We love a dramatic before and after – and this transformation takes not one but two unique spaces from basic backyard to outdoor oasis! Florida home design and décor maven Karen Ray knows a thing or two about tackling tough home challenges. She and her husband Tom designed their low country, coastal cottage home in Fernandina Beach, Florida… and then DIY-ed most of the build themselves! But when it came to the backyard, Karen and Tom faced a few tricky challenges that might be familiar to you as well.
If you garden in a warm climate, you know that the summer sun is no joke – especially when it comes to your garden. The plants in Southern landscapes need to be able to handle summer’s scorching hot temperatures that often soar above 90°. Karen was also contending with gardening in deep and dappled shade – thankfully her landscape transformation shows us that this doesn’t have to cast a shadow on great garden design!
The first space Karen and Tom transformed was their wooded backyard. Gorgeous oak trees filled this coastal cottage’s backyard, draped with elegant Spanish moss. Karen wanted to enliven the ground around the trees, which was bare and sparse due to shade. Karen loves flowers and bright colors, so she created a plant palette that incorporates both. A flower-filled palette is now turning this once-bare space into a lush garden escape. Beneath Karen’s trees, Dear Dolores® Hydrangeas offer bright blues and pinks (the hue depends on your soil acidity), while White Wedding® Hydrangea’s bloom-packed panicles burst with cloudlike white flowers. Karen also planted Cloud Nine™ Hydrangeas, a stunning new lacecap variety with delicate petals reminiscent of antique lace. Finally, Jubilation™ Gardenia casts a sweet spell with its beautiful floral fragrance and elegant white blooms.
For her second space, Karen decided to tackle her poolside patio. This covered enclosure had endless potential, and Karen knew she could make the most of it by bringing the beauty of nature inside. Pretty planters achieved just that! Here are a few winning combinations Karen used:
- ‘Everillo’ Carex, Red Sky™ Holly, and Cosmic Firestorm™ Lantana,
- ‘Everest’ Carex, ‘Alabama Sunrise’ Heucherella, and Cosmic Firestorm Lantana
- ‘Everest’ Carex, Skyscraper® Senecio, and a colorful annual like impatiens
- Platinum Beauty® Lomandra– it’s stunning enough to be a standalone in a container!
When you’re landscaping near a pool, don’t be afraid to pull in bold texture and color. Plants with movement, height, and interesting foliage inject dynamic visual interest against the simple backdrop of a patio.
If you’re planning your own outdoor transformation, remember that it doesn’t take costly hardscaping to dramatically improve a space – just a vision, a weekend, and a few great plants!
Karen Ray shares her passion for beautiful home design along with inspiring projects and helpful how-tos on her Instagram at @ourblissfulcottage