Nothing like an outdoor wedding to jumpstart a backyard makeover

other path at Jen Weber's gardens
This path goes from the patio to the back lawn. It’s lovely, but too narrow; wide enough only for “weiner” dogs. The boxwoods at the end of the path are an obstruction and will be replaced by planters. The maple limb you see is too low and will be cut off. And the trailer will be moved before the wedding! (Yes, it needs to be weeded, too.) Photo courtesy Jen Weber

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Jen and Joe Weber moved their family into their new home three years ago. When they got there, they found that the previous owners had planted bishop’s weed (also called goutweed), a nasty, very aggressive plant that spreads easily and is hard to get rid of.

The bishop’s weed is still there, stretching 66 feet along one side of the house.

Other projects, such as fixing “the path to nowhere,” haven’t been started yet, either, and trees that fell in a windstorm this past winter have created even more tasks.

But now that the Webers’ daughter Jill and her fiance Ryan plan to be married in the backyard in August 2026, these projects—and many more—have risen to a high priority.

There should be enough time to get the landscape renovated.

“For our Western New York area, two years is a good window to plan ahead,” Jen Weber said. “You’ll have time for any mass plantings or landscape work, and for perennials and shrubs to grow and fill out.  You’ll also have time to replace anything that didn’t grow as you’d hoped.”

Jen Weber is vice president and manager at Mike Weber Greenhouses, 42 French Rd., West Seneca. Her husband Joe is president, and their daughter Jill and son Alex work there, too. (Alex is majoring in bassoon performance at Boston Conservatory.)

Whether you want to plan a big event or just want to get some ideas on how to make your landscape better, you’ll find great tips in this article.

Sizes of backyards

The Webers have 10 acres, half of which is woods. A very large suburban yard is only half an acre; most are much smaller. Urban yards are even smaller.

When you are planning a special event, consider the size of your landscape:

  • If you have one acre or more, be sure that there’s room for delivery vans, trucks and such to drive over the lawn.   
  • If you have an urban yard, do you have a clear path for delivery people to get to your backyard? 
  • Is there a tree in the way or a swing set too close to the driveway?
landscape drawing
The drawing of your landscape doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s even okay if your eraser leaves some smudges. This is just part of Jen Weber’s drawing. Photo courtesy Jen Weber

Start with a drawing

The first step is to draw out your yard.

This is a great way to start whether you’re planning a wedding, a special occasion or just want to renovate your yard.

Your drawing doesn’t have to be fancy, perfect or precise, she said. It just has to be a diagram of your house with all entrances clearly marked. Fill in with driveways, garages, barns, etc. Next add your current plantings and trees. 

If you are planning a wedding, decide where in the yard the ceremony will take place. Draw an aisle for the bride to walk down, the area for the ceremony, where the guests will sit, and the area for dinner and dancing. 

“Take stock of what you have and know your limits,” she said.

path to nowhere in Jen Weber backyard
At left is the “path to nowhere.” Two stones lead from the patio, then stop and don’t go to the driveway. Joe Weber put his smoker on the porch to use all winter, “but it has to go” before the wedding, Jen said. Photo courtesy Jen Weber

List things that need to be fixed

Now that you have an idea of what you have in your landscape, you should identify what needs fixing.  

Here is Weber’s list:

  • Something has to be done about “the path to nowhere.” You start on the back porch, then there’s a couple of flat stones. It would be nice to have the path connect to the driveway, but after the first two stones, there is nothing but grass. “It’s been on our to-do list, but it never got done,” Weber said.
  • There is a different path that goes from the patio to the back lawn. Unfortunately, the path is wide enough only for their “weiner” dogs. That path needs to be widened. Unfortunately, at the end of the path are two boxwoods blocking the path. They need to be taken out.
  • Two 60-foot trees fell during a windstorm this past winter. Those fallen trees have to be cut up and taken out.
  • “Right now, our yard is in the “got-to-cut-down-everything phase,” Weber said, because in addition to the fallen trunks, there are a couple limbs that need to be taken down. The limbs hang low—almost to the top of people’s heads—and would block the view of the ceremony and activity in the rest of the yard.
  • Bishop’s weed, an aggressive plant that was intentionally planted by the previous owner, grows along 66 feet of the south side of her house. “That darn stuff is making its way along the whole rest of the yard,” she said. “Since we have time, we will cover it with a tarp and let the tarp stay in place until fall 2025. I hope it will be dead by then, but I feel we may have to dig out six inches of soil to remove the runners.”
  • A horse pasture, now abandoned, had been surrounded by an electric fence. The posts are rotten and wires are hanging down. “We need to take all the fencing down,” she said. “It would be a hazard if people walked through it.”
  • The Webers will have their house painted in July. They made sure that there aren’t many plants up against house. That way they don’t have to worry about the painters stepping off a ladder and killing a favorite plant.
  • Currently, bats live behind the shutters on the house, so “we will put up bat houses and hope the bats find new home during the painting,” she said.
  • A wild rose needs to be ripped out. Nearby are 12 oak leaf hydrangeas, but “the deer ate them so I need a new plan,” she said.

Let’s talk about scale

rose of Sharon shrubs in the midst of taller shrubs and trees
Tall trees to the left. Tall trees and shrubs to the right. In the middle are several rose of Sharon shrubs that are only six feet tall. They can reach 15 feet and will be in scale with the rest of the plantings–but that won’t happen before the wedding. Photo courtesy Jen Weber

Last summer, Weber planted five rose of Sharon shrubs to fill in a gap of a privacy “hedge” between her property and the neighbor’s.

The privacy hedge is a 100-foot row of tall trees and shrubs. There are mature, 45-foot-tall pine and spruce with shorter serviceberry, Japanese maples and ornamental plants.

“I wasn’t thinking about a wedding when I planted the rose of Sharons,” Weber said. Right now those shrubs are only six feet tall. They will get 12 or 15 feet tall, but not in time for the wedding.

Scale is very important, she explained. If you have an area full of trees that are 40 or 50 feet high, the underplanting should be 6 feet to 12 feet high.

She gave an example of planting a three-foot spirea in front of a 40-foot blue spruce.

“That would look out of place,” she said. Better choices in that case are smoke bushes, aronia bushes, elderberry, chamaecyparis ‘Golden Mop’, dogwood, holly or weigela. (These are plants that Mike Weber Greenhouses carries. Their knowledgeable staff can help you find plants for your yard.)

Statement pieces

Find something to stand out.

In Weber’s backyard, the statement piece is an 80-year-old crabapple. The towering tree, in a spot of its own, draws your attention.

She plans to hang lights on the crabapple for the wedding.

Statement pieces are generally big and different from everything around it, she explained. In your front yard, consider a lilac or Japanese maple in each corner to draw your eye away from the house and into the yard. If you have plants along the driveway, one big dahlia would stand out from everything else.

crabapple tree in Jen Weber's yard for outdoor wedding
This 80-year-old crabapple tree works as a statement piece. Photo courtesy Jen Weber

Think of your guests

Weber lives on a dead end street where everyone else has ponds. Because of the mosquitos, the family usually sits inside a screened porch in the evening.

For the wedding, they will get a mosquito company so their guests can be outside in the evening.

Then there are the bees.

“On one side of the family, lots of people have EpiPens” because they are allergic to bee stings, she said. For the wedding day, she will try to decrease the number of bees that will be close to the guests.

The vegetable plants attract bees, so she will take out the vegetable garden and place vegetables in pots. The horse pasture, which has wild grasses and milkweed, will be mowed before the wedding, then let it go wild again.

“You have to think of your guests,” she said.

2 Comments on “Nothing like an outdoor wedding to jumpstart a backyard makeover

  1. Interesting to be able to be privy to the planning of a big event. Thank you and the Webers.

Leave a Reply

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

Name *