Sometimes life doesn't turn out exactly as you plan it or you are so busy making ends meet, that you have no time or money left to indulge yourself.
Those seemed to be the recurring themes in the entries submitted for our recent "Get Your Summer On" outdoor makeover contest. Our two grand prize winners illustrate both scenarios.
Calamities or life, in general, have gotten in the way of the best intentions and plans of our readers and, unfortunately, their yards have suffered.
Jenny Kendall of Palatine is the winner of our "Patio Makeover" package and JoAnne Lee of Arlington Heights is the winner of our "Entryway Makeover" package. Each package is worth $10,000. Four runners-up also received packages worth varying amounts.
Kendall and her husband moved into their Palatine home three summers ago. She recalled being excited about having a blank canvas with which to work in their relatively empty back yard, hoping for a pond, a lovely garden and a fireplace around which to gather in the cooler weather.
None of that has happened, however, thanks to a storm that first summer that flooded their basement. Costly repairs depleted money set aside for the yard. Then, the following year Kendall's time was spent helping care for her terminally ill sister who passed away last October. She had no time for even thinking about the yard that year.
"The last couple of years have been really rough for us and when you go through bad times, it makes you look around and realize how important it is to relax and spend time with family and friends in a nice place," the Kimball Hill School program assistant explained.
"Because I work in education, summer is my time to relax. So I entered the contest because I wanted to get some ideas about what we could do in our yard and the design they gave us just made me say 'wow,'" she added.
Kathy Richardson, senior landscape designer with RYCO Landscaping of Lake in the Hills, will be working with Kendall on the redesign of her patio and subsequent installation.
"Their concrete patio is in pretty good shape, fortunately, so my plan is to add Belgard patio paver edging to it and then add a secondary paver patio with a seat wall and fire pit, as well as some plantings in a garden area.
"We really excel at turning blank palettes into beautiful yards that people will want to get outside to enjoy," she explained.
In addition, NorthWest Lighting and Accents of Mount Prospect will provide the Kendalls with path and accent lighting to highlight RYCO's installations and Northwest Metalcraft of Arlington Heights will give them a new patio set to replace the former owners' set that they have been using. Lurvey Garden Center in Des Plaines will supply the plantings to add the finishing touches to the design. Gordon Food Service (GFS) and Binny's will also provide some extras for that party that Kendall has been itching to host.
Lee is a licensed day-care provider in her Arlington Heights home, so her back yard is littered with swing sets, slides, sandboxes and the other tools of her trade. Since it is the place where her young charges frolic, it isn't exactly a good place for her and her husband to relax in the evenings and on the weekends. Consequently, they carved out a little space next to their front door for a small bistro table and that is where they sit when they have a few minutes to themselves.
"We like to talk to the neighbors when they walk by, so we use the area off of our front entrance like a front porch. It used to just be a pile of dirt so we put some bricks down and have our table there," Lee explained. "We like to spend as much time outside as we can."
"I have often thought of building a small deck in this area for our little table and chairs, maybe removing a small tree for more space and adding some flowers, but I really have no ideas on how to do this myself and finances right now will not allow," she wrote in her application.
RYCO's Richardson plans to transform the area for the Lees by giving it more of a courtyard feel with a larger Belgard paving space to match their paver driveway and a curved wall to one side, along with some attractive flowering shrubs and perennials from Lurvey Garden Center for color.
The Lees will also receive an allowance for lighting from NorthWest Lighting and Accents which will probably be used for coach lights on either side of the front door, some security lighting and a fixture mounted on top of the post that RYCO is hoping to install, according to Jennifer Jensen, residential lighting manager for NorthWest.
In addition to the design work, pavers and lighting, the Lees will receive a bistro patio set from Viking Patio and Ski in Barrington, a new mailbox from Northwest Metalcraft and goodies from GFS and Binny's.
Amy and Scott Bell
Amy and Scott Bell of Mount Prospect will be getting a boost to their back yard, too. They call their yard a "mud pit" since they jack hammered out an old, nonfunctioning concrete pond with the intention of replacing it with a pond-less waterfall and some plantings.
Fate stepped in, however, because just about the time they were going to start making it all look pretty again, their sewer pipe collapsed in the front yard and they had to spend their nest egg replacing it and repairing their front yard landscaping instead.
In order to help them, "Get Your Summer On" is giving the Bells an allowance from Aquascape Designs of St. Charles and Lisle for the installation of a pond-less waterfall, as well as a Toro lawn mower from a local Toro dealer, a gift card from Viking Patio and Ski for outdoor furniture and goodies from Binny's and GFS to help them celebrate when the work is complete.
"They will be surprised by the birds and butterflies that will start coming to their yard once they have that waterfall," explained Brian Helfrich, construction manager for Aquascape Designs. "And they will find the sound of the water soothing and extremely relaxing. It will help them to retreat from their hectic lives and they will be able to later dress it up with creeping plants and other things that look nice with a water feature like Japanese maples."
Rose Waber of Wheaton is also a winner. She will be receiving four Adirondack chairs and a portable fire pit from Hearth and Home in Mount Prospect, as well as goodies from Binny's and GFS.
"Our back yard is the reason we bought our house. It backs up to a meditation meadow that provides a sense of peace and opportunities to observe wildlife in the middle of the suburbs. Little did we know that we would need to dedicate our available time and money to rehabbing the house. Our back yard has remained only an opportunity to dream and plan," she wrote to the GYSO committee.
"We really enjoy being outside and having the new chairs and fire pit will encourage us to do more of that," Waber said.
Amy Dawes of Aurora is already planning a "fall kickoff" party for her fellow teachers in Naperville District 204 because she is looking forward to showing off her new Meridian patio set with chair cushions from Viking Patio and Ski and her Kamado Joe slow cooker from Northwest Metalcraft. She will also have supplies for that party from Binny's and GFS.
"It will be a great way to start off the new school year and by that time, we should have had time to figure out how to use the Kamado Joe for some great new recipes," Dawes said. "I love to entertain, so I am very excited to be able to replace our rusty old patio set and grill."
Cindy Parcher of East Dundee has won a Solaire infrared grill from a local Solaire dealer, a water fountain or other small feature from Aquascape Designs and a lighting package from Northwest Lighting and Accents for her townhouse patio. She will also be receiving goodies from Binny's and GFS to help her with her next gathering.
"I suggest that she choose an aquabowl with a small fountain in it to circulate the water," said Helfrich of Aquascape Designs. "They are made of a resin that looks like stone and are designed to hold water lilies, small fish, tadpoles, snails and even turtles. They are a favorite with small children and are lightweight and easy to move. She could also choose something more traditional like a three-tiered fountain. Both give the homeowner the soothing sounds of water."
"I am thrilled to have won," Parcher said. "I can't wait to see it all. I have already gotten permission from my condo association to expand my patio into a large dirt area next to the current patio, so I will try to do that myself."