I drove out to Cedar Mills in NW Portland to meet prospective landscape design clients Dave and Noelle. They were sitting out in their large front yard on a semi private patio. It was surrounded by large trees and was an idyllic setting. It was early evening in late summer. Dave opened a bottle of wine and we talked about their new home and goals for their landscape. They were newlyweds.
Dave and Noelle are the ultimate DIYers and fearlessly tackled many aspects of remodeling their “new to them” contemporary home. The landscape was a different story. We all must balance the demands of work and our lives with the time it can take to DIY.
Dave had installed an irrigation system in the past. They knew they could probably plant and do some of the landscaping work. The design however was beyond them. Their sloped property was intimidating.
- Privacy for entertaining areas and the hot tub
- Entertaining space
- No lawn
- A parking area for Dave’s beloved truck
- Paths that created access and flow around the entire property
- Create plantings that will fit with the existing rustic woods
- Make the best use of the space in the sloped smaller back yard
- Create year round color in the landscape plantings
- Planting style NW Natural
- A weeping Japanese maple somewhere prominent for Dave.
The contemporary house backs up to a natural woods and a steep canyon. The front yard was much larger than the back and although they had a great place to hang out in their front yard, they wanted to enjoy the views of nature in the back yard. It was a blank slate.
As you can see from the before photos, the doors to the back yard were 2 and 1/2′ above the landscape. The landscape then sloped down to a canyon that drops off quite steeply. We didn’t have a nice big back yard with lots of depth. They wanted to be able to step out of their great room with food and easily settle into a large outdoor entertaining and dining area. Noelle wanted no steps down to the new outdoor dining area. This meant we would need to work hard for privacy from the neighbors.
What I love about this design:
I created 3 rooms at different levels. We added grade to create privacy and used our new raised outdoor dining area to provide screening for the lower dyed concrete patio and the lower still hot tub room. I created a boulder rockery that surrounds the raised dining area and created lots of planting pockets. We planted this boulder rockery to soften the effect of the large boulders. Raising the planting beds allowed us the opportunity to improve the heavy clay soil.
As a Portland landscape designer I never miss a chance to improve our local clay soil. Soil preparation is such a good investment.
To create privacy for the hot tub room, I placed it on the lowest level – same level as the woods and planted in front of it. This created a view of plants from the master bedroom, not the view of the hot tub. I’ve yet to have clients who think the hot tub itself is a thing of beauty.
Materials that were used in this landscape included large boulders from Gales Creek Quarry. The patio was a dyed and textured concrete. The new dining area surface is 24″ x 24″ concrete slabs installed onto deck framing. The planter adjacent to the dining area is made of concrete board and planted with full season color plants such as heather and dwarf evergreen shrubs.
Other plants we used for this design: Acer Palamatum Shaina – Japanese Maple, Vaccineum Tophat – Dwarf Blueberry, Cryptomeria Sekkan Sugi – Japanese Cedar, Pieris Japonica Little Heath – Dwarf Lilly of the Valley shrub, specialty heather varieties, many varieties of evergreen succulents and low water ornamental grasses.
I was on site for grading and boulder work and worked closely with longtime contractor and excavator Joe Hurd. It was a pleasure to be able to sculpt the grade into a design that made such great use of the space. Each room was spacious and functional and flowed into the next.
Dave and Noelle loved their new landscape. They watched the concrete contractor create their dyed concrete patio very closely. Our next project was a planting plan for the front yard and more grading and boulder work. A few years later Dave and Noelle replaced the old front yard paver patio and path with new dyed concrete all by themselves. Natch. Fearless DIYers.