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posted: 5/6/2012 1:00 AM

Clueless in Warrenville

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  • Diane Bonselear of Warrenville says it took a lot of work to get the yard to this, relatively neutral state. Now, they need help figuring out what to do next.

      Diane Bonselear of Warrenville says it took a lot of work to get the yard to this, relatively neutral state. Now, they need help figuring out what to do next.

  • A combination planter and birdbath will add color, attract birds and add a feeling of fun to the backyard.

      A combination planter and birdbath will add color, attract birds and add a feeling of fun to the backyard.

  • Big groupings of colorful plants, like this lime heuchera, will brighten shady areas.

      Big groupings of colorful plants, like this lime heuchera, will brighten shady areas.

  • "Square-foot gardens" are raised bed gardens that allow lots of plants in a small, well defined area.

      "Square-foot gardens" are raised bed gardens that allow lots of plants in a small, well defined area.

  • A tall viburnum hedge along the back fence line will cover the fence and lighten the area with white blooms in springtime.

      A tall viburnum hedge along the back fence line will cover the fence and lighten the area with white blooms in springtime.

  • Big ceramic planters planted with bright cheery, annual flowers on the patio will provide some separation from the lawn and better define the area.

      Big ceramic planters planted with bright cheery, annual flowers on the patio will provide some separation from the lawn and better define the area.

  • A birdbath will attract birds and add a feeling of fun to the backyard.

      A birdbath will attract birds and add a feeling of fun to the backyard.

  • Sue Heaton of Knupper Nursery.

       Sue Heaton of Knupper Nursery.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Knupper Nursery.

       Knupper Nursery.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Knupper Nursery.

       Knupper Nursery.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 

As first-time homeowners, we purchased this 1947 Cape Cod which was under despair. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into cleaning up the yard to get it to the point it is today. We are, however, quite clueless as to what to do next. In addition, my husband was let go from work less than two weeks ago so our budget is tight.

We are a young couple with a 7-year-old little girl. We would love a yard full of color, and charm to coincide with our new home. There is also a small area between the back of the house and the garage that is perfect for an outside dining area, however we are also in need of a patio set to replace the rusted hand-me-down three-chaired set we have been using.

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Please help us give our outdoors a "lift" that will both give our daughter a yard full of play, and a place for my husband and I to escape.

Diane Bonselear

Warrenville

Knupper Nursery of Palatine backyard transformation with budget of $10,000

The before yard is a typical suburban backyard in an older community. It is a uniformly shaped yard with mature shade trees along the back border and wooden privacy fencing around the perimeter.

First idea: Plantings to soften up the rectangular yard, hide the back fence and brighten the shady area.

Add a tall viburnum hedge along the back fence line to cover the fence and lighten the area with white blooms in springtime. Put a serviceberry in the corner for interest. It is a bird-attracting, multi-stem native plant that will further soften the area. Plant big groupings of little lime hydrangea, big daddy hosta, lime heuchera, and ostrich ferns. These plants will again brighten the shady area and provide flowering when the viburnums have stopped blooming. Kid feature: Big blooms on plants, bird attracting, different textures, unusual color plants, easy to maintain plants, sturdy plants that will not be ruined when a soccer ball gets kicked into area, all season interest.

Second idea: Add some bright-colored hardscaping to bring smiles and feel "fun."

Add a bright-colored arbor, a ceramic birdbath and/or bird feeder and a bench. Choose a deep red color or a bright royal blue color for all the pieces. Intersperse them in back beds for a fun and happy look. Plant a vine to grow up and over the arbor. Kid feature: Bright colors, bird-attracting, "fun" feel.

Third idea: Plant an edible garden area for the whole family to garden together.

Install "square-foot gardens." These raised bed gardens allow lots of plants in a small, well defined area. In one, plant an apple tree, some blueberry bushes or some raspberry bushes, some strawberries -- edibles that come back every year. In the other, plant tomatoes and sugar snap peas and pumpkins and potatoes and any other vegetables and herbs the family likes. Add sunflowers to grow seeds for the bird feeder. Put these gardens along the side fence, maybe on the shed side. Kid feature: Family activity, idea of growing what you eat, growing seeds for birds, fun to watch grow.

Fourth idea: Plan a small patio for outside dining and relaxing.

This is a hard area to give lots of ideas because there is no picture of this area and I am not sure what shape the existing area is, and if it is currently concrete or bricks or whatever. But it would be great to add a small patio set and some big ceramic planters (in the same color as the birdbath and bench) planted with bright cheery, annual flowers. The planters will provide some separation from the lawn and better define the area, and the color of this hardscaping will tie the entire backyard together.

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