Special Gift Offer

A blank yard becomes a peaceful patio

By: Sherri RibbeySherri Ribbey
Before, the outdoor furniture sat on the grass in an empty corner of the yard. Now it’s a peaceful patio surrounded by a waterfall and bird-friendly plants. Check out the details of this gorgeous garden makeover!


The zone 6 New York backyard you see in the photo above was a blank canvas until owners Linda Washut and Kathleen Kelkenberg arrived in 2002 and began its transformation. Sometimes a blank canvas can be intimidating, so to help you get started, identify specific design problems and then brainstorm some solutions. One of the problems Linda and Kathleen faced was few spots for plants and a lot of lawn; it didn’t make a very interesting view. They had to find a way to create more beds, borders and planting areas. The narrow covered concrete patio wasn’t the best spot for their outdoor dining set, but the only other choice — right in the middle of the grass — was not much of an improvement. A solid flagstone patio was their answer.

They took their time renovating over the years, first adding a garden filled with plants birds love and the waterfall where they could drink and bathe. They went on garden tours to get a feel for what they liked. This helped them learn what elements they wanted to include in their own yard. Slowly they turned it into a beautiful retreat filled with color, texture and lots of visiting birds. Keep scrolling to see the transformation.


This view is for the birds, too

Linda and Kathleen started by adding plant-filled borders to create a haven for the birds they enjoy feeding. Want to add more plants for birds in your garden? Here are six suggestions for plants birds love!

The sound of running water is attractive to the birds, too. To get ideas and advice on what size and type of waterfall to install, Linda and Kathleen paid special attention to the sound of various water features on their tours of local gardens at Garden Walk Buffalo. They chose a 2-ft.-tall, 4-ft.-long waterfall that has three drops into a shallow pond. A valve regulates how quickly the water flows — faster water is louder, but slowing it down brings in more birds so that’s the setting it’s on most of the time. The plant-filled berm surrounding the waterfall has lots of bird favorites, such as serviceberry and coneflowers, for food and evergreens that provide shelter during the cold New York winters. That’s when Linda and Kathleen can enjoy the view from indoors. If you only have room for a bird bath, here's an idea to make it personal with a sand-cast birdbath

Later, they added a 20-ft.-square flagstone patio that gave them a space to sit, relax and enjoy the view. (And they don’t have to move the furniture when it’s time to mow anymore.) For a slightly different look, a patio made from pavers is also simple to do. Here’s what you need to know to install a paver patio.


A spot of sun for the pollinators

But they didn’t fill the entire patio area with stone. They left this sunny spot next to the house open for planting. Now they can grow sun-loving favorites that won’t grow elsewhere in the shady backyard. The red furniture sets off the pollinator-favorite bee balm (Monarda spp. and hybrids) and other bright perennials. Have a seat for an inimate, up-close view of the busy butterflies and bees! To attract more pollinators to your yard, try one of these 4 combos butterflies love or one of these 10 plants that attract hummingbirds.

All good things take time, and that’s certainly the case when embarking on a garden makeover!

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work in the garden. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.


Related Tags

backyard bird friendly birdbath butterflies garden design garden plan garden tour makeover patios decks water feature waterfall

Related Articles


You Might Also Like…