Outdoor kitchens and a party-ready atmosphere certainly add a lot to your backyard. But don’t forget natural beauty! A well-tended lawn and eye-catching decorative plants bring an atmosphere of tranquility that anyone will appreciate.
As many Texan gardeners know, it’s important to find plants that can survive and even thrive in a Houston summer. Fortunately, a long list of beautiful flowers can do just that! Here are just a few colorful plants to keep in your backyard all year round:
Most of the year, azalea bushes are dark green. But every spring, the entire bush is covered in fragrant dark pink flowers. These plants are perfect as a poolside accessory! Plant your azaleas in the spring in a lightly shaded part of your yard for best results.
Known for their dark green leaves and their vibrantly white flowers, gardenias bloom in early summer and release a strong fragrance. These plants require a bit more attention to grow, but once the bush is strong and healthy, they thrive in the hot Houston climate. Plant your gardenias in an area of full sun to light shade.
Lilacs are the perfect choice for a homeowner looking to plant a rainbow of flowers! Colors include pink, purple, white, and yellow. Better yet, lilacs planted as a hedge can grow up to 9 feet tall and serve as a natural privacy fence with minimal care required! Plant your lilacs in the spring or fall in a space that gets a good amount of sun every afternoon.
4) Star Jasmine
White, sweet-smelling star jasmine originates from Japan and China, making it an excellent candidate for the warm Houston climate. This plant has a slow start, but once it gets going, it can grow up to between 3-6 feet high! Depending on how they’re planted, they can either spread out as ground cover or climb nearby structures for a breathtaking look.
Pro Tip: Want a truly elegant pergola in your backyard? Plant some star jasmine nearby and train it to climb the structure! The flowers will provide a wonderfully perfumed atmosphere.
Finally, families with children will love the chance to watch butterflies! To attract these colorful insects, plant milkweed around your yard. Don’t worry–the plants aren’t poisonous to people (though they can be harmful to pets). The bright orange and black monarch butterfly exclusively feeds on milkweed nectar, all but guaranteeing you’ll see plenty of butterflies in your backyard! Plant your milkweed in full sunlight and give the leaves plenty of time to grow.
Natural Decor for Your Yard
At the end of the day, nature is the best decorator on the planet. Fragrant, colorful flowers are the perfect way to bring a pop of color and gentle beauty to your outdoor hangout space.
With everyone spending much more time than usual at home, plenty of people are viewing their houses with a critical eye. Craft blogs are full of “lockdown ideas” to spruce up the house or finally finish that renovation project as quarantine continues. These ideas certainly keep people busy and improve the house in the process. But why stop with the inside?
Your backyard is just as important as the rest of your house, and if you’re staying home like most people currently are, you’ll be spending more time there than typical. Try adding a few custom touches for a backyard ambiance you’re sure to love! Here are just a few ideas.
In a big city like Houston, we’re surrounded by so many buildings and streets that it can be difficult to get in touch with nature. Why not bring nature to you with some colorful plants native to the Houston area? Flowers, vines, and even herbs or vegetable plants can provide a welcome touch of color and natural beauty in your urban backyard.
Night or evening gatherings need light to keep the party in full swing. Lights like wall-mounted lanterns or ceiling lights fit the bill, but why not dress things up a bit more? Outdoor string lights or fairy lights add a magical touch to your yard after sunset. Better yet, citronella candles help keep mosquitoes away while adding a soft ambient light to your outdoor living room. Experiment to find your favorite mood lighting configuration.
Do you miss telling ghost stories around the fire on a camping trip? Bring that experience to your backyard with a customized firepit. Choose from simple or elaborate designs to light the night and give you a memorable camping experience without leaving home.
Create a Luxurious Backyard Ambiance
Your backyard should be your ultimate hangout spot, completely customized to your preferences and needs. This is especially true now that you’re spending more time at home than usual. Make sure your stay-at-home period is an enjoyable one!
On a summer evening in Houston, few things are more satisfying than sitting down to a freshly grilled backyard dinner. And why restrict yourself to just grilling steaks? A versatile grill like the Big Green Egg can cook everything from meat to vegetables and even pizza! Try something new for dinner tonight.
6 tbsp butter mixed with roasted garlic, basil, and parsley
3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
Your Big Green Egg will need to cook the oysters at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Shuck the oysters and discard the flat top of the shell, keeping the bowl-shaped bottom half. Place the bowl-shaped shells on a perforated cooking grid. Add half a tablespoon of softened butter to each oyster. Place the grid inside your heated Big Green Egg grill and close the lid, letting the oysters cook for about 4 minutes or until bubbly. Serve the oysters garnished with lemon slices and chives.
2) Beer Glazed Beef Ribs
These ribs need a long time to cook, but all the waiting will be worth it at dinnertime!
1 5-6 lb rack of short ribs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bottle dark beer of your choice
Preheat the Big Green Egg to 265 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the membrane from the ribs and brush them in olive oil. Season them with the garlic, salt, and pepper. Place in the Egg with the meat facing up for 2 hours, then flip and cook for 1 more hour. Pour the beer into a shallow heat-proof pan, place the ribs in the beer, and cover with foil. Place the pan back into the Egg for 3 more hours. Serve whole garnished with your favorite barbecue sauce.
3) Smoked Chicken Sandwiches with Chipotle Mayo
This recipe is provided courtesy of Chef Billy Parisi in partnership with Creekstone. You can find more details about this recipe on his website.
For the chicken
6 fresh chicken breasts
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tsp onion powder
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground mustard
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp chipotle powder
¼ tsp paprika
Mix the herbs and spices together and rub over all sides of each chicken breast. Cover the chicken and let it marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or up to 48 hours. Smoke on your Big Green Egg for about 2 hours or until cooked all the way through. Wrap the chicken in aluminum foil and set aside for at least 30 minutes before cutting.
For the chipotle mayo
2 cups mayonnaise
3 minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 ½ tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
Mix all ingredients together until well-combined. Store in the fridge until it’s time to make the sandwiches.
3 sliced heirloom tomatoes
1 head butter leaf lettuce
2 thinly sliced avocados
2 cups packed shredded kale
24 strips bacon, cooked to taste
1 lb thinly sliced ham
12 fried eggs, cooked to taste
12 slices mozzarella cheese
12 slices pepper jack cheese
12 toasted sesame seed buns
Spread a thin layer of mayo on the inside half of each top bun. Add however much ham, chicken, and cheese you wish to the bottom buns and melt under a broiler. Stack the vegetables on the top bun. Once the cheese has melted, combine both halves for a completed sandwich. This recipe makes about 12 sandwiches.
4) Grilled Pizza
The smoky flavor of a grilled pizza is the perfect end to a Friday night!
Enough pizza dough for a large pizza (homemade or store-bought)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
However many toppings you like: sauce, cheese, meat, veggies, etc.
Roll out the pizza dough and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Grill the dough for 2 minutes. Add your toppings and cook another 2-5 minutes or until done.
Mix the pineapple, onions, green pepper, cilantro, salt, and lime juice and refrigerate. Grill tilapia over medium heat until done. Serve spread with salsa.
6) Stuffed Burgers
Stuff a burger patty with cheese, bacon, veggies, or other fillings for a savory surprise.
1 raw burger patty per person (or enough raw ground beef to make the patties yourself)
1 oz filling per patty: bacon bits, cheese, onions, peppers, etc.
If using ground beef, shape the beef into patties. Press the center of each patty down and work the meat into a bowl-like shape. Fill each hollow with about 1 oz of filling. Make a “cap” with the remaining meat and press it onto the top of each patty to seal it shut. Grill burgers until well-done.
7) Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken
This chicken may require some preparation in advance, but the result is well worth it.
8 chicken breasts
1 cup tequila
1 cup olive oil
Juice of 4 limes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
4 tbsp agave nectar
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Mix tequila, olive oil, lime juice, salt, onion powder, agave nectar, and cilantro to make a marinade. Place the chicken breasts in the marinade, ensuring they’re completely covered, and let them marinate in the fridge for 2-8 hours. Grill the chicken on medium heat until its internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
If using meat, marinate it overnight ahead of time. Choose your ingredients and slide them securely onto the skewer. Grill over direct heat for 10-15 minutes or until done.
9) Honey Soy Grilled Pork Chops
Another recipe that requires marinating, this one promises sweet, juicy results.
8 pork chops
½ cup honey
1 cup soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes to taste
Mix honey, soy sauce, garlic, and pepper flakes to make a marinade. Submerge the pork chops in the marinade and allow to sit overnight in the fridge. Grill 8 minutes per side, remove from heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
10) Grilled Veggies
There’s no shortage of grilling recipes for meat-eaters, but what about vegetarians? Fortunately, your grill can cook up some smoky, delicious veggies for anyone who wants them!
1-1.5 cups veggies per person (corn, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, asparagus, potatoes, etc.)
Enough of your favorite marinade to cover all the veggies (if marinating)
Salt and pepper to taste
Enough olive oil to coat all the veggies (if not marinating)
If you choose to marinate the vegetables ahead of time, wash and chop them to the desired size. Prepare your marinade, submerge the veggies, and leave them in the fridge overnight. Grill until tender-crisp and serve hot.
If you’d rather not marinate the vegetables, you don’t need to do as much preparation ahead of time. Wash and chop your vegetables to the desired size. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper until completely coated. Grill until tender-crisp and serve hot.
Summer Dinners for the Win!
Professional and amateur chefs alike will love the chance to grill something amazing on a warm summer evening. Experiment with different ingredients and proportions to find your favorite go-to recipe. Meanwhile, enjoy impressing your family with your newfound skills!
Designing an outdoor kitchen means designing a space that can withstand the elements on a daily basis. Certain features or construction materials that are perfectly acceptable indoors can’t survive outside. This is particularly important when it comes to outdoor kitchen flooring materials. The floor will inevitably be covered in dirt or splashed pool water at some point, so it had better be strong enough to withstand abuse.
Two common types of material are often used for outdoor kitchen floors: concrete or a form of treated wood. Both have their pros and cons depending on your local climate and decorative preferences. Before building your outdoor kitchen, look over this list of popular flooring materials and consider which type will work best for you:
1) Pressure-Treated Lumber
Using high pressure, preserving agents are forced deep into wood to create pressure-treated lumber. This type of wood stands up remarkably well to moisture, making it an ideal choice for humid environments. Pressure-treated lumber is easily manufactured and relatively inexpensive compared to other materials, but does require annual maintenance to retain its appealing color.
Cedar wood has a well-deserved reputation for being beautiful and resistant to both rot and bugs. While it does cost slightly more than pressure-treated lumber, it’s also very durable and will last for many years without rotting or weakening. The only potential drawback is the color. Over time, cedar weathers to a silvery gray color. Many homeowners still love this color, but if you’re looking for an outdoor space that looks the same for years, cedar may not be for you.
Redwood may have a higher price tag than other natural wood floorings, but it’s very much worth it. This wood already resists rot on its own, and once sealed, it lasts longer than any other wood floorings on the market. Better yet, redwood retains its color far longer than cedar. It still fades with time, but the vibrant reddish color will last for years.
4) Composite Wood
Strictly speaking, composite wood is not true wood, but a convincing copy. This material consists of plastic and wood fibers pressed tightly together into boards. Composite wood looks and feels virtually identical to genuine wood, but due to its high plastic content, it lasts far longer. It also requires virtually no maintenance. Plastic can’t soak up water or rot, after all!
Wooden flooring provides an elegant flair that is difficult to duplicate. However, homeowners who prefer a low-cost, low-maintenance, and durable flooring material will appreciate concrete. If the idea of a gray, lifeless concrete floor sounds unappealing, don’t worry–concrete is a remarkably versatile material! Concrete can be stained a variety of colors or even stamped with textures that resemble elegant bricks or tiles. Repairs are very straightforward as well. While constant use will eventually cause concrete to chip or crack, replacing the slab costs significantly less than repairing a wooden floor.
Pro Tip: Stamped concrete laid by a professional looks identical to color bricks or tiles. This style of flooring gives you an elegant aesthetic at a fraction of the cost of other materials!
Creating an Appealing Outdoor Space
There’s no “correct” choice for flooring materials used outdoors. However, beginning the project with an understanding of your local climate and maintenance schedule will help you find the best material for your particular outdoor kitchen.
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Hot, humid Houston summers aren’t always the most pleasant times to be outdoors. Fortunately, you can still enjoy the fresh air and gentle breezes by adding a few features to your backyard to protect yourself from the heat. You can even have outdoor parties during the summer! All you have to do is make sure your outdoor kitchen and hangout spots are ready to provide comfort during the hot weather.
With strategic designs for your outdoor kitchen and hangout space, you can create a backyard ready for any summer day. Here are just a few ideas to spruce up your yard for warmer weather:
Tidy up the yard
Cover your dining area
Upgrade your appliances
Style outdoor furniture
Add a bar
1) Tidy Up the Yard
Nobody wants to party in a dirty, overgrown yard! Mow the grass and haul away any trash. Consider pressure washing your patio and any concrete surfaces for a brand new look. In general, just take the time to make your yard look appealing and ready for when guests arrive.
2) Cover Your Dining Area
An outdoor dining room may sound appealing for backyard parties of any kind, but if it starts to rain or the sun gets too hot, your guests will have to run indoors again. Prevent this issue by installing a new patio cover over your dining space! Let the party continue, rain or shine, and enjoy a shady spot all year round.
3) Upgrade Your Appliances
Whether you have an entire outdoor kitchen or just a grilling station in the backyard, you likely enjoy the ability to cook fresh food for your guests. Why not upgrade your appliances to make your experience easier? Swap your old grill for a more efficient model or see what your outdoor kitchen still needs. A few new cooking appliances could make a big difference in your party hosting experience.
Pro Tip: Hosting parties after dark? Hang string lights or install solar pathway lights for an elegant touch and to let everyone see in the dark!
4) Style Outdoor Furniture
Outdoor dining areas or hangout spots need comfortable seating for all your guests. Of course, it’s equally important to make sure that the furniture you choose can withstand the elements. Find outdoor-safe furniture to match your design scheme and furnish your backyard to get the party started!
5) Add a Bar
Finally, add the finishing touch to your summer party space: an outdoor bar. A nearby wine fridge or full-sized refrigerator can keep drinks cold and produce ice for everyone. A well-designed, comfortable bar is the perfect addition to a summer evening spent with friends outdoors. Give it a try!
Enjoy Your Summer!
Upgrading your backyard relaxation spaces goes a long way toward making summer days that much more enjoyable. Try throwing a family cookout or moving a planned party outdoors. Take full advantage of your newly refurbished space!