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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Backyard redos: Trends reveal residents here search for ideas to create relaxing spaces, less work

Picture a backyard with ornamental grasses surrounded by native shrubs. It has pops of color with container flowers.

Likely, the dreamscape has less lawn, a popular trend for yard makeovers.

More people are searching these days for backyard redos offering both relaxation and minimal maintenance because they want to skip a weekend’s worth of chores to get there, said Josh Cleveland, a South Hill resident with a side consulting business: Spokane Garden Coach. Such makeover requests are keeping him booked up.

“One thing I hear a lot from folks is they’re looking for that sense of a sanctuary or oasis; they want to be able to relax, entertain and, well, not just be taking care of the landscape and garden all weekend long,” Cleveland said.

“So, it’s a lot less mowing, shrubs and things that look beautiful to them that maybe are a little more natural than some landscaping used to be, as well. With that sanctuary, I hear a lot of people talking about their well-being. They just want a place where they can increase their well-being and that they can enjoy.”

A recent survey put Idaho and Washington residents in the top five with people most interested in searching online for inspiration for backyard DIY searches, landscaping ideas and garden plans.

For his clients, Cleveland tries to balance designs and coaching around both form and function – how people want to use the space and enjoy it, “so plants that perhaps need less pruning and plants that are more natural to this area and colorful.”

Ornamental grasses – reaching about 4 feet tall – can sway in the wind for a sense of calm and have texture and color, plus they don’t require much care. Ornamental grasses might include blue oat or blue fescue.

“A lot of people are taking out turf and grass, not all the way, but taking some out so they can add beautiful plants,” he said. “People can find a nice balance.”

Many homeowners and renters ask about drought-tolerant landscaping to lessen watering needs. Other pops of color can come from the echinacea coneflower and goldenrod with yellow flowers in the fall. Bee balm plants attract pollinators. “And one I love to add is catmint, which attracts butterflies,” Cleveland said.

A good resource is SpokaneScape through the city of Spokane, he said. It has guides for native plants and incentives for reinventing yards.

SpokaneScape by definition is a water-efficient landscape that has been designed specifically for Spokane residents, often replacing lawn areas with low-volume irrigation and drought-tolerant plant material. City residents can earn up to a $500 credit toward a water bill after removing lawn and replacing it with water-smart plants and mulch.

Cleveland said he hears another frequent request since the pandemic, and that is how to add garden plants sprinkled within landscaping – versus a separate plot – whether as container pots or vegetable and fruit-bearing bushes in the ground scattered among other plants.

“As an example, one fun thing to do is adding blueberries within your landscape,” Cleveland said. Other ways can be planting kale or adding containers with tomato plants.

Here are additional ideas from Cleveland:

• Think of your goals, set at intervals such as for a season, one year and longer. What are ways you want to add beauty and productivity to a space that’s realistic and stays in your budget?

• Consider your watering plans, or that can become a headache. A plan for more drought-tolerant landscaping will ease that.

• Spend 15 minutes a day on your yard improvements, and set a timer. Perhaps that’s pruning a bit or setting up spaces. It breaks it up to be less overwhelming, and many people keep going.

• Look for easy wins. That easy button can be thinking about an ideal spot with shade to add a table and chair for morning coffee or an evening cocktail.

• Don’t overdo buying a bunch of plants all at once without some planning. Think about areas that are more shady, or sunny, then research and ask experts about the best for each scenario. Renovations are often better done on a small scale, Cleveland said, perhaps concentrated first near the front door or where you spend a lot of time.

• Think of your backyard like rooms or areas of your home to do some brainstorming, such as a setup for an outdoor kitchen with raised beds and grilling area. An outside living room might have a fire pit and comfortable seating. The dining room might be a small bistro or outdoor tables. Do you want a playroom, perhaps a grassy spot for games or to toss a ball? And think hallways, really pathways outdoors, to draw you from one space to another.

• Call now if you’re looking for professional landscaping help to get on a schedule because many are booked out, Cleveland said. But many residents are going the DIY route and might need just a little help, so he suggests asking neighbors, friends and plant nurseries for ideas.