Archive for Shade Garden Tips

North Portland Residential Landscape Design for Shade

North Portland Residential Landscape Design for Shade

Chris and Jennifer of North Portland contacted me for help with their large shady back yard.

Problems

They were overwhelmed with the high maintenance of lawn under huge trees. They wanted a back yard for entertaining a large family (with lots of adult kids and future grand kids).  They wanted to DIY and had a strict budget, so spending 20 grand on a concrete patio was not realistic. Views over the fence included other neglected yards and they had a large (evil) tree of heaven that had to go. Many plants had died or looked leggy and sun starved.

The back yard was longer than deep and made creating a design on their own more difficult.

Solutions

My best contributions were getting the shapes of the new rooms to work with their long but shallow yard. Introducing them to the concept of using cedar chips as their primary surface for entertaining and paths was a perfect fit also. It looks great with their NW Natural style landscape, it’s affordable and it’s very easy to care for. If you get the right kind of chips you can even use a leaf blower on them and they don’t blow away.

We tucked different outdoor rooms into the perimeter of the landscape and kept the existing small concrete patio as a spacious entry to the house and the BBQ center. No more trying to fit a dining table on it as they had done before the design.

Selecting low water plants

The plant selection was also critical.  Shade plants had to survive on the water the big trees would let them have so our palette needed to be all low water plants. We used a lot of sword ferns and kept native plants wherever possible. On the south end we used one of my favorite little evergreen trees, Boxleaf Azara – Azara Microphylla. They planted them up on a berm which made them taller and helped do a faster job of screening out the neighbors garage wall.  Planting Azaras up on a berm prevents root rot since these plants do not tolerate poor drainage.

DIY installed

Their DIY install of the landscape turned out fantastic. They loved their back yard. When change came along, and they had to put their house on the market, the yard was another major asset and selling point. These photos, which they took, are from their marketing page.

I especially love the hammock room. The fire pit patio is clearly the largest entertaining area and is used for lounging with or without a fire. Their fire pit patio is a crushed rock surface, not cedar chips.

The chips continue around to the side yard gate and match the rest of the now low maintenance landscape.

“Carol understood us and got our style for a NW Natural landscape design for our North Portland yard.  We were very happy that she surpassed our expectations for low maintenance, no lawn, great textured plantings, backyard design.  She understood that we wanted to do some of the work ourselves and helped us make a beautiful-yard-on-a-budget a reality.”

 

Dog Joy – Shady City Backyards with Dogs

Dog joy – Shady city backyards with dogs

Is your shady city backyard with dogs a mud pit? This blog is dedicated to dog joy.  It’s time to stop getting mad at your dog for bringing mud and dirt into your house.  They can tell we are mad even if we try to hide it.  After all, we don’t really expect them to go outside and not get their feet dirty do we?

Roxy laying in the flower bed

Even dogs like to sit outside and enjoy the flowers. Roxy has a synthetic lawn.

Typically the failed lawn is not your fault.  Let me spell out the facts as a Portland residential landscape designer sees them.

Re-sale Lawn

When you  bought this house, there was a thriving lawn.  You cannot get it to look as good as it did when you moved in.  There could be many reasons, but my favorite is what I call the re-sale lawn;  the former home owner had new lawn installed to put the house on the market.  It looked good just long enough to get the house sold.  Your dog has contributed to the demise of the lawn but that was only part of the problem.

Tree Canopies and Roots

Trees grow and provide more and more shade as they mature.  Lawns require sun.  Even 5 years of tree canopy growth is enough to reduce the sunlight.  Sun is the number 1 food for lawns. Your lawn is sun starved.

Tree roots take up an insane volume of water.  Your lawn needs lots of water, which you provide but it is going to the trees.

Over time your lawn has lost the two things it requires to grow and thrive.  You can replace it, reseed the bare spots, fertilize 6 times a year but it won’t work.  Happiness and a mud free yard await your consideration if you can let go of the backyard lawn as you once thought of it.

Your landscape designer can create a solution for a shady city backyard.

I swear I would not bring this up if I didn’t have solutions, and this issue comes up in about half of my landscape designs each year.

Fiber ex cedar chip path

Fiber Ex cedar chips make a great lawn alternative.

No Lawn Dog Friendly Landscape in the Backyard

Playground Cedar Chips

You don’t have to have a lawn in a small shady backyard. Many dogs are perfectly happy with wide paths or areas of cedar chips.  It’s easy to incorporate cedar chips into an attractive Northwest Natural or Asian Style Landscape.

Professional playground cedar chips laid 4 to 6 inches deep is very effective.  My favorite is Fiber Ex by Rexius Forest Products, will last for years and is my most affordable solution.  The chips work well with even with large dogs and you can’t get much bigger than Newfoundland dogs.  My clients Kurt and Jackie are still thrilled with their cedar chip areas for their back yard (going on a decade now). I will note that multiple large active dogs in small yards will kick up mounds or holes in the cedar chip applications which requires raking it back out semi-regularly.

Synthetic Lawn

Other clients are using synthetic lawn quite happily with their pets. It looks good…you don’t need to water, fertilize or mow.    Even large dogs can romp and chase the ball.  It’s easy to clean up dog poo.  I am installing a synthetic lawn this year on my 10’ x 10’ roof garden/balcony.  We (Daizzie and I) are both going to love the convenience and I like the look.

Exercise your dog at the park

Some clients with very small backyards decide to make the backyard be for people and to hang out with our pets.  They  (the dogs) need a discreet potty place but exercise and leaving liquid social messages for other dogs, happens at the dog park or on walks. The landscape design focuses on entertaining areas, privacy and plantings.

Uchytil dog laying in planting box

A small area of  lawn works well for this client’s dog.

Shade grass seed

There are seed strains out there that say they are shade tolerant but trust me…..it’s not happening.  If the shade is very light there might be some lawns that will be thick enough for small dogs and people to use but  typically shade and dogs means mud without intervention.

Give yourself a break and look at lawn alternatives or contact me for a dog friendly landscape design that will make you happy and give your dog joy.

 

 

 

Ferns for Portland Landscape Designers

NW Portland Hillside Garden design by Landscape Design in a Day

Himalayan Maidenhair Fern – Adiantum venustum creeps through rockery. Photo is from one of my Willamette Heights Landscape Designs in Portland, Oregon.

Ferns for Portland Landscape Designers

I’ve been following Judith Jones and her career as a fern expert extraordinary before social media existed.  She’s been my fern guru for 20 years and I’ve tried to catch her lectures when she comes to Portland at Joy Creek Nursery, HPSO plant sales and garden shows.  My favorite Judith sighting was at the Seattle Flower and Garden Show when her show garden as the set for the Flintstones.  She was dressed as Wilma complete with a bone in her hair.  There was a dozen or more 8’ tall tree ferns and a 20’ tall volcano.  It looked like a real tropical fern forest.  It’s still my favorite show garden of all times.  She and her nursery Fancy Fronds have been my source for ferns in my designs.

She gave a special program for ANLD Portland Landscape Designers the other evening. She has continued to evolve and had new plants for me to consider as well as highlighting my old favorites.   It was such a pleasure to see her and learn more about ferns for landscape designers.

Client Charmer – Tracys Hybrid Maidenhair – Adiantum x tracyi

photo by Fancy Fronds

Tracys Hybrid Maidenhair – Adiantum x Tracyi

Is it possible to have a new fern?  This maidenhair was discovered in the 1900’s instead of 2000 bc which makes it new in my book.  Tracyi is a natural cross between two California native deciduous Maidenhair ferns and oddly enough it is evergreen.  Clients like a plant with long seasonal interest. The leaf or pinnae is cute, it has little dimples in the edge of each leaf.  The plant is a foot tall and like many Maidenhair ferns, the texture of the plant is what people notice most.  The best place to buy it is Judith herself at www.fancyfrondsnursery.com   I will list it in the shade category but many maidenhair fern can take some sun and become low water plants over time.  Typically, they are listed for moist shade.

Peacock Moss Modern Landscape Style

Kraus’ Spikemoss – Selaginella Kraussiana is a low ground cover fern that is underused. Some think it isn’t cold hardy for Portland, Oregon. Not true! I have it growing outdoors in a container where it’s handled many winters. It’s thriving in boulder crevices up in Willamette Heights. Plant it where it will have good drainage and light shade.

Kraus’ Spikemoss – Selaginella kraussiana ‘Gold Tips’ 

My descriptive words for Spikemoss are baby chick fluffy, with evergreen piles of adorable pettable  texture.  Judith feels it is underused and recommends it for Portland designers.  Don’t get confused and purchase Peacock moss, Selaginella uncinata because they are devoured by slugs.  I’ve been using Spikemoss for years at garden shows to dress up my pottery which is how I know that the millennial generation loves it.  They come running into my booth to pet the moss and ask if it is real. Spikemosses are not true mosses and are classed with ferns because they have a vascular system and moss doesn’t.   I’ve used Spikemoss in between boulders and I love the effect. My advice for boulder plantings is plant twice as much as you need, use a mix of compost, clay and sphagnum moss in the crevices. Don’t plant them at the base of boulders; they won’t get enough light.  Where it succeeds, it is eye catching with chartreuse fluffy fans against gray boulders. It has succeeded planted under my  (containerized) Dwarf  Vine Maple for 6 years so cold isn’t an issue.

Narrow Planting Beds

Photo credit Fancy Fronds, Judith Jones Narrow fern fits urban gardens (Scaled Male Fern Dryopteris 'Stableri Crisped')

Scaled Male Fern – Dryopteris ‘Stableri Crisped’ – Grow this fern in front of a long fence to make the fence subordinate to the landscape instead of the most prominent feature.

Ferns for Narrow Planting Beds – Narrow Golden Scaled Male Fern-Dryopteris affinis ‘Stableri’ which has no crests and ‘Stableri Crisped’ which has curled and crimped pinnule margins.  Think amazing texture!   Judith suggests these for narrow planting strips in general and in front of tall fences in particular.  My experience is that builders and concrete contractors often create front walks that only leave a skinny strip for plants.

Imagine a  6′ tall fence with, you guessed it,  about 15” to plant in.   It’s a problem for homeowners and even designers struggle finding plants that fit this situation.  Jack hammering out the front walk and starting over with a new one is the best thing if there is space for other options and budget.  The rest of the time we find the right plant that will fit that location for years without our clients needing to do much.  Can you imagine a fern trimmed into a lollypop?  We are trying to avoid that sort of business!!  Sigh…….. These handsome ferns could live for decades in that narrow area as long as the soil drains reasonably well.  These ferns are also my favorite for visually making the fence subordinate instead of prominent. The narrow vase shape also makes them perfect contrast partners to plants with large leaves like Hosta or Fatsia in larger planting beds.

Foundation Plants

Sword Leaf Holly Fern – Polystichum xiphophylum  and Makinoi’s Holly Fern – Polystichum ‘Makinoi’  

These two ferns could become your new regular use plants in designs.  They are evergreen, not as tall as many ferns and look good in foundation plantings.  Place them in partly shaded and shady areas.

Olive colored foliage makes this fern unique for Portland Landscapes

Makinoi’s Holly Fern – Polystichum ‘Makinoi’

Sword Leafed Holly Fern – Polystichum xiphophylum is neat and small at 15″ tall.

Makinoi’s Holly Fern – Polystichum  ‘Makinoi’ –  Olive, straw gold and russet fern with lustrous fronds is beautifully different than other ferns. Judith says it like this: “There is a reptilian sheen to the olive-green linear-lanceolate fronds which blends subtly into the varied straw to chestnut colored scales cloaking the supporting framework.”   It’s typically a 2-footer and evergreen or ever olive.  Some filtered morning light is okay but this fern is not for sunny areas.

Shade Garden Combination of fern and hosta

ANLD Member Rick Hansen design Arachniodes Standishii – Upside Down Fern in 2015 Designers Garden Tour. Note the color echo achieved by matching the mid green of the fern with the mid green leaf edge of the hosta.  See the contrast from the ruffled texture of the fern with the smooth hosta leaf.

 

 

Big Drama Fern

Upside Down Fern – Arachniodes Standishii  –  It’s not an upside down plant but the way the little pinnae are organized is opposite of all the other Arachniodes ferns in the world.  What I  care about is that it is cold hardy here (native to Korea and Japan), has an over the top lacy pattern and is easy to grow.  It’s semi evergreen.  It can take a little direct morning sun, typically place it in filtered shade with some deeper afternoon shade.  Plant it in front of other plants for a peek through the lace curtain effect.  It can eventually get large (4′ tall and wide) and I am trying mine on the north side where it will get sun until noon in mid June.  I’m pushing my luck a bit so we will see if it scorches and if so how long it takes to recover.

After the lecture, I bought plants. Even in my near senior status I felt that good old plant lust rise to the surface.  I usually don’t indulge in buying plants at lectures.  Managing all aspects of my landscape design business doesn’t leave me a lot of time for my former hobby of gardener and plant enthusiast.  I must be careful that I don’t kill plant material purchased in a state of amnesia about the reality of my life.  I bought these 5 ferns:  Tracys Hybrid Maidenhair – Adiantum x traceyi, Narrow Golden Scaled Male Fern  Dryopteris x complexa ‘Stableri Crisped’, Arachniodes Standishii, Upside Down Fern, Makinoi’s Holly Fern – Polystichum  ‘Makinoi’, and have lost the tag on the last one.  It’s clearly a Holly fern of some kind.

Buy ferns from Judith

My clients and I buy ferns directly from Judith off her web site or via an email. I like buying from her and get loads of advice and information when I need it. They arrive in great shape and are mostly sized between a 4” plant and a quart.  If you want bigger sizes, contact her before the spring or fall HPSO plant sale and she can bring them down for you.  Your clients can buy directly from her too.

Dog Friendly Shade Trees for Landscaping Small Yards

Small dog digging requires dog friendly landscaping.

On the hunt for a cool spot to lay.

Small Shade Trees for Your Dog Friendly Landscaping

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 suggested for dog friendly landscaping.

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 suggested for dog friendly landscaping.

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 suggested dog friendly landscaping.

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.

 

Hydrangea phantom at Normas suggested dog friendly landscaping.

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.

If you are interested in dog friendly landscaping for your yard, contact me in the Portland area.

 

 

Five Important Garden Tips

Five Important Garden Tips You Need

Treating blackberry and ivy with Roundup in the spring and early summer is pretty much useless.  There is a time when these plants are most susceptible to herbicide. It’s a million times more effective in late summer and early fall.   In an ideal world we would not use herbicides at all, if you are going to use them you want to use them sparingly and at a time when they will be effective.  For information on how to do it right see my blog:  Treating blackberry and ivy .

Over watering or under watering new plant material.  Your common sense will kill your plants if you don’t have the specific information for the specific plant type.  You can’t water a new tree the same way you would water your petunias.  I insist my garden coach clients have a written watering plan for the first two years of their new landscape.  I tell them how long to water and to hand check the soil to see if their efforts are successful.  Last, but not least, if you’re watering every day you are in line for losing a lot of new plant material.

Sedum s Red Carpet in winter

Colorful tough ground cover for full sun

Plant labels lie.  Trust me it’s not a conspiracy, but they write the label so that it makes  sense for the entire country.  In the Northwest we have the ideal growing conditions so plants will grow taller and wider than indicated.  In addition, just because a plants’ mature size is 15’ tall, does not mean it will stop growing once it gets there.

Light.  Labels don’t have enough room to explain the complexities of sunlight, let alone the four different kinds of shade.    Great Plant Picks is a great information resource in many ways, and has an excellent explanation about the different kinds of shade.   There is no perfect solution, even checking the Web will get you four different suggestions for light requirements on a single plant.  This is why experienced gardeners often move plants that don’t seem to thrive in the first location they select.  Others hire designers who know these things first hand.

Carol on a garden coach appointment.

“Thank you so much for all your information today and your helpful phone call Saturday.  I was pulling out plants in my mind as I was going to sleep last night.  I can’t wait to get started!”  D’Anne Oneill

Pruning.  My best advice is don’t let your father-in-law prune your Japanese Maple!  Do not do hedge pruning on plants that are not hedges.  You need to learn how to do a thinning style of pruning. While I certainly advocate for hiring a garden coach (since I am one) you can learn from a local nursery, community college or someone who has trees and shrubs that don’t have a bunch of stubs on them.  We want pruning that will enhance a plant’s natural and unique shape.