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Grown Up Backyard – Formative Years


This weekend marks the 15th anniversary of us moving into our current home—the home we have lived in longer than any other home in our lives.


And while the exterior brick facade has remained virtually unchanged over those years, the interior has been redecorated multiple times. But the most significant change that has occurred over this Quindecennial is the backyard, which has literally grown up into a gregarious teenager. And just like any child grown to the age of 15, it has occurred with much parental attention and angst through growing pains—figuratively an infant to adolescent life story.


In 1999, one of the things we knew was a “must have” in our new home was a pool in the backyard. While our previous home didn’t have a pool, our more than generous next-door neighbors allowed us ready access whenever we wanted to swim in their pool. Many a hot Memphis summer day or evening was spent next door cooling off in their pool. It was a refreshing respite that we would have to replicate on our own.


Since our new backyard was on the small side, it was necessary to clear all but one of the small, immature trees in the yard to make room for the pool.


The pool construction presented it’s own challenges but in July 2000, we were finally able to swim in our finished pool for the first time.


Because of the downward slope of our yard, it was necessary to build a retaining wall between the pool deck and the now shortened patio.


But I knew this landscape design would offer us palettes on multiple levels upon which to mix plants and flowers to create our own relaxing garden.


Unfortunately the pool, retaining wall, and necessary drainage system around the pool depleted most of our budget so upon completion, there was little money left over for plantings. So that first year, we just put in a few small trees to get the yard started.


Between 2001 and 2002, we added a number of shrubs and additional trees. Though still just a toddler in age, the yard was starting to take shape and take on a personality. And one of my favorite additions was a weeping willow that served a dual purpose of adding to the landscape and soaking up excess water where most of it drained.

August 2002

At this point, we had also had to replace a couple of Little Gem Magnolia trees that had died and we chose fast growing Leyland cypress to substitute for them. This would unfortunately prove a poor choice for the long term, as we would find they were not impervious to winter storms.

Winter 2003

By the summer of 2003, our backyard still just a toddler, was beginning to show some character but what we really wanted was some shade. Unfortunately, our trees were not growing as fast as I wanted them to.


But just a year later, one end of our yard had had a sudden growth spurt, just as kids often do that provided nice privacy and a peaceful view.


In 2005, the replacement Leyland cypress trees had become a natural green wall.


Then disaster struck in August when the still powerful remnants of Hurricane Katrina swept through Memphis and toppled my favorite tree, the weeping willow.


Suddenly we had a gaping hole in our greenery as if our front four teeth had been viciously knocked out.


We pondered what to do over the winter…to be continued.


6 thoughts on “Grown Up Backyard – Formative Years Leave a comment

  1. These are such great pictures! I am so glad you put in the pool and all the awesome trees and landscaping. I think I was totally absorbed in college applications at the time and didn’t realize what a big undertaking it was. But I can hardly remember now what the yard used to look like because it’s always a flowering garden of Eden and tropical oasis in my mind:)

    • I guess you can say it has been a labor of love, but well worth it as it is so enjoyable to sit out there now. Sorry you’re not here now to enjoy it with us.

    • I’ve enjoyed them too which prompted me to write about it. Hurricane Elvis was in 2003. Katrina was in 2005, the date stamp on the photos.

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