When we bought our house, it was marketed as a "landscaper's dream." This is code for be-prepared-to-put-$10,000-into-the-yard. The yard was dead. There were no sprinklers. There was barely anything living. And what was living was Russian Sage (and weeds). The backyard had railroad ties (and not very good ones at that). The backyard felt like you were living in a hole.
The first year we lived at the house, we pulled out the sage and built a raised flower bed in the front yard. I planted Hydrangeas... and they were gorgeous! I also had Hostas and daisies.
The next summer (a year and a few months ago) we put in a sprinkler system, yards upon yards of topsoil, 2000+ square feet of sod, and built a 650 square foot deck... ALL BY OURSELVES (with the occasional help from our neighbor and some friends). We started building the deck in early July, about 2 days before a 17 day 100+ heat wave. We stained and screwed in nails at 11 p.m. We used spotlights to extend daylight. The ground was so hard that we had to use a jackhammer to dig the posts.
Earlier this year, I started landscaping the tiers. I had put in rhododendrons, periwinkle, hydrangeas, and bushes. I wasn't done, but I had a good start. The railroad ties were still ugly.
With the fire, our backyard can finally live up to its possibilities. And it is beautiful. We have trees (TREES!) and a waterfall. We have retaining walls. And I'll have a garden to start growing my own vegetables. I am just so in love with my backyard. I can't wait until Spring to really spend time out there enjoying our yard.