It’s time to embrace your outdoor space

Mike has taken down the hockey rink he installed last winter and is now preparing the yard to become an eco-friendly play space.

“We live on a lake near the woods. I design and build the playground using natural materials that reflect the landscape,” said Mike, owner of Broderick Construction, who will do the work himself.

Mike and Emily Broderick with their daughters, Rowan and Cora, on a terrace they built at their home in Essex.Nathan Klima for the Boston Globe

“Our house has an open floor plan,” Emily added. “We want the indoor family space to feel seamlessly connected to the patio and backyard. As soon as the weather permits, our family eats all the time on the terrace.

“This spring we will be adding new rugs to the family room as well as the patio to make it a true living space,” Mike said. “We will also be adding plants indoors and outdoors to improve the connection between living spaces.”

Outdoor spaces come in all sizes and configurations. Dolinger enjoys its approximately 15-by-20-foot Brookline roof deck with potted trees, a rose-covered trellis, and a water feature.

“For me, it’s really like having another room,” Dolinger said. “I use it in spring, summer and fall. This year I also installed a heater and used it in the winter. Especially with the pandemic, it’s been wonderful to open the patio doors to my kitchen and connect to the outdoors. Fresh air is energizing. I was even able to social distance with a few friends.

Ed MacLean of Potted Up in Boston designed Dolinger’s rooftop oasis and does spring maintenance. MacLean and his team prepare the patio for the season by assessing the health of trees and perennials and adding new plants to fill in spaces or add color.

“Marna loves color in her garden, especially purple and yellow. We’ll add a few flowering annuals for pops of color,” MacLean said. “We will examine any damage, any displacement and make the water feature operational. On a roof, wind is a concern and we need to make sure the irrigation is working to keep plants and trees from drying out.

Potted Up’s Tom Kroon beautifies a rooftop terrace in Brookline. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

The natural beauty of the 251-acre World’s End Conservation Area is the backdrop to Bradley and Anthony’s neighborhood in Hingham.

“We fell in love with the location – the serenity and natural feeling of the property,” Bradley recalled of their decision to purchase the home in 2003. “We didn’t choose a house, we chose the property.”

The couple ended up renovating the house to suit their needs, and then five years ago they hired Tish Campbell of Tish Landscape Design to design a yard that respected the natural environment and suited their lifestyle.

“It was really important to us that the landscape be natural and fit the neighborhood,” Bradley said.

Campbell’s design focused on connecting to the environment through native plantings, natural materials, and a seamless flow from indoor to outdoor living. Its design requires less annual updating than more formal gardens, but there is still work to be done in the spring.

“We both have busy careers. While I love working in my little herb garden, we’re not big gardeners,” said Anthony, who loves to cook and will be adding some of his favorite organic herb annuals to those that have survived the winter.

Landscape designer Tish Campbell assesses winter damage to a garden in Hingham filled with native trees and shrubs. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

At just over an acre, Hingham’s landscape offers several areas for the family of four to enjoy the outdoors, including a large deck, fire pit and pollinator garden.

Campbell handles annual spring maintenance and design updates as the family’s needs change.

When their two sons became teenagers, an old playground was replaced by the foyer, where the whole family could sit together or have fun all year round. Constructed of low-maintenance native stone, the fire pit requires only a quick cleaning in the spring.

After the snow melts, Campbell surveys the landscape to assess winter damage and the need for spring cleanup.

“There are three stages in the process,” Campbell explained. “The first is to assess the damage. There may be downed tree branches, erosion or some plants may have become too aggressive. The next step is to procrastinate. We don’t rake leaves or cut ornamental grasses until the temperature averages 50 degrees. Waiting protects pollinators. Finally, we can add or replace planting as needed.

The days are getting longer and the temperature is warming up. Bradley is already using his grill/smoker to cook his meals on the patio and the trees and plants are coming to life on Dolinger’s urban patio.

In Essex, completing the new Broderick girls’ play area has become even more important as they will welcome a new baby sibling in July.

“With the baby due this summer, we’ve prioritized spring plans,” Emily Broderick said. “We really love the outdoors, and being able to sit on the patio this summer while our girls play in the yard is something I’m looking forward to.”

Linda Greenstein can be contacted at [email protected].

Mike and Emily Broderick watch their 4-year-old daughter, Rowan, ride a scooter on a deck they built at their home in Essex.Nathan Klima for the Boston Globe
Mike and Emily Broderick push their daughters, Rowan and Cora, on swings they fixed under the bridge they built. Nathan Klima for the Boston Globe