It wasn't looking too badly before. The hibiscus I planted last year came back about quadruple the size, and the little orange 'Diablo' cosmos seeds I planted earlier this year are working wonders. But I plunked in a few annuals where spring veggies had died back, and Sweet Husband replaced the nasty wire we had along the top of the fence (to keep Moe from jumping over it) with much nicer lattice work.
Although it's still small and so on and so forth, once those little changes were made I noticed, almost as if by magic, suddenly the space looks just like what I've always wanted it to. Everything isn't even in full bloom yet--I'm still waiting for the hibiscus, sunflowers, and morning glories--but it's pretty, buzzing with bees and other wildlife, and yet still practical for the dogs. We've got grass growing. Even my dead spot under the window, where I didn't think anything would ever grow because of the clay soil, is making coneflowers, sunflowers, and cosmos.
Only took four years, but maybe I've got it figured out!