Having a backyard to spend time outdoors in was most definitely what we were most excited about when it came to moving into a new home in California. And though we had a ton of furniture to buy for inside (coming from a small, studio apartment), we agreed that the number one priority was furnishing and tending to the backyard. We knew that those purchases would go most directly toward making us feel happy about the move from New York, and give us the most dramatic sense of an increased quality of life.
Simply the addition of outdoor space was plenty to be happy about (okay, that, and the bit of trivia that there’s an average of 300 sunny days a year here). But there was still a lot we wanted to do in the yard.
There was a gap of about three months between when the previous owners moved out and we moved in—so everything was in need of some trimming and pruning when we first got there.
We basically took out all of the plants on one end of the yard, everything from non-producing citrus (bummer, as they were mature) to a row of evergreens. We covered the ground in cardboard for a number of weeks to kill an especially resistant (and fast-spreading) Vinca, and moved out terra cotta pots that had rooted into the soil.
As for furniture, we struggled with the set-up. We had a teak table and chair set made while we were in Bali and then it was shipped to us a few months later with a lot of other furniture. Initially, we thought we would set up the table such that it was bordered by the built-in benches (you can see it there, above); so certain were we that we didn’t order a full set of chairs (whoops!). But as we spent more time in the yard, we kept feeling like the little square of pavement would be wasted if we didn’t move the table to sit there.
To be honest, we still sometimes struggle with the arrangement of the hardscaping over there, but I think we’ve arrived at a solution we’re happy with.
The next biggest change happened when a giant pine tree came down. You can see the stump remains in the photo above.
Now that corner, by the shed, is a playspace for kids: there’s an artificial lawn with a playhouse (that we just painted to match the actual house), a mini picnic table, and an umbrella for shade in summers.
We’ve tried to choose primarily low-maintenance, drought- and freeze-tolerant plants, and worked with a local gardener (and garden shop) to choose items that will do well here. We gathered inspiration from magazines, spent plenty of afternoons in the campus arboretum to see how things look as they mature (and made purchases from their annual plant sales), and routinely looked for zone-appropriate inspiration in Sunset’s Western Garden Book.
Of course, one of the best parts about the yard is that there’s a pool. Davis has plenty of over-100-degree summer days to warrant a swim!
Thank you for letting me share! And thank you so much for all of your comments about the living room and dining room yesterday! I’m looking forward to sharing the rest of the house a little later in the week.