Archive for street plantings

Violet Blue Flowers in Your Summer Garden

Violet blue flowers in your summer garden

There is something magical about violet blue flowers in a summer garden. A mass of long flowering intense violet, purple or blue flowers to see from your summer chaise is a joy. Here is a plant that I use in my garden designs that is easy care and long flowering.

Blue False Indigo – Baptista Australis ‘Purple Smoke’ is a long lived perennial so it will live for decades in your landscape. I use it in my landscape designs because it is colorful, low maintenance, fully drought tolerant, and long blooming. It has attractive foliage and interesting seed pods for fall. Clients who want color and easy care would line up for this plant if they knew about it. It looks great with ornamental grasses and has a more naturalistic look since it is related to lupine, a classic native wildflower.

Planting combinations for Portland Landscape Designs

I’ve used it in a low water parking strip in NE Portland with true dwarf pine, succulents like Sedum spurium ‘Green Mantle’, heather and black mondo grass.  In a SW Portland Landscape design I placed it to tower over a low boulder with plant companion ‘Kim’s Knee Hi’ Echinacea to the side.

Over time the plant will increase to a nice thick stand of charcoal green stems (which add to the beauty) and violet blue flower stalks.  ‘Purple Smoke’ is grown locally, other varieties and flower colors are only available by mail order.  I only use the  variety of Baptista Australis called ‘Purple Smoke’.  Don’t use the parent plant of  ‘Purple Smoke’, it is called just plain old Baptista Australis and gets too tall for most city gardens.

Plant uses

The primary use is ornamental and wildlife friendly. It’s not edible although it is a legume but it is not toxic. It’s a true native American plant.  North American Indians had many uses for this plant.  The Cherokee made a blue dye for fabric from the flowers.  The Osage made some kind of eye wash.  Others used the roots as an antiseptic for wounds.  It is not considered edible and was once thought to be highly toxic.  Modern research has changed this perception.  Read more about the plants chemistry.

How to kill Baptista: Water it every day in the summer and fertilize it heavily. Plant it in a low spot where winter rain water will puddle or sit.

Best practice:  Water deeply once a week the first summer.  The second summer water deeply but infrequently or put a plug in the drip emitter because it won’t need any water by the third summer.  I always place it with low water plants so it is easy to provide it with low water to no water. Don’t divide it. It has a tap root so dividing will kill the plant. If the clump gets too wide, take off new plants at the edge of the clump.

After the foliage yellows in the fall cut it down to the ground.  Mulch twice a year with garden compost.

Check out my Summer Watering Tips. Learning how to water properly can be a great stress reducer for you and protect your landscape investment.

 

Low Water Landscape Design for Young Family

Test after

After: New design includes drought tolerant plants and street tree.

Low water landscape design for young family: TJ and Lori had a new house  in the Beaumont Wilshire neighborhood.  They were planning the landscape long term for their son and future siblings. I love to design the landscape where my client’s children will grow up.    It’s so satisfying! We are creating the places where important moments, family traditions and their children’s earliest memories will be made.  Conserving water for the future was an important family value so a low water landscape design was very important.

During the interview, I asked about edibles.  They laughed and said in unison “Beans”!  Green beans were important and there was clearly some family joke about them.  Their wish list was extensive  but the top 5 were curb appeal, low water use, Rain Garden for disconnected down spouts, no lawn, four season plantings and a screen to define their property from their  neighbors without resorting to a fence…….and a  special place for green beans.

Test before

Before Landscape Design in a Day

We solved the curb appeal issue by designing the parking strip as if it were part of the front yard. This added needed depth and gave the large front facade of the house the feel of a much larger front yard.  The rain gardens had boulders with interesting plantings that added drama to the scene.

Test parking strip

True Dwarf Pines and herbs brighten parking strip.

parking strip stepables anderson

Elfin Pink Thyme acts as stepables for flagstone path.

The parking strip was 8′ wide so was treated as an extension of the front yard, and we need that 8′!  The house with such a tiny front yard floated.  The new design integrated the parking strip into the front yard and “planted” the house visually.

Typically no designer would select the driveway for family quality time.  As we worked together it became clear that the deep spacious driveway was the perfect place for the edibles garden and play space.  The driveway got a privacy treatment, a large arbor set within a stone planter.    The planter acts as art, adds curb appeal, and visually softens the size of the driveway .  It’s a functional divide between the properties and it can be seen from inside the house, replacing the view of the neighbors side yard and house wall.  Guess what they grow on the curved iron trellis?  Green Beans!! People tall and short sit on the planter cap to garden and talk or play.

photo (82)

Stone planter with an arbor.  Click here to see more stone planter options.

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.

 

Plantings for Parking Strips

This article describes a very attractive but low maintenance planting and hardscape design for a parking strip in NE Portland.

Making great access across a strip for dry, non-muddy feet is practical and provides an attractive low maintenance landscape that adds tons of curb appeal to your home. This is effectively demonstrated by my design at NE 35th and Stanton.

Easy Care Parking strip adds curb appeal

!st year planting at parking strip NE Portland

The strip faces west, and people rarely park there.  The strip, which has mature suckering ornamental pear trees, create some cool for my client’s house in the summer, but are difficult to plant under because of root mass.  The trees also don’t share water or nutrients and have small but abundant leaf drop in the fall.  Selecting underplantings that don’t have to have every pear leaf removed prior to winter is simply smart and pays back every year in less work.

After creating a soft shape of practical hardscape, I selected a combination of plants that  will create interest for the entire year.  My client doesn’t have to think much about the plants because they are automatically irrigated with a drilled emitter tube system that is underground.  The irrigation also helps the plants compete with the pear tree roots. Over time, even in difficult conditions, the plants will need less and less water.  My client takes her weeding seriously, so even in the very first year, this planting is already filling in.  The style is very Northwest – natural and serene and adds to the curb appeal of the entire landscape.  By the third year, the weeding should be quite minimal as the plants have already spread and thickened, discouraging weeds effectively.

There are several things that need to be considered prior to designing an attractive solution for that difficult parking strip in front in your home.  On the top of the list are:     1) the sun direction;  2) whether you have trees in your strip and; 3) whether people often park near the strip.  Other things that are equally important to consider are the utilities near the strip – such as water meters, downspout connection to the street, electric and gas lines, fireplugs, and lastly, the rights of people, especially that of your neighbors to park and access the sidewalk. Remember that the parking strip actually belongs to the city or county.

Typical design issues such as soil preparation, irrigation, and what style of planting that will look best with your home also figures in.  A parking strip is the foreground view of your home, so it matters what it looks like year round. And last, but most important, is how it will look in the internet photo when it is time to sell your home.

For more on parking strip gardens – check out Kym Pokorny’s article by clicking on the link below.  The featured designs don’t seem to be low maintenance. However,  they are quite beautiful and fun. Click on the following link to read her article.  http://blog.oregonlive.com/kympokorny/2010/08/design_parking_strips_for_beau.html