Overgrown backyard becomes relaxed space for entertaining

front porch on Garden Walk Buffalo
The urn at the left is part of a large fountain. People who walk by drop pennies and quarters into the fountain. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


Doug Lilley uses many container plantings, even on the gate to the backyard. Notice the shed, which is painted with the same turquoise, orange and brown as the front porch. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

By Connie Oswald Stofko

The front porch “is like another living room,” said Doug Lilley of Livingston St., Buffalo. “I love sitting out here. It’s peaceful.”

When he bought this 150-year-old double seven years ago, the upstairs porch was rotting and needed to be replaced. An addition to the back of the house was rotten and Lilley had to lop off the entire addition. The backyard was so overgrown, it was hard to walk back there.

Now the house and landscape are bright spots in an up-and-coming neighborhood.

I visited last year during Garden Walk Buffalo. This year Garden Walk Buffalo will be held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29. Five free hop-on/hop-off shuttles buses with guides from Explore Buffalo will run continuously both days.

If you live in the neighborhood, there is still time to sign up to share your garden. The deadline is May 15. Your garden must be in the area from Canalside to the Scajaquada, and from the Niagara River to Main Street. Register here. 

hot tub in backyard on Garden Walk Buffalo
The containers holding annuals carry out the color scheme. Here they surround the hot tub in the backyard. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


fountain in backyard on Garden Walk Buffalo
Another fountain is in the backyard. Doug Lilley brings the fountains and ceramic pots inside for the winter. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The backyard had been an overgrown forest, and when Lilley tried to dig, he kept pulling up stones. But he wasn’t discouraged; he used the stones for the borders of his raised beds.

Now the backyard is the place where both Lilley and his tenants love to entertain.

A focal point of the yard is a platform with drapes that holds the hot tub. The color scheme of brown, turquoise and orange was inspired by a trip to Mexico. Even the containers carry out the color scheme.

Lilley relies heavily on containers. One advantage of containers is that you can change what you have in the pots from year to year.

You can also move containers around the yard. The large ceramic pots are heavy, but they can be moved, he said. He brings them all inside for the winter to protect them from cracking.

Containers don’t have to be used exclusively for annuals.

“I love hostas in pots,” Lilley said. “They look great in pots and you don’t have to do much to them.”

vegetable garden along back deck on Garden Walk Buffalo
Doug Lilley would like to expand the vegetable garden. It’s situated along the covered back deck, which holds a seating area. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


Nearby is another large fountain.

“If I had more land, believe me, I’d have more fountains!” Lilley said.

He brings the fountains inside for the winter to protect them; otherwise they will deteriorate over time. An alternative is to cover them with a tarp, but if the wind catches the tarp, it could act like a big sail and tip the top-heavy fountain over, he said.

Lilley met his husband, Alfred Calvet, online, and they have a long-distance relationship. Calvet lives in Barcelona, Spain. Lilley and Calvet spend time traveling back and forth.

So when it comes to developing the landscape, “Each year I do a little,” Lilley said.

That’s the advice he gives to other gardeners, too.

“Go slow,” Lilley said. “Plan things out.”

But if things don’t go according to plan, be willing to change.

“Those little tags that come on plants aren’t always accurate,” Lilley said. “What works here may not work over there.

“If you can change something change it. If not, work with it.”

tented back deck on Garden Walk Buffalo
The tented back deck protects the seating area. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

4 Comments on “Overgrown backyard becomes relaxed space for entertaining

  1. Beautiful! Any ideas on how to clean the fountains? I scrub and scrub and they get dirty so fast. I have it set up solar-wise. The birds love it so!

  2. Connie, as always a great article and beautiful garden. Love all the colors and runs.

  3. oh my gosh!!
    I a absolutely love and am in awe of your wonderful art ability and foresight.
    You are amazing!!!
    We definitely will come by to fully appreciate your fabulous home and gardens. ????

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *