Before + After: The Cottage Back Patio

While sifting through old digital files, I came across these "before" photos of our lil' back patio and garden. I paired them with "after" shots on the right to demonstrate just how much the trees, vines, and potted plants have grown over the past 7 years!

Update (2/28) - I received so many inquiries about the types of greenery and materials used that I've updated the text below with that information throughout the post. Thanks for the great messages, folks!✌

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This spot has served many purposes for us. It's been a play space, a dining room, a nursing corner, a screening room, a lounge, an office, and even housed our wardrobe-shed for over a year. We use the back stoop for some of West's baths, story time, and more.

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The overflowing, large-leafed vines are from a single, massive grapevine. These tendrils originate in our neighbor's yard beyond the wood fence, and between the months of April through September they're lush and abundant. They produce beautiful, sweet, concord grapes that our neighbor makes into jam and sorbet.

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The long vines that stretch from the perimeter of the property to the top of the Cottage via the string lights are Distictis Buccinatoria, or Red Trumpet Vines. This single plant is rooted in the corner of our property, and was only about 4'-tall when we moved in. Now the trunk is thicker and about 6' tall, while the vines themselves span dozens of feet, back and forth over the garden. These vines are fast growing, resilient, quick to wrap around anything, and produce bright red flowers (with yellow backs) that attract hummingbirds, and make the perfect home for their little nests. 

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The three ficus trees in the back were on the property when we moved in. We've trained them to grow up and fill inward, to provide us with more privacy and a wilder look.

By the back stoop, we added a customized shed, which once contained our wardrobe. (Now it holds a collapsible wagon and West's fold-up stroller.) An empty wine barrel sits across from it, and was once filled with dirt and dying lavender. Now, it's exploding with a variety of succulents, which my mom and I clipped from around the neighborhood and planted in fresh soil when she was visiting about 6 years ago. I've never changed the soil, and I only water the barrel infrequently. It's growing gorgeously without my interference. 

I have 2 potted ZZ Plants, which look fake because the branches are so strong and the leaves are extremely shiny. In my limited experience, they grow quickly outdoors, and can withstand times of downpour or drought. Mandevilla also works well to fill in and beautify gaps around the yard, as it produces bright blooms and grows both wide and tall, depending on the container.

I also have a few tall, potted Corynocarpus Trees from Rolling Greens, and I move those around the property whenever needed. They grow tall and produce numerous leaves, without taking up extra inches around the base, which is helpful on a stoop or in a tight garden.

As for the grass, it's unfortunately artificial. I can't wait to remove and replace it with something natural-- I don't love the idea of West playing around on these types of manufactured materials. Years ago we had real and thriving grass, but we let it die in the California Drought. After a year of debate, Adam and I installed this thick, tall, artificial grass for our wedding. It's something neither one of us ever thought we'd do, as we're both from rain-soaked Florida. Although I still have a really tough time with the concept of faux grass, I do love seeing green rather than dirt or rocks. Other than the grass, everything else is living.

 Above: Our friends gathered here for Adam's most recent birthday. We had a Cuban Food Truck pull up to the back fence to serve sandwiches, and we stationed the bar up in the front garden.

Above: Our friends gathered here for Adam's most recent birthday. We had a Cuban Food Truck pull up to the back fence to serve sandwiches, and we stationed the bar up in the front garden.

 Above: Storytime set-up for baby West.

Above: Storytime set-up for baby West.

 Above: At-home date night with Adam. 

Above: At-home date night with Adam. 

Small spaces such as this can be so versatile, and they're relatively easy to makeover or adapt, since they're so compact. I love this spot on the property, and look forward to seeing how it evolves from here!