the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Extreme Makeover – Patio Edition

Photos (and most of the work) by Sophia.



















  1. DebR

    Wow, that looks fabulous!

    I especially like the fountain and the datura plant.

  2. Elaine

    WOW it’s really pretty! Kudos to Sophia! &… er, you too, Neil.

  3. Sarah

    wow 🙂
    very floral! pretty.

  4. liz elayne

    i love all of it…it is incredible and beautiful and looks like a place for relaxing and healing and laughter. (my favorite part is the frog couple though.)

  5. JanePoe (aka Deborah)

    What a wonderful oasis!! xx, JP

  6. E

    very nice – i love the two seater swing especially. Did it rain right before the photos or are you the kind who water plants with a hose? I don’t think you would because it would probably kill the flowers… but coming from Sydney in drought right now all I can say is that I am very jealous!

  7. Neil

    Uh-oh, does watering with a hose really kill the flowers?

  8. helen

    The flowers are in full bloom. I see a tropical palm in the background. Coming from the tropics, that’s a familiar sight. I got 2 HUGE fan palm in my garden. It’s posing quite a danger when the Southern wind blows during the end of the year. 🙂

  9. V-Grrrl

    Wow, what an explosion of color. I hope you have twinkly white lights to string about and illuminate it at night.

  10. Teebopop

    So colorful and well-organized! Very nicely done!

  11. tamar

    a veritable gan eydn!

  12. sputnik

    Whoa! Did you guys buy up the entire Home Depot? I’m imagining their garden dept. shelves denuded of merchandise. So colorful–it looks great!

  13. ekramer

    it looks beautiful

  14. Shelli

    What are those yellow hangy upside down flowers? Those are cool!

  15. SmartSocratics

    Oh wow! Oh, and I forgot, you live in California. I’ve never seen a patio with as many plants and flowers as yours, in Michigan.

    My compliments to Sophia, and you lucky guy you…you get to enjoy the fruits of her labor!

  16. alissa

    Wow! That is quite the oasis. Gorgeous.

  17. orieyenta

    Oh my gosh it is so BEAUTIFUL. It looks like one of those articles in “Better Homes and Gardens”. Good work Sophia 😉

  18. Not Fainthearted

    Neil, I think it depends on how you water with the hose. If the water pressure is too hard and it’s just blasting them down, not so good. But with a spray attachment it is fine.

    Amazing gardening. Are the banana thingees the only thing in actual ground? or is everything in pots?

    Just beautiful. Makes me want to make a cup of tea and sit there.

  19. Dagny

    Sophia does lovely work. Of course, I would expect that of her.

  20. paintergirl

    what an oasis. I love all the little nooks and secret places to sit and relax.

  21. Finn

    All I can think of when I see that is, “Who is gonna water all those?”

    Good luck with that

  22. tiff

    Holy cats, that’s gorgeous. I mean, GORGEOUS. Many hours are to be spent puttering around and watering, which is NOT a bad way to spend time. Enjoy it!

  23. Neil

    Finn, I hear you. My biggest fear is that it will be so much work to maintain this and keep everything from dying, that we will start arguing over it, like who does the dishes or who walks to dog. At least for now, it is very calming.

    Nelumbo, gardening expert, if you are reading this — we found some ugly bug in the soil (a pest — like an aphid). Does this mean we need to spray everything with pesticides?

  24. wendy

    Now that’s what I call “blooming where you are planted”. I can feel Sophia all hopped up on life from here!

    Dalhias are some of my favs..Lots of bloom for the buck!

    Well done!

  25. Sophia

    Not Fainthearted,

    the banana thingees ARE the only thing in actual ground, except it’s really a huge Bird Of Paradise thingee. 🙂 Actually, there is also a small succulent – a Jade Plant.


    those yellow hangy upside down flowers are Angel’s Trumpets or Brugmansia. People often confuse them with Datura, which looks similar but has erect flowers.

    Neil and Nelumbo, what we found was a couple of earwigs, not an aphid! I do get aphids in that big Bird of Paradise tree, so I’m sure they’ll be happy to jump ship and go to my flowers…

  26. thethinker

    Great garden.

  27. "said" woman

    It looks like a beautiful oasis for you and Sophia to get away from the hustle and bustle!!!! Amazingly alive with color!

  28. Churlita

    You guys accomplished all that and dealt with the pigeon drama? You two are truly amazing.

  29. whoorl

    Looks fantastic! Watch out for the scary bees, though. I hate bees.

  30. Ash

    Very pretty! Well done guys 🙂

  31. heather anne

    These pictures make me feel so happy. Which, I guess, is kind of the point, huh? 🙂

  32. Neil

    Whoorl — Bees?! First pigeons, then scary looking “earwigs,” now bees! Nature is scary. I say throw it down and put up a parking lot!

  33. Neil

    And one confusing thing that maybe someone knows the answer to — some flowers want shade, and some sun, and some partial shade — but doesn’t the sun move throughout the day?

  34. Pants

    Oh my goodness! So cheerful!

  35. Irina

    Very beautiful! I love all the bright colors, and the fountain. Always wanted to have a little garden of my own. : )

  36. mrsatroxi

    So pretty!

  37. Pearl

    These are not just a few flowers and plants: this is a shrine to all things that grow and are beautiful.
    What a comforting a “time-out” zone you
    guys have!
    I especially like that last photo: it’s as if these plants are smiling and saying, “We like to hang around with the Kramer/Lansky couple… We bring them good cheer.”

  38. MichelleV

    That would be a watering nightmare in Colorado.And a hail nightmare. And a bear nightmare. I posted a photo of a bear sitting on my flowers.. Anyhow. it just boils down to “I’m Jealous” it is gorgeous and you guys deserve it.

  39. question girl

    beautiful… and since they are all in containers – NO WEEDS!!!

  40. Bec

    So you start your own ‘makeover’ show in the new season?

  41. Eileen

    If you tell me this is the before shot I am going to have to throw myself under a bus

  42. Bre

    I’m jealous that she can keep them all so… alive.

  43. Not Fainthearted

    Neil, actually, the sun stays in relatively the same spot and the earth moves, but the result is the same. 😉

  44. Melissavina

    Wow, that’s a lot of prettiness. I long for a patio like that, and all those pots, and all those blossoms. I’m lucky to keep a palm tree alive.

  45. Alice

    holy cow, this is GORGEOUS. i would love to have something like this… as long as sophia came and set it up for me. and, uh, maintained it too.

  46. Neil

    Bre — we’ve only had them for a few days. We haven’t proven yet that we can “keep them alive.”

  47. princess extraordinaire

    Way to go Neil….and Sophia…it looks great!

  48. psychomom

    Beautiful and great work. Time to sit back and enjoy the natural high.

  49. Kate

    Thanks for the comment luv! I was worried that I may have lost all my favorite readers – glad to know not all are lost! 😉

    I’ve been meaning to log on to post well wishes to Sophia – please pass mine on. I hope that her gorgeous garden is a testament to how she’s healin’! ::hugs::

  50. margalit

    WOW! That is a masterpiece. Now I see why it took so long, but man, was it worth it. It’s like a tiny little outpost of civilization in a cruel cruel world! So peaceful and relaxing. I can imagine sitting on your porch swing in the late afternoon and just chatting with a glass of wine by your side.

    It’s lovely.

  51. Leah

    Wow! Sophia sure has a green thumb!! She must be pumping Miracle-Gro through her veins.

  52. Two Roads

    A wonderful respite! Enjoy! This is a great way to have fun in the park with Sophia all within the privacy of your own patio!

  53. plain jane

    Not-Fainthearted is right, you were probably off smoking pot when they discussed that in 3rd grade science class. And at night the sun is REALLY shaded.

  54. Lilymane

    The pigeon story did NOT prepare me for such a lovely sight!! What a fantastic job you did. It reminded me of my mother’s container gardens which is strange because my mother’s gardens never looked like anyone else’s gardens (here in the South). Then it hit me – my mother is a SoCal beach girl! So thanks for sharing the fruits of your hard work with us – and thank you for connecting me with my mother’s childhood. Peace.

  55. canadian_sadie

    I’m crazy about the pink hanging cans on the fence! Those are adorable! The whole garden is quite spectacular, and an amazing amount of work. I’m in awe. You’re lucky to have such a lovely space 🙂

  56. gorillabuns

    all that color made me have a seizure!

    actually, i’m quite jealous and the plants are VERY BEAUTIFUL! (HENCE MY USE OF ALL CAPS!)

    i would have killed all the plants with a full on spray of my watering hose.

    come to think of it, i have.

  57. Belinda

    I came for the patio, but I stayed for the pigeons (and Burt’s song–ICING, baby. ICING).

    And hey–I was a “blog crush of the day” once, long ago. Does the list get purged anew every year, or did I defy the homeowner’s association so egregiously as to not be included any more? I knew I should have brought in those flamingos…

  58. Neil

    Yes, it gets purged every once in a while and then I start over again, which may happen again soon.

  59. Ariel

    Looks like Sophia could have a glittering alternative career as the new Charlie Dimmock, or perhaps even Alan Titchmarsh, both of whom are cult TV gardeners in this neck of the woods!

  60. kristen

    your patio is fantastic – it makes me a little homesick.

  61. nelumbo

    Wow, Neil actually interested in plants???

    I *love* the Angel’s Trumpet. I think that’s too tropical for here, but I need to check into it.

    I don’t think the earwigs will hurt anything but you might want to pick up some insecticidal soap for the aphids. They can jump.

  62. Neil

    Nelumbo — We bought some scary-looking pesticide that attaches to the garden hose and sprays the leaves and soil. This is what they recommended at Home Depot for the earwigs, which look like monsters from a 50’s sci-fi movie. Are you saying we SHOULDN’T use this?

  63. question girl

    neil – your question about sun and shade… yes the “sun moves”… but some plant need more and others need less sun…. its kind of like – you don’t want to water the grass DURING the day because it will just get scortched as the sun hits the wet grass – you want to water it in late evening or REALLY REALLY early in the morning (same as your flowers when it is very hot and dry out)….

  64. question girl

    as for using pesticides… since you aren’t eating any of your plants (or are you) using chemicals isn’t a BIG deal – but make sure to wash your hands/skin very well afterwards…. some may be cancerous (depends on who you talk to)… a lot of gardeners use them.. a lot don’t…. some use them when they FIRST get started but then once things get setteled they stop and start using natural remedies – ie: kill june bugs by picking them off and dropping them in a bucket of CHEEP beer (not the good stuff – that is just alcohol abuse)….

    your best bet – don’t ask at home depot – go to a couple & home/garden shops and get different perspecitves… AND get a few books from the bookstore…

  65. plain jane

    Home use of pesticides may be linked to cancer and Parkinson’s, its not worth the risk and there are plenty of no/low toxic alternative. Especially since the lovely Sophia has already had a bout with cancer.

    Check out for alternatives, for example, here is the link about aphids

  66. Edgy Mama

    Gorgeous! Hurrah, hurrah!

  67. laura

    mm, i imagine it probably smells very nice on your patio… just the kind of place you want to take your coffee mug and curl up and never ever leave.

  68. Neil

    Plain Jane — Sophia already knew that about pesticides and cancer, and even asked her doctor. That’s why she wants ME to spray everything outside while she leaves the house for several hours. Of course, I asked her, “What about MY health,” and she said I shouldn’t be concerned. Hmm….

  69. plain jane

    Has Sophia recently taken out a large life insurance policy on you? Hmmm? Makes one wonder.

  70. E

    Sophia, when we first moved in Rob’s colleague gave us a pair of Jade plants – and like the crystal they are supposed to bring healing and protection!

    Neil, save the planet, buy a watering can! It’s more fun anyway and you get to control how much water each plant gets (all different).

    When flowers wilt, cut them off so the plant takes up less energy to try to make them drop off. Or something like that. The flowers should also bloom more often that way.

    You should get some orchids, they are very low-maintenance and hardy and beautiful! (national flower of Singapore 🙂

  71. rachael

    I love the fountain!

  72. Karl

    Beautiful work…looks fantastic. You can now sip coffee and listen to ABBA in a garden oasis.

  73. Alexandra

    Wow! I love plants and little patio gardens! Now all you guys need are one of Laini’s Ladies Garden Ladies stakes in one of those. Hey, will you let Sophia know I am in LA now and would love to see her. I cna’t find her email! and good luck tomorrow night, wish I could go.

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