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4 Drought-Resistant Landscaping Ideas for Increasing Your Property’s Eye Appeal

 

Drought tolerant low maintenance front yard

Drought tolerant Portland landscape design example. This front yard shown in winter is gravel, stone and plants.

4 Drought-Resistant Landscaping Ideas for Increasing Your Property’s Eye Appeal

In recent years, droughts have made it harder to maintain your property’s landscaping, especially with water restrictions that make it almost impossible to maintain lush, green natural grass. While it may be tempting to throw up your hands and just let it go brown, you do have many other options for increasing your property’s eye appeal. Knowing about these four drought resistant landscaping ideas gives you the perfect starting point for transforming the look and usability of your lawn.

Gravel and Stone

This landscaping option requires no watering, and it can last for years. However, too much gravel and stone can look stark. There is also the risk of gravel and stone being displaced during times of heavy foot traffic or inclement weather. For this reason, it is best to limit the use of this ground covering to smaller accent areas. Filling in the area around a fire pit or lining a walkway with stones and pavers reduces the amount of grass you need to create a lovely outdoor space. Yet, you will still need to consider other options if you prefer some green in your landscaping plan.

Garden path with stone stairs in Portland Oregon

The new stairs are complemented by easy care artificial grass.

Artificial Grass

Gravel and stone may do the trick, but they still lack the soothing quality of staring out at a lush, green space. Artificial grass is a great option when you prefer the look of natural blades since it has a similar appearance and texture, and it offers additional benefits for drought conditions such as requiring no water to maintain its look. You will also find that installing artificial grass eliminates the need for other forms of energy wasting such as mowing and weeding, and it lasts for years with little more than an occasional wash down with the hose.

Succulents

These hardy plants require very little watering to achieve gorgeous growth. While succulents are low-maintenance, it does take some know how for selecting the types that will work best in your climate. Therefore, you will want to do some research before planting to find the right mix of colors, textures and hardiness for your outdoor area.  Hen and Chicks – Sempervivum and Sedum Spath ‘Voodoo’  are two popular options for adding succulents to drought-prone areas.

Edited Salvia-Raspberry-Delight-Bouteloua-Blonde-Ambition-web

Salvia ‘Raspberry Delight’ with Good Grass Bouteloua Gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ Photo credit High Country Gardens

Perennial Flowers

Life in a drought state is hard for flower loving home owners. However, there are some options for brightening up your outdoor space even when the rain has yet to fall. Consider adding low-water blooms such as Russian sage and lavender to your garden. Ideally, you should choose flowers that can be planted in pots so that you can keep them out of the heavy sun and put them out anytime that you need a splash of color for your décor. This option is a great way to add a touch of life by combining it with other ground coverings such as artificial grass.

Keeping your landscaping in top condition may seem harder when you are dealing with drought conditions. However, water restrictions may be the impetus you need to explore other options that offer far greater benefits than natural grass. For best results, consider mixing it up a bit by adding a few succulents as accents to your artificial grass, or define a small space with gravel. By being willing to experiment, you will find the perfect design for transforming your lawn into a gorgeous oasis that frees you from the dreaded parts of regular lawn maintenance.

 

Lawn Do Over for Portland Landscapes

Landscape Design in a Day's newly installed RTF grass.

Landscape Design in a Day’s newly installed RTF grass with dry stream bed.

This is the year for rethinking the lawn. As a Portland landscape designer many of my new clients want to make big changes in their landscapes.  I am recommending clients replace their old lawns with new and improved grass varieties.

My Lake Oswego clients, George and Marcia, contacted me completely discouraged about their front yard. I met them in the fall after our particularly hot and horrid summer of 2015. They had spent their entire summer watering and watering their lawn.  It wasn’t dead on the October day that I came to their home but as you can see it was quite unattractive.

Uplands Neighborhood of Lake Oswego

Damaged Lake Oswego lawn

They decided it was time to hire a designer and start over with their landscape. It is a typical Lake Oswego landscape with heavy clay soil, fir trees nearby with thirsty roots, and drainage problems.

Before we even started the landscape design process, I was able to share information about a new lawn grass that uses less water and is more durable than the grass (perennial rye grass blends) we have been using for the last 30 years.  Working closely with Kevin Schindler of Autumn Leaf Landscaping Inc. we replaced their old lawn with Rhizomatous Tall Fescue (RTF) grass and designed a naturalistic dry stream bed that also solves the drainage problems.  Solving the drainage problems also enhances the health of the grass.  Even RTF grass doesn’t do well in a boggy winter soil.  George and Marcia are very pleased with the appearance and performance of the new grass.  They love their new dry stream bed and how it has pulled together the entire front yard, giving it a dramatic focal point.

They are no longer slaves to watering.

Installation day at George and Marcia’s Lake Oswego home.

This year several of my clients have taken out their old grass and installed RTF.   From a distance it looks like any lawn, in fact it looks more uniform because it grows so thickly that it tends to crowd out weed grasses much better than our perennial rye grass does.  My Lake Oswego clients especially appreciate the fact that RTF tolerates more sun and heat and if they did decide to let it go dormant, it will come back beautifully.  RTF can even handle a south facing lawn with reflected heat from a sidewalk.  This is the most difficult place to successfully grow grass so Portland landscape professionals are embracing this new product.

It is available as a roll out turf product (sod) and as seed.  Kuenzi Turf & Nursery

After Landscape Design in a Day Front yard

Rose City Park Neighborhood

No grass lawn

West Portland Park  Neighborhood

Other clients want no lawn designs, thinking it will be lower maintenance.  No lawn will mean lower water usage but replacing a lawn with paths and plants does not promise low maintenance. Even the fairly new minimalist style using 90% round river rock and 10% plants isn’t as low maintenance as you think. Someone has to blow dust and debris out of the river rock frequently to prevent weeds from building up.  Many clients simply don’t want to mow any lawn and are fine with the first two years of extensive weeding that is needed to get a no lawn front yard established.  For a lot of people, however, weeding is the least favorite gardening chore.

Synthetic Lawn Installed in front yard

Newly installed synthetic lawn in Parkrose Heights neighborhood

Other clients are installing synthetic lawn.  Before you sneer at the idea of fake grass (which I did when I first heard about it), check out these photos of my Southeast Portland clients Bob and Norma Bleid.  They gave themselves a retirement gift, front and back synthetic lawn.  No water, no chemicals, no fertilizer; it is the ultimate low maintenance landscape lawn.

Early fall is a particularly good time to install a new lawn or landscape.  With a good irrigation system landscapes can be installed any time of the year.  As a Portland landscape designer I am not fond of July or August installations, I know my clients will be “nervous nellys”  seeing their plants’ leaves droop, scorch and burn in the summer sun.  The fall rains typically do a beautiful job of providing the moisture needed to get plants (including grass) well established.  This eliminates the stress and worry of summer planting.

 

 

 

Hardscape Design Transforms A Gardeners Landscape

Stone patio with synthetic lawn

Delightful patio replaces stodgy deck – notice the beautiful synthetic lawn.

Garden Consultation – Margaret hired me as a garden coach.  We worked together for several years. Her property in Lake Oswego has typical problems; clay soil, greedy tree roots, soggy lawn with moss and drainage problems.  But in my mind, the biggest problem was a deck that had been built by the previous owners.  The shape was boxy and didn’t fit Margaret’s colorful NW natural garden.

For 6 years our garden coaching focused on her garden plantings.  My client is hands on and did her own maintenance for her large property.  In fact, one time, the contractor was late and we just couldn’t wait for him….and I might add we were a lot younger…..so Margaret and I decided to plant these 5′ tall Arborvitae up on the hill ourselves.  Things were going well until one rolled down the hill and took me out like a bowling pin.

Blake before deck close up 2

The old deck had to go!

At last she was ready to have the garden of her dreams. How delightful it would be to play with her plants instead of mowing.  She was tired of fighting with fir tree roots, shade and clay.  Her lawn was never dry until August, when it was  then parched and it never looked good. She wanted to spend her time gardening, not doing basic maintenance. There is nothing worse than spending your time cleaning up a landscape that you don’t like the looks of.  She didn’t want that deck any more.  She wanted a NW natural design that would include two sitting areas (one a new patio off the house to replace the deck, a flagstone patio in the woods) and synthetic lawn for her and her dogs.  We also re-worked her garden paths so they would be easier to clean up and look  so attractive they would integrate the landscape.

Garden path with stone stairs

The new stairs are complemented by easy care synthetic lawn.

The new design also met the horticultural needs of the fir trees since synthetic lawn doesn’t need summer water and our native fir trees are healthier without summer watering.

Now Margaret can blow or even use a dry vac on her lawn to remove fir needles.  It looks good all the time and the dogs are very happy and clean.  It is also a lot easier to clean up dog poop!

Before stone steps

Old garden path was hard to navigate and had no drama.

We worked together to create the design.  Because of the scope of the job Margaret choose to hire a professional,  Autumn Leaf Landscaping.

It is an amazing transformation.  Margaret’s plants and garden look fabulous because the supporting structures are well shaped and attractive.

Protecting plants from winter cold starts in summer

One More Reason to not over water this August.   It will help keep your plants alive this winter.

Plants that don’t get the message to slow down in late summer and fall, don’t go dormant in time for winter cold. Your plant needs dormancy to survive. Start now to protect them before old man winter arrives.

Iron gate design with snow

1. Do you over water in August? This is a biggie for a plant tombstone. Overwatering in summer and fall can cause plants to ignore the signals, such as shortened days that tell them to slow down. Try to learn how to water properly.

TIP: A garden coach session could solve this problem for you!

2. Fertilizing plants that don’t need it causes lush growth and can interfere with dormancy.  80% of your plants don’t need any commercial fertilizer at all. The best practice is to place an inch or two of mulch (or compost) around your plants in spring and in early winter …. prior to Thanksgiving is a good time these days with our early freezing temps in the recent past.

3. Severe pruning late in the summer or fall can signal plants to push growth. Signs of tender, new growth in fall or early winter is not a good thing. There are exceptions to this rule of course, nature isn’t fair and makes learning which plants are fine with “whacking” and which are not, takes time, concentration or a good teacher.

4. Plants that are considered drought tolerant are especially sensitive to over watering, fertilizing and severe pruning.  Italian Cypress, Crape Myrtle and rosemary are good examples of plants that can be cold hardy here with knowledge based care.

5. Placement of Zone 7 and 8 plants into areas where the winter east wind will reach them is risky. Plant these evergreens such as large leaf hebes and New Zealand flax plants where the house or other plants will shield them. (Tiny leafed hebes are a better choice anyway). If you are in our East county and can’t shield plants from the winter wind from the Columbia Gorge, consider a different plant palette, plants that do well in Boise (zone 5) come to mind. Small leafed evergreens like dwarf conifers are a great choice. Plants that are deciduous (leaves fall off in winter) are completely dormant and therefore safe from the cold East wind.

True Low Maintenance Landscape Uses Synthetic Lawn

Save Time and Money by Installing Synthetic Lawn

The synthetic lawn and Landscape Design in a Day was a retirement gift Bob and Norma gave to themselves.  They were so sure about synthetic lawn they had already purchased it.

From the first phone call, I knew how many square feet of synthetic lawn we would use and where it would go.   They were looking forward to a lawn that would stay green no matter what their boxer dog did.   Mowing, fertilizing and watering would no longer be part of their new retirement lifestyle.

Before synthetic lawn

BEFORE: Landscape Design in a Day, the synthetic lawn and all the homeowner’s hard DIY work

Plant Color and Diversity a Must
Norma especially enjoyed plants with a lot of color.  The front landscape plantings needed to have year round color, and have interesting texture.  She was interested in a very clean mid-century modern hardscape but wanted the plantings to add a softening effect.

The backyard could be completely devoted to summer color as few windows faced the back.

Norma’s New Plant Palette Includes:

Norma used the popular design website Houzz to send me pictures of her style. This saved time and worked very well for us to zero in on the kinds of plants she loved.

Synthetic Lawn Installed in front yard

AFTER: Photo taken just two months after the Landscape Design in a Day was completed

Colorful foilage lasts for months, flowers in summer.

Weigela ‘My Monet’ displays colorful foliage that lasts for months. Bell-shaped pink pearl colored flowers appear in late spring / early summer and attract beneficials to your garden.

True Grit
Bob and Norma intend to stay in this home for many years.  I recommended they invest in my “true grit” soil prep process.  It creates an environment for healthy plants, the plants need less water, and often grow bigger than in typically amended clay soil.  It is a lot of work! We joked about whether Bob would still like me (since he was the one doing the heavy work) after he was done.  The results are very exciting and satisfying for me – let alone my clients!

Our Clients Say it Best
Norma commented, “Thank you for all your help. Bob has been digging and digging and hauling 19 yards of crushed rock, compost and dirt.  I have a feeling we saved a ton of money.  It was worth doing it ourselves!”

She continued saying: “We are pleased with how our new landscape turned out. In fact, people are stopping in the street and taking pictures and giving us the thumbs up. Thanks again for everything.”  – Bob and Norma, Vancouver, WA

Does Your Garden Need a Facelift?
Email or phone Carol today to schedule an appointment: 503.223.2426