10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Side Yard
Don’t overlook the possibilities for this often-forgotten space
The side yard is often just a glorified alleyway, and even when it’s not, we tend to treat it as such. Hemmed in, frequently the side yard is a spot where two structures are as close together as building codes will allow. The objects we place there are rarely used landscaping tools and garbage cans. However, side yards have great potential when you make the most of their odd proportions and tucked-away locations.
1. Make it your go-to alfresco spot. If the winds pick up where you live, a protected side yard is just the spot for a dining table. Narrowness can make it that much more intimate and give it a secret-garden feeling.
2. Strategically place the outdoor shower. If your placement is just right in relation to a fence, foliage and the neighbor’s windows, you may even be able to skip the surround and go au naturel in the semi-open.
3. Just add water. The sound of water, whether it’s from a fabulous cascading stepped waterfall like this one or it’s simply a light babble from a small fountain, is pleasing and relaxing. You can enjoy the sound from the front yard, the backyard and from inside the house when you place it in the side yard.
4. Frame a view. If you have room only for a straight and narrow path, then just go with it. Here, the distinct flora of the American Southwest provides a sculptural focal point at the terminus of the path.
5. Create a covered outdoor room. Because of the narrowness of many side yards, they are just the right width for a cover, whether it be a trellis, shade sail fabric or criss-crossing strings of outdoor lights.
7. Go up. When you don’t have much space on the ground, make the most of the walls. Here, a 40-foot-long wall is alive thanks to a vertical garden consisting of acorus, carex, colocasia, philodendrons, heucheras, begonias and more.
8. Do your grilling. Let’s face it, no matter how far along grills have come aesthetically these days, most of them don’t exactly have the appeal of a Henry Moore sculpture in the landscape. Make a neat, tidy and tucked-away home for the grill around the side. You can keep it close to the corner so the grill master won’t feel left out of the party.
9. Make a transitional zone. Here, the home abuts a beautiful woodland. The landscape architects created a lovely path that negotiates the space between the architecture and the wider landscape. Local materials and native plants make the transition from house to forest almost seamless.
10. Set up an outdoor living room. If you have a more open backyard, you’ll appreciate the coziness your side yard can provide. The great thing about a side-yard fence or wall between you and the neighbors is that it gives an outdoor room some structure as well as privacy. Here a stone wall was begging for a trellis and furniture arranged for conversation.
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