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Omaha Magazine

Conjuring an Outdoor Paradise

Jul 01, 2022 10:46AM ● By Tamsen Butler
backyard rockscape leads to large pavilion

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

  Dr. Bill Lydiatt and his wife, Kathy, lived in Bellevue for more than 25 years before moving to the outskirts of the Fairacres neighborhood in Omaha. Once their youngest child graduated from Bellevue West High School, they decided it was time to buy a house closer to Bill’s work at Methodist Hospital, where he sees patients as a head and neck surgeon. 

Bill’s commute time dropped from 20 minutes to a little over five minutes each way after the move, and the couple were thrilled with the busy doctor’s enhanced leisure time. They got to work remodeling the interior of the house, then turned their attention to their outdoors space, which included an adjacent vacant lot.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

“We had a vague idea of what we wanted, but had a difficult time picturing it,” Kathy said. The couple collaborated with Tom Ahern of Greenlife Gardens to come up with a master plan for their long list of must-haves: green space for their dogs, a patio with structure for entertaining, a water feature, perennials, flagstone paths, lights, and low maintenance. 

“We spent about two months on the property, from start to finish,” Ahern recalled. “The waterfall, the large stone outcroppings on the hillsides and, of course, the patio/pavilion/fire pit area were all fun to work on. Above all, though, Bill, Kathy, and their dogs made for a very fun environment. Whether it was playing with the dogs, having lunch catered in for us, or letting Kathy drive our equipment around the yard, it all made for a good time.”

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

“If I had to pick one thing as special, it would be customizing the water feature so the dogs had their own entrances to it and places to lay in the water when it’s hot out,” Ahern added. “Once we finished it up and added water, the dogs quickly took to it as if it was their own and made themselves at home.”

Ahern said the jobsite offered a few challenges. Trying to make the new landscape blend as though it had always been there was tough, and getting all the materials up the hill on the property safely proved a true adventure.

“The project was unique because of the overall transformation,” Ahern added. “The extra lot to the south was vacant and basically weeds and gravel. The existing patio was small, cracked, and not really useable. The landscape was very minimal, to say the least.”

Looking at this outdoor space now,  it’s hard to believe it’s the same real estate. What was once a couple of lots with patchy grass is now a small oasis with a cedar pavilion and matching cedar arbor, a gas fire pit with room for eight, a pondless water feature, and drought-tolerant native plants, many offering year-round color and interest. 

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

During a visit, one might find dogs frolicking in the water or Kathy working from her laptop or reading in this peaceful place. The greenspace is frequently used for entertaining, with Kathy adding, “The yard is easily an extension of our living area.”

Kathy volunteers with the Salvation Army and the Board for volunteers at Methodist, and was co-chair for the past three Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha. Among many other charitable roles, she also works part-time as a nurse in Bellevue Public Schools. Having a peaceful place where she and her husband can relax has proven helpful, especially during the stress of the pandemic. 

The Lydiatts and, of course, their dogs, think it’s paradise.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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