Archive for Dog and Cat Friendly Gardens – Page 2

Big Ideas, Small Backyard

Mr. Kim likes his grass and didn't want to see it disappear from the landscape.

Mr. Kim likes his grass and didn’t want to see it disappear from the landscape.

I met this happy couple at the Yard Garden & Patio show.  They had the best little puzzle for me to work on.  They had a small landscape and a small back porch.  They needed it to expand somehow to add a hot tub, a dining entertaining area and keep their cozy covered family coffee hang out a great place….hmm.  They had areas of grass that didn’t do well due to lack of sun.  Betsy liked to garden and had a successful edibles garden but it took up a lot of room.  Their dog, Mr. Kim the pug, was happy and liked grass because he loves to poop, well he does, it’s his big thing in life…… so while we could take away some grass to meet our goals, we had to leave enough to keep him happy.  We needed privacy plantings for using the hot tub that looked and felt friendly to the neighbors.  It needed to be tall to block the neighbors’ second story bedroom view but the planting space was too narrow for a hedge.

Lastly, a fine ironwork of art made by Betsy’s brother needed a place of prominence in the landscape.

The perfect place for the special art work. The iron art work looks great on the wall.

They called me after the show and I remembered them instantly.  I was so pleased to work with them.  I didn’t actually know of course, how I would help them, it was very small and there were a lot of “built ins” we couldn’t move such as a long rock wall and large trees whose roots were underneath the entire back yard so there would not be much changing of grade.  It was going to be tricky!

Like most Landscape Design in a Days, I could not do this without my clients.  Together we tried various layouts and narrowed it down to THE ONE that would work.  Usually I have two layouts that clients like that would work.  This one was so tough that I could only come up with one that I liked and which happily they loved.

An easy way to get some privacy.

An easy way to get some privacy.

Their carpenter was very helpful and did a great job of following our plans.  Their price tag was under 20 grand, not including the hot tub.  They ended up with two dining areas, one up in the lawn area.  We put it where the grass always died.  They love this new room.  They felt cut off from their yard and garden before the design.   Now it feels very open and gave us a great space for ornamental plantings.  The path that leads to the shed got a well placed zag in it.  The shape of the path adds interest and gave us the perfect place for a large pot.

 

Now the family has 2 places to sit and eat or enjoy a cup of coffee.

Now the family has 2 places to sit and eat or enjoy a cup of coffee.

What they got was an integrated landscape with lots of useful areas and great flow.  Their tiny yard feels spacious now.

Dog friendly shade trees for small yards

digging dog small

On the hunt for a cool spot to lay.

It’s hot and dogs are smart.  They want shade and we can provide it or be warned, they may figure out something on their own.  A lot of dogs left to their own devices in a treeless yard will dig a hole under your nice big hydrangea or other shrub and lay in the cool earth in shade.  This may work out just fine for your pet but not your plant!

If you have a big yard you probably have at least one big tree so you have shade.  If you have a small landscape it gets trickier.

Small trees for full sun that provide shade:

Katsura Heronswood Globe

Katsura ‘Heronswood Globe’

 

 

Katsura H. Globe has medium sized heart shaped leaves and casts light shade. (Eventually 15′ – 20′.)  I’ve not seen it this big in the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Lagerstromia natchez

Crape Myrtle ‘Natchez’

 

 

 

This Crape Mrytle has a thick leaf and can cast a heavy shade.  Beautiful flowers, bark and fall color make it a favorite.  (Eventually 20′ tall and wide.)  I’ve not seen it this big in the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Strawberry tree

Arbutus Unedo ‘Compacta’

 

If you select Strawberry Tree Arbutus Unendo ‘Compacta’ be sure to purchase the compact variety.  It is my top choice for heavy cooling shade for a small yard.  I’ve seen this as a 15’x15′ vase shaped tree after ten years.  Please note, too much summer water will kill this durable evergreen.

 

blog Hydrangea phantom at Normas

Tree form Hydrangea Paniculata

 

 

This large shrub/small tree has large leaves and is great for dog shade.  This plant is in Norma B.’s landscape.  It was planted in 2013.  It can be a 15’x15′ tree but typically is kept 10’x10′ with pruning.

 

 

Planters Are a Designer’s Best Friend

I use large built in planters to solve a variety of landscape problems and here are 5 of my favorites.

hendrickson planter 8 23 2012

The Hendrickson planter is about creating privacy for the living room window.  Their Willamette Heights house is 12 feet from the public sidewalk and they live near a park so there’s lots of foot traffic.  Juniper Communis ‘Gold Cone’, semi dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea Quercifolia, ‘Sykes Dwarf’, California lilac ‘Concha’ (Ceanothus) purchased as a tree form at Kinens Big Phat Plants. This is a specialty wholesale only grower who shapes his plants beautifully before selling which is why I love to purchase a focal point plant such as the California Lilac tree from him.

AndersonAnderson planter with an arbor creates a visual barrier between the neighbors’ utility side yard and the Anderson’s driveway.  The kids play in the driveway and the adults use the planter for edibles so this area has become an important part of their yard. It also adds dramatic curb appeal to the entry.

 

G Mac in peeled pole raised bed

The Coles….here we use green peeled logs to make a raised beds/planter.  We wanted raised beds so the plants would be safe from the dogs (two very smart and active standard poodles) who fly through paths.  I chose the peeled logs because they fit into the woodsy Northwest natural setting of this property. I also had the specialty cedar chips laid at 6″ deep.  It’s too shady for lawn and other medium encourages fleas and doesn’t last.  It’s the perfect dog friendly solution for a shady back yard. The plants pictured are native Sword Fern and Hardy Geranium, Geranium Macrorrhizum ‘Mrs. Ingwersen’ also have a woodsy look.

mickelsen planter 2012Michaelson’s planter – this stone planter gives us the opportunity to jazz up the curb appeal of this bungalow in NE Portland.  It’s about creating a dramatic and colorful entry experience and visually softening the foundation below the front porch. Helianthemun ‘Henfield Brilliant’ billows over the cap of the planter.

 

KNIGHT after courtyard 1

Knight – here is a very modern patio and it would be nothing without these planters.  We chose planters rather than at grade planting beds because of ginormous tree roots that invaded all the planting beds.  There was no room to even dig holes for new plantings.  Gardening will be easier for my client who is approaching an age where bending down to tend the ground is a less attractive idea. Read more.

Hardscape Design Transforms A Gardeners Landscape

Stone patio with synthetic lawn

Delightful patio replaces stodgy deck – notice the beautiful synthetic lawn.

Garden Consultation – Margaret hired me as a garden coach.  We worked together for several years. Her property in Lake Oswego has typical problems; clay soil, greedy tree roots, soggy lawn with moss and drainage problems.  But in my mind, the biggest problem was a deck that had been built by the previous owners.  The shape was boxy and didn’t fit Margaret’s colorful NW natural garden.

For 6 years our garden coaching focused on her garden plantings.  My client is hands on and did her own maintenance for her large property.  In fact, one time, the contractor was late and we just couldn’t wait for him….and I might add we were a lot younger…..so Margaret and I decided to plant these 5′ tall Arborvitae up on the hill ourselves.  Things were going well until one rolled down the hill and took me out like a bowling pin.

Blake before deck close up 2

The old deck had to go!

At last she was ready to have the garden of her dreams. How delightful it would be to play with her plants instead of mowing.  She was tired of fighting with fir tree roots, shade and clay.  Her lawn was never dry until August, when it was  then parched and it never looked good. She wanted to spend her time gardening, not doing basic maintenance. There is nothing worse than spending your time cleaning up a landscape that you don’t like the looks of.  She didn’t want that deck any more.  She wanted a NW natural design that would include two sitting areas (one a new patio off the house to replace the deck, a flagstone patio in the woods) and synthetic lawn for her and her dogs.  We also re-worked her garden paths so they would be easier to clean up and look  so attractive they would integrate the landscape.

Garden path with stone stairs

The new stairs are complemented by easy care synthetic lawn.

The new design also met the horticultural needs of the fir trees since synthetic lawn doesn’t need summer water and our native fir trees are healthier without summer watering.

Now Margaret can blow or even use a dry vac on her lawn to remove fir needles.  It looks good all the time and the dogs are very happy and clean.  It is also a lot easier to clean up dog poop!

Before stone steps

Old garden path was hard to navigate and had no drama.

We worked together to create the design.  Because of the scope of the job Margaret choose to hire a professional,  Autumn Leaf Landscaping.

It is an amazing transformation.  Margaret’s plants and garden look fabulous because the supporting structures are well shaped and attractive.

Top 5 Stepable Path Plants For Portland Landscapes

North Portland Landscape Design parking strip

Becky Clark Design Thymus Praecox ‘Coccineus’ ablaze w flower in north Portland parking strip

Selecting Stepable Path Plants for Portland Landscapes

Maybe it’s not fair that most people don’t know the finer points of selecting stepable path plants.   The truth is planting between pavers successfully is a delicate situation and rarely ever results in what I would call low maintenance.   It’s a little like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, the plant has to be just right.  Remember?  The chair and the bed had to be the right size and the porridge had to be the right temperature.   If the plant you select is not right for the job,  your path or patio can have problems that will take a complete do over to solve.

Most people don’t want to trial and error plants. They want to know it will work before they put in their time and effort.  That is one advantage of hiring a Portland landscape designer.

Portland landscape designer walking on stepable plants

Step on these plants.  This keeps them growing low and dense.

Here’s how I think about selecting stepable path plants.

I want a plant that doesn’t grow higher than 1″  or 2″ tall maximum.  Many stepable plants tend to grow into a hump and must be walked on so people won’t  trip over the plant. Stepping on the plants frequently will cause them to grow dense and shorter.  My grandson Rain helped me plant my flagstone patio.  I  stepped away and his friend came running in and said “I keep telling him they’re stepables not stompables.”  I looked up to see my grandson stomping on the freshly planted ground covers.   Surprisingly, the plants survived just fine.

Portland Garden Design GroundcoverI want a plant that doesn’t spread too fast and grow over the flagstone.  If you plant a type of stepable that grows too vigorously you will need to be constantly cutting the plant off of the flagstone.  Untended it will completely cover your flagstone.

Most of these types of plants require good drainage in order to grow thickly and repel weeds.  If they don’t grow thickly weed seeds will germinate and thrive.  I’ve listed plants below for part sun and full sun.   I don’t have a stepable plant that thrives in shade so I’d suggest you avoid using plants in shady areas.  I’ve tried several that manage to stay alive but don’t meet my requirements for success even remotely.  Another tip:  Don’t plant in an area that was infested with weeds.  You will need to tackle the weeds first and try to wear out the seed bank before you plant your stepables.

Here is my favorites list:

Leptinella with star creeper

Here’s a close up of  ‘Platt’s Black’ Brass Buttons with Star Creeper.

Stepable Plants for Part Shade/Part Sun:

Leptinella squalida –  New Zealand Brass Buttons.   The variety I prefer is ‘Platt’s Black’.  The other variety of Brass Buttons I like, ‘LePrinella P. Verdigris’  is a a little fast for pavers but I have used it for paths.  I don’t grow either of these in full sun. They spread until they find an environment they don’t like.  In my patio they run into too much shade and the strong roots of sword fern and they stop there.

Stepable Plants Portland Modern LandscapeMentha requienii –  Corsican Mint  This is a crowd pleaser because it smells good when you step on the plant.  This plant needs some sun, and needs good drainage, too much shade and soil that is too wet in the winter will kill this plant.  Full sun is too much for this plant.

Stepable Plants for Sun:

Elfin Pink Thyme fills in a path in Portland OregonThymus Serpyllum ‘Elfin’ or ‘Elfin Pink’  – I love this plant and it is truly a flat mat if you step on it.  It does get weeds growing into the middle so it’s not maintenance free, but only garden magazines talk about maintenance free landscapes.  When it is successful you will have to cut it off of flagstones some but I find it quite manageable.

Stachys Densiflora ‘Alba’ – Alba Lambs Ear   First of all this plant looks nothing like silver furry lambs ear.  The tiny leaves are fully evergreen, dark green and leathery.  I love this plant because it doesn’t let weed seeds in.  Plant it on the edges of your path unless you plan to step on it every day, otherwise it will mound up.  It takes full sun easily and the flowering period is fantastic!

My Favorite Stepable Plant

Azorella Trifurcata ‘Nana’ – Cushion Bolax   I have this plant at my vacation house in full morning sun and it will take full day sun as well.  It occasionally has a dandelion sprout in the middle, but rarely any other kind of weed and I find it to be very low maintenance.   It will creep over your pavers more than the Elfin Pink Thyme so you will have to trim once every year or two.  It’s my favorite filler plant for pavers, paths and as a foreground plant in a planting bed.

My dog Barley looking at freshly planted Cushion Bolax ground cover.

My dog Barley looking at freshly planted Cushion Bolax.

I love the texture.  It goes through a change where the little needles feel like a plastic carpet (which sounds bad but is fun) and then it softens into a pettable surface.  The yellow flowers are tiny and cute.