Backyard BlissApr 01, 2019 ● By Allie Spletter
Spring has always been a time of renewal in so many facets, and it is also a time when we are able to reconnect with nature, take in the fresh air and spend time with those who are important to us, all while doing things we love – outside. It can be a very busy time of year, which is why it is important for families to make their home somewhere they truly love to be. The backyard is very much an extension of the home that is largely utilized in the warmer months, and here in North Texas, we might not have a sandy beach with turquoise water in sight, but that does not mean that we cannot create our very own backyard retreat. And, some of our neighbors have some pretty stunning ones!
Right in Your Backyard
While the Texas weather might be admittedly finicky, we are blessed with many warm days that allow us to venture into the outdoor spaces we love. Dependent on the homeowner, those spaces serve as places to entertain, watch kids play, relax with a good book, take a dip in the pool or host a barbecue with friends.
One Frisco resident’s backyard has taken the art of displaying nature’s beauty to the next level. This yard has been transformed into a lush oasis of color and wildlife that attracts exquisite butterflies, as well as other unique creatures. Homeowner Melissa Wardell explains, “My ex-husband, Tim, is the one with the green thumb. He has been gardening since he was very young. We had a large water garden at our old house. I moved here after a divorce and the backyard was just a 40-foot by 40-foot patch of Bermuda grass, without so much as a dandelion. He offered to plant a small butterfly garden so our kids could interact with nature, and it just evolved from there. Over the course of seven years, he expanded the garden to take up the entire backyard. I hired professionals to triple the size of the patio, add an arbor in the middle of the yard (which is now home to a very healthy Chinese wisteria) and install a 900-gallon koi pond with waterfall. Gradually, wildlife began showing up. Butterflies arrived first, and then bumblebees every time the wisteria bloomed. Not long after that, dragonflies discovered the pond.”
Ms. Wardell admits it was the bareness of the backyard that first made her want to transform it into a butterfly garden. She recalls, “There was nothing there. The patio was tiny. There was no shade. Nothing but grass. It was not the least bit inviting. The kids would rather stay inside than spend time there.”
Mr. Wardell and his green thumb joined Shades of Green, a Frisco-based garden center, a year ago as a sales associate and now pulls double-duty as their marketing coordinator. He explains, “I started shopping at Shades of Green not long after Melissa and I moved to Frisco in 1996. I appreciated their commitment to only selling plants that will do well in the heavy clay soil of Collin County. After years in the entertainment industry, I was seeking a career change, and decided to pursue my life-long passion for gardening.” Mr. Wardell admits there are few things in this world sadder than an empty expanse of lawn. “It is simply depressing,” he says. “Now, in Melissa’s backyard, where once there was only grass, there are hundreds of plants. It seems almost counterintuitive, but now that the garden is established, it takes far less time to maintain. Most people really have no idea how much time they spend mowing and weeding a lawn. There are virtually no weeds in the backyard because the plants I selected choke them out. They do not have a chance!”
The focal point of the yard is a 900-gallon pond and waterfall that is home to butterflies, koi and 15 colorful goldfish. All the plants surrounding it were selected for their role as pollinators and hosts to various butterflies and bees. The back fence is covered by passion vine – the food source for two species of fritillary butterflies. Milkweed has re-seeded itself throughout the yard over the years and is the only type of plant monarch butterflies lay their eggs on. Native Texas perennials were selected because of their heat and drought tolerance and low maintenance. “I started collecting daylilies about 10 years ago, and over time, the yard has become home to 18 different varieties,” Mr. Wardell says.
In addition to the uniqueness of the backyard space, Ms. Wardell’s backyard has been certified in a few areas that recognize it as a space for butterflies to flourish. “Tim got a bit carried away once he got going,” she says.“As he researched butterfly gardening, he became aware of several programs promoting wildlife in suburban areas. Instead of picking one, he opted to tackle all of them. When he finished, he had gotten the garden registered as a Certified Butterfly Garden by the North American Butterfly Association, a Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch, a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation and a Certified Urban Wildlife Sanctuary by the Humane Society of the U.S.”
The transformation of her backyard has positively impacted Ms. Wardell’s home environment in a big way, as it has become a popular place for both she and the kids to spend time together. “It became a place everyone wanted to be. I love sitting on the patio on a pretty morning, drinking coffee and reading a book. The kids have witnessed all kinds of wildlife. They have had koi eat out of their hands, watched birds build nests and hatch their young in the arbor and had dragonflies land on their fingertips,” she explains. “They have seen bees, wasps, butterflies and caterpillars up close. I do not know that they could have had such experiences anywhere else. It is a very calming and relaxing place. The sound of the waterfall drowns out external noise to the point you can forget you are sitting in the middle of a city of almost 200,000 people.”
Frisco couple Jim and Robin Hall utilized Shades of Green for the transformation of their backyard living space and are more than happy with the space that was created. Ms. Hall explains, “Jim and I are retirees who opted to move to a one-story home, but one with a large yard for our dogs. We entertain frequently, and wanted a backyard that would be beautiful, as well as functional for large groups. To accomplish that in a large characterless rectangle was a daunting task. The Halls requested lots of color, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, and wanted to soften the hard lines that fencing had created. “They worked in a soothing waterscape and a stone wall that helped with seating and definition of the space,” Ms. Hall explains. “The outdoor barbecue area defined the way the patio could be used. Privacy was achieved, even though we have five homes that overlook our yard, through the careful placement of trees and outdoor living areas. The design and execution of the plan were accomplished in a matter of weeks. The team worked long days to create a metamorphosis that is now a great source of relaxation and pride for us, the dogs and our friends. The yard is now an extension of our living space, making our home feel much more gracious. Plants quickly matured, and the space is now colorful and relaxing.”
Frisco resident Samantha Baird and her husband, Travis, sought out to transform their backyard into a place where they could flourish as a family. Ms. Baird grew up in a family where gardening and making outdoor spaces wonderful was important, which has carried over into her home and outdoor space now. “As long as I can remember, my dad and step-mom would spend weekends working in the yard – pulling weeds, planting flowers, trimming trees, etc., so ‘curb appeal’ has always been important to me!” she explains. “At the age of 18, my husband, like a scene from ‘Office Space,’ up and left his corporate job. The very next day, he started his landscape business. He started by knocking on doors and pushing a mower. Now, nearly 20 years later,and with lots of hard work, his company continues to flourish and is very present across Texas.”
With his experience in the landscaping and construction industry, having an amazing outdoor oasis has long been something their family has held of high importance. “When we purchased our home, our backyard was merely weeds and dirt, and pretty much an entire over-haul was needed. Ironically, our backyard was also the very reason we purchased the house. We have an oddly large lot for Frisco!” Ms. Baird says.
“There was no shade, and it was hard to play outside with our kiddos for extended periods of time in the summer. After our first summer in our home without being able to host cookouts or gatherings, we knew our outdoor remodel needed to take priority.”
Within about one year of living in their home,the family added a beautifully-designed pool and spa by Foley Pools, sod in the front and back grass areas and entirely new landscaping in both the front and back yards. The transformation included three Shumard Red Oak trees, five palm trees, an endless amount of bushes, foliage and seasonal flowers (banana plants, Mexican fan palm, rose of Sharon, ice plant, abelia and red yucca are some of their favorites) and three Little Gem Magnolia trees to their backyard landscaping scheme. They added outdoor lighting to all the landscaped areas, an outdoor sound system, a television, a fireplace lounge area with remote control heaters in the vaulted ceiling and a dining area with outdoor grill/kitchenette space. Talk about an overhaul!
Ms. Baird says their renovation was inspired by their love for traveling to Mexico, which is where their tropical oasis/resort vibe for the space originated. While the pool, patio and outdoor kitchen are all amazing facets of the whole design, Ms. Baird admits that landscaping and lighting are the game changers when working to complete an outdoor space and achieve an oasis-like atmosphere. She explains, “Without a doubt, I would say the most important feature to an outdoor space, that will make the biggest impact on the ambiance, is landscape and lighting. Our pool is wonderful, but the lush and living scenery that landscaping provides truly brings your outdoor space to life! In the summer time, our pool is surrounded with a rainbow of vibrant flowering plant life which also attracts beautiful butterflies, insects and birds. The kids love all the wildlife that inhabits our backyard. After our transformation was complete, inviting friends and family over was easy! We created an inviting and relaxing space to fellowship with friends or just watch our children play. With the addition of the heated pool feature and outdoor heaters, it truly is one of our favorite places to be year-round.”
Mr. Baird, the owner of All Around Landscape and Construction, agrees that landscaping is an integral part of the overall design. “Landscaping is what completes the picture you have in your mind. If you want to feel like you are at a high-end resort, on a tropical vacation or like clean cut lines, you can achieve any of that through the right landscape install.”
Creating Your Own Oasis
The backyard, for many, is very much the livelihood of the home during warmer months, and also a space that is perfect for making memories, entertaining guests and spending important quality time with family. For many, a backyard is a place where kiddos are able to kick the soccer ball, swing, climb and play on a swing set, jump that energy out on a trampoline, whip up an amazing meal, watch the big game or float the day away in the pool. What makes a backyard perfect is that it is yours to customize.
Understanding your “why” is vital when making the determination of how you want your backyard oasis to look and what purpose you want it to serve. Regardless of space, remember that you can have a relaxing environment no matter how small the space you are working with.
Mr. Baird encourages homeowners, saying,“If you think your outdoor space needs a fresh start, it probably does. It can easily transform your entire property. Be mindful of cost. Your wish list has to match your budget. Be prepared to possibly do it in phases. The great thing about landscaping is that it is easy to layer the project and build onto it at different times.” You can even plan ahead with a free online budget template. That way you use every resource available to make sure you remain within your allocated budget.
Mr. Wardell explains, “Too many people get ‘analysis paralysis’ and never begin something because they fear making a mistake. I made several mistakes along the way, but I corrected them. There is no mistake you can make in gardening that cannot be fixed with a shovel. Start! Give yourself time. It will not happen overnight. Certainly, you can hire professional landscapers to do some or the entire project, but do not deprive yourself the satisfaction of taking on part of the work yourself. It feels good to look at a flower in bloom and know you planted it there.”
While the task might seem daunting, Mr. Baird encourages readers to get a good idea of what you want your outcome to look like. “Be patient with the process, giving the new install time to take root and bloom,” he says. “It goes without saying, taking proper care of your plants will be beneficial to their longevity.” Ms. Baird adds, “If you are looking to re-vamp your outdoor space, first you should figure out what is important to your family. Create your space to fit your needs. We wanted a tropical oasis, but also a large enough grass area for our kids to run and play. If outdoor cooking is not your jam, then skip the kitchenette. If your kids are grown and do not play outside as much, then maybe add that extra decking for larger lounge space.”
Frisco has many well-qualified businesses that are ready and willing to help you make your backyard space your dream oasis.
Who Can Help
When dreaming of the perfect backyard happy place, our minds tend to go directly to pools and breathtaking landscaping. There is even more fun to be had for the kids if your outdoor space allows the installation of playsets, treehouses, trampolines or forts that provide hours of entertainment.
Alechia Lamm serves as the marketing director for Backyard Fun Factory (BFF), a local family-owned business established in 2004. They manufacture and install custom, high-end, 100 percent redwood playsets. “Each playset is built in North Texas with a lifetime warranty and is designed with safety, your family, budget, space and fun in mind,” Ms. Lamm explains. “We not only offer new playsets, but we maintain, service and move existing playsets, and refurbish old sets! Our playsets are designed so they can easily grow with your children. Safety, fun and family time are our top priority.”
For local families thinking about adding an amazing play set to their backyard space, Ms. Lamm advises them to decide what they are wanting out of the space. “Are you wanting a place for family to come together to relax, play, burn off energy … or all of the above? Are you interested in a custom set to incorporate a tree or would you like a pre-designed playset? Decide on a budget, which helps both us and the homeowner create the custom design,” she explains. “We like to know things like the age of children who will be using the space and what kinds of things are important to you,” Ms. Lamm says.
The time frame from purchase to installation is typically within a two-week period … which gives you plenty of time to start a project that can be completed by the time kids are out of school this year! The average installation time is only four to six hours. For larger, custom sets this may take up to two to three days. BFF is well-known for their tree forts, treehouses and other custom jobs that customers have had a key part in designing. The addition of unique and popular accessories like the Chin Up Bar Station, Tree Mail and Gaming Package help make the ultimate play space for any fort.
Tree Frogs Swingset Factory in Fairview sells top-of-the-line play sets, all fully-customizable with swings and rockwalls to slides to rope ladders, so customers can create whatever configuration best fits their yard and family needs. Aside from Tree Frogs’ swing sets, the company also sells Ryval Basketball Hoops and Jump Sport® Trampolines to really round out a yard and make it an amazing place for kids and families to make memories.
Many families find that Nexcourt multi-sport courts are a great option for families that want athletic equipment or fitness-related options incorporated into the backyard. From driveway basketball hoops and batting cages to volleyball courts and home gyms, this North Texas company offers a little bit of everything in order to incorporate everyone’s hobbies. After all, there is nothing like a little friendly competition to bring the family together.
Spring and summer are centered around all things outdoors, and there is no reason not to get outside, even if your space is not quite what you want it to be … yet! As homeowners and professionals advise, figure out what you want for your space, decide how you want to have it done and just go for it! We all deserve a little haven to call our own. After all, there’s no place like home.