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Your Backyard Landscaping Strategy: Manicured Or Untamed?

Are you working on beautifying your outdoor space? Kate here, and I’ve been trying to get control of our front and backyard areas since we moved into our new home last summer. It’s a big job, isn’t it?! Unless you inherit a perfectly manicured outdoor space, there’s some work to be done. And in most cases, you inherit some problems to solve before the yard of your dreams is possible. Today’s focus is backyard landscaping. I love my backyard, but due to the high amount of sun (which makes native plants essential), as well as some unhealthy trees, the look in this outdoor space is more wild than beautiful. I’m torn–should I try and tame my backyard, or should I cultivate a “wild chic” look? Below we explore the ins and outs of both approaches, then see if some middle ground is possible…

The Manicured Yard

The manicured yard features an array of carefully maintained details, from a lush green lawn with clearly defined edges to sculpted bushes and gravel pathways. The overall look is clean and uncluttered. [from Secret Gardens]

Manicured yard with crisp details Your Backyard Landscaping Strategy: Manicured Or Untamed?
Manicured yard with crisp details

Even yards without lawns can be manicured! Often gravel, pebbles and mulch are involved in the design of these outdoor spaces. [from Grounded]

Manicured outdoor space with gravel and pathways Your Backyard Landscaping Strategy: Manicured Or Untamed?
Manicured outdoor space with gravel and pathways

Repetition can also be used to create a manicured feel. From matching plants to identical planters, there’s symmetry in uniformity. [from BLUE Renovation & Landscape]

Modern planters in a matching yard
Modern planters in a matching yard

The Untamed Yard

While the manicured yard requires regular maintenance to pull off the look, an untamed yard is deliberately low-maintenance. For example, a no-mow lawn is the perfect way to avoid routine yardwork, as shown below. [from Shades of Green Landscape Architecture]

Carefully designed low-maintenance backyard
Carefully designed low-maintenance backyard

But don’t assume that the “untamed” yard is completely wild. In fact, quite often as much planning goes into the low-key yard as the highly manicured one. The difference is in the work you do after the yard is established. Choosing native grasses and low-water plants is the perfect way to ensure healthy growth and minimal maintenance. [from Big Red Sun]

Backyard with native plants
Backyard with native plants

Overflowing plant life is another signature feature of the untamed yard. When detailed sculpting is set aside, other less-than-perfect features don’t stand out quite so much. Yet the artistry required to create a “wild chic” space can be just as involved as the energy required to craft a manicured yard. Check out the sculpturally interesting succulent planters below. [from Big Red Sun]

Backyard with a natural look
Backyard with a natural look

When it comes to the untamed yard, don’t hesitate to group native plants and grasses for a free-flowing look, as shown in the hillside garden below. [from Shades of Green Landscape Architecture]

Hillside garden with native grasses
Hillside garden with native grasses

A Happy Medium

Many outdoor landscape enthusiasts find a happy medium by incorporating elements of both manicured and untamed yards. For example, grouping native grasses of the same type in contained spaces creates a wild-meets-manicured look, as shown in the next featured image. [from Shades of Green Landscape Architecture]

Native grasses in a terraced garden
Native grasses in a terraced garden

Below we see a similar effect, as wispy plants and grasses blow freely in the wind yet remain in their carefully designated areas. [from Grounded]

Modern backyard landscaping with native grasses
Modern backyard landscaping with native grasses

Don’t forget about the rugged yet landscaped look that can be created by incorporating large rocks into the scenery. A “cliffside” vibe results, yet the look can be reigned in. For example, in the next featured yard, a pathway created from stepping stones and gravel gives the space a well-planned feel. [from Cody Anderson Wasney Architects]

Plants and rocks create a rugged yet modern look
Plants and rocks create a rugged yet modern look

Now that we’ve all learned a bit more about landscaping strategies, I ask you: Do you prefer a manicured or untamed look in your backyard? Perhaps a mixture of both? My outdoor space will probably incorporate elements of both approaches, and I promise to share the results of my ongoing backyard makeover later this fall…

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