Walking into Alberta Avenue resident Colyn O’Reilly’s backyard is like stepping into an oasis.

Her backyard is a prime example of what incorporating hardscaping (like rocks or patios) and softscaping (living aspects like plants) together can achieve, and she has done it beautifully. Her design includes two brick patios, rundle walkways (crushed rocks), a stone seat, and a brick fireplace where she has set up furniture for people to sit and relax.

She has also created beautiful mulched flower beds filled with an assortment of eye-catching colourful plants. Her flower gardens are filled with both perennials and annuals.

“I have lilies and tulips all over the yard. I love the foliage. I have them in my garden as well. I have made that mostly perennials. I have annuals in there to fill it in this year, but I’m going to make that just a perennial bed,” said O’Reilly. “If there is a piece of ground, I will dig a hole and put a plant in it,” she said with a laugh. She even grows vegetables in large pots.

Although O’Reilly has worked on her yard since 2013, she is not yet finished. Currently, she is restoring a pair of wooden park benches with metal armrests and feet. “The wood is going to be black and the metal is going to be bright, bright orange,” she explained. Once completed, she’ll place the benches in her front yard, where she will pull up the sod and turn it into a little park area. It will be filled with perennials, raspberry bushes, and a well-kept lilac bush.

The colour scheme of her front yard is also intentional. “Because that is facing east and in feng shui, that’s the fire area. So, reds and oranges and black. I thought, that’s perfect because it will just pop with the chain link fence,” O’Reilly explained with giddiness.

The backyard is a work in progress. “The basic hardscaping is done, and now I will be putting in a light structure for shade in the fireplace patio area,” said O’Reilly.

She also wants to add a carport at the back of her property and leave a walkway from the back alley to the backdoor patio as well as replace one of her brick patios with a wooden one.

For those wishing to hardscape their yard, O’Reilly suggests doing it in stages.

“Do what you can financially every year. If you can do it in a big whop, do it in a big whop. Otherwise, do it in bits and bits.” She added that it is important to draw out your plan because it will change. “Mine has started out as a base and I am still adding to it.”  

To help determine which plants to grow, start by learning which plants can grow where.

“You don’t want to disappoint yourself too much. You are going to disappoint yourself. Some plants will only make it one year,” O’Reilly said.

Looking at other people’s yards will be a good indication of what plants will thrive. From there, go with what grabs your attention.

“Trust yourself. You will fill the yard with what will give you pleasure.” She suggests starting with something small to give you some practice. “Because if you practice with love, it will give you love back.”

Featured Image: Colyn O’Reilly’s backyard is a work in progress. | Stephen Strand