Keeping a back yard looking nice is a matter of managing water, light, air and earth. The four elements of Aristotle are now known to not actually be elements at all, but as an aesthetic standard they still apply. The seasons often dictate what a yard will look like, and can also dictate what a yard typically needs in terms of shade and other resources.
In temperate areas of the world, summers are hot and winters are cold. So the need in summer is for shade and the need in winter is for sunlight. Other needs might include wind management. Depending on the particular area, wind management might be critical at various times of year, or might be important year round. For example, Colorado Springs, Colorado tends to have fairly high winds mostly year-round, while areas like Phoenix, Arizona might get steady breezes but nothing severe outside the monsoon season.
Imagine a yard with the prevailing wind from the west. The house faces west. In this case, the house will largely block the prevailing winds to the backyard, but the afternoon sun will shine on the front of the house. The morning sun will shine on the back of the house. If this house is in temperate area, it’s best if the front yard is planted with deciduous trees. This means that in winter, the tree will lose its leaves, and the sun will be able to filter through the branches to the house. The sunlight will keep the house warm when days are cold. But in summer, when the days are hot, the tree will have leaves which will provide shade and keep the house cooler.
In temperate climates, try to build patios with a slight slope if possible. A drop of one inch per twelve feet is usually ideal – enough to allow water to flow away, but not enough to make patio chairs tip over. In temperate areas, rain is often common, and evaporation may be slow due to cooler temperatures.