Modern Landscape Design Plants for Portland

Modern Landscape Design Plants for Portland

As a Portland landscape designer I enjoy helping clients who want modern landscape design plants.

While well crafted hardscape is the key element to a successful modern style landscape, plant selection and how they are used is critical.

Here are a few things I keep in mind.  Balanced plant repetition, contrasting textures and overall shapes of plants, full season interest plantings, and low maintenance plants.  Keep in mind that the typical plants for modern style are not great for wildlife because they lack diversity.  My designs consider the clients many unique interests. A modern style design can have wildlife friendly plants included.

Here are 10 plants that work well for modern landscape design and are fairly easy to find.

Modern Landscape Design PortlandNarrow Vertical Plants

Japanese Holly ‘Sky Pencil’ – Ilex crenata (pictured)

Italian Cypress ‘Tiny Towers’ – Cupressus semptervirens

Italian Cypress ‘Swane’s Golden’ – Cupressus sempervirens

Portland Landscape Designer likes Black Mondo GrassLow Edger Plants

Black Mondo grass   –  Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

Green Japanese Mondo grass  –  Ophiopogon japonicus

Cushion Bolax – Azorella trifurcata ‘Nana’ (Stepable Groundcover)

Hens and Chicks – Sempervivum

Other Grasses and Shrubs

Grama Grass ‘ Blonde Ambition‘ – Boutelous gracilis

American Switch Grass ‘ Shenendoah’ – Panicum virgatum

Nandina D. ‘Firepower’ – Nandina domestica (dwarf form)

Hebe (prostrate form) – Hebe Albicans ‘Sussex Carpet’  

 

Outdoor Pee Pad for Dog – A Landscape Designer’s Solution

Portland dog friendly landscape design pee proof lawnOutdoor Pee Pad for Dog – A Portland Landscape Designer’s Solution

I live on a floating home and when my dog has to go pee or poop, the parking lot is a long ways away.  My perfect solution to living on the river with a dog, is synthetic lawn on my small garden balcony.  I have the advantage over most people with a deck or balcony because we designed the house to have a small roof garden with real soil.  It was easy to add the synthetic lawn over the existing soil.  Not only was it easy, when my dog pees on her synthetic lawn, the rain rinses it into the soil so it doesn’t smell.  In the summer when there is no rain I rinse the grass using a garden hose.  As you can see Daizzie likes to lay on her grass so it is used for more than an outdoor pee pad.  I enjoy sitting out there with her or drinking coffee from my outdoor sofa.

When she poops on her synthetic lawn it is easy to pick up unless she has diarrhea and then I do need to rinse with my garden hose.  The dog poop always goes in the garbage because I don’t want to add nitrogen to the river, I mean come on, just because it’s dog poop doesn’t mean it isn’t raw sewage.

Portland Landscape Design dog pee lawnAnother solution is a raised bed for grass.  My client Sherry has small dogs and no lawn except for this tiny patch.  She just replaces the grass in her raised bed occasionally.

Portland is a city that is very dog friendly.  As a Portland landscape designer I have lots of wonderful opportunities to create dog friendly landscape designs.  I consider it one of my best job benefits.

Violet Blue Flowers in Your Summer Garden

Violet blue flowers in your summer garden

There is something magical about violet blue flowers in a summer garden. A mass of long flowering intense violet, purple or blue flowers to see from your summer chaise is a joy. Here is a plant that I use in my garden designs that is easy care and long flowering.

Blue False Indigo – Baptista Australis ‘Purple Smoke’ is a long lived perennial so it will live for decades in your landscape. I use it in my landscape designs because it is colorful, low maintenance, fully drought tolerant, and long blooming. It has attractive foliage and interesting seed pods for fall. Clients who want color and easy care would line up for this plant if they knew about it. It looks great with ornamental grasses and has a more naturalistic look since it is related to lupine, a classic native wildflower.

Planting combinations for Portland Landscape Designs

I’ve used it in a low water parking strip in NE Portland with true dwarf pine, succulents like Sedum spurium ‘Green Mantle’, heather and black mondo grass.  In a SW Portland Landscape design I placed it to tower over a low boulder with plant companion ‘Kim’s Knee Hi’ Echinacea to the side.

Over time the plant will increase to a nice thick stand of charcoal green stems (which add to the beauty) and violet blue flower stalks.  ‘Purple Smoke’ is grown locally, other varieties and flower colors are only available by mail order.  I only use the  variety of Baptista Australis called ‘Purple Smoke’.  Don’t use the parent plant of  ‘Purple Smoke’, it is called just plain old Baptista Australis and gets too tall for most city gardens.

Plant uses

The primary use is ornamental and wildlife friendly. It’s not edible although it is a legume but it is not toxic. It’s a true native American plant.  North American Indians had many uses for this plant.  The Cherokee made a blue dye for fabric from the flowers.  The Osage made some kind of eye wash.  Others used the roots as an antiseptic for wounds.  It is not considered edible and was once thought to be highly toxic.  Modern research has changed this perception.  Read more about the plants chemistry.

How to kill Baptista: Water it every day in the summer and fertilize it heavily. Plant it in a low spot where winter rain water will puddle or sit.

Best practice:  Water deeply once a week the first summer.  The second summer water deeply but infrequently or put a plug in the drip emitter because it won’t need any water by the third summer.  I always place it with low water plants so it is easy to provide it with low water to no water. Don’t divide it. It has a tap root so dividing will kill the plant. If the clump gets too wide, take off new plants at the edge of the clump.

After the foliage yellows in the fall cut it down to the ground.  Mulch twice a year with garden compost.

Check out my Summer Watering Tips. Learning how to water properly can be a great stress reducer for you and protect your landscape investment.

 

Portland Landscape Designer loves Purple Flowers

Portland Landscape Designer uses Purple Monkshood in Eastmoreland Garden

Monkshood with Japanese Forest Grass and Hardy Fuchsia

Portland Landscape Designer loves purple flowers of Monkshood

Portland landscape designer loves purple flowers of Monkshood.  My clients have unique likes and dislikes when it comes to plants.  When they love something specific, like purple flowers, one of my favorites is purple flowered Monkshood.  Other clients are focused on a purpose such as native plants or the lowest of low maintenance plants and not on specific colors.  My job is to find the plant palette that satisfies each client’s needs.

Purple flowers

I love tall columns of  purple flowers in my Portland landscape designs.  I often use them at the back of  planting beds to break up a bare wall or visually soften a fence. It’s an easy care perennial plant with no pest problems. It flowers a long time, provides great contrast with bright green or gold foliage and adds drama to the garden scene.

Aconitum 'Tall Blue' Portland Landscape Designer plant

Aconitum Carmichaelii ‘Tall Blue’ – Monkshood at Joy Creek Nursery

I only use varieties that don’t flop.  There is no need to stake the plants if you select the right varieties and water correctly. Staking plants is a hassle and not low maintenance so I don’t use plants that require staking in my designs.

Here are the Monkshood varieties I use in my Portland landscape designer practice.

Aconitim x napellus ‘Newry Blue’ -Flowers June and July, 4′ tall and an intense purple blue

Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Tall Blue’ – Flowers late August and September at 6′ to 8′

Portland Landscape Designer loves purple flowers of Monkshood

Aconitum Carmichaelii ‘Late Crop’ – Monkshood at Joy Creek

Aconitim x napellus 'Newry Blue' - Monkshood 'Newry Blue'

Aconitim x napellus ‘Newry Blue’ – Monkshood

Aconitum carmichaelii  ‘Late Crop’- Flowers into October, is a dark rich purple at 5′ to 6′ tall

Monkshood was used for poisoned arrows

This plant has a checkered past.  In medieval times Monkshood was also called Wolfbane and was the source for poisoned arrows.  Applied to a cut, Monkshood can be deadly and all parts of the plant are toxic.  Yet in modern times it is commonly used by florists and sold by garden centers and nurseries.  In 25 years I have no first hand knowledge of anyone being poisoned by monkshood but I don’t use it in my Portland landscape designs for young families or in parking strips.

How to kill this plant: 

Plant it in full sun and never water it, (or just as bad) water every day in the summer.  Plant in a low place where winter water will soak the roots for days at a time.

Best practice:

Most resources say part shade but I have found they thrive in half day sun to nearly full day sun with a few hours of dappled or light shade. Deeply irrigate Monkshood in full sun and less in part shade.  In time most Monkshood will become low water needs.   In too much shade it will flop and will not have as many flowers. Plant in well-draining soil, water established plants deeply once a week.  Don’t fertilize beyond adding a  compost or mulch around the crown twice a year.  Fertilizer may cause the plant to grow too lushly and make the stems flop. Cut it back to the ground in winter or when the leaves have gone yellow.  Learning how to water properly  creates confidence and makes maintaining your landscape less stressful.

 

 

Portland Landscape Designer and River Life

Portland Landscape Designers floating home

After Bob transforms the single story floating house and boat tender.

As a Portland landscape designer I’m in and out of 2 or 3 homes a week.  It’s fun to see how people live so I figure it’s only fair to share how I live and many people are curious about living in a floating home.  I can also brag about my partner Bob’s amazing design/build skills by sharing the before and after photos.

Weather

There are a lot of wonderful things about living on the water but watching the river and the weather play together is the best.  Most of the time they play nicely but sometimes, like last winters snow, was quite challenging.  Too much snow on one side of the house creates a tip and after a day or two of the eggs cooking on one side of the pan everyone gets a little crabby including our cat Cracker Jack.

The best part is that everything in the sky, clouds, sunrise colors, and geese heading south is duplicated in the water.  This includes the eclipse in August of 2017.  There’s a photo that got away.  The wind typically doesn’t rock the house, usually it’s a boater going by too fast creating a wake that rocks the house, but when we have gusts and white caps, I swear I can feel the soul of the wind.    Weather is intimate down on the water.

Wildlife

We have a resident blue heron who likes to scare people at dusk by flying low and silent until he is just overhead of an unsuspecting landscape designer trudging down the dock toward home.  He makes that low gruff and very loud Heron squack.  This is followed by another loud noise or two as I retrieve my belongings from where I threw them when I was startled out of my revere.  So far I’ve never tossed my car keys in the water but its been a close thing.  Car keys go in ones’ pocket upon departure from the car.

We have regular visits by Stellar sea lions especially when the salmon are running.  They are curious and a bit snoopy.  No photos but great stories of sea lions stealing from fisher folk in boats and on the bank.

Portland Landscape Designer moves to the river

Before floating home re-design and remodel,  a sweet house waiting to become our home

I’ve enjoyed our old goose couple for many years now but haven’t been able to get a hold of her eggs for artistic flights of fancy for a few years.  We have otters who mate under our house every late spring.  This ritual goes on for about 5 days.  It is not quiet.  We have bats and mud swallows and they have a schedule for coming in the spring and leaving in late summer or fall.  The diving birds come in mid fall and stay for a good part of winter.  There are two kinds of owls and a particular owl couple who sit on each end of the marina and talk half the night.  Their hoots are mostly pleasant sounding. There is quite a menagerie and I feel so close to nature here.

Practicalities of River Life

Yes, we schlep our groceries and everything else down to our floating home with a rolling cart.  One lives very close to ones’ neighbors down here but so far its been a happy chummy place when you want chums and plenty of privacy when you don’t.  I’ve met amazing and dearly memorable people.

Blue Heron entertains Portland landscape designer

Our Blue Heron is a poser.

Once we get home we don’t want to leave so most of the time we don’t.  Why would we leave to go somewhere when we can be here?

Checking flotation.

Portland landscape designers' view of fall fisherman in red boat

My view in fall.

Growing greens above ground

Growing greens above ground

Portland Landscape Designer paints eggs.

Felix and Oscar are not pleased with their eggs.

Best of all I have a wonderful view of Sauvie Island and the river.  I’m sure the river has a very positive influence on my  life to include my Portland landscape designs.

Floating Home buried by the snow of January 2017

Floating Homes with snow