Back Yard Overhaul Pt. 3: Crisis Intervention

The back yard of The Pink Ranch has been a source of considerable torment from the day we moved in.  Actually, strike that.  When we moved in, the back yard was covered feet of snow from a fantastically intense winter and we were completely oblivious to what was waiting for us, like, A SLOPE, A SLIDING CONCRETE SLAB, STRAWBERRY PLANTS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GRASS and way too much randomness to mention here.

Since our move in 2007 we have lovingly tended the yard, trying our best to rejuvenate it to what we assume was its one time original glory.  We’ve gone through a 2009 iteration and a 2010 iteration which you can read about here.  But as a quick recap, here’s what the yard in general looked like in ’09…

Not horrible, but not great. The two tons of gravel we laid was a bad idea.  It fixed the mud problem, but then we developed a gravel problem.  But at that point the grass was still growing in evenly. Oh the salad days.

Summer 2010 marked our last attempt at fixing the dirt/patio/gravel issue didn’t turn out too bad did it? At least in this picture? Oh and at the end of ’09 we painted the house which was huuuuuuge improvement:

And then, 2011. We had this crazy dry winter (followed by a super wet summer) and the dogs…well the dogs just leave a path of destruction wherever they go. Wherever. They. Go.

So this is what The Pink Ranch Back Yard, July 2011 looks like:

Yes, that's new paint on the brick and a new sliding glass door. No we haven't painted the trim above the door yet.

ugh.

Thanks to loads of rain this summer, too much shade, weak grass and insane canines we STILL have a mud problem.

Classy. See how we just gave up this year and haven’t even filled our planters? It’s all just been a bit much to digest.

Oh and also they’ve destroyed the fence in their ever present quest to capture squirrels who taunt them from 20 feet above on power lines. See that  line down the center of the fence? That’s muddy paw prints where they jump. Charming.

So, so, so very classy.

So we’ve taken matters into our own hands, ponied up the cash (the new fence being the launching pad for a major back yard intervention) and after considering cost and materials and our future with this home we’ve decided to lay down a concrete patio that will span nearly 800 sq feet and cover up the uneven ground, the gravel, the pavers, the dog’s holes, the random roses, the weeds, the concrete slab of death and all other miseries in this area.

Work starts tomorrow (weather permitting) and I’m so excited.  I’ve been obsessing over one of my very favorite favorite favorite iPad apps: Houzz and gathering lots of inspiration photos for our new and amazing back yard.  Here’s the basic idea of where we ultimately want to go; clean and modern of course, but also kid friendly and easy to maintain:

Moraga Residence contemporary exterior
contemporary exterior design by san francisco architect J. Weiss Design
Longueville contemporary landscape
contemporary landscape design by sydney landscape architect Secret Gardens of Sydney
Sunol Landscape modern landscape
modern landscape design by san francisco landscape architect Huettl Landscape Architecture
Water Feature modern landscape
modern landscape design by portland architect Giulietti Schouten Architects
Sitting Area  patio
patio design by new york architect James Cleary Architecture
FormLA Landscaping modern landscape
modern landscape design by los angeles landscape architect Cassy Aoyagi
Sunol Landscape modern landscape
modern landscape design by san francisco landscape architect Huettl Landscape Architecture
Magazine Idea House 2 modern landscape
modern landscape design by san francisco landscape architect Shades Of Green Landscape Architecture
Colman modern landscape
modern landscape design by san francisco landscape architect Huettl Landscape Architecture
The concrete will span from the inside of our chimney to the northernmost fence where we keep our grill (see below).

holy wow. there's kind of a lot going on here.

They want to color and stamp it, and this is where my anxiety lies.  I’m really wanting something clean with straight lines. Just good old fashioned concrete, really.  We will be planting a border garden around the total exterior of the rectangular patio, so I hope to balance the gray house and gray concrete (too much gray? I fear we’re getting there) with colorful drought-resistant plants and grasses. Also I hope to use the chimney area to plant a small vegetable garden and possibly mount a vertical herb garden on the wall.  Wooly Pockets here we come!
Have you had any experience with colored concrete or stamping? Vertical gardens? Hearty Zone 4 plants I (and the dogs) can’t kill? What do you recommend?