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Archive for Garden Tips

Portland Landscape Designers Visit front yards in NE Portland

NE Portland Oregon client uses drought tolerant plants.Portland Landscape Designers Visit Front Yards in NE Portland

We enjoy visiting our installed landscape designs and today we are in North and NE Portland.  We will see installed front yard landscape designs and gardens in St. Johns,  Rose City Park and Cully neighborhoods in Portland Oregon.

Portland Oregon residential landscape in Portland St Johns neighborhood.

Alana Chau at one of our Landscape Designs in St Johns Neighborhood

We started near the St Johns Bridge to see a corner property landscape design.  Our client David has been working on his landscape for about 4 years now and this espalier has matured under his careful tending.  It’s on the sunny south side and is perfect for fruit trees.  The espaliered apples also act as a buffer from the public sidewalk.

Modern Landscape Design in Kenton has Drought Tolerant Plants

Three years ago this client installed her modern hardscape landscaping design and planting plan.  The focus was low water  plantings for a sunny west side front yard.   The main plantings in this modern landscape design are Arizona blue cypress, California lilac, heather, yucca, euphorbia and various succulents to include lots of hens and chicks.  We also jazzed up the entry of the house so be sure to see the before photos.  Our client was very talented….too.

Portland Oregon residential landscape design in St Johns neighborhod.

Drought tolerant plantings of Yucca, Arctostaphylos and heather show off their colors in this St Johns modern landscape design

See our previous blog about curb appeal for the story of the hardscape landscaping and more photos.Portland Oregon residential landscape design Kenton neighborhood.

Kenton Neighborhood Home has Uber Modern Landscape Design

Alana Chau visiting her hardscape landscaping design in Kenton neighborhood of Portland

 

Next we visited a fairly newly installed front yard and got to see the puppy who was brand new on the day of the on site Landscape Design in A Day.  On the design day (where all the collaborative magic occurs) Ruby, (the puppy) was just settling in from adoption so Alana got in on the new puppy energy.  Ruby is now 7 months old but still has her soft puppy fur.

Portland Oregon residential landscape modern design with clients puppy.

Ruby our Kenton Landscape Design Clients puppy

Besides petting the puppy, we  loved the installation of the design, especially the front walk  and the modern touch using steel for the step.  This design (by Alana Chau and her clients) gets our clients many compliments on their modern front entry garden and outdoor living area. Read more…

Irvington Landscape Design Clients Lose Japanese Maple

Portland Oregon residential landscape design with Irvington neighborhood client.

Alana Chau visits maple that has the dreaded verticillium wilt in Irvington neighborhood.

Portland Oregon residential landscape design in Irvington neighborhood.

Plantings w brilliant color grace this Irvington back landscape design.

Visiting the Irvington neighborhood we came to mourn the passing of a special Japanese maple from dreaded verticillium wilt.  This backyard courtyard style landscape is about 3 years old and the after photos are the most popular photos on my web site.  The clients are leaning toward a dogwood which is resistant to verticillium wilt.  I also suggested Crape Myrtle such as ‘Arapaho’ or ‘Dynamite’or  ‘Natchez’.  For Manzanita I suggested a small tree form that stays fairly narrow, such as ‘St. Helena’, ‘Monica’ or ‘Sentinel’ This back yard was designed for outdoor living and privacy and had many assets on the property prior to the design.  Read more……

 

 

 

Portland Oregon residential landscape design in Cully neighborhood.

Italian cypress and California lilac make structure for this sizzling hot south side landscape design.

Cully Neighborhood Front Yard Transformation

Here is a quick drive by of a complete re-design of a Cully neighborhood ranch style home and landscape.  The transformation of the front entry is dramatic.  On this day we especially wanted to see the south side of the front yard.  It’s the first year the California lilac was big enough to show off all those pollinator friendly blue flowers and here it is making a good showing.  To see the entire front yard transformation, check out our blog.

Portland Oregon residential landscape design with front yard rain garden.

Freshly installed front yard rain garden and stone paths integrate the front yard and entry walk.

Rain Garden Takes Focal Point in St. Johns Front Yard Landscape Design

This client and I have worked together many times over the years.  She typically DIYs the entire project.  This time, she acted as her own general to install this landscape and had many adventures but the results as usual are quite lovely and satisfying.  Best of all, her rain garden handles most of her roof water just as she had planned.  She is located in St. Johns and the landscape here is newly installed.   Some of her plants are Ilex glabra ‘Compacta’, Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’, and various Juncus, a native ornamental grass.  The photo was supplied by the client.

 

Do you have a city front yard that needs a collaborative and creative design?  Contact us, we would love to talk with you.

Hummingbird Candy-Gardening for Birds

Gardening for Birds Makes Year-Round Entertainment

12 Portland Plants to feed Hummingbirds

Did you know Hummingbirds stay in Portland over the winter? You can attract these beautiful creatures to your yard, and provide much needed nectar, with a variety of plants. Here is a round up of plants we call “Hummingbird Candy” for every month of the year. If you’d like help integrating these plants into a Garden Design, contact us. Or just add one or two in a pot on the porch!

(Note: plants bloom at different times each year depending on the weather. The plant selection above is typical in Portland.)

Happy Bloomers for Early in the Year

Portland gardening for birds.

January: Oregon Grape

Portland gardening for birds

February: Witch Hazel

Portland gardening for birds.

March: Flowering Currant

January – Oregon Grape, Mahonia sp., blooms winter through spring, depending on the type. I enjoy Xera’s description of Mahonia x media ‘Charity’. Pair this Mahonia with other natives such as Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea, and a dwarf cultivar of our Western Red Cedar, like Thuja plicata ‘Excelsa’.

February – Witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’, is a winter must have. See the blog post Winter Garden Plants the Sizzle for some ideas where to view these beautiful shrubs in full size. This is one of those plants that improves with age.

March – Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum, is a beacon of joy in Portland’s dreary season. The bold pink of this bloom is just so happy! Ribes is one of the easiest Portland native plants to grow. For more easy natives, see Native Plants.

Usher in the Spring with these Reliable Plants

Portland gardening for birds.

April: California Lilac

May: Cape Fuchsia

June: Penstemon

April – California Lilac, Ceanothus sp., is great for Hummingbirds as well as Bees. Pair the small dark-green leaves of Ceanothus impressus ‘Dark Star’ with the strappy light-green foliage of Hakone Grass, Hakonechloa macra. Of course, you’ll need to water that Hakone Grass with drip irrigation until it’s established.

May – Cape Fuchsia, Phygellus sp., is a plant we like so much it has it’s very own blog post: Colorful Cape Fuchsia. 

June – Beard Tongue, Penstemon sp. is a wonderful bloomer for drought-tolerant landscaping. Many Penstemon’s are native to the west coast and all attract hummingbirds.

Enjoy the Lazy Days of Summer with Beautiful Blooms

July: Hosta

Portland gardening for birds

August: Crocosmia

Portland gardening for birds.

September: Salvia

July – Hosta cultivars are an often overlooked hummingbird magnet for shade. See A Pollinator Garden Paradise

August – Crocosmia blooms all summer long, ending around August in my Portland garden. This is often the first plant people think of when they want to attract hummingbirds. Check out some impressive captures in Portland on this instagram account.

September – Anise Sage, Salvia guaranitica, is a favorite of a recent client design and install, see Laurelhurst Neighborhood Backyard.

Keep the Hummingbird Entertainment Going through Fall

Portland gardening for birds.

October: Hardy Fuchsia

Portland gardening for birds.

November: California Fuchsia

December: Yuletide Camellia

October – Hardy Fuchsia, Fuchsia magellanica and hybrids bloom from summer into fall, depending on the type. Portland Nursery always has a nice selection.

November – California Fuchsia, Epilobium sp., is less widely known as others on this list. It blooms the entire fall season, later than most perennials. Pair it with ornamental grasses, which look fabulous at the same time. I might suggest an evergreen sedum or other evergreen groundcover in front of this plant as it gets pretty ugly after the first hard freeze of winter.

December – Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ and other Camellia’s fill a very important season for hummingbird plants. Some hummingbirds leave for the winter but our native Anna’s Hummingbirds stick it out through the cold and wet. Consider planting a winter-blooming Camellia for these pretty creatures. For more fun winter interest, see Cheery Winter Landscape.

If you are a bird lover who wants more wildlife in their garden, contact us to make an appointment.

Creating Privacy with Plants for Small N.E. Portland City Landscapes

Privacy for SE Portland city home makes front yard dining work beautifully

The lush beauty of clumping bamboo creates privacy for a front yard dining patio in SE Portland.

Privacy for Small City Landscapes

I like to use clumping bamboo for my small city properties to achieve privacy and to screen out unattractive views.  Here are 3 small city landscapes that make good use of clumping bamboo.

Private Entry Garden in Busy Hawthorne Neighborhood

These clients created a private entry garden on a very busy street. They used a clumping bamboo with a strongly arching, almost weeping structure called Fargesia sp.’ Rufa’.  The need for a feeling of an oasis around the home in their friendly neighborhood outweighed the need for security. The front gate discourages uninvited visitors. Neighbors cannot see into the front yard and the clients cannot see the sidewalk or the cars.

From inside the home they look out their windows to see curtains of green and it is very restful.  The back yard is so small that they tend to do most of their outdoor dining and entertaining in the front yard where the privacy is perfect for intimate gatherings.

NE Portland Home gets Kitchen Window Privacy

backyard privacy in SE Portland with clumping bambooEveryone spends lots of time at the kitchen sink.  My NE Portland clients had their kitchen window lined up perfectly with the neighbor’s kitchen window.  The lots in this neighborhood are small, 5,00 square feet and less.  This tiny city back yard needed privacy and needed it fast.

We wanted our privacy screen to be at most 10’ tall with a very upright growth habit to preserve space.  In a yard this small we needed every useable inch!  We used the clumping bamboo named Fargesia robusta ‘Campbell’ again and if we had used a weeping form like the ‘Rufa’ that would have been a mistake for obvious reasons. The client and her brother are very talented and installed everything including the new concrete patio.

Privacy for Irvington Back Yard with Clumping Bamboo

These clients in Irvington neighborhood wanted privacy and also wanted to screen out the house and roof of the large house next door.  The home office also had a large window looking out onto the 10’ wide side yard and into a view dominated by the neighbors overly large roof.

Clumping Bamboo in tall wood planters creates privacy fast for NE Portland home.I want solutions that work not solutions that make work.

They specified screening that was going to be 15’ tall and evergreen.  They also wanted low maintenance.  It was on the north side and even if we wanted arborvitae, I was concerned we would not have enough light for them to thrive and maintaining them at 15’ was going to take a long time and then require professional pruning as well.  There were lots of plants people typically use for this situation and they are all going to be high maintenance and potentially trespass onto their neighbors air space and light.

backyard privacy gets a boost with planters and clumping bamboo in N.E. Portland

Fargesia ‘Campbell’ clumping bamboo in Irvington neighborhood creates privacy.

This was a perfect place for clumping bamboo.  To get the plants at the 15’ mark we had custom planters that were 30” above the grade built.  This would give our plants a boost so they won’t have to wait as long for the screening.

Caveats:  The plants will make some leaf debris year-round but especially in the spring. The plants will require regular irrigation forever.  They are not drought tolerant.  And even with a few minuses, let me tell you, this is a lot less work than other options for a 15′ screen.

Clumping bamboo, in particular Campbell’s Variety, is an excellent choice for small city back yard and privacy solutions. For an even taller clumping variety consider Fargesia robusta ‘Green Screen’.  It is more likely to top out above 15’ tall.  Clumping bamboo do not need to be contained in a planter.  In this case, the planter is there to boost height and to have other plants in it to complement the clumping bamboo.

For more information about clumping bamboo see Bamboo Garden web site.

Looking for attractive and thoughtful solutions for privacy in your small city property?  We love tricky city backyards! Contact us.

 

 

 

Entry Garden for Ranch Style in Cully Neighborhood

Drought tolerant garden design in North Portland

My client Laurie had lived in her 1950’s ranch style home for over a decade and was only the 2nd owner. She removed all the lawn and added exuberant plantings that hid much of the house from the neighborhood. She loved lavender and (so do bumble bees) so much so her mail carrier would not use the front walk because of the generous number of happy bees. She loved her garden but over time the now overgrown plantings were not working for her NE Portland drought tolerant garden design transforms entry landscapeanymore.   It was time for professional solutions and a complete change.

She wanted a designer who would listen to her ideas and be easy to collaborate with. She found Landscape Design in a Day and from the first phone call we were having fun.  We had to make ourselves stop “design riffing”  to do the paperwork and set up our appointment.

Incorporate the ADU into Landscape Design

Integrate her landscape design around the ADU so it looks like one landscape for her home and the ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit).

A welcoming and comfortable walk to the front door and a separate entry walkway for ADU/studio building on the property.

Create an attractive and more professional drainage solution.  The 60’ long black pipe handling downspout water was fully visible on the surface of the front yard had to go.

No lawn.

Edit her existing plants and keep the best plants that fit into the new vision.

Select colorful interesting plantings to satisfy her gardeners heart that use little water. Use enough evergreen plants for winter cheer without sacrificing the lushness of spring and summer flowers and foliage colors.

Drip irrigation system so she could be frugal with water and have healthy plants.

Pollinator plants.

Include some plants typical to New Mexico where she grew up.  Must have prickly pear please.

Client wanted parking on the south side yard and easy paths to the house.

Incorporate boulders where possible

Designers Assessment and Solutions

I saw several issues in addition to my clients list

Entry needs a landscape update in NE Portland.The Front Door Entry Was Disappointing

I created a new front porch to give a boost to the overall appearance of the house and as a sit spot.  Initially most clients don’t consider what a difference changing the entry will make to the overall landscape.

She had the typical midcentury built in brick planters by the front door that kill every plant ever planted in them.  The planters, in addition to basically being a plant cemetery, took up too much room around the front door, making the entry feel cramped. To create a welcoming entry I knew the planters and aged cracked concrete porch must go.  We brought in Victor Vincill to design a wall treatment to replace the brick planter.  There was no siding under the brick. Victor used a vertical panel of warm cedar to add drama and to side the area where the brick planters had been.

With the new updated entry I wanted to open the house up to the neighborhood without losing too much privacy. We removed some beautiful but overgrown plants including smoke trees. We were not able to keep the hot pink flowering cistus as they do not transplant well but we added several into the new design.  Laurie loves them as do I.

There were several trees on the property I wanted to incorporate into the design:  a Japanese maple planted in honor of Laurie’s dad, a dogwood and a maple tree planted by her brother and a smoke tree. The rest of the plants needed to go, which can be a hard thing, but seeing how the proposed landscape would look Laurie was enthusiastic about clearing much of  the slate.

South Side Garden becomes SW Style

North Portland home in need of drought tolerant landscaping. Newly planted drought tolerant garden design in N PortlandLaurie wanted a fully drought tolerant garden on the south side that could defend itself against neighborhood foot traffic and dogs. Since this was the south side it was a perfect place to explore the more Arid and New Mexico style plantings. It was well over 100’ long and narrow.

I knew a bermed planting bed shape would create proportional mass for this corner lot garden. It is an especially long lot line.

I wanted to make a view for the south office window even though it had heavily curtained windows.  I felt Laurie would enjoy opening the curtains for morning light and seeing shrubs with butterflies and birds visiting it. I selected a fast growing large variety of California Lilac for her view which fit nicely with her New Mexico planting theme.

The Ugly Black Drainage Pipe Goes By Bye

N Portland ranch home gets landscape updateDesigner contractor collaboration (Donna Burdick, LCC) worked with me to discover the best drainage system.  We used a rain garden as a focal point for the front yard. It solves the drainage problem (bye bye black pipe!) and is an asset to the overall design and property.

Hardscape Landscaping in North Portland

Dyed Concrete with a sand finish for the new angled steps and porch

Vertical cedar siding solution for house façade replaces brick planters and adds interest

Compacted crushed rock paths with steel edge has dry set large flagstones to carry the eye through the garden

We used my special cedar chip for the woodsy garden path and sitting area for the ADU

Design Review

Drought tolerant landscape in N Portland“I want to thank you again for your incredible design sense and plant recommendations.  We are so happy with our south and front yard – we walk around it every evening, we sit on the new front porch and find so much solace and peace in it.  Our neighbors also love it and frequently comment.  The world needs more beauty and joy right now!! And how about my beautiful prickly pear (Nopales).  It’s grown exponentially from two pads to many!!!”

Laurie

 

2021 Update!

Drought tolerant landscape design includes cactus.

Cactus growing in the gravel garden. The plants in this section evoke the Desert Southwest, a special locale for this homeowner.

drought tolerant landscape design includes california lilac and italian cypress.

California Lilac and Italian Cypress growing happily in this gravel garden in NE Portland.

drought tolerant landscape design includes boulders

A stone step, leads to the crushed rock path. Ice plant is starting to creep nicely over the step and boulders.

If you love the drought tolerant and SW inspired landscaping, contact us for an appointment.

Baby Boomers Downsize to NE Portland & Landscape Beautifully

Landscape in Irvington Neighborhood for Downsizing Boomer Clients

This NE Portland backyard was updated for retiring baby boomers

My clients had just moved into a bungalow on a small lot in NE Portland.  They are baby boomers and were downsizing from a larger home and property.  This house was “charm” itself with a gracious front porch and had wonderful bones.  While we created a design for the entire property, this blog is about the back yard transformation.

The back yard had an existing covered dining area. It looked like a portico with the roof attached to their shed to me and was quite attractive but so badly placed. It was blocking access to the back yard. The clients wanted my direction for whether to keep it or have it demolished.

The existing landscape spaces didn’t fit together or make good use of the square footage available.  They wanted good flow.

Privacy Screening for an Urban Backyard was a Priority.

They especially wanted privacy and better views from inside the house.  In a larger property, creating lush green views from every window is easier with plenty of square footage between the windows and the neighbors.  In small urban properties, controlling the views is more tricky to do well with typically only 5′ to 10′ of space to work with.  This space always has paths and other functions to perform and so is not solely available for plantings.  The view of the next door neighbors multistory house and roof was especially obvious from inside the home office.

The rest of their wish list looked like this:

NE Portland back yard landscape design with gas firepit patio and colorful plantingsTwo entertaining areas

A fire pit

A better utility area for garbage cans

A grassy area for their dog

Keep the large shade tree to the north

BEFORE image of NE Portland backyard landscaping.

The existing covered dining area was very badly placed and blocked entry to the back yard.

Poor Access to the Back Yard

 This old Portland house had access from the home’s office to the back yard.  Not ideal.  No one wants friends and family traipsing through their office with BBQ prep and smores. The primary outdoor traffic would come from the kitchen door on the far north side which is a long ways from the activities of the back yard.

I feel when the home does not have access from a primary living room or kitchen directly into the back yard, we need to have a big reward (Carol make it magical!)  when we get to the back yard.  There is a psychological resistance when access doesn’t lead directly to the activity.

Landscape Integration

Repeating hardscape landscaping materials helps to integrate a small city propertyGiven what they wanted, the key to success was integration.  In this case it would involve bringing the walking surface to one grade and repeating hardscape materials.  The shapes of the sitting areas, paths and planting beds needed to be one continuous flowing piece.

I replaced the deck under the Portico (covered area) with a flagstone patio, level with the rest of the yard.  The flagstone is used again in the back yard to pull these previously separated areas into one.  The large fire pit patio also has touches of flagstone.  Using the same materials and making the walking surface the same grade did the trick.  A custom wood cover for the fire pit allows my clients to use it for a low table instead of a heat source when desired.

Blocking View of Roof Next Door

We blocked the view of the house and roof next  door with clumping bamboo.  To get a height boost, custom planters were built at 36″ high so my baby boomer clients would not have to wait for years to enjoy privacy and a lush wall of green to see  while working in their office.

The Kitchen Door

Clumping Bamboo in Custom Wood Planters Creates Privacy for Baby Boomers

Clumping Bamboo (Fargesia Robusta) in Custom Wood Planters will quickly provide privacy for this Irvington neighborhood home.

This little old concrete step was too big of a drop from the threshold and it wasn’t wide enough for a normal sized foot. We took the opportunity to legitimize this important family entry door by rebuilding this step with attractive materials that gave it beauty as well as function.  It sets the feeling for returning home and into the kitchen which is after all the soul of any home.

This step will be used every time anyone heads to the back yard for relaxing, entertaining, and family fun.

Cedar Gate is relocated to add utility space to Irvington Side Yard

Relocated Gate Saves Money and Improves Side Yard Flow and Function

Practicalities of Gates & Garbage Cans

We expanded the utility function of the side yard by relocating the double gate toward the front of the house.  I tend to always set the gate back some from the front corner of the house, (at least a foot or two).  I want all eyes on the front entry (in this case a magnificent front porch) not to the side yard. A gate parallel to the front of a house often waters down the beauty of the entry to the home.

The garbage cans and recycling bins needed to be easy to roll out to the road for pick up. I had some grand ideas about plants on one side that would then switch but the gas meter location and garbage cans had other ideas.

I’m always keeping one eye on the goal.  This area may be “just the side yard” but it must be attractive enough to be the introduction to the magical back yard entertaining area. In this case, the side yard had to do triple duty, block the view of tall house next door, welcome people home via the kitchen side door and make us want to keep going and see the back yard.

Back Yard Privacy

Modern Style Gas Fire Pit Table is perfect for downsized baby boomer back yard

Firepit from PyroMania

We didn’t have enough square footage of our own for back yard privacy. The trick here was to utilize some of the neighbor’s small trees “borrowing” their privacy plants.  Yes it’s true a neighbor could tire of a small tree and remove it and leave a hole in our vignette but it’s worth the risk.  There is nothing worse than a pile of beautiful plants fighting it out in the air space above the fence.  It spoils the view for everyone. We want to see the shapes of our trees and plants, not a muddle.

 Shade will Increase

The shade will increase over the years as the client’s old maple tree gets bigger. At some point the lawn will need to be replaced with synthetic lawn.  However, most of the plantings I selected will make the shift to heavier shade.

Working Together

My usual technique for any design is to take in the client’s desires and after careful site study create multiple layout drawings that all aim toward fulfilling those desires.

Heuchera 'Green Spice' is graced with Autumn LeafMy clients were very helpful as we worked through the different layout drawings.  Due to Covid we also worked over Zoom to finalize our layout.  During that process we discover our priorities and so the wish list was winnowed.

When the contractors estimate comes in sometimes there is another winnowing after the design is completed. We discovered we could not alter a fence because it belonged to the neighbor. We let go of a hidden garden behind the shed and kept the existing small deck off the home office as is rather than flipping it for cost reasons.

Fatsia Japonica Spiders Web is a perfect low maintenance plant for seniorsIt helps to have the design installed by a contractor who is familiar with my work and with whom I collaborate regularly.

My clients liked working with my recommended contractor Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors very much and got the benefit of our many years working together.  Victor Vencill of Vencill Construction designed and built the high end custom planters and the fire pit cover.  He also made corrections on their existing small deck.  The three of us work together regularly and together we make an amazing problem solving team and have fun while doing so.

Boulders create interest for gas fire pit patioCLIENT COMMENTS

NE Portland backyard gets dog friendly landscape update.

NE Portland clients love their new backyard including the family dog.

“We loved working with Carol. She created a beautiful design and final product. She is a great collaborator and listener. She drafted a number of versions of the landscaping design based on many conversations. We were not very experienced with landscaping and gardening, but she spent the time to educate us and listen to our perspective and style. She also understood our budget and provided a design that was beautiful and worked for our family. She continued to provide input during construction, which we very much appreciated. We now spend time every day enjoying the beautiful spaces Carol designed.”
~David, Portland.

Do you have a tricky backyard that needs privacy and thoughtful use of limited square footage?  We love tricky city properties and would be happy to help you downsize your landscape to fit your new senior lifestyle.