Water Features for Dog Friendly Landscapes

Dog friendly water feature in Willamette Heights neighborhood Portland Oregon

Jack and his water bowl

Water Features for Dog Friendly Landscapes

Lots of dogs love water.  It’s just a fact of life.

And sometimes, or maybe all of the time, when I have clients with a furry friend, the dogs “opinions” are part of the equation when designing a new landscape for the whole family.  There are many aspects of  a landscape design to consider when creating a compatible situation for two species.  Water features are one aspect.  People and dogs want to enjoy the water feature but they have different ideas about what is fun.  For people the sound of water can make a landscape feel like a garden and has a way of taking a space and turning it into a place.  Dogs have different ideas.

I started using echo chambers to create water features for my clients some 20 years ago when the echo chamber (designed by local Lew Smith) was a new thing.  They were safe for kids and easier to care for but then I saw how much the dogs loved them and that if I planned well most dogs could interact with the echo chamber water feature without harming it or themselves.

Take Jack Hofmann, a dog who knew a good thing when he saw it.

Jack and his Echo Chamber

I was hired to create a new entry design for a sweet old Portland craftsman home.  Technically the water feature was designed and placed to enhance the  new entry and to see it from inside the dining room.  Now Jack is kind of a one person dog, so he never fawned over me, much as I would have liked that. He would remember me politely when I came to check on his guardians landscape but when the water feature was installed, he claimed it immediately as his own and posed for me. He knows where his new toy came from.

I wasn’t the only one smitten by Jack’s photo. I was interviewed for an article in Houzz (check it out!) and his mug was featured in  “Protecting Your Pet From Your Yard and Your Yard From Your Pet”  a comprehensive article about dog friendly landscapes.

Jack’s “water bowl” is pottery plumbed into an Echo Chamber, which is a steel box under the pottery.  It creates an easy to care for water feature with great sound and because it has a dry return instead of a pond, it’s safer for kids.  There is no pond to worry about or a liner you need to keep safe from dog claws.  Read more about Echo Chambers in this blog post.

Water Feature for dog friendly landscape Portland, Oregon

This black lab thinks the water feature was set up to quench her thirst.

Zoey’s Spitting Frog Fountain

Some dogs specifically like to drink the water and make a game of it.  Does your dog love it when you get out the garden hose?  Your dog would love a water feature.  Zoey, a plump black lab loves water. This frog spitter fountain is an  inexpensive water feature that pleases people and the pups.  It’s safe for kids because no pond. The water pump recirculates the water through the frog and is under the round rock surface safe from doggy attention.

Remember to design access to the water for the dog and for kids too. If you plant all around it, expect those plants to be trampled.

Water Feature hydrant for dog friendly landscapeFireplug Water Feature

My client Patrick is a retired firefighter. He plumbed an old fire hydrant to use with his echo chamber.  The water feature was specifically designed for his dogs to drink out of.  The dogs loved their fire hydrant water feature and their new back yard which had two fences running parallel at the back property line.  This plant-less space between the fences was their  daily race way.

The Big Rock

Standard poodles and the neighbors kids loved the big rock (Montana Mud 8′ across) water feature which was a focal point for a home in Raliegh Hills.   I would find tiny little plastic toys and tennis balls tucked here and there, evidence of neighbor kids and tennis ball obsessed poodles who played in this water feature.  My clients thought this was adorable and loved how this unusual water feature looked with their NW Natural style front yard.

Water feature for dog friendly landscape in Raliegh Hills Portland Oregon

A fun water feature for two poodles.

 

For many people, life is better with a dog and designing a happy outdoor life for two species, not just one, is what makes happiness for this designer too.

 

Mud Free Dogs-Dog Friendly Landscape Designer

Options for Dog Friendly Landscaping in Portland Oregon

In my years working with my clients designing dog friendly yards, I’ve come up with many strategies to prevent my client’s dogs from bringing the outside in.  In the summer it might be a stick which you can easily throw, and in the fall; it’s a few leaves. But here in Portland, Oregon, winter and spring means mud. And mud is not so easy to stop at the door.  So is it even possible to have a mud free dog in Portland, Oregon?  The solution starts with your  experienced dog friendly landscape designer.

Mud Free Newfoundland Dogs

Cedar chips are recommended by dog friendly landscape designer

Sweet puppy Luna napping in the cedar chips

The changes we made to the landscape for Jackie and Kurt in Tigard have saved hours of grooming and large dog bathing.  Their Newfoundlands are now clean and free of mud and can come in to the family room and hang out with their humans. This was a side benefit of their Landscape Design in a Day.

Their old house comes with huge magnificent old Douglas Fir trees and lots of shade. Where there was shade, there was mud. Prior to installing our landscape design, the dogs could not come into the house at all because they were extremely muddy. I was hired to design a new entry and garden for the front yard and to provide garden coaching for the backyard. No one was talking about having mud free dogs. They could not imagine it enough to ask for it.

It’s my job to solve landscape problems for the entire family. Kurt and Jackie used my special cedar chips to create a mud free woodland “floor” in their Douglas Fir Forest. It’s beautiful even now, ten years later, the dogs are clean and poop is easy to scoop even in the winter.

cedar chips for dog play yard in Portland, Oregon

Elana and her brother play in a cedar chip yard just for them and are mud free.

Play Yard for Rhodsesian Ridge Backs

Cedar chips also worked well for another client with two large dogs, Rhodesian ridge backs. We created an enclosed area with plenty of room to rough house, so they were very happy in their new play yard.  They didn’t track mud in the house (which made their guardian and my client happy) and other spaces around the property  now have a far more aesthetically pleasing garden design. Heads up: If you have 2 large dogs who love to wrestle and chase, the cedar chips will eventually hill up in  some areas and you will need to rake it out to keep a flat play space for the pups.

Raised Beds Create Running Paths for Poodles Back Yard

round wood edging defines cedar chip path in Portland, Oregon

The short wood edging provided enough to keep two standard poodles down the right path.

Yet another family had full sized standard poodles. Poodles are smart and they have a lot of energy.   Many times, dogs (and the landscape plants) benefit from having clear paths installed to circle around and around and around. It’s a lovely way to  play chase and get lots of exercise without the hard impact on their hips and backs that concrete or pavers do.  A simple 12 inch raised bed can often be enough to point the pups in the right direction and build their running patterns. Once the plants fill in,  most pups will stay on the paths and keep their feet mud free. In this scenario, you may need to protect your plants for the first growing season with a temporary barrier like a short wire fence or use plants that are either tough enough to handle tromping or can slightly repel the dogs because of smell.

Plant Tip:  Hardy Geranium leaves (Geranium macrorrhizzum) smells like cedar if bruised.  Dogs will play near by happily but don’t walk or lie in it because of the smell.    I would never use plants with an odor that would hurt or cause discomfort to a dogs sensitive nose.

Hardy geranium and sword fern are two of my favorite dog friendly landscape plants for Portland Oregon.

Sword fern and hardy geranium in a raised bed work well for a dog friendly planting.

Creating landscape designs for dogs and their guardians is a joy and one of the perks of my profession.  Read more ‘Protecting Your Yard from Your Pet and Your Pet from Your Yard’ on Houzz for an interview with your dog friendly landscape designer Carol Lindsay written by Gwendolyn Purdom. And make an appointment for your own dog friendly landscaping!

 

Modern Entry Landscape for Portland Hillside Home

Modern style fencing creates courtyard style landscape design for West Hills home in Portland Oregon . Dyed concrete walls and wood fence

A modern fence creates a stylish entry and enclosure for the dog.

Modern Entry for Portland Hillside Home

Unique Front Entry Needed a Creative Solution

My client has a good design eye and she loves modern architectural style and modern style landscapes. However, her new home in Portland’s West Hills had a boatload of difficulties and she wanted a collaborative garden designer who would value her vision and strive to enhance it.

The first view of the house as you approach from the street is the roof.  It’s a classic landscape problem for hillside homes.  This is as far from welcoming as you can get.  You can’t see the front door at all.   The amazing view is in the back and the front yard is small, shallow and often below the road.

Basset Hound with Echinacea flower in his teeth Portland Oregon

Basset Hounds are adorable, but not made for multiple flights of stairs! Source

Courtyard for Curb Appeal

An modern styled entry courtyard would solve curb appeal, make a private sunny sitting area and give us an architecturally interesting entry appeal.  I was prepared for hours of preliminary design to create the perfect enclosure for the courtyard. Instead my client found a photo that was the perfect inspiration and the design came to life.

Courtyard is Dog Friendly

My client loves her dog.  We needed to accommodate the family Basset hound.  The entry area is the only easily accessible outdoor place for the dog.  The idea of a Basset hound with such short legs going down three sets of stairs, so he can potty in the backyard is torturous and potentially harmful for his back and hips. The enclosed courtyard is perfect for keeping the dog safe from cars and predators.

Designer’s Solutions

The fence would cut off  views of the entry from the street even if it was a short fence.  We accepted this and made the fence an attractive, visually strong presence on its own.  We went taller with the fence to block the view of any parked cars and headlights.

Client's choice of modern fencing inspired landscape design in Portland hillside home.The courtyard fence needed to be subordinate to the house. This meant it could not be too visually powerful.

  1. Using the concrete wall at the base of the wood fence gave us two materials which adds interest and lessened the feeling of height from the street view. The height also steps down to follow the slope which makes softens the effect of it’s length.
  2. The fence line also steps back (or bumps out) to break up what would otherwise be a long straight line. Each section that steps back is the length of the 10 foot long entry windows. By repeating the 10 foot length in the fence sections, we easily integrate the house and courtyard fence.
  3. Repeating a line that is prominent in the architecture of the house in the landscape is a classic way to integrate the two together. The step back also creates valuable planting space along the inside of the courtyard walls.
  4. We removed the 1970’s  brick facade on the house entry and replaced the tired aggregate and brick concrete walk with mortar set square  paving stone.

Before photo of entry landscape in West Hills neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

Plantings for the Courtyard Walls.

The plantings for the exterior of the courtyard walls (out on the street side) are tricky. The first section has crushed rock. It’s designed for guest parking. The other step back sections create room for a mass planting of  evergreen ornamental grass.  Carex Morrowi ‘Ice Dance’ was the most low maintenance option.

The entry gate area plantings are very simple and rely on two pots, one larger, one smaller and a very low bright lime colored evergreen ground cover to go around the pots such as cushion bolax, Azorella trifurcata ‘Nana’ . The  charcoal colored dyed concrete base of the fence needs the relief of  bright and light colored plants.

We created the planting plan for the courtyard interior, and designed an echo chamber water feature to enhance the entry experience and to enjoy while sitting outside on sunny days.

overgrown entry landscape in west hills neighborhood of Portland, OregonThe existing rockery style walls inside the courtyard were built with stone that was too small.  It doesn’t look great with the new modern style. Our design replaces 1/3rd of the retaining wall with large boulders. It is surprising to see that large boulders look and feel so good even in small spaces.  Small rock jumbled together to make a wall is rarely attractive and is far from a modern style landscape.

The final touches of the design are still in progress and I am looking forward to seeing the plantings completed.

If your hillside home is in need of a remodel, make an appointment today!Contact

 

Garden Remodel in a Rose City Park’s Craftsman Home

Garden Remodel in a Rose City Park’s Craftsman Home

Entry to private patio garden in Rose City Park neighborhood, Portland, OregonKay hired me to design her garden remodel in the Rose City Park Neighborhood after she had a seismic upgrade done to the foundation of her old Portland craftsman home. The construction process destroyed much of her existing garden.

She decided this was an opportunity to make her garden the best garden of her life.

Designers site assessment

The house sits on a corner lot and the primary garden space is in the side yard. The patio and sitting area worked beautifully as is; patio tucked into a corner with close access to the back porch and kitchen. There were wonderful plants to work with but the proportions of the fenced side yard created a bowling alley feel. This was the opportunity to make a significant change.

Her side yard was a fenced in area 50 feet long and 15 feet wide with the patio on one end and a narrow strip of lawn in the middle.

Before Landscape Design in a Day side yard Rose City Park neighborhood, Portland, OregonMoving her fence and gate and incorporating some of the space into the front yard to create a more intimate space fixed 90% of the problems. Now her private patio garden was 15′ wide by 25’ long instead of 50’ long.

This was a huge improvement for experiencing the garden from the patio. It feels good to walk through the garden, pause and enjoy the journey to the patio.

We widened the planting area opposite her large dining room windows so we could layer multi season plantings for a year-round view and more drama.

Kay’s existing plants

We did an edit of her existing plantings, hanging the pink ribbon of death on a few plants and relocating others. Experimenting with plant material is what being a gardener is all about. Plantings get overgrown and crowded very easily when you’re having fun. Kay is a gardener, loves color and a cottage style to go with her craftsman era home.

Hypericum f. uniflorum 'Citrinum' for Rose City Park neighborhood garden, Portland, OregonHere are some of the fun plants Kay had in her garden that we kept. Several collector  varieties of Hellebore, Euphorbia x m. ‘Tiny Tim‘, Actaea simplex ‘Carbonella’ (purple leafed snakeroot), Hypericum x ‘Citrinne’, the “new” St John’s wort shrubs that are so wonderful for flower arranging,  Tricyrtis, toad lily, an exquisite fall flowering lily with multiple flowers on each stem, Eryngium, a variety of Sea Holly with its wonderful fall silver and blue toned flowers, many unusual varieties of hosta, a multi stem mature vine maple and various sword fern.

Kay’s New Plants

Here’s a list of some plants we added:  Maidenhair ferns, saxifrage ground cover, and native bleeding heart were planted en masse to help blend different planting areas together to give the garden a cohesive look.  Chinese camellia ”Yuletide’ was selected for its cherry red winter flowers, Daphne ‘Summer Ice’ for fragrance in summer and chartreuse Japanese forest grass, Coral bell ‘Lime Marmalade’, Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ were added for color contrasts.  Leptinella verdigris, a brass buttons ground cover was added to existing flagstone area to cover bare soil and since this plant is a very strong spreader, (warning), use appropriately.  The hot pink flowered Salvia ‘UC Pink’, which flowers all summer and into late fall was a replacement. Kay had lost one in the seismic construction and we found the perfect spot for a new one.

Entry garden design in Rose City Park neighborhood, Portland, OregonProportions Matter

Here’s what we did to improve the proportions of her garden room. We changed the straight lawn shape from a line to a curve. We removed 25 feet of fence and set the entry gate closer to the patio. Losing the long narrow shape completely changed from a bowling alley feel to an intimate and integrated garden experience. As much as we all love plants, plants alone cannot give us the impact that changing the space does.

We used my  collaborative Landscape Design in a Day process to create the re-design together.  Kay hired help to move the bigger plants but did most of the garden plantings herself.  She used my plant broker to get some of her plants.  The attractive fence was designed and built by Creative Fences and Decks.

 

 

Portland Landscape Design creates privacy for small city backyard in Woodstock neighborhood

Portland Landscape Design creates privacy for small city backyard in Woodstock neighborhood

Colorful small tree for Woodstock neighborhood backyardCase History:   Portland infill home in Woodstock neighborhood needs a professional landscape design.  The biggest problem for new infill homes with tiny yards is privacy.

Roger and Meghan, no dogs and no kids, had recently moved to Portland and purchased a new home in the Woodstock neighborhood.  Roger wanted an interesting and easy care garden to putz in, colorful plantings and no lawn.  Most of all they wanted privacy.

Solving Privacy Issues-It’s about making a beautiful view

There were bad views on all three sides of the backyard. The house behind had a visually obnoxious roof and we could see their neighbors doing their dishes quite clearly in the evening. The house to the west had a shed which was useful for some privacy, but was infested with Norway rats. The owners were elderly and not keeping up with their home. It’s tough to start making demands of your new neighbors so most of my clients don’t. The house on the other side was also a new infill house and there was no privacy between the two properties.

Portland Residential Landscape Design Woodstock neighborhood before back yard landscape designDesigners Viewpoint on Screening Plants

I needed to create beautiful views to see from inside the house and from the back patio that would simultaneously create privacy and block bad views.  The plants needed to grow quickly but not get too big for the tiny yard.  There are not a lot of plants that will slow down once they are mature.  Most will get too big too quickly.

I selected my trusty clumping bamboo-Fargesia ‘Robusta Campbell’ paired with an evergreen narrow semi dwarf Magnolia tree. The contrast between the feathery bamboo and the magnolia’s large dark green leathery leaves would have been exciting and this would have been a fast-growing solution. My clients decided against the bamboo because rats sometimes eat bamboo shoots and they didn’t want to encourage the rats to come into their yard.  I substituted drought tolerant Boxleaf Tree-Azara Microphyla for the privacy screen and they were back on track.  Azara has a tiny leaf and would contrast well with the Magnolia’s large leaf.

Intricate path design in Woodstock neighborhood Portland, ORPath as a design feature for a small yard

Intricate path design in Woodstock neighborhood

The back yard is all planting solution with a flagstone path that circles and dramatically frames a focal point planting.  The path is wide enough to walk or to pull weeds from.  Roger laid the flagstone himself.

Plants with vibrant spring color

I dropped by the following spring (I was next door creating a design for their neighbors) and saw the magnificent coral orange leaves of Japanese maple ‘Shaina’ with  lime gold ground cover, (Saxifraga) and peach foliage coral bell. The emerging spring foliage puts on an intense and vibrant show.  The new landscape has many seasons of beauty and the spring view is no exception.

Portland Residential Landscape Design Woodstock neighborhoodRoger and Meghan are enjoying their new home and landscape and Roger enjoyed installing the garden so much he might take it on as a second career in addition to his professional photography.  So far the rats have not caused a lot of problems………How Portland lives with, not against, its rats is a fascinating read.

Plant List

Backyard planting in Woodstock neighborhood Portland, OregonThe spring color vignette included:

Japanese maple ‘Shaina’ – Acer Palmatum ‘Shaina’

Coral Bell ‘Marmalade’-Heuchera x ‘Marmalade’

Saxifraga x urbium ‘Aureopunctata’-Saxifrages ‘London Pride Aureopunctata’

Brunnera macro. ‘Jack Frost’-Bugloss ‘Jack Frost’