Landscaping Your Backyard

Invest in a Landscape Design Architect

One of the BEST things we did before anything (our yard was dirt, no fence, nothingness), was invest in a landscape design architect to map out the best use of our space. 

He came over, took a list of our must haves: trampoline, play area, seating area with a pergola, basketball court, grass to play in, ect. and he drew up (by hand) a sketch of our lot complete with all our must haves and all the landscaping to optimize the shape and direction of our lot. These plans can be affordable, ours was around $1000 (this was back in 2017 so prices could be different now), but has allowed us to take the yard one project at a time, one year at a time, as we find the time and budget to execute each stage. 

How do I find a landscape design architect? I would ask around to friends and family for a referral.  Most residential landscape companies know of one and even will cover the cost of the landscape architect if you plan to use their company for the labor so ask around! If you are local here to Salt Lake/Utah County we used Envision Land Design, Darren. He was great! 

the before of our yard

after 3 summers of work we finally hit the grass stage

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Create a Timeline

Landscaping is EXPENSIVE! The labor is expensive, the products are expensive.  Truthfully we have had to divide up our yard projects among 5 different spring/summers because there was no other way for us to afford our dream backyard. Here’s our timeline for tackling our 2/3 of an acre yard. 

2018 Landscape design architect to design the yard.
Excavation & Rock retaining wall.  
Hole dug for in ground trampoline.
Fence around property.
Pondless Waterfall install – this was a splurge the first year because we didn’t want tractors driving over fresh sod or new concrete to install it later down the road. 

2019 – Concrete for basketball/pickleball court (tutorial here).
Hot tub hole
Sprinkler lines & grass on 1/3 of the yard. 

2020 Sprinklers & grass the remaining 2/3.
Some Trees 
Costco Pergola Install & seating area
Hot Tub Install
Garden Beds & Shed install 

2021 – Glass View Rail.
Outdoor Builtin BBQ (tutorial linked here). 
Playset Install. 

2022 – Fully landscaped with trees and shrubs

Some years our backyard budget required more $$$ and other years it was chuck full of maintenance and DIY’s. The best part of our yard are the summer nights spent as a family enjoying one another company. Regardless of the finished status, size, or amenities of your yard, you can make it a place that is peaceful and one your whole family can and will enjoy. 

What do I plant?

Live in the Rocky’s? This is my father in law’s favorite plant book. He has been a professional landscaper for the last 40 years. Even has a degree in plant science. 


Before I give you my big long list of trees, I want to preface that what you plant is going to be completely dependent on 4 things

1. What zone you live in.

     Climate is HUGE when picking plants. What you love might just not survive in your climate (too hot, too cold). Most nurseries will have a list of what they recommend for your specific area as well as for your water source and soil! Some trees just won’t live in your specific conditions and rather than be frustrated from continuous dead plants, ask them for a list! 

2. What direction your yard faces

     Primarily sun or shade? Extra windy? Terrible soil? Take these factors into consideration when selecting plants. 

3. How big the tree will get

    Most common mistake is planting trees too close together or too close to a structure, like your house.  On each tag it will tell you approximately how tall the tree will get (important for power lines), but also how WIDE the tree will get.  Planting trees to close together also has the roots fight one another for nutrients which could end up killing one or both of the trees. 

4. Variety!

     Be sure to include plants that will bloom at different seasons so you get to enjoy the beauty of your yard year round. Include a few conversation trees that make your landscaping different from everyone else on the block. 

landscape design

What we planted in Salt Lake County, UT Zone 6b - 7a

Our local go to nursery is Glover Nursery in South Jordan, UT. They have a huge variety, good prices, and warranty their trees for 1 full year. If it dies, just bring it back! 


x3 Black Knight Butterfly Bush – Purple leaves

x6 Magical Gold Forsythia – Yellow bush

x2 Rose of Sharon, Helene – Red inside, white petal

x4 Chateau de Chantilly Rose of Sharon – Red inside, white petal

x5 Summer Wine Ninebark Super – Dark purple leaves 

x3 Burkwood Viburnum – Red leaves 


x3 Crimson Sentry Maple – shade tree purple leaves

x1 Snow Fountains® Weeping Cherry – conversation flowering tree

x1 Slender Silhouette Sweetgum.75″ – tall skinny green leaf

x2 Green Giant Arborvitae – privacy trees

x2 Village Green TM Zelkova – SHADE trees. 

x1 Flame Amur Maple – bright red fall leaves

More trees

x2 Canada Red Chokecherry – flowering tree turns purple & green leaves depending on the season

x3 Columnar Norway Spruce – evergreen, some color to your landscape in the winter. 

x1 Princeton Sentry® Maidenhair or Ginkgo – stunning yellow leaves in the fall. 

x2 Green Vase® Zelkova – SHADE trees, grows big. 

x2 Royal Raindrops® Crabapple – flowering tree – purple

x2 Spring Snow Crabapple – flowering tree – white

x1 Karl Fuchs Deodar Cedar or Himalayan Cedar 5-6′ – green needles – conversation tree. 

x1 Gold Cone Deodar Cedar or Himalayan Cedar 6-7′ – greenish yellow needles. unique conversation tree. 

x1 Vulcan Magnolia 6-7′ Tree – flowers pink, but there are others that flower white. 


This list seems daunting to plant all at once so we will have my father in laws crew come and help place and plant them.  The key is having little moments throughout the yard.  Be sure to follow along in IG stories to see how it unfolds @honeybuilthome. 

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Meet Christine Gummersall, a mother of 4, coach's wife, former Labor and Delivery nurse, and self taught DIYer who decided to take a sledge hammer to her 1950's bathroom over a decade ago and hasn't stopped tackling her honey-do list since.  Folow along as christine breaks down the pretty afters, by showing the whole how to process and empowers you to STOP waiting, and START creating a home you love, with your own two hands! 

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