How to Create a Backyard Outdoor Oasis

By Shelby Deering

Since we’ve been at home more than ever before, it’s no wonder that many of us suddenly have an urge to level up our indoor and outdoor spaces. Whether you’re spending the majority of your time sitting on the patio these days or simply want a lovely view to enjoy from your window, Becky Kielstrup, a horticulturalist and general manager of McFarland’s Avant Gardening & Landscaping, is here to share words of wisdom inspired by her company’s landscaping projects.


Extra water in your backyard got you down? Even if your property frequently deals with drainage issues, it doesn’t have to stay that way. For this project, Kielstrup shares that a dry river basin, in addition to a rain garden, may be all it takes to do away with those rainwater woes. By combining a gravel and rock river basin with a thirsty rain garden filled with plants such as German garlic, juniper bushes, blue spruce and hydrangeas (like in this homeowner’s garden), you’ll not only keep water away from your house, you’ll also create a “beautiful landscape feature,” as she describes it.

Try This:

  • Create a dry river basin with a mix of gravel and rock.
  • Fill a rain garden with water-loving native plants.
  • Finish the scene with nearby stepping stones.


When refreshing your property, keep in mind that a garden can do a lot more than provide visual appeal. It can also serve a practical purpose. For example, if you want to beautify a strip of greenspace that flanks your driveway, it’s possible, and you can even manage long-standing issues in the process. “This client was having water issues and severe erosion through a rock wall on the backside of the residence,” Kielstrup says. “We rerouted all the water to this rain garden. By doing this, we were able to save them from having to rebuild the wall. This rain garden is an element of beauty in the landscape as well as having a very important function.”

Try This:

  • Landscape features can do a lot more than look beautiful — they can improve the quality of your property.
  • A rain garden can be a less-expensive way to address big issues, like erosion.
  • Don’t overlook the small areas of your property that can be employed to help with rainwater management, such as near your driveway, or a side yard — and look beautiful.


A garden punctuated with flowers, stone, gravel and mulch is a pretty and polished way to showcase your front entry. And in the case of this project helmed by Avant Gardening, it did a lot more. At this home, the sidewalk was higher than the foundation, something that often resulted in a water-filled basement. Kielstrup says that they created a raised area to prevent water from seeping into the foundation’s walls, planting the space with perennials to absorb as much of the water as possible. The berm also directs water away.

Try This:

  • Don’t just plant flowers — include other features to elevate your plantings, like natural stone, gravel and mulch.
  • Greet guests with a small and stunning garden at your entryway.


To bring beauty to any yard, always keep one tip in mind: Embrace natural touches whenever possible, including non-manufactured visuals that are drawn right from the great outdoors. One way to achieve this flawlessly is through natural stone. Since this project called for a new entry, Kielstrup says the team utilized native boulders, Fox Valley steps (stone that displays a mix of tan and gray hues) and wall stone. “The play on color is so beautiful and makes the entrance very inviting,” Kielstrup says. The space is topped off with verdant plantings.

Try This:

  • Pick natural stones with eye-catching color variations.
  • Use plantings to soften hardscaping.
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