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Bringing a Boring Backyard to Life

Linda Brandt
Linda Brandt transformed her backyard by adding a small pond.

Growing up in England with a mom who loved flowers, you'd think that Linda Brandt would be a natural at gardening. Not so. "I hated gardening when I was growing up," she says, "I didn't really get interested in it until I owned my own home."

Linda moved to the United States as a young adult in 1974. She’s been living at her present home in Lockport, N.Y., for six years, and this is where her love of gardening has really taken root. It all started in the backyard. "My backyard is at the bottom of a big hill that ends right at the patio," she says. "The top of the hill is actually at the same height as the top of the house." Linda tried mowing the hill when she first moved in and quickly realized that was not the solution. "I’ve always loved rock, so I decided to terrace the slope."

One Rock at a Time

Linda started collecting rocks from the neighborhood and beyond to create her "rock" garden. It quickly became an obsession. "You can’t have too many rocks and I’ve never met a rock I didn’t like," says Linda. "I started collecting rocks from wherever I went: Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana," she says. "I even convinced my boyfriend to go on a road trip to Pennsylvania just to pick up rocks to build my terrace walls," says Linda. The neighbors started noticing as well. "One morning I came home from work to find a rock sitting outside my door," says Linda. Everyone was pitching in to help build the garden.

Linda Brandt
By creating terraces, Linda Brandt turned a "difficult" site into a magnificent garden.

Once one side of the slope was terraced, Linda began planting a variety of perennial flowers and shrubs. "I love carpet roses and I have many different varieties growing on the slope," she says. She also grows lupines, delphiniums, peonies, and rose of Sharon. "I try to have a variety of flowering shrubs and perennials so something is in bloom from spring to fall."

The Pond and Waterfall

Once the terraced area was complete, Linda turned her attention to the other half of the hillside. The base of the slope seemed like a perfect location for a pond, so she started digging. Linda and friends hand dug a 6- by 6-ft. pond that’s 3 ft. deep in the center. She laid a pond liner in the hole and covered it with rocks (of course) and gravel. "I read that if you put an old carpet under the pond liner it will protect it, so when my neighbor was pulling up some old rugs, I grabbed them," she says. She now has Siberian irises and low-growing plants, such as thyme and violets, growing around the pond. Linda also constructed a waterfall, taking advantage of the natural slope. A pump and water filter in the pond move water up the slope and gravity carries it back down to cascade over the rocks to the pond.

To enjoy her plantings, Linda has placed a concrete bench near the pond, an arbor with clematis growing on it, and a gazebo halfway up the slope. "My mom and I love having tea on the patio in the afternoon, where we can enjoy the flowers and the water," she says.

Linda works with water in other ways too. She loves her Deluxe Rain Barrel. "I place it under the downspout from the roof. It fills up quickly and I use the 75 gallons of water to keep new plants and containers moist," she says. "It’s great!"

The Hose Butler is also a favorite product. "I have it placed halfway up the hill so I can connect that hose with the hose from the house and water the plants up the slope," she says. "I leave it out all year. It’s sturdy, hasn’t rusted and is carefree," she says.

Garden Maintenance

Linda is a true trial and error gardener. She has learned from her mistakes. When she first built the terrace, she had her boyfriend till up a section of soil. She didn’t plant immediately and a large rainstorm washed the soil and mulch all down the slope to the bottom. "At least it was in a neat pile at the bottom to shovel back up again," she says.

Now that the garden’s established, Linda has little work to do other than moving and planting new plants at her whim. "I mulch heavily so there’s less weeding and watering and more enjoying," says Linda. "It’s relaxing being in the garden. Even though my neighbors have come to enjoy it too, I grow my garden for me," says Linda. "After a hard day at work I love to fuss in the garden and escape the world," she says.

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