It’s hard enough to plan a garden on your own, let alone plan one on a budget. But leave it to a Hollywood production supervisor to pull it together. Di Zock designed her backyard for the house that she rents in Venice, California, for less than $2,800. She created three outdoor rooms: a living area, a shed office, and a dining space. Her tools: paint, slipcovers, and patience. Creating a backyard design on a budget may take longer than a week or two; you have to shop close-out sales and haunt thrift stores. “But relying on imagination more than dollars has its benefits,” Di says. The result is more original and more personal. And career changing—Di left the film biz for garden design. Info: Di Zock Gardens ()
2 of 7Photo by Bret Gum; written by Sharon Cohoon
Outdoor living area
$220: Choose the inspiration piece. That’s what Di did when she selected the ceramic fountain (far right) from the Jungle Nursery (). Its turquoise hue inspired her garden’s striking color scheme.
$100: You love it? The price is right? Buy it. Di had no idea how she was going to use the ceramic elephants (to left of fountain) when she saw them at a thrift shop. “But I knew they were just the right touch of whimsy.”
$10: Paint inexpensive pots. Between discarded pots and “wainscoting” a terra-cotta pot in blue, Di coughed up only $10.
$125: Ground the space. The turquoise-and-brown rug, made from recycled plastics, dresses up the garden.
Other costs: Sofa linens, $40.
3 of 7Photo by Bret Gum; written by Sharon Cohoon
The shed office
$1,395: Deck out the office. The number-one expenditure, the shed from the Home Depot was outfitted in Di’s quirky style with art—including a Spanish cross. The desktop inside is an old door.
$240: Repurpose. This tall chartreuse pot (left;) was purchased for a client and intended as a fountain. But Di couldn’t make it water-tight, so she “gifted” it to her garden.
Other costs: Pushpin wallboards, $300; desk (old door), $30.
4 of 7Photo by Bret Gum; written by Sharon Cohoon
Outdoor dining room
$200: Repaint for character. The ordinary picnic table and benches were used for a movie set. After the filming was over, Di bought them for a fraction of the original cost, then repainted them an unconventional turquoise.
$25: Decorate with plants. Chocolate brown Aeonium and orange Sedum are so stunning that you can get away with cheap pots.
$40: Shake up spray paint. Di bought white Moroccan lanterns at a Venice gift shop and spray-painted them bright orange. Similar ones available from
5 of 7Photo by Bret Gum; written by Sharon Cohoon
More ideas: Plant cuttings as decor
Cuttings from echeveria and Senecio radicans deck a fan palm’s trunk.
6 of 7Photo by Bret Gum; written by Sharon Cohoon
More ideas: Tile mosaic
A tile mosaic of Di’s former pet, created by a friend, dresses the fence.
7 of 7Photo by Bret Gum; written by Sharon Cohoon
More ideas: Transformed nursery box
Paint and stenciling transform a nursery box into a house number.