Flex your DIY skills and fashion an outdoor oasis this weekend. Paved floors, perky plantings and salvaged accents make for a pretty backyard getaway.

Patio before makeover

Before, this small, neglected backyard corner was an eyesore heap of brush.

Before and after clearing brush

The first step is to clean out the area and figure out how much space you have to work with, whether you need to level the area and if the existing structure needs a new finish or any repairs.

Framed patio floor

Within the pergola, create a raised bed with a wood frame. Prep with gravel and sand for laying down tiles or bricks. Cut end pieces or have them cut to fit.

Tips for a first-time patio project:

  1. Spend the $15 on a tamping tool. It helps to get the dirt flat and compressed.
  2. Choose a pattern, such as a basketweave, that won’t involve lots of cutting at the edges.
  3. Add a layer of gravel first, then sand to ensure that the stone pavers stay in place for longer. If you skip on this step, your patio may end up looking uneven after a couple of seasons.
  4. To help the budget, make the patio a smaller space—just enough room for a table set. Ours measures about 7′ x 8′; smallish, but cozy. With less area to cover, you can splurge a bit more on nice pavers.

Finished paved patio

We chose patio stone in a cream color that would be neutral enough to go with anything, and light enough to brighten up the shaded corner. You can grow potted or planted climbing plants, like jasmine, clematis or roses to cover the arbor eventually and provide additional shade in time.

Enclosed patio

A mix of hanging and standing planted containers help to merge the enclosed patio into the surrounding garden. A basket of deep blue lobelia hanging from the rafters catches the eye inside the pergola.

Tabletop plants

Wire baskets, birdcages and faux metal hoop planters echo the barely-there look of the enclosed structure. To create interest on a tabletop—or elsewhere—pop an iron cage cover over a pretty potted plant, like this pink geranium in a blue container.

Hanging hoop planters

Rafter tails make ideal spots for hanging baskets of flowers, wind chimes, or ornaments on the outside of the structure. Join wood embroidery hoops with staples long enough to go through the layers, then spray paint them silver. Line the resulting orbs with coir baskets and fill with trailing annuals.

Birdcage and gold painted containers

A mix of plants top a pot painted on the bottom half. To get the gold-dipped look, tape off an edge about 2/3 the way down with green painter’s tape and spray with metallic gold. 
Petunias and bacopa peek out of a repurposed birdcage. The door of the metal globe lends easy access for deadheading and removing dry leaves.

Potted plants

Terra cotta pots are a must-have in a garden setting; they look even better as they age. Blend in other pots, like this blue-and-white beauty, for visual interest.

Two tier planter

A two-tier wire planter holds a mixture of annual verbena and petunias. The pink and lavender hues offer a pretty backdrop for the substantial foliage of fleshy succulents.

Planted two tier container

We clustered all the succulents in the top tier and colorful petunias with pretty sweet potato vine on the bottom. While you can mix succulents with some annuals, it’s probably best to keep them separate since they have very different watering needs. Annuals need a drink about every day depending on how much heat/sun they get, and succulents don’t need as much. For a stunning planter keep it full and interesting with “spillers, fillers & thrillers.”

Enclosed patio overall

Nestled amid shady trees, throwing masses of dappled light, this newly paved patio provides a wonderful spot to stop and smell the roses. We opted for recycled rubber mulch around the patio edge. It’s a better alternative to using wood chips or gravel. Yes, you pay more up front, but it lasts four times longer than wood chips and it’s softer on bare feet. A perfect solution for a child’s outdoor play area, too. So worth it.


© Caruth Studio

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