Planning a Cape Cod Backyard Transformation

Melissa Caughey
Written by Melissa Caughey
Updated May 23, 2017
Blogger Melissa Caughey knew her barren backyard needed some new life. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Caughey/Tilly's Nest)

Blogger Melissa Caughey knew her new backyard left something to be desired but saw the potential it had.

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We recently purchased and moved into a new home this past summer. When we had initially toured the property, it was a lovely piece of land with some landscaping already in place. But as an avid gardener, right away I had identified some problem areas that needed improvement. I saw such potential that I could not wait to get started on my new yard and gardens.

Although the backyard left a lot to be desired, there is a lot of potential for a beautiful landscape. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Caughey/Tilly's Nest)

Planning for privacy and a hillside garden

The first area where I need to focus my attention consists of a hillside near the property line on the road.  Adjacent to the street lives a row of neglected arborvitaes. I found the trees had sustained years of damage and were zip tied together, to one another and even to neighboring trees for support. They were clearly struggling. The adjacent hillside is full of weeds, unruly ivy, and plenty of self-seeded cedar trees. There was no rhyme or reason to this area of the yard. Clearly, it had been neglected for some time.

Although a privacy screen would be great, the trees were not well planted and very weak. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Caughey/Tilly's Nest)

My vision is to create a new evergreen privacy screen with five- to six-foot tall mature plantings. I have chosen to go with Green Giant Arborvitaes over popular Leyland Cypresses. Unlike Leyland Cypresses, Green Giant Arborvitaes grow thick and tall quickly without the need for sheering and naturally create a pyramid form. This makes them a wonderful choice for an evergreen screen. As an added bonus, they are also drought tolerant, disease-resistant, can be planted in some shade and adapt to a wide variety of soil conditions. They are more deer resistant than their counterparts as well. By simply removing the existing plantings along the street and replacing them with plants better suited to the growing conditions, I expect the privacy screen will fill in nicely within a few years.  

Zip-ties were used to keep the privacy screen upright. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Caughey/Tilly's Nest)

For the hillside, I have decided on a hydrangea garden. I will be clearing out the weeds and overgrowth to prepare the space. Planting this hillside will help to prevent erosion. I have selected a variety of 20 assorted hydrangeas in a variety of colors that will bloom from summer through fall. Topped with a bit of mulch, this area should pop with color. 

For this area of the yard, I will be hiring out a landscape contractor to help with the planting of the Green Giant Arborvitaes due to their size. They will remove the existing trees and regrade and prepare the soil for the new plantings. My husband and I can handle the weeding, planting of hydrangeas and mulching. It is important to realize where our physical limitations lie.

Entertaining garden makeover

Next, I want to share with you what made me fall in love with this house- a pergola-covered bluestone patio in a small fenced-in perennial garden.

Although the hardscaping, pergola and fence were beautiful, they were in need of facelifts. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Caughey/Tilly's Nest)

I knew it needed some work. I got a closer look at the pergola. Unfortunately, the previous owners did some subpar repair work and it didn’t take long for the woodpeckers to begin remaking holes in the pergola. It's full of holes, the stain is mismatched and the wood is rotting near the patio. Needless to say, the pergola needs some TLC, so with help from a carpenter we are going to rewrap the posts with new wood, give the pergola a good power wash and then re-stain it to freshen up and unify its appearance and also extend its life. 

The pergola was in a very poor condition and not very attractive. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Caughey/Tilly's Nest)

I also want to extend the bluestone patio. As it exists now, you can barely fit a table. I also learned that the patio has been built incorrectly on a wooden base that is now rotting. So with help from the landscape contractor, we will remove all the stones and the rotted wooden base, lay a new crushed stone foundation and extend the bluestone by a few feet to comfortably accommodate a table and make space for entertaining in the garden under the pergola. 

The bluestone patio was uneven and the base was rotting, making it dangerous. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Caughey/Tilly's Nest)

As for the green picket fence, it will be getting some well deserved attention, including replacing rotted posts, new caps, a power wash and fresh coat of stain. This entire little garden area is getting a makeover and I can’t wait for you to follow along.  

As we are working on these areas, I will be sharing how to re-seed portions of the lawn, pruning, mulching, planting and lots more. I especially can’t wait to show you the final reveals of these two spaces.  

So now you tell me, what projects are you working on this summer?

Be sure to check back to see how Melissa transforms her backyard throughout the summer. 

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