Mulching the planting area will help things grow well, as evidenced by the progress we saw in our front planting box. I had planted a bunch of little mums from the dollar store, and they were going nowhere for about 2 months, until I added a few inches of mulch in the box. They sprung up rapidly after that -- So I'm hoping the backyard will have similar results.
We also scored the two chairs and table free off craigslist.
Another couple of things we did was to transfer a staghorn fern from a cocoa-lined basket (where it was looking pretty sad) to the avocado tree, by wrapping it to the tree with fishing line. I don't know how long it will take to attach itself to the tree, but the fishing line is nearly invisible.
Just some progress shots - the succulents along the driveway are looking nice:
There are still some areas that need work, for sure. Here's the area behind the garage. We've removed the laundry line and cut down the weedy tree. Dale cut up the dead tree, and we transplanted the camellia elsewhere in the yard. It's still a dusty, sandy desert there.
Other plants we've picked up on Craigslist - these elephant ears and succulents, along with a geranium we inherited from a previous rental. The first house we lived in had a ton of dying plants in the yard that the owner said we could have.
The spider plant was from that house, and we picked up the jade plant and the bird of paradise off Craigslist. They were both in the same dried out planter, so tangled together that we had to just hack them apart with a hatchet, after breaking the pot to get them out. They're still recuperating from the trauma! The little rose I got at the dollar store.