Recently, my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) has been muttering that we should be doing something with our back yard (we'd call it a "back garden" in England). This does make a lot of sense, because it's basically a wide open space with which we do nothing apart from mow the grass, weed the flowerbeds, look at it, and waffle on about how we should do something with it. In reality, the only time we have done something is when Gina planted five crape myrtles along the back boundary when we moved in. That was about seven years ago -- a lot of Pooh Sticks have passed under the bridge since then -- and these little scamps have grown from weedy seedlings into trees (or bushes or whatever they are) 20+ feet tall.
There has been some talk about putting in a pool, but we already have a pool at the community club house that we don't use. I'm not keen on spending a lot of money on a second pool that would be time-consuming and costly to maintain, and I'm reasonably sure we would use it about as much as we use the community pool.
There has also been talk about building a patio, but things get a little fluffy around the edges when I ask how big it would be and exactly where it would be located. As a result, during the recent holiday weekend, I decided to treat this as a typical engineering problem -- create a model, ponder some prototypes, and use the results to make some decisions. The first step in this process was to pace around the yard to work out just how big it is. I then sketched things out on a piece of card. The image below is scaled at 0.25 inches = 1 foot in the real world.
This is a bird's-eye view with the back deck of our house shown in the foreground. The five crape myrtles are shown on the back boundary to our property. The black thing between two of the crape myrtles is a cast iron arbor covered in climbing roses. It appears to invite you to walk through it, but if you do so, you end up in our neighbor's back yard.
My idea is to create a brick patio in the middle of the yard, as shown below. I'm thinking of some sort of water feature in the middle. To give you a sense of scale, the blue circle in the middle of the sketch reflects a circular fountain six feet in diameter.
I'm also thinking of having three comfortable two-person seats mounted at 120° to one another around the fountain. On either side of the seats will be flowers. I drew brick planters in my sketch, but now I'm thinking large terracotta pots would look nice.
The next step was to add some brick paths, as shown below. First we have a path from the bottom of the back deck steps to the patio. On the left, we have a path leading from the patio to the end of our driveway. At the back, we have a path leading to the arbor. Gina was insistent that I include this third path. When I asked what she would do when she reached the arbor, she replied, "I'd turn round and come back again." You can't argue with facts like that.
Now, it gets really hot in Alabama in the summer, so I think it would be great to have a gazebo covering the patio. By this time, I was getting tired of playing with card. To get a feel for what the gazebo would look like, I decided to create a mockup out of balsa wood.
What can I say? It was a quiet and relaxed holiday weekend. I'm young and impressionable. It wasn't my fault. I got carried away with the excitement of it all. I decided to replicate the effect of having flowing vines and climbing roses growing up and over the gazebo structure. The result is shown below.
Obviously, the vines and flowers aren't to scale, but it does sort of give you an idea. I can so imagine sitting there on a summer day reading a book with the sound of the water feature trickling away in the background, butterflies fluttering in the sky, and hummingbirds flying all around.
Gina was quite impressed with my creation, but then she pointed out a few very important issues. First of all, she doesn't want brick for the patio and the paths. She would prefer natural fieldstone, so would I redraw everything? (I don't think so.) Next, the vines on the gazebo look overgrown. If we aren't careful, the homeowners association will start writing letters. Yes, I know this is only a model. She's just looking ahead. She likes to have things to worry about planned out in advance.
Yesterday evening, Gina asked what I was going to do with this model, because we don't have anywhere to store or present it in our house. I said I would throw it away, but she was horrified. "You can't throw it away after you've put all that effort into it." She persuaded me to bring it down to my office, where it now keeps company with countless other projects of this ilk.
Will we ever actually do any of this? I doubt it (unless we win the lottery), but it's a lot cheaper and easier to play what-if games with crayons, card, balsa, and so forth than it is to build these things in real life. How about you? Do you create mockups of this sort of thing for your home and/or garden projects?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting