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It’s time to embrace your outdoor space

Rowan Broderick, 4, gets in the swing of spring in her family's Essex backyard.
Rowan Broderick, 4, gets in the swing of spring in her family's Essex backyard.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

After a long, dreary winter overshadowed by the pandemic, the miracle of spring has arrived and homeowners are eagerly refreshing and embracing their outdoor living spaces.

In Essex, Emily and Mike Broderick are busy updating their backyard to make it fit their young family’s needs for the warmer days ahead. In Brookline, Marna Dolinger is throwing open her French doors to a plant-filled rooftop terrace. And in Hingham, Peter Bradley and Anna Maria Anthony are awaiting the bees and butterflies that will soon visit their pollinator garden.

“We try to be outdoors and to soak up as much sunshine and fresh air as possible,” said Emily Broderick. “Our spring projects include adding a play space in our yard for our daughters Rowan, age 4, and Cora, age 2. The girls love to be outdoors and I want them to be able to enjoy the yard.”

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

“We live on a lake near woodlands. I am designing and constructing the play area using natural materials that mirror 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 deck they built at their home in Essex.
Mike and Emily Broderick with their daughters, Rowan and Cora, on a deck they built at their home in Essex.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

“Our home has an open floor plan,” added Emily. “We want the indoor family space to feel seamlessly connected to the deck and the backyard. Once the weather allows, our family eats out on the deck all the time.”

“This spring we will add some new rugs to the family room and also the deck to make it feel like a real living space,” said Mike. “We will also add some plants indoors and out to improve the connection between the living spaces.”

Outdoor space come in all sizes and configurations. Dolinger prizes her approximately 15-by-20-foot Brookline rooftop terrace complete with potted trees, a rose-covered trellis, and a water feature.

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“For me, it is really like having another room,” said Dolinger. “I use it spring, summer, and fall. This year, I also put a heater out there and used it into the winter. Especially with the pandemic, it has been wonderful to open the French doors in my kitchen and connect to the outdoors. The fresh air is energizing. I was even able to socially distance out there with a few friends.”

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

“Marna likes color in her garden, especially purple and yellow. We will add some blooming annuals for bursts of color,” said MacLean. “We will be looking at any damage, deadheading, and getting the water feature operational. On a rooftop, wind is a concern, and we need to make sure the irrigation is working to keep the plants and trees from drying out.”

Tom Kroon from Potted Up spruces up a rooftop terrace in Brookline.
Tom Kroon from Potted Up spruces up a rooftop terrace in Brookline. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

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

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

The couple would eventually renovate the house to meet 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.

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

Campbell’s design focused on the connection to the environment through native plantings, natural materials, and a continuous flow from indoor to outdoor living. Her 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 enjoy working in my small herb garden, we are not big gardeners,” said Anthony, who loves to cook and will add some of her favorite organic herb annuals to those that survived the winter.

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

At just over an acre, the Hingham landscape provides multiple areas for the family of four to enjoy the outdoors, including a large deck, fire pit area, and a pollinator garden.

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

When their two sons became teenagers, an old play area was replaced by the fire pit, where the whole family is able to sit together or entertain year-round. Constructed of low maintenance native stone, the fire pit requires only a quick cleaning in the spring.

Once the snow has melted, Campbell inspects the landscape to evaluate winter damage and the need for any spring cleanup.

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

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The days are getting longer and the temperature warmer. Bradley is already using his grill/smoker to cook meals on the deck and the trees and plants are awakening on Dolinger’s urban terrace.

In Essex, finishing the new play area for the Broderick girls has become even more important as they will be welcoming a new baby brother in July.

“With the baby due this summer, we have been prioritizing projects for the spring,” said Emily Broderick. ”We are very much outdoor people, and being able to sit out on the deck this summer while our girls play in the yard is something I am looking forward to.”

Linda Greenstein can be reached at greensteinlm@gmail.com.

Mike and Emily Broderick watch as their 4-year-old daughter, Rowan, rides a scooter on a deck they built at their home in Essex.
Mike and Emily Broderick watch as their 4-year-old daughter, Rowan, rides 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 fastened to the underside of the deck they built.
Mike and Emily Broderick push their daughters, Rowan and Cora, on swings they fastened to the underside of the deck they built. Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe