Archive for Small shade tree

Modern NW Natural Landscape Design

Emily after backyard

Freshly installed Landscape Design in a Day. Emily says, “Carol got my desire for simplicity and my style both with the plant material and the hardscapes.”

My new client Emily contacted me with two problems.  One – she needed a landscape design for her new home that would be pleasing and fit her space and her style.  She wanted to enjoy being outdoors in her small backyard in the summer.  She knew she didn’t want lawn and she wanted entertaining space.  She had a small terrace outside the kitchen door which is certainly big enough for a cuppa coffee, but it didn’t feel naturalistic and certainly wasn’t big enough to entertain.

Two – no matter what sort of landscape design we did she would need regular landscape maintenance.  In addition to finishing school, she spends a significant amount of time in France with family.  Lots of people say they need low maintenance.  Emily really needed low maintenance and a professional gardener who would not trim her Japanese maples into lollypops in her absence.

Dziedzic before backyard

Spring of 2016 Emily’s new landscape was overrun with weeds.

When she called me late spring of 2016 her landscape was completely overrun with weeds, and her plants (recently planted fall of 2015) were struggling.   Emily is an affectionado of minimalist design. Her ultra modern Westmoreland home is designed for renting out the bottom floor and she has a tenant. Emily loves ferns and Japanese maples. She prefers green leaves to the overly colorful variegated designer plants. She loves a woodsy naturalistic style for her plantings but wanted a minimalist modern style for any hardscaping.

Tough Environment for plants – Dry Shade

Three huge maple trees in neighboring landscapes created deep to dappled shade.  In summer they took all the water and in winter they buried the landscape in pounds of wet mucky leaves.   Fall clean up with Oregon Bigleaf maple starts in December.  It is not the romantic vision of a person wearing a light sweater whistling and raking up dry pretty leaves. You’re wearing rain gear and using a shovel lifting up pounds and pounds of wet muck.   Many plants would simply rot and die.  I would need to carefully select plants that can survive being buried by such a deluge of leaves. This was a tough environment for plantings.

Dziedzic acer-japonicum-aconitifolium

Emily loves Japanese maples. We selected Acer Aconitifolium ‘Full Moon’ Japanese maple for her shaded backyard.

Design Decisions

On our design day we focused on the backyard. She had one window on the second floor (the kitchen window) and I selected a special Japanese maple, two king-size ferns and some small evergreen shrubs to see in winter. The Japanese maple has both a hot spring leaf color and strong red fall color.  It was a lovely if obvious choice.   Her downstairs tenant had an egress window so I kept the plantings low to keep all the available light.

Privacy Plantings

To create privacy between properties we used three small evergreen trees with tiny leaves to contrast with the Oregon Bigleaf maple.  The rest of the plants were selected for summer interest because they would not be seen in the winter from the house.

Materials create the style

Dziedzic during back yard

Brian of D & J Landscape Contractors placing HydraPressed concrete slabs for woodland modern garden.

When I am designing a modern landscape, materials are everything.  The new modern landscape design, which is actually not all that new anymore, can become a cliché of itself.  Straight line paths without proportional balance look uninviting and cold. We used a warm gray HydraPressed concrete slab that is the epitome of modern style and will last forever if properly installed. We created two patio spaces and connected them with wide paths.  It looks like one space with plants flowing in between. This is a lot of hardscape for a backyard so you might think it would look harsh. Plantings will cover every square inch of soil and create such a lush and full complement so that the patios are fully integrated visually.  It’s a balancing act between hardscape and planted space.  Another help toward a serene and simple look is the lack of lawn.  Lawn, patio and plantings in such a narrow landscape wood tend to create a busy feeling and of course lawn would not thrive in such a shaded woodsy environment.

100 shades of green

It was important to honor Emily’s love of green leafed plants but in order to achieve the lushness needed to integrate the design, I had to find a way to provide a variety of textures (leaf shape, sheen, shade of green, habit of plant branches, etc.).   My ideal for Emily’s garden is that you could take a picture of it with black-and-white film and it would still look incredibly beautiful because of the contrasting textures and varying shades of green.

Garden Design for Gardeners

Japanese maple – Acer Palmatum ‘Shindeshojo’

Because Emily loves Japanese maples she will have a succession of seasonal color changes to entertain her from spring to fall. The plantings we used are fairly low water once mature but it would be difficult to establish the plantings without irrigation because the huge Oregon Bigleaf maples roots will steal water from the new plants. With Emily’s school schedule and traveling, an irrigation system was necessary for long-term success.  No one wants to saddle their tenant with the job of hand watering the landscape.

Emily’s comments

Dziedzic backyard during wheel barrow

August of 2016 was too hot to transplant Emily’s favorite maple. The contractor and I redesigned the hardscape layout so we could leave her existing maple undisturbed.

Emily is very happy with the design “I absolutely love the garden and am so excited about it.  It’s wonderful.”

Diversity of Dogwoods Part II

Venus dogwood from Heritage Seedlings

The flowers of  ‘Venus’  dogwood compared to a typical dogwood flower. See Diversity of Dogwoods Part I.  Photo courtesy of Heritage Seedlings

Continued from Diversity of Dogwoods Part I

The diversity of dogwoods is well illustrated by these two trees:  Cornus Kousa ‘Summer Gold’ and Cornus Controversa ‘June Snow’.

Summer Gold dogwood

Bright cream flowers are backed by colorful variegation of  ‘Summer Gold’ dogwood. Photo courtesy of Heritage Seedlings

I love ‘Summer Gold’ partially because it’s so different from other dogwoods.  Typical dogwoods have a wide oval green leaf and a round wide canopy.  ‘Summer Gold’ has narrow bright green and gold leaves and has an upright narrow shape.  This means it fits into urban settings much better than a typical dogwood.  It was created by  local grower Crispin Silva who is a delight.  His curiosity and enthusiasm about plants has certainly inspired me.  People in the industry refer to his plants as “Crispin’s Creations”.

‘June Snow’ dogwood is also different from most dogwoods.  She matures at 30′ tall and spreads to 40′ wide.  I use her for light shade for medium to smaller landscapes.  She is too big for your typical row house back yard that is only 20′ wide, but in landscapes with a little more room she can be the single tree.  This is because she has it all.  Her branch structure is incredibly graceful and open.  When she flowers in June these flat topped clusters (which often exceed 6 inches) seem to float above the foliage.

Cornus 'June Snow'

‘June Snow’ dogwood at Portland’s Legacy-Emanuel Hospital in The Children’s Garden.

 

 

The fall color can compete with any dogwood starting with orange yellows and moving into purple red and deep purple as fall deepens.  The fruit that develops from the flower clusters are tiny and not messy.  The local birds will eat them.

 

Diversity of Dogwoods Part I

Cornus Kousa 'Satomi' at Joy Creek Nursery.

Cornus Kousa ‘Satomi‘ at Joy Creek Nursery.

Diversity of Dogwoods – Part I

Dogwoods are a very large family.  There are twiggy shrub dogwoods whose hot colored stems light up the winter landscape.  There is a dogwood who blooms in March with yellow flowers and makes an edible fruit.  There are semi evergreen dogwoods we are experimenting with here in Portland.  This is the kind of knowledge homeowners need their designers to be up to date on.  When a client asks me for a dogwood I know its the visual and emotional impact of the flowers they are thinking of.  Designers think through the details to find the right variety for the clients size of yard and environment so our clients don’t have to.  Landscapes come in all different sizes and environments and now so do Dogwoods.

Plant designers have been busy improving our old-fashioned dogwood tree into a garden designers dream tree. Our old dogwood varieties have problems that plant designers have been working on for 40 years.

Cornus-Kousa 'Satomi' Intense pink flowers. Photo by Randall C. Smith, courtesy of Great Plant Picks

Cornus Kousa ‘Satomi’  Intense pink flowers.  New on the scene, ‘Little Ruby’  is a deeper pink. Photo by Randall C. Smith, courtesy of Great Plant Picks

They are improving drought tolerance, disease resistance (okay not sexy but important!)  and cold hardiness.  They’ve created new shapes that fit better into the urban environment.

What is sexy or desirable are the improvements made to the flowers.  Let’s admit it, where dogwoods are concerned,  we want even pinker flowers.   Everyone wants more color than nature supplies on her own. There are darker shades of more intense pink red.

Cornus Kousa 'Venus' has large dogwood flowers

Cornus Kousa ‘Venus’ has large white flowers which are 6 to 7 inches across.

Varieties such as ‘Little Ruby’  showcase the new strong colors.   ‘Little Ruby’ is wider than tall.  She is  plump and round headed and can be used in the landscape as a shrub or small tree.

Another new variety is called ‘Starlight’.  This cross is from our own native Pacific Northwest Dogwood;  the shape is upright and more narrow.  It works for your small yard or as a street tree. There’s a beautiful ‘Starlight’ in the courtyard of the Edith Green federal building in downtown Portland as an example of a tree perfect for urban life.

Cornus Kousa 'Starlight' dogwood

‘Starlight’ dogwood is a cross from our Pacific Northwest native dogwood. The narrow shape is perfect for urban life. http://landscapeplants.oregonstate.edu/plants/cornus-starlight

 

‘Venus’ features ginormus white flowers which are 6″-7″ across.  Like ‘Starlight’ they produce little to no  fruit unlike the many Korean dogwoods hybridized and sold in the last 15 years.  In fact even Friends of Trees offer messy Korean dogwoods.  I confess I make a TSKK TSKK when I see the huge mess they make on the sidewalks. In the fall they drop a large raspberry colored fruit.  Friends of Trees is a fabulous organization and many clients have been happy to purchase an inexpensive tree and learn how to care for their tree.  I would use the fruitless varieties near walkways and for small yards and save the old fashioned fruiting types for large properties.

 

Deep Shade Plants Tried and True

 

Fatsia Japonica, Spiders Web, Design in a Day Garden

Large leaves of Fatsia Japonica capture the available sunlight in a lightly shaded location

Think about it……………big leaves are like big hands.  The more surface area the more light the plants can access.  Having said that……this is a perfect example of the rule about how there are no steadfast rules.  Our native huckleberry, Vaccium Ovatum has tiny but highly reflective leaves, ( such a rule breaker!)  and it grows very well in a lot of shade.  Sigh………..plants are tricky.

Maurice Horn of Joy Creek Nursery and Lucy Hardiman of Perennial Partners presented a program for designers through The Association of NW Landcape Designers.  I have been a happy  member for nearly 20 years.  Maurice and Lucy added plants to my shade plant palette and reminded me of plants that had slipped off my list over time. I will share just a handful of these plants with you.

Lets look at just 5, a tree, some shrubs and 2 groundcolor plants.  Most of these plants can take a little sun but my point is, they work in the deeper shades of shade.

Plant this beautiful Snake Bark Maple under your fir trees………Acer Tegmentosum “Joe Witt”  Manchurian Snake Bark Maple  This one is new to me.

Shrubs:    Fatsia Japonica  (also called Japanese Aralia)  This is beautiful planted as under story to larger trees.  It is also my 3 Labrador dog yard plant so very tough and can take a fair amount of morning sun.   Mahonia Nervosa and Vaccinium Ovatum are both shrubs native to the Northwest.  The Vaccinium, a huckleberry plant will be more shade tolerant if you buy it from Boskey Dell Natives and ask for one that was dug out of deep shade.   I have native huckleberry at my home on the Puget sound and it seeded itself and  grows in full sun.  The truth is the offspring of my plant (little rulebreakers) will prefer a sunnier location than if planted in full shade.  This is all about natural selection.  The Mahonia, (also called Oregon Grape) a favorite of hummingbirds,  can get a little ratty looking at the end of winter, wait til the hummingbirds have gotten their fill of the flowers and then cut the plant back to about 12″ tall every year.  There won’t be berries for birds  if you do this but you can keep the plant front yard attractive.  http://www.greatplantpicks.org/plantlists/view/980

Here is a highly textural  native fern called Adiantum Aleuticum, Northern Maidenhair Fern. This one has previously escaped my radar. I use a lot of different ferns so nice to have another native one to use.

Last of all (for now) is an evergreen  groundcover ……..Beesia Deltophylla, I first met this plant at the famous Heronswood Garden in Kingston, Washington.  It is slow to bulk up but is such a low maintenance plant.  It would be great to have more access to this plant. I found it recently at Portland Nursery and snapped up a dozen for a client.

Carol Lindsay, Designer and Garden Coach   503 223 2426