When we chose plants for our raised planter boxes, we knew we wanted the overall feel to be very free, if not slightly chaotic. In a sense, we wanted a big, beautiful tangle of plants. Earlier this week, I asked Scott if he thought the plants were happy, because I was worried that our supposedly-bushy-ground cover (the ceratostigma)…
  • Erika @ EP - - September 8, 2016 - 7:37 AM

    Oh it just looks so clean and good ! I can only image how pretty it’ll be next year with all the leaves tangled around !ReplyCancel

  • Staci - September 8, 2016 - 10:33 AM

    This looks great, and I love the blissed-out puppers in the sun :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 8, 2016 - 11:34 AM

      They could bake ALL. DAY. LONG. They don’t budge! We just keep bringing them water like their faithful servants.ReplyCancel

  • Carolyn - September 8, 2016 - 10:52 AM

    I’ve had no luck finding 2×2 pressure treated wood. I’m here in Chicago and have tried a few Home Depots and Menards! May need to rip 2x4s but was trying to save some hassle!ReplyCancel

  • Liz - September 8, 2016 - 12:46 PM

    Those trellises look amazing. Are you growing “Sweet Autumn” clematis? Your backyard looks like an incredible oasis. What a great place to enjoy the last vestiges of summer!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 8, 2016 - 12:48 PM

      Thank you, and yes we are!ReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cuckoo4Design - September 8, 2016 - 7:11 PM

    It’s coming together so nicely. Love the trellises andReplyCancel

  • Christin - September 9, 2016 - 9:44 AM

    We added a Sweet Autumn Clematis to our front yard this summer and it is growing like crazy! We’ve got a bunch of small white flowers now and I’m so excited to see it really bloom! The lattice we purchased is almost too small so I may need to create one like this for ours! Your space looks amazing! I wish we had something like this but our backyard is pretty much an ugly jungle right now.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 9, 2016 - 11:56 AM

      Thanks, Christin! We liked that this design had a little more space for a more substantial climber. I’m not sure how big the clematis will get this year, but hopefully next year, it’ll pop!ReplyCancel

  • Judith - September 10, 2016 - 1:54 AM

    After reading your post I got very curious about clematis, as it would fit right into our little backyard. So I googled it and found this information in”clematis vine does not climb by twining around something, as a pole bean or a morning glory does. It climbs by wrapping its leaf stems around something. Because these leaf stems are not very long, anything that’s more than about 1/2 inch in diameter is too wide for the leaf stem to twist around. The easiest things for a clematis to grab onto, are twine, fishing line, wire, thin branches, wooden dowels or steel rods. The more grabbing opportunities you offer, the better, so even if you have a nice trellis, consider adding some twine “helper” lines, or covering your trellis with a grid of trellis netting.”
    So you have a different variety, that’s able to climb your trellis? Because I very much like the clean look you achieved.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 10, 2016 - 6:08 PM

      I have noticed that our clematis is wrapping its little stems around other parts of itself, and it continuing to grow! That said, We’ve been helping it by weaving it through the trellis. Smaller trellis or wire would probably be ideal, but we told the nursery how thick our lattice was, and they said that as long as we can help to weave the clematis through, it will get to the point that as it winds around other parts of the plant, it will continue to weave through the trellis. It MIGHT just need more help than a wire trellis. :DReplyCancel

      • Amy - September 12, 2016 - 9:55 AM

        It will climb just fine on your trellis. I have a clematis climbing up a trellis with spacing much larger than yours and it goes crazy every year. Once in awhile I’ll help it by weaving it up the trellis, but mostly just let it do it’s thing.ReplyCancel

  • Stacy G. - September 10, 2016 - 7:53 AM

    The outdoor space is really coming together. Great work! Next year, we will tackle the landscaping at BHH. We are so ready. It’s a jungle out here. :)ReplyCancel

  • Louise Martinez - September 13, 2016 - 1:52 PM

    What an amazing DIY! I’m totally having this done at my house. It looks great! Thank you for the post =DReplyCancel

  • […] modern trellis will definitely be on our outdoor to-do list next […]ReplyCancel


With more than 37 linear feet of planter boxes to fill in our backyard, we didn’t want to take any chances. Although we’ve gotten much better at keeping the greenery in and around our home alive, we’ve had more than our fair share of strike outs. Our front garden, for example? It’s taken us three years…
  • Ellen from Ask Away Blog - September 2, 2016 - 7:09 AM

    OMG I love your yard! Great job on everything!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 8:02 AM

      Thanks, Ellen! Sometimes we forget how bad it was just 3 months ago. Crazy.ReplyCancel

  • Mrs Mike - September 2, 2016 - 7:42 AM

    My daughter took two years of horticulture and has an amazing green thumb. We also have a very sunny front yard (blazing sunlight!) and at her suggestion, we installed a drip irrigation system. This allows the plants to get continuous moisture (ahem, and keeps me from forgetting to water on a routine basis) which helps the plants thrive. HTH!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 8:01 AM

      That’s a great suggestion and something we’re still considering! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Carol - September 2, 2016 - 8:14 AM

    It looks incredible! I agree, Kim, that clematis is not my favorite. I much prefer morning glories – plus you get the fun of watching them open and close! Growing up, our next door neighbor had a telephone pole support wire in the middle of her backyard, which could have been such an eyesore, but she had morning glories climbing all the way to the top. So maybe my love is actually nostalgia.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 9:08 AM

      You’re right about morning glories – so fun! I told Scott I’d give these until next year to change my mind. I think blooming clematis is so pretty, so we will see…! On a side note, now I’m wondering if we shouldn’t plant morning glories on the hideous phone pole in our alley.ReplyCancel

      • Katie - September 2, 2016 - 1:25 PM

        No offense to Carol above, morning glory can be pretty…but I’d plant it with extreme caution. They are very invasive and will choke out anything else growing around them. They also have a habit of growing somewhere you did not place them, and putting out a ton of seeds. I live out west where it is considered a Noxius Weed. My childhood memories are of my mother battling the morning glory coming from our neighbors yard from destroying her garden. Now that I have my own garden, I am unfortunately continuing that tradition.

        • alex - September 13, 2016 - 8:32 PM

          that being said, they would totally be great on the telephone pole, because they are verrrrry resilient. wouldn’t place them in the beds because of the aforementioned reason, but they sure brighten up a spot in a chicago alley!ReplyCancel

  • Dave - September 2, 2016 - 9:53 AM

    Do I detect a huge bicep muscle on Scott’s right arm?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 9:57 AM

      That’s what he gets after loading endless wheelbarrows of brick pavers, gravel and dirt! You should see mine. (Yeah, right.)ReplyCancel

  • Claire - September 2, 2016 - 9:57 AM

    Try Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fertilizer. It’s especially good for plants that are trying to establish new roots. It’s cheaper on amazon too.ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn - September 2, 2016 - 11:00 AM

    We have planter boxes similar to yours in Chicago and often the perennials don’t make it. If you don’t want to replace every year I suggest insulating the outside and topping with a heavy straw mulch over the winter.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 11:09 AM

      Thanks for the tip! We did double insulate the interior walls of the planters. We’re crossing all our fingers that will help.ReplyCancel

  • Carswell - September 2, 2016 - 11:10 AM

    The backyard looks great!

    Just an FYI about ornamental onions/alliums of any kind – they are notorious spreaders and self seeders. I am on a concerted effort to get them out of my garden beds because they keep seeding themselves all through my pea gravel which seems to be a particularly hospitable environment for them. I am very sorry I planted them in the first place even though I love the globe shaped blooms.

    I really like clematis once it gets going – and there’s a huge variety of shapes and colour of blooms. It looks like yours has a great start – give it a bit of time – it may grow on you (pardon the pun). They are very low maintenance plants – I only thin mine out a bit from year to year if I can get to them before they start leafing out. When they get really unruly I cut them back to about 10 inches or so and let them start again – they can grow a lot in one season – as you can see.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 2:24 PM

      Oooh… good to know about the ornamental onion! We’ll keep an eye on it. And thank you for the pointers on the clematis! We need the advice!ReplyCancel

      • Pauline Dunlop - September 4, 2016 - 4:32 PM

        I too love clematis, particularly Montana for its strong growth. Hybrids can be very pretty too but I find they’re not strong enough and flowers die back too quickly. Mind you, I’m in Scotland UK, so my summers are only as warm as your spring (if we’re lucky) :-)ReplyCancel

  • hannah - September 2, 2016 - 12:28 PM

    eager for the trellis DIY! the house next door finally installed their privacy fence and i’ve been trying to figure out what i’m going to nail to it to let plants climb/hide some of the raw board :-DReplyCancel

  • Julie - September 2, 2016 - 1:51 PM

    The garden is stunning! I love gardens that mimic life: a little tangled, but full of color and texture.

    As a side note, be cautious with your pups and the rhododendron. I am not as familiar with the other items in your garden, but rhododendron is considered toxic if chewed on. Make sure they keep their distance :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 2, 2016 - 2:23 PM

      Thanks, Julie! Luckily our dogs have never shown interest in any of our plants. I guess they don’t taste enough like peanut butter. :)ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - September 3, 2016 - 8:44 PM

    I love your garden you created! I would of definitely needed to reserve one of those boxes for vegetables; potatoes, carrots, lettuce, oh my! I can’t wait to have a garden (both in flowers & food) in my future yard. (We are Apartment dwellers currently)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 4, 2016 - 10:30 PM

      Thanks, Amanda! We considered veggies in the one closest to our stairs, but maybe another year. We love the idea in theory, but honestly, we probably couldn’t keep up with it!ReplyCancel

    • Ryan - September 6, 2016 - 4:35 PM

      I can’t keep up with annuals or vegetables even on my patio either but I’ve found that perennial herbs look nice, tend to need little water (at least the ones I pick out) and have the potential to be used in cooking which gives me a little more motivation to keep them alive. Try thyme (so many varieties), mint, basil, oregano, rosemary (have to bring inside over the winter), and chives. Trader Joe’s sells little pots and variety pots of herbs that can be a great start. And if they die? I just get more. I’ve killed my mint every year until this summer from not watering it enough.ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen Conery - September 4, 2016 - 1:32 PM

    If this is similar to our fall blooming clematis you might end up loving it! Ours is a MASS of small white flowers that have a sweet jasmine like scent. The only regret is that they don’t last as long as I wish they would.
    About morning glory… the article referenced above is for a relative of the purple flowered vine. Bindweed (convolvulus) is a perennial and is worse than awful to control. It spreads by underground growth and the tiniest piece of root will grow a new plant. But I doubt that any self-respecting nursery would sell that. The other plant (ipomoea) is an annual, but it’s a prolific self-seeder which is why it comes back every year. It is aggressive so you’d need to work at controlling it. You could remove seed pods before they drop or spread a corn gluten meal based herbicide that stops the seeds before they sprout. Or pull vines over and over.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 6, 2016 - 12:15 PM

      Thank you SO much for the info, Kathleen! We need friends like you (and all you commenters!) to come over and talk to us about plants.ReplyCancel

  • Ann L. - September 6, 2016 - 11:18 AM

    I laughed at what seems to have been an unintentional pun about “being on the fence” about clematis! As Carswell said, it will grow on you. :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 6, 2016 - 11:21 AM

      Haha, good catch! And thank you for your follow up pun. :DReplyCancel

  • Trude - September 6, 2016 - 3:13 PM

    It looks absolutely beautiful! And look at those happy pup faces. :)ReplyCancel

  • Katie - September 7, 2016 - 7:07 AM

    Don’t forget about bulbs. The pop of color and life they give the garden really makes me happy every time I see them when so many other things are still hunkering down for the winter.ReplyCancel

    • JULIE - September 15, 2016 - 1:03 PM

      Bulbs is a great suggestion Katie! I was thinking the same thing. They are so great to have at the cold dreary start to spring in Chicago. And they are as easy as (okay easier than) perennials. Plant them once in the fall and in the spring you have pretty blooms that die back just as many of your other plants start to fill in year after year.ReplyCancel

  • MB - September 12, 2016 - 12:43 PM

    Looks awesome! My best tip for new/learning gardeners is a soil moisture meter. Nothing fancy, like $8 from Amazon. Just shove it in a few different spots before you make the daily water or not water decision. Takes a lot of the guess work out.ReplyCancel


Our red brick patio pavers were laid atop 1-2″ of find sand, and underneath that is several inches of crushed limestone. The limestone layer extends under our DIY planter boxes, which will help with drainage and still allow for any powerful plants to root their way into earth – well, fingers crossed! In any case, the…
  • Steph M. - August 29, 2016 - 9:00 AM

    That color looks stellar with everything else! Great job!ReplyCancel

  • Lori - August 29, 2016 - 9:29 AM

    It looks fabulous! And as anoather bonus for choosing the small gravel, I think you’ll find that maintaining it is MUCH easier than those beach pebbles, which get leaves and debris lodged in the crevices that even a leafblower has a hard time removing. If you’re a bit OCD like me, you’ll find yourself out there on your hands and knees picking the leaves out…not exactly relaxing or low maintenance!

    As a landscaper, it was really interesting to me seeing the differences in what was available in the stone yard. Everyone here tends to carry the same stuff, and I’m guessing it’s all pretty “local” in a sense because stone so heavy to ship. You don’t see much cool grey stand up (the big slabs) here, and when you do, it’s $$$, but you do see a lot of creamy warm limestone and sandstone from central Texas, Oklahoma, and Mexico. But that’s part of what gives gardens their sense of place. I see bluestone and think of upstate New York, just like white limestone reminds me of Austin.

    Anyway, I love how your backyard is coming together and have soooo much fireplace envy! Can’t wait to see it all planted up and with furniture!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 29, 2016 - 2:11 PM

      It’s really nice confirmation to hear your feedback, Lori! You’re right – the pebbles holding onto debris would have driven us nuts. That’s just another perk of our Neptune Chip! Also interesting to hear about the more regional selections. Makes perfect sense!ReplyCancel

      • Kathy - August 31, 2016 - 7:16 AM

        I was thinking the same thing as Lori and praying that you would not chose a larger stone or a white/cream-colored stone.

        We had white stones in our landscape when I was growing up and I can’t tell you how many hours I spent cleaning leaves/debris out of those beds as one of my chores. Hated it and swore I would never do that to my yard. Plus, I think lighter colored stones only look good for about 10 minutes, then they just look dirty.

        The smaller gravel looks so polished and “clean” LOL! Great job again!ReplyCancel

        • Kim - August 31, 2016 - 9:04 AM

          Thank goodness we didn’t go with the larger stone! PHEW. That sounds like a chore I would loathe, Kathy!ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca - August 29, 2016 - 7:47 PM

    I love the photo with the train going through the yard on the L tracks. So Chicago.

    Your backyard is looking great. I really like the grey with the dark stain and the red pavers. Can’t wait to see the end result.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 30, 2016 - 10:18 AM

      Chicago is so pretty even in the rain, right?! In that same photo, all of downtown was hidden behind those thick clouds.ReplyCancel


After we built our planter boxes, the rain came. It came, and it came, and it came, and it took over a week to receive two days of blue skies in a row. The first morning of the sunny-double-days, we got right to work on phase two of the planter boxes – built-in bench seating, insulating…
  • Michelle Schreib | Birds of Berwick - August 23, 2016 - 8:03 AM

    I’ll have to go back and see what you’re planning for the fireplace, but I actually love the character of yours! It’s so cute and looks amazing with the dark planters. Green plants will only enhance this whole area, so bravo!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 23, 2016 - 8:08 AM

      Thanks, Michelle! We’re not digging the faux burnt edge around the opening, and the color isn’t our favorite. Just gonna modernize it a bit with a new paint job and convert it to propane! We’ll share all the details once we tackle it.ReplyCancel

  • Steph M. - August 23, 2016 - 9:01 AM

    They look great! I love the warm wood. This is going to be a great spot for outdoor dinner parties!!ReplyCancel

  • Kristen - August 23, 2016 - 9:21 AM

    Wow!! The bench and planting boxes look amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Brooke - August 23, 2016 - 10:25 AM

    It’s looking really great!

    I do have one question though, aren’t you concerned about having the fireplace so close to your fence and wood planters? I have an original Majestic Firehood with a list of setbacks based on the model and the Firehood requires 36″ clear on the sides and 19″ from the rear to any combustible walls. Other models have smaller clearances but some of those were gas burning not wood burning. Maybe yours doesn’t have as large of a clearance?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 23, 2016 - 10:36 AM

      Hi, Brooke! Some of our inspiration photos show this fireplace with even smaller clearances (and indoors even, which is this model’s original purpose), something we took into consideration, for sure! Another thing we’re doing is converting it over to propane, so it will no longer be wood burning.ReplyCancel

  • Julia [Chris Loves Julia] - August 23, 2016 - 10:58 AM

    This looks so slick. Seriously.ReplyCancel

  • Crystal - August 23, 2016 - 11:05 AM

    Are you going to be staining the back deck and stairs? Does it bug you that they are such a different color from the planters, being warm and bright, rather than a deep dark brown?ReplyCancel

  • Staci @ My Friend Staci - August 23, 2016 - 3:33 PM

    I love that you went with the dark brown which adds a great dimension to the space. And how cute is CC the sun worshipper… <3ReplyCancel

  • Dakwerken - August 25, 2016 - 3:50 AM

    I wanted something like this for our backyard for a very long time. Thanks a lot for sharing the great idea of making use of lawns and backyards so effectively!ReplyCancel

  • Jodi - August 25, 2016 - 10:14 AM

    Looking great!!ReplyCancel

  • Lavues - August 28, 2016 - 5:46 AM

    Great effort for making the bench, it looks really nice!ReplyCancel

  • Liz - August 28, 2016 - 10:13 AM

    Is it overly dramatic to say that the stain you chose is breathtaking?? ;-) I absolutely love the way the boxes and bench turned out.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 28, 2016 - 2:07 PM

      We’ll take it, Liz! Haha, thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Justin - September 22, 2016 - 6:00 PM

    This was such a great idea and it looks so great wrapping around the patio like that. The bench seat was also a great idea to throw in, all-in-all, excellent job!ReplyCancel