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Your Home: Garden Makeovers

An Oasis of Her Own

Do-it-yourself enthusiast Kate Bowers realized this was one big job she couldn't do alone.

Kate Bowers's yard is small, but that didn’t keep her from thinking big. To anchor the space and create more room for plantings, landscape designer Ben Brown proposed a bluestone patio set on the diagonal. A circular pea-gravel bed showcases a birdbath, while shade-loving plants take root along the perimeter. This spring, Bowers plans to hold a garden-warming party to celebrate the transformed space. 'It’s just so beautiful,' she says. Kate Bowers's yard is small, but that didn’t keep her from thinking big. To anchor the space and create more room for plantings, landscape designer Ben Brown proposed a bluestone patio set on the diagonal. A circular pea-gravel bed showcases a birdbath, while shade-loving plants take root along the perimeter. This spring, Bowers plans to hold a garden-warming party to celebrate the transformed space. "It’s just so beautiful," she says.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Ellen C. Wells
April 6, 2008

KATE BOWERS LOVES DO-IT-YOURSELF HOME RENOVATIONS. She's refinished floors, repaired window casings, painted walls. After moving into her Belmont condo 2 1/2 years ago, Bowers and her upstairs neighbors jointly renovated the exterior of the three-family home that they share. For months, they employed her exclusive-use yard as a staging area. When the backyard was finally emptied of tools, Bowers, a 45-year-old Harvard University archivist, decided it was time for one last makeover.

THE PROBLEM Bowers didn't know where to begin. She's not as handy when it comes to landscaping. Plus, the yard was small and shaded, featuring a few lilacs and hostas. It was mostly a mess; a previous owner left behind a sandbox overgrown with weeds. Bowers wanted a patio, lush greenery, a welcoming entryway, and a fence for privacy. She also wanted a small planting area that would keep her hands in the earth but not overwhelm her with work or require too much of a green thumb.

THE SOLUTION At first, Boston landscape designer Ben Brown had suggested that they put a patio in the middle of the yard. But that seemed to divide the space and leave little room for anything else. So Brown suggested building a bluestone patio in a corner near the lilacs. Then Bowers could eat breakfast outdoors and smell the fragrant flowers. Planting beds surround the lawn and patio. Brown added an abundance of shade-loving shrubs and perennials like rosebay rhododendron, mountain laurel, and lamium. Sun lovers - grasses, echinacea, hydrangea, coreopsis - were strategically placed to catch a few hours of afternoon light.

STYLE TIPS Brown made the garden entry from the driveway more welcoming by installing a trellis planted with climbing hydrangea. Then he added a circular pea-gravel bed with a birdbath, placed to draw the eye away from the driveway. He lined the flower beds and the gravel walkways with a red-brick border. Since Bowers couldn't afford to build a fence, Brown suggested they use a roll-out bamboo fence instead. It gave Bowers the privacy she wanted but at a budget price. It cost about $1,850 to enclose her 765-square-foot yard.

FINAL THOUGHTS Bowers says the garden extended her living space. Her book club can meet there now. And on warm mornings, she can drink her coffee outdoors. When the flowers bloom this spring, she plans to throw a garden-warming party. "It's just so beautiful back here," she says. "I've met neighbors along the street who never said hello before who stopped by to say how lovely it is."

Ellen C. Wells is a writer in Boston. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

Bowers' backyard before (top) and after the makeover. Bowers' backyard before (top) and after the makeover. (Photos by Dave Henderson)

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