The new wall creates a private courtyard.
Laura's Hidden Patio
Laura St. Leger-Barter • Sonoma • Landscape makeover in a month
My Inspiration: Snooping around the neighborhood to see what landscapes could suit my yard.
Challenge: The house required a ton of work, and I needed to fix everything on a single mom’s budget.
Life lesson: I learned my limits when I dropped a big jackhammer on my foot and broke my toe. Moral: Leave the jackhammering to the boys!
Advice: Look at lots of yards. Start small, a corner at a time. Find a theme, expand on it.
Now ... My garden is the private courtyard I head for every morning in my pajamas with a cup of coffee. It’s calming.
What did you tackle first? I removed some plants where I wanted my "statement entry" to go.
Did you install the paving yourself? No, I hired a guy to pour concrete for the courtyard, front walk, and footings for the pillars. He scored the concrete paving to look like 24-inch square tiles ― cheaper to do than smaller squares. I stained the concrete to finish it.
What about the front wall? I found two guys to help build it of cinder block and stucco. But I chased down all the materials, and that front wall ate cement like candy. I made about four runs to the hardware store, filling my car to the brim with cement bags. Still, the guys needed more!
The plantings are all yours? Yes. I chose lots of red phormiums; they’re like little flames all over my yard. By doing much of the work myself, I saved a bundle.