Cinder block patio in need of replacement

By Janice Holowicki of Palatine
Updated 6/14/2018 9:27 AM
  • Janice Holowicki of Palatine says her family's least favorite chore is pulling weeds that constantly grow between the pavers in their patio.

    Janice Holowicki of Palatine says her family's least favorite chore is pulling weeds that constantly grow between the pavers in their patio.

  • Cardinal red osier dogwood.

    Cardinal red osier dogwood. Photos Courtesy of A Garden Guy

  • Purple coneflower

    Purple coneflower

  • Bobo hardy hydrangea

    Bobo hardy hydrangea

  • Judd Viburnum

    Judd Viburnum

  • Compacts burning bush

    Compacts burning bush

We rarely use this outside space. As you can see the stoop is sinking and the patio bricks are crumbling and are uneven. We spend spring and summer pulling weeds that grow between the bricks. If we do not keep up with this process, it turns into a jungle and makes it unbearable even to grill. This is the least popular chore on Saturday mornings.

The patio gets lots of sun, which makes it difficult to sit outside without melting in the summer. We do have a grill, which is on it's last leg, but we go out to grill and bring the food inside because there is no place to enjoy the meal. I also would love to have a fire pit so we could enjoy the space in the evenings.

We have lived here more than 20 years and would like to finally make this space livable.

Design by A Garden Guy

Expert: Matthew Mlynski, owner,

The challenges I see here are the size of the property and potential shade from large trees. But we can turn the challenge of a small backyard into an advantage. Ask yourself, "How much grass do I need?" If you do not have any pets and do not feel the need to have much grass (if at all), that can enlarge your yard and make the entire space filled with points of interest.

Budget: $10,000


• First, the patio has to be updated. A small paver patio will allow for a sitting area, improve the grading away from the house (avoiding water issues) and create a more inviting feeling when you look out your sliding-glass window. I would also encourage you to run the downspout underground to avoid a tripping hazard and make the patio more user friendly.

• It would be great to update the sagging fence, but you can also use landscaping to assist in hiding the public path in the back. Everyone loves arborvitae trees for privacy, but you get more bang for your buck by using dogwoods, burning bushes, large lilac shrubs or viburnums (this depends mostly on the amount of sunlight). Creating a hedge with one, or several of these shrubs, will create visual interest along the back of the property.

• The remaining area of the yard can have flagstone steppers to other areas of interest. Maximize your space by making one corner a small sitting area with a mobile fire pit (check local building codes in your village). A different path can lead to a water feature surrounded by hydrangeas, perennials (allium, cone flowers, black-eyed Susan) and some small ornamental grasses. Try to find some spot for a few evergreens, as well. When other plants are dying back, evergreens help maintain some color and texture all year long. Boxwoods are probably most popular, but there are some dwarf arborvitae that are really nice also.

• Finally, add a few low-voltage lights. Place spotlights on any existing upright trees and add a few path lights to keep the backyard inviting even at night. With these changes, your backyard will be the inviting, sweet haven you desire.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.