Please help my patio/backyard be nicer

I’m moving this over from Random Questions.

So now, with pictures!

Here is the whole patio area off the house, as seen from the other side of the backyard.

The hot tub is usually on the patio, but today’s mission is to clean it so it’s on the lawn at the moment.

And this is from the patio door, looking out from left to right.

This is the area where the hot tub usually is.

And just closer ups of the patio area. Please ignore the messes; I know cleaning up will make it look better. But that’s not enough.

This is the saddest part. We lost two trees here, a big beautiful birch and a big, flowering bush tree that took up most of the space. And now it’s just dirt. Sad-looking dirt.

So I have the table with an umbrella, and the hammock on a stand and another umbrella. And a hard bench that I threw some old pillows on temporarily. The grill and the hot tub take up some space.

I guess my goals are a nice, pretty place to sit and have a meal or hang out. Usually we wouldn’t really hang out in the sun. I took these around ten in the morning. The house faces west, so the backyard gets direct sun in the morning and it makes its way over the house and the backyard becomes shadier as the afternoon goes on.

We also lost a lot of tress in the back by the fence, and the landscapers ripped out all the blackberry bushes that lined it. No blackberries for us this summer. :frowning: It feels barren to me compared to what it used to be, but I suppose it’s not really barren. Except that sad dirt lot.


What’s the possibilty of adding in some more pavered space? I imagine the patio feels a bit cramped once the hot tub is back in it’s normal spot.

Could you move the bench and 2 side chairs over to the area where the tree was? Setting it up as a slightly removed sitting area could make it feel more intentional and the surrounding plants would feel cozy. A few stepping stones linking the new space to the main patio would tie it in together.

Adding in plants in pots, either some showy annuals or hardy perennials with interesting textures would also do a lot to perk up the space. Plus the pots themselves can provide some colour and fun. Others can speak better to what plants would do well in your zone. Maybe some shepherds hooks with hanging planters around the yard?

It’s a great space and just needs some tweaking! I’m excited for the good time you will have out there!


I would say definitely more plants of various kinds! Put in more blackberries (and raspberries).

Why do landscapers so love tearing up gardens? My mom has this problem. Now she puts rocks or driftwood or something to protect plants she wants. Fences and labels might communicate this, too?

Can you post some yards you think are pretty? Maybe then more experienced designers can advise how to bring in elements of that, estimate what would be cheap and easy vs more involved etc?

I think you would benefit a lot from new, brighter chair cushions/covers. Sadly, outdoor fabrics fade…

OH! and I would do string lights (globe/cafe/etc) they always make things look so cozy! But definitely a matter of taste.


I would start by thinking of the ways you use the space, and chunk it up into “zones.” So maybe you have:

  • relaxation zone with hot tub + hammock and some decorations
  • eating/grilling zone if you can extend the paved area or even put down some gravel so things aren’t as crowded

Seconding Marcela–a few pops of color via flower planters (maybe a box mounted under that window, too?) would work wonders!


I googled for patios I like. What I found is that what I like is the ones with tons of plants. I am not at all surprised by this.

So these are nice, but I realize they are nothing like what I actually have to work with. I’m working with a rectangle of cement crowded up next to a rectangle of a house. But yes, these are nice inspiration. I like lushness and color and coziness.


How much permanent stuff are you willing to put in, since you don’t own the house? Also, if you do want perennials, what zone are you?

What’s the possibility of adding in some more pavered space? I imagine the patio feels a bit cramped once the hot tub is back in its normal spot.

Yes, I agree, a bit cramped. But we don’t own this house and don’t intend to buy it, so I won’t be adding more pavered space. I should have said that upfront, sorry. I need enhancements that are not permanent or can be moved with me, mostly. I don’t want to spend a ton on things I can’t keep, and I don’t have permission to do anything too permanent.

Could you move the bench and 2 side chairs over to the area where the tree was? Setting it up as a slightly removed sitting area could make it feel more intentional and the surrounding plants would feel cozy. A few stepping stones linking the new space to the main patio would tie it in together.

This is a nice idea. Would a rug over some of that awful dirt be weird? I have a rug I usually put under the hot tub. But oh, I hate that dirt area.

Thanks! Yes, I would love potted plants. More than I have the budget for, I’m sure. But I’m all about more plants, more greenery, more brightness. I don’t know my zone, let’s find out. It looks like… 8b. Does that sound right to people who know these things?

eta: Sorry, I can’t figure out how to fix the quoting.

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Yes 8b sounds right from what I was looking at yesterday and guessing at your location.

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I posted some pictures of what I like. Although they are nowhere near what I have to work with. I definitely plan to buy new cushions, and I want those cool patio string lights. But what do I attach them to? I guess the part of the roof that comes out and then connect them to the roof at the other end of the house, across the patio diagonally? Does that make sense? Since it’s not covered, I’m trying to figure out a way to make it work. If I owned the place, a permanent patio cover would be first on my list! But…


I’m in the greater Portland, Oregon area.

Hm, 2x2 (or 4x4 maybe better) placed in a 5 gallon bucket at each outside corner? Can remove the handle and spray the buckets a fun color. Maybe put tiny plants at the surface (in tiny pots). (Or maybe even just fake foliage - easy and it doesn’t die and it disguises the sand.)

ETA: And on house side, just use small hooks.

My sister did similar to this with a patio umbrella. They don’t have a table, so they used a bucket with sand.


I like this idea, but I had pulled the hammock over toward the table because I was thinking for a gathering, people would want to hang together and I only have six chairs at the table. Also why the bench is randomly facing the table in the dirt lot. I used to keep the hammock next to the tree that is now gone. :cry: (I’m very sad about the loss of trees, you might have noticed. Don’t even get me started on the giant willow tree that used to live in the front yard…)

Anyway, maybe what I need is more chairs for hanging out near the table and move the hammock to a separate relaxation zone area, as you suggest. Hammocks are wonderful but not really for socializing.

Gravel might be a good answer to the dirt lot, since I can’t do something more permanent. I wonder how much gravel costs?


Also, maybe I should water my lawn? :joy: I’m generally opposed to such wastefulness but I guess a dry, yellow lawn isn’t very inviting.


Gravel costs a lot. I would try to get free woodchips!

If we’re being honest, I would turn it into a vegetable garden. (No raised beds or anything, just in-ground. Using lots of wood chips as mulch.)


If we’re being honest, that sounds like more than I’d like to do. :rofl: I tried gardening in the past and I really didn’t enjoy it. That’s why I stick to houseplants. I love the idea of gardening but I just don’t want to have to actually garden.


:joy: fair enough!


My son was into it last summer and I thought maybe I’d get to enjoy the benefits of a garden without having to be the gardener, but he lost interest and couldn’t be persuaded to take it up again this year. :frowning_face:


Having googled pretty pictures, now when I go out there I just feel depressed. It’s nothing like what I want and it won’t ever be. I don’t think inspiration was supposed to work that way, darnit!


Don’t do that you live in oregon. Unless you also want to buy a goat.