North Portland Residential Landscape Design for Shade
Chris and Jennifer of North Portland contacted me for help with their large shady back yard.
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.
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.
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.”