙂 Lots more garden details coming soon! If you are on Instagram, be sure to follow me @aliciainwonderlandphotos for lots of regularly updated photos of the garden. I even have different hashtags for all of our different gardens throughout our property. 🙂

Garden Reveal!

Our backyard remodel has been a major undertaking. Way bigger than we would have anticipated. It has taken so much longer than we had planned, and there are still a lot of last details left to finish. When I made over our front yard two years ago, everything went a lot faster since I didn’t have a child to take care of, and I didn’t have my mobility and pain problems. Those two new factors have made this project infinitely slower. I know a lot of people have been curious to see a reveal, so I wanted to post pictures of the progress so far. 🙂

I hated the ugly retaining walls that go throughout our backyard, and I have been trying to convince my husband to let me paint them some bright colors ever since we moved in. Finally, I looked for some examples on Pinterest that were close enough to what I had in mind that helped me convince him that I should paint. E’s garden is so much more fun now that it is colorful. 🙂 I have a really exciting project in mind for the planter above his garden…I can’t wait to get that installed too!

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I haven’t finished painting this area, but that will come soon enough. The table was an antique store find and actually came with four different chairs, but I wanted the set because I thought the chairs would be perfect around our firepit. The table was cute too, and got paired with four chairs that were a great thrift store find at $2 each!

The pink flowers in the top planter are one of the few that I did not plant (along with the roses that they are mixed in with). They were there from a previous owner, and are amazing. They are super low-maintenance, need almost no water, and reseed themselves each year. They are called a bunch of different names, but you can find them at Home Depot under the name Red Valerian. In the bottom row, I have our dwarf almond tree and kumquat tree, which I planted when we moved in. In between those, I planted more low water plants, lots of geraniums and Santa Barbara daisies.

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This is the pergola that my husband built at our old house! We actually had our small wedding reception under this pergola in our old backyard, so it is extra special. (We had two wedding days…the ceremony day that was moved up when we found out my grandma was dying and our originally planned date). The diagonal pieces needed to be replaced after the move, so my dad made these new ones for us! They still need to be painted but look great.

The pergola used to be our patio dining area at our old house, but now it is a play zone. 🙂 Underneath the pergola is the artificial grass my husband installed (more info on that in a later post), and a nice play area for the little guy and his friends. Things are a little more put away than usual today since we are expecting rain, but this is where his bounce house/ball pit normally sits, and his trains are put away from the train table. We actually found the train table for free on Craigslist, but it needed some legs, which was an easy fix for my husband! It is one of E’s favorite things. 🙂 I will post pictures of his bounce house/ball pit when I blog about his birthday party, but in the meantime, you can check it out here.
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This is the part of the garden where all the work really took place…I am going to post some wide angle overview pictures here and then go into more detail about all of the various projects and areas within the next few days!

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Our to-do list for this project still includes installing new raised beds for veggies, completing the irrigation system (I am hand watering for now…not too bad since most of the plants have low water requirements), installing the shade fabric system that will be drawn or retracted over the entire garden, lighting, sound system, waterfall, and adding more decomposed granite as walkway.

We originally were going to put in pavers, stepping stones, bricks or gravel, but then I realized that the decomposed granite that we put down as an underlayer is much easier for me to walk on! I like how it looks and it is super cheap (you can often even find it for free!), and we just need a bit more to thicken it up.

Lots more details coming in the next few days!