40 Beautiful Backyards | Midwest Living

40 Beautiful Backyards

Your backyard is your private retreat. Enhance it by adding touches that make it special: a water feature, comfy seating, lovely plant beds, even just a hammock. Here is some inspiration.

Inviting entrance

An arbor supporting summer-blooming clematis and honeysuckle leads to a prairie garden in this Illinois backyard. Twig chairs and a sculpture made from old garden and farm implements add whimsy.

Read more about this garden.

Extended use

Screened patios extend your season outdoors and transition to patios. Plantings of hydrangeas echo the blues in the seating area and white of this Door County, Wisconsin, home.

Feature water

Any water feature adds beautiful sounds and movement to a yard. This Door County, Wisconsin, yard incorporates a waterfall into the pond and one leading to the stream. Using native rock around it blends it seamlessly into the landscape. Koi add a flash of color.

Outdoor kitchen

This outdoor kitchen works hard so you don’t have to. Stone stands up to the elements, and there is every appliance you could need to serve gourmet fare.

Frame the scene

Witch hazel forms a colorful backdrop to this seating area in a suburban Chicago home. Mums echo the color scheme. The fire pit is portable, adding to its practicality.

Read more about this yard.

Small-space makeover

This homeowner in Columbus, Ohio, divided his 50x50-foot backyard—bookended by house and garage—into four outdoor rooms filled with amenities for relaxing or entertaining.

Read more about this backyard.

A place to relax

Bamboo, a hammock and a koi pond offer a bit of the tropics—and an appealing place to relax—in this Kansas City yard.

Read more about this yard. 

Up and away

Having just a sliver of yard in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood couldn't squash this homeowner's dreams for a stunning outdoor retreat. His solution? Escape to the roof. 

More photos from this rooftop garden

Inviting entrance

An arbor supporting summer-blooming clematis and honeysuckle leads to a prairie garden in this Illinois backyard. Twig chairs and a sculpture made from old garden and farm implements add whimsy.

Read more about this garden.

Curving beds

Undulating beds of low-maintenance perennials give a finished look to your landscape and decrease yard chores. Wide green paths curve through this yard in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee.

Connect home and nature

Architectural elements unite this covered patio to the home, as do the ceiling fan, chandeliers, upholstered furniture and fireplace. Brick and wood keep it tied to nature.

Add whimsy

This sweet gazebo in a Grayslake, Illinois, yard adds whimsy via its color scheme and its gingerbread-type trim elements.

Lush look

Pile on the amenities for a showstopper setting. Multiple seating areas, artistic touches, a pergola and a mix of textures combine to treat the senses in this Kansas City, Missouri, yard.

Go bold!

The view from this Chicago-area backyard goes wild with color applied in geometric blocks, transforming a plain-Jane facade into a bright backdrop.

Dress up your shed

The back of a shed becomes a canvas for artists in this Janesville, Wisconsin, garden. What would you paint?

Shady setting

If your yard is shaded, use it to your advantage: Plant hostas like the ones lining this babbling brook in a Stillwater, Minnesota, yard.

Make connections

A low bridge links two parts of this yard while also marking the transition from formal landscaping to a more natural look.

Creative play

A Nebraska family with two young boys created a backyard that's fun for both kids and adults. The face on the tree adds a touch of humor; winding paths and a stream appeal to all ages.


Create a vista

If your yard lacks a view, create one. Gazing balls and an arbor add special touches in this Wisconsin garden.

Warm the woods

Dense tree cover doesn’t have to leave you in the cold. Pick a fire pit sized to warm a seating area in the shade. Ferns and hostas fill the shade with bright greenery. 

Classy touch

Hidden among plantings, this classically designed fountain is a hard-working element: It's decorative and provides noise-camouflaging water music in a Chicago garden.

Think big

A large brick fireplace dominates a tiny patio in one corner of an Ohio yard. Evergreen hedges frame the area and lend a formal note to the rustic scene.

Go vertical

Plant vertically for an eye-catching focal point in your yard. In this Door County, Wisconsin, garden, framed sedum and succulents make living art.

Dramatic contrasts

A stone fireplace and wood flooring and beams give this covered patio a rustic nature, but the wave recliner, nesting table and chair set, and carved chair say modern styling.

Intimate seating

This tiny patio tucked into a yard provides seating for two, warmed by a diminutive fire pit in a Twin Cities backyard.

Japanese theme

A dry stream bed—each stone selected and placed by the Illinois homeowner—is just one of many elements that make up this backyard Japanese garden.

Read more about this garden.

Cool by the pool

A trellis in the backyard of this traditional home provides shady seating by the pool of this Barrington, Illinois, home.

Outdoor rooms

With a living room, dining room and kitchen, outdoor living is just as comfy as it is indoors.  

Beautiful trees

Create visual interest in your backyard just by choosing out-of-the-ordinary trees. The unusual shape of the Weeping Norway Spruce at right and the delicate Japanese maple at left draw attention in this Illinois garden.

Duplicate your architecture

Echo your home’s architecture in out buildings such as this one, which could function as a pool house or garden shed.

Sweet spot

The little-used spot behind the house or garage makes a great place for a gathering spot. Fashion a simple setting with a gravel base and some towers of cement blocks with a wood top. Park the barbecue there and pot some plants for a little color. An umbrella in a stand casts shade if you need.

Courtyard magic

An enclosed yard transforms into a magical courtyard when vines, trees and plants soften the walls.

Simple spot

Any corner of a yard becomes a retreat with the addition of an outdoor rug and seating. Two urns support a plank for a table; pillows soften the bench.

Step it up

Three wide steps transition from the yard to a wide deck featuring an area for conversation and one for dining. Note how accessories pull the house color onto the deck.

Permanent fixtures

Bench, bar and fire pit are permanent. Their stonework emphasizes that, but cushions, pillows and plants soften the scene.

Destination escape

Surrounded by lush plantings, a table sits on pavers almost overgrown with greenery. Centerpieces of potted plants enhance the garden theme, and a fountain adds a burble. The combination creates the feel of an escape—no matter how close to neighbors.

Carve out a corner

With a drive running behind this home, the owners had to carve out privacy.  Surrounded by planters and picket fence, the simple pad is fun and functional. Two tables, a buffet and a stunning light keep the party zone useful day into night.

Two tiers of function

These homeowners make the most of the space below their deck with seating, a hanging chair and curtains that close for privacy.

Dining niche

Placing a picnic table in a nook between planters makes for a shady dining area, and the planter walls guarantee privacy.

Spots of color

Carrying color of accessorizes throughout the yard harmonizes the look.

More Midwest gardening tips

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