Portland Affordable Landscaping Using Existing Plants
Priscilla knew she would be doing a majority of the work herself, so the design needed to be DIY friendly and affordable landscaping. She needed a designer who understood that. She selected Landscape Design in a Day and was all set for her on site design day with me, Alana Chau. Priscilla is possibly the best sport when it came to her landscape design process. The day before we were set to meet, I tore my ACL playing soccer. Yes, I know, adults playing soccer are just asking to get injured. Luckily, Priscilla graciously rescheduled for a few weeks later.
Client Wish List
Priscilla and her family live on a gently sloping corner lot with a beautiful river birch (Betula nigra) as the main focal point. There were two other established trees and, to my delight, they wanted all of these trees to be part of the final design. They all seemed to be in great shape. The family wanted to keep a large amount of the grass for the kids. As is often the case for corner lots, the majority of space and sun for grass is the front yard. There would be kids playing in the front yard as well as the backyard.
Working around well established trees is always a blessing and a curse. For anyone who has been to a brand new housing development where all the trees are skinny twigs and there is no good shade to be found, you know why an established tree is a blessing. Big trees also make the whole neighborhood look and feel good. If you add the wildlife benefit of stately trees, you can understand why I encourage people to take care of and keep their big trees if at all feasible. The curse, of course, is the roots. And river birches are known for large roots right near the surface. Plants and lawn have a difficult time competing with these types of roots.
Garden Rooms Design Concept
This lawn was doing reasonably well considering the root competition but other plants would be difficult to get established. Instead of trying to create a garden bed around the birch, I decided to use the vertical weight of the birch tree to create separate garden “rooms” in the front garden. This allowed us to create an entry courtyard. The courtyard idea fits the style of the home nicely by playing to the 4 low living room windows. The birch divides the outdoor courtyard entry garden from the street frontage garden room nicely.
Keeping the DIY request in mind, we didn’t change the front walkway. We worked with the existing walk and front door concrete pad. Instead, I created the feeling of a wider entry with 2 circular shaped sweeps of decorative rock to either side of the front door. We promise to get a better photo of the sweeps as they were a great idea for a difficult space and Priscilla and I are more than a bit pleased with our sweeps of decorative rock and the overall effect on this tricky entry.
Hardscape Landscaping Materials
Boulders from American Landscape Supply, delivered.
Decorative gravel from Oregon Decorative Rock.
The 4 sections of beautiful mid-century windows are only a foot off the ground, and these are the only windows for the living room. We wanted to see greenery at ground level even in the cruelest month. I knew we needed to showcase the windows along with the front entry door and I did not want to block any light whatsoever. Plant material was therefore kept low, with year-round interest.
Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Lavender ‘Goodwin Creek’ and Heuchera ‘Forever Purple’ are repeated throughout the landscape.
A winter-blooming witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’) graces the kitchen window on the opposite side of the house.
Clematis ‘Polish Spirit’ is positioned between two existing camellia hedges on an up-cycled trellis made from old windows.
Landscape Design Review
Priscilla’s Thoughts on Working with Alana
“My design experience with Alana and Landscape Design in a Day was outstanding and worth Every. Single. Penny! Here are some highlights that I think will be helpful for you to know about working with Alana:
• She took my opinions seriously and incorporated them into the design.
• Took our budget into mind—I need something that is affordable, but beautiful. To get the final look you want, you may have to do the work in stages if you are on a budget—if you can embrace that, she can help you.
• She considered the seasons when plants would be blooming and not, so that there is never a time when the garden is completely bare of leaves and flowers. She also considered our gardening skill—not incorporating plants that require detailed, meticulous care.”
Are you interested in improving your front yard through a collaborative design process? Contact us today!