12 Before-and-After Garden Makeovers To Inspire Your Next Project

Patio
Photo: Laurie Black

Ready to revamp your front or back yard? You don't always need a sky-high budget, a sprawling space, or unfamiliar materials to make an impact. These clever garden renovation ideas will help you add more interest to your landscape—and make it easier to maintain, too!

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BEFORE: Overgrown Side Yard

side yard brick house

Side yards are a commonly overlooked space. With a little planning and creativity, you can make something incredible out of the narrowest of spaces.

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AFTER: Create a Hidden Patio

patio black furniture
Peter Krumhardt

This industrious homeowner turned his small side yard into a shaded patio, which is full of DIY garden makeover ideas. The new patio is made from salvaged slate tiles and accented with garage-sale finds, giving it a one-of-a-kind style. Using salvaged and repurposed items such as old bowling balls as garden ornaments and weight plates as stepping stones offers personality in a garden renovation without getting too pricey.

The long, narrow space can make it tough to create one seating area, so the homeowner created two "mini rooms" with seating options at the front and the back of the space.

Test Garden Tip: Using tall container gardens as a screen can help separate spaces feel even more like distinct rooms.

Mixing patio paver materials is an effective way to make an impact. Here, stone chips transition to pea gravel, which then transition to flagstone. You can do the same with any material, including bricks, gravel, stone, and concrete pavers.

03 of 24

BEFORE: An Unsightly Air Conditioner

Corner Garden

Don't let an air conditioner take away from the look of your yard. Most units can be covered quickly and easily with plantings; just leave a few feet of space so air can flow freely.

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AFTER: A Lush, Low-Care Planting

Corner Garden
Marty Baldwin

The new plantings in this corner not only hide an eyesore, but they also help save energy by shading the air conditioner for part of the day. This planting incorporates tough plants such as switchgrass, blue caryopteris, blue fescue, and purple-leaf Joe Pye weed, all of which don't need much care. They're also mostly deer-resistant plants.

Test Garden Tip: Look for native plants to help lower the maintenance of your plantings; plants from your region usually hold up better to pest and disease problems and weather extremes.

A simple color scheme makes this garden feel planned out and easy on the eye. Silver and blue foliage from lamb's ear and the grasses create a cool note that's accented by the blue caryopteris and dwarf butterfly bush. Neutral ornamental grasses have a multitude of uses in the landscape; in this case, they bring height to the back of the garden.

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BEFORE: An Average Yard

Landscape black and white backyard

It's not uncommon for homes on small city lots to have an uninspired yard. If you want something more, you can create an urban paradise, even if your lot is only 45x120 feet like this one.

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AFTER: An Exceptional Backyard

patio umbrella
Andreas Trauttmansdorf

These Midwestern homeowners weren't afraid of a challenge, and their progress certainly shows it! They filled their yard with character, including a small water feature and an inviting patio right off the back of the house.

The patio creates an outdoor living space, which adds resale value to the home and makes the backyard more comfortable. Keep convenience in mind when designing a patio; the closer to your back or side door, the better, especially for entertaining purposes.

Evergreens provide year-round privacy and act as windbreaks. Mixing evergreens and including selections with different needle colors (such as golden or blue varieties) or plant shapes (such as columnar or weeping) creates a rich, complex background.

The small water feature next to the patio adds ambiance. The sound of running water makes any spot feel more relaxing and helps attract birds to your garden, whose songs add another layer of pleasant background sound.

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BEFORE: Inconvenient Slope

slope with stairs

This unfortunate corner really took away from the good looks of an otherwise attractive house. It was a nightmare to try to maintain, so these insightful homeowners came up with a great solution using a few clever garden makeover ideas.

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AFTER: Beautiful Terrace

Patio
Laurie Black

A terrace offers a good solution for handling a difficult slope. Although it's a more expensive solution, doing the work over several years makes this garden makeover totally achievable. Plus it adds resale value to the home, so the project is a well worth the extra effort.

The new wall and a row of evergreen arborvitae at the top of the slope create a pretty backdrop for a patio and adds privacy. A stairway at the end of the wall provides safer and easier access to the patio than trying to traverse a muddy hillside. The same stucco was used on the wall and the house, which helps tie everything together.

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BEFORE: Empty Bed

Front Yard Landscape

This Midwestern homeowner inherited a bare garden space next to her front door when she bought her home. Without much planted in it, it was a bit of an eyesore.

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AFTER: Lush Planting

Front Yard Landscape
Marty Baldwin

This front-yard garden makeover is another example of what a difference you can make in just a weekend. The first step was incorporating lots of compost into the soil to recharge it, then the fun part: the planting!

The purple-toned plant foliage makes great accents to the yellow house and gives the planting some warmth and visual depth. Although purple-leaf plants are beautiful on their own, they become a powerful garden design tool when repeated throughout a planting. Shots of silver from the dusty miller surrounding a cobalt-blue container is a perfect way to create more interest.

The bed looks attractive all year long, thanks to plants with multi-season interest. Dwarf Alberta spruce, ornamental grasses, and variegated red-twig dogwood, for example, even look good in winter. Spring-blooming bulbs start off the gardening season, and then a mix of easy-care annuals and perennials take over from there.

Test Garden Tip: Keep your planting low-maintenance with a layer of mulch to stop weeds and conserve moisture.

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BEFORE: Overgrown Foundation Shrubs

Front Yard Landscape

So many homes have overgrown shrubs that mask the house and create an unwelcoming environment. Tackling these monsters can be a tough job, but it's well worth it to uncover your home's hidden beauty.

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AFTER: Plentiful Plantings

Front Yard Landscape

The toughest part of this garden renovation was getting rid of the big, old evergreens. From there, the yard became a fresh slate for a mix of stones, boulders, and easy-care plants.

The landscape feels lighter and more open when filled with the silvery-blue foliage of ornamental grasses and perennials. A raised berm to the left of the front door contours the landscape and creates interest, and raising plantings up next to the home can also help decrease street noise.

A new pair of redbud trees in the front yard will eventually grow up to provide more privacy, but the trees' small stature will keep them from overwhelming the house.

Test Garden Tip: When you plant trees, keep a sense of scale in mind. A giant tree next to a one-story house will make the house seem smaller.

Buy It: American Redbud, ($18, Arbor Day Foundation)

13 of 24

BEFORE: An Unused Corner

Landscape black and white

Many people don't think much about the backside of their garage, but this often sparsely-used space can be a great spot for a dramatic butterfly garden, a cutting garden, or even a mini patio.

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AFTER: A Pretty Patio

Patio Garden yellow chairs

This charming flagstone patio creates a perfect retreat for this Midwestern gardener. In this garden before and after, the garage wall adds privacy and shade to the patio. Plus, it's now the perfect spot to hang outdoor-friendly artwork, which can soften the wall. More DIY garden makeover ideas you can try are to paint a mural (if you're artistically inclined) or plant containers with tall, upright plants or vines to help mask the wall.

A mix of annuals, perennials, and shrubs creates a beautiful planting with season-long appeal. As one season ends, replace annuals with a new crop to keep your garden looking fresh. For example, flowering cabbage and pansies are a colorful fix for summer-worn petunias.

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BEFORE: Too Hot for Lingering Outside

Back Yard

This house in Southern California had a small patio that baked in the hot afternoon sun and reflected even more heat off the white-stucco walls. It begged for a garden renovation to make it more comfortable.

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AFTER: A Cool Outdoor Retreat

Patio pink flowers

This multistep project created lots of living opportunities—and less mowing! Although it was a big garden makeover, it definitely paid off; not only did it make the yard more comfortable, but it also added resale value to the home. Moving the patio away from the hot walls instantly made the space cooler and adding a pergola created even more shade and privacy.

Plantings around the patio and pergola help soften it and create visual interest. Choose fragrant plants for extra appeal!

Installing an outdoor fireplace gives your outdoor living spot even more versatility. It can help take the chill from cool nights, create a cozy ambiance, and give you more outdoor cooking options, like roasting marshmallows over an open flame.

17 of 24

BEFORE: Plain Patio

patio concrete

Many homes, especially newer ones, are stuck with a plain cement-slab patio. If this is your situation, you can dress it up without spending a lot of time or money.

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AFTER: Patio Perfect for a Family Dinner

Patio red rug

This stylish garden furniture makeover transformed the backside of this typical suburban house into a go-to outdoor living space. A bold red color theme catches the eye and warms up the cold feel of the cement.

Test Garden Tip: Try using warm or bright colors, especially if you have a gray, beige, or white house.

An outdoor rug hides the cement and adds a playful splash of color, texture, and toe-tickling softness to the cement. You can find rugs in just about every color, shape, style, and size; many are made from recycled materials, too. Or DIY your own customized rug design by painting an inexpensive, plain one.

A series of container gardens along the edge of the patio creates a boundary between the lawn and patio. This makes the patio feel more intimate without having to erect a structure such as a pergola, arbor, or trellis.

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BEFORE: Unkempt Corner

Corner Garden

Make a statement in your landscape by filling in a corner. It's a great way to make mowing easier and add another touch of color to your landscape.

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AFTER: Beautiful Backdrop

Corner Garden

Out went an old mulberry whose roots were pushing up against this home's foundation. This opened the door for a new, lush planting.

The curved edge of the bed softens the 90-degree angle of the corner and creates more visual interest. Unless you're aiming for a formal, geometric garden, try to accent with curved beds in your landscape design.

A series of easy, colorful plants including mums, pansies, spirea, and purple smoke bush makes this border a knockout. It's another great example of how foliage color and texture can be just as pretty as flowers. In winter, red-twig dogwood, a dwarf mugo pine, junipers, and ornamental grasses add texture—and a place for birds to hang out.

Putting the tree-form smoke bush in a big pot creates a dramatic focal point.

Test Garden Tip: Use containers in beds and borders. They're perfect for swapping out color in an instant or filling any bare spots.

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BEFORE: Tough-to-Mow Slope

Front Yard Landscape

Sloping front yards can be a lot of work to maintain; it's not easy trudging up and down with a mower, nor is trying to keep the slope properly fed and watered. If you're facing a situation like this, put in some plantings to dress up your slope and enjoy a beautiful front yard.

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AFTER: No-Mow Slope

Front Yard Landscape

This is a big garden renovation, but you can do the same thing without feeling overwhelmed by making it a multiyear project. The result is a lower maintenance yard—no more weekly trips up and down with the lawn mower—and a lot more beauty.

This front-yard planting is filled with plants that look good in all seasons to create an ever-changing display. Autumn and winter can be tough seasons to plant for, so look for fall-blooming perennials and small shrubs and trees with great fall foliage to get through cooler weather. Also look for small evergreens, grasses, and plants with interesting habits—such as corkscrew willow—for lasting winter looks.

This planting also takes advantage of color to create extra impact. The contrasting purple-and-chartreuse color theme looks great and personalizes the garden. Look for flower and foliage colors that will accent your house colors.

A thick layer of mulch makes maintenance easy; it keeps weeds at bay and reduces the need for watering.

Test Garden Tip: Another great slope solution is to plant densely; tight plantings help hold the soil so it doesn't wash down the hill.

23 of 24

BEFORE: A Cookie-Cutter Landscape

Beforeofhouse

Just because you live in the suburbs doesn't mean you have to have a cookie-cutter yard. This Midwestern home had just a single crabapple and a few spireas when the homeowner moved in.

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AFTER: An Eye-Catching Landscape

house with front yard garden bed

It didn't take long to spice up the yard. This homeowner added a wider bed around his crabapple and filled it with colorful perennials that stay showy spring to fall.

The free-flowing bed in the front yard looks great from all angles, which is especially important because this house is on a corner lot. Don't forget the way your garden will look from inside your house. It should look just as good (if not better) from your windows as it does to the rest of the world.

A small retaining wall breaks up the slope, giving the yard a little extra oomph. By adding contours, such as berms, or breaking up a slope with a wall like this, you add lots of extra interest.

Stone edging around the bed matches the wall and gives the planting a finished look. Using edging around your beds will also keep the lawn from creeping in, so you won't have to constantly spend time pulling the turf out.

Buy It: Prairifire Flowering Crabapple, ($19, Arbor Day Foundation)

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