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Outdoor Living Landscape Design in Mt. Tabor Backyard

Outdoor Living Landscape Design has wide paths and easy access

Outdoor Living in Mt. Tabor neighborhood. Lounge area, dining area, hot tub, and chicken coop. Covered area is not installed yet. See below for finished design photo.

Outdoor Living in Mt. Tabor Backyard

These clients wanted to entertain and relax in their back yard

Matt and Nicole wanted all the classic elements for backyard outdoor living: outdoor kitchen, outdoor dining Area, and lounge area. They wanted to nix the lawn while also having open spaces for large groups to gather. They have beloved backyard chickens that need easy daily access, even in the winter. A small hot tub and a hammock were also must haves.

Mt Tabor Backyard Before Outdoor Living Landscape Design with muddy grass

Before: muddy lawn, few plants.

Designing for Outdoor Living on a City Lot

They wanted a lot of elements in a standard city lot. We needed to use every square inch wisely and have some overlapping functions. The first trick was the hot tub location. It needs to be close enough to electrical, away from basement egress windows and have some privacy. I could see that if we moved the gate, we could open up more space in the backyard and fit the hot tub into a cozy spot against the house. Fortunately, the fence needed an update anyway, so this solution was just right!

Backyard Access

The next design challenge was the lack of easy access. There is a gorgeous sun room on the back of the house but no access to the backyard. The only door to the backyard is from the basement. The primary way the family enters the backyard is the kitchen side door via the driveway. This was an important consideration for the entire design.

To make the garden to feel welcoming from all angles, we created sweeping curved lines for each of the beds. We chose crushed compacted rock for the paths. The paths needed to be easily accessible and dry all year long so that the family can collect eggs from either the basement door or driveway gate.

Hardscape Landscaping shows Flagstone, Crushed Rock Paths and Outdoor Kitchen

After: Believe it or not, this is the same angle as the “before” picture! The lawn is gone and the curved beds create a welcoming feeling from every angle.

Designing for Outdoor Living

Matt and Nicole wanted the outdoor living area to be able to accommodate a larger gathering. Therefore, I knew we would need to stack functions. Having the outdoor kitchen, dining table and lounge area together – similar to an open floor plan inside a house – allow all the functions to utilize the same open area. Friends can stand around the BBQ while someone is grilling. Or the family can easily bring out extra chairs whenever more guests arrive. They love the open feeling and flexibility of their new outdoor living space.

Hardscape Landscaping Materials

We used Bluestone (flagstone) for the dining patio surface and crushed rock for walkways and the lounge area.

The drainage was important for this project.  We chose crushed rock as the main hardscape material, which allows water to percolate through. Each disconnected downspout has either rock or water-tolerant plants to slow and sink the rain water as well. The dining area stands out with a higher end material – Variegated Lavender Bluestone. This flagstone is dry-set, (versus mortar set) which helps with drainage as well.

 

Outdoor kitchen, dining, hot tub and a lounging area fit into this Mt Tabor backyard
Lastly, I knew that the family would want to get to the hot tub without putting shoes on and gravel is not barefoot-friendly. This is overlooked more often than you might think! We made sure that the design included flagstone from the basement to the hot tub for easy, year round access.

Phase 2: Covered Dining and Landscape Lighting

Covered dining area completes Outdoor Living Landscape Design

Garden Installation by Sloan Martin. Dining and kitchen area cover was designed for construction and installed by a friend of the family.

Covered dining area completes Outdoor Living Landscape Design

Nicole and Matt worked with a friend to build the pergola.

In year 2, Nicole and Matt worked with a friend to build the pergola.

When you have a beautiful, brand new landscape, full of entertaining elements, lighting is a must! So, the homeowners added very simple string lights inside the new dining area. They also added a linear fire pit for night time ambiance. The backyard is now enjoyed after dark.

Design Review

“Thanks for all your help Carol and Alana.  We are so glad we hired you when we did.  You took all our wants and ideas to heart and the landscape design, which we love, is a true collaboration just as you say.  Thank you for helping us have our dream backyard.”

Are you ready to create a backyard for entertaining? Contact us today.

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.

 

 

 

Outdoor Living Garden Retreat

Outdoor Living Back Yard for Baby Boomer

Edibles, chickens,  colorful flowers and the works for my new garden please.

outdoor living includes hardscape stone path and seatingVictoria had recently purchased a corner property in the city and was ready to transform her back yard into her outdoor living dream garden.

Our fun collaboration to create her dream garden started with our first phone call.

We had near instant rapport and we had to stop ourselves from designing it right then and get our design ducks in a row.  We decided a landscape design in a day process would work well and we got going.

Her focus was on the back yard. She had plenty of ideas about what she wanted and let me tell you now there would be no room for lawn.

An Outdoor Living Back Yard Was the Theme

Two sitting areas; a dining area and a lounging area for outdoor entertaining

Screen out neighbors odd garage
Keep the shed and it’s concrete path, the big corner tree and one section of fence

Make room for plants – her list included lots of edibles including blueberry plants.
Colorful flowers, climbing roses and flowering vines
Unique plant material with a nostalgic bent

Perennials

Pollinator plantings

Dog friendly back yard

She and friends would DIY the plantings to save money and for  the sheer joy of planting her own garden.

Hire professionals for everything else

Privacy and Grading were the Biggest Issues

Here are a few of my observations from my site visit.  The back yard was the larger potion of the city lot; that was good because we would need every inch of space to realize our wish list.  With no lawn we would utilize paths and add lots of planting areas.  Victoria wanted a garden to live outdoors in not just a yard.

Multiple Grades Made the Design Challenging

Colorful Perennials for Outdoor Living back yardThe grade sloped toward the house,  toward the side property line and then up to the back fence.  The area next to the existing shed didn’t match any of the grades.  Solving the different sloping areas was a practical need but the solutions would end up adding spice to the design.

The neighbors extra tall garage was very unattractive and the typical screening solutions (a tall tree or hedge) would make too much shade for the colorful plants and edibles Victoria craved.

Back Porch as Sitting area

Could we have  one of our two sitting areas by modifying the tiny existing back porch?  As is, it was too small for even a bistro table. Putting a sit spot there would have helped maximize the space for the garden Victoria envisioned.  After consideration we let it go because of the location of the electric car charging unit and a window well, meant we could not alter the back porch.  But better ideas were coming soon…….

Create Beauty to Hide a Bad View

patio for outdoor living in Portland city lansdcape

The pergola (with string lights) waiting on additional funding for completion.

Creating privacy, blocking the view of the back ally neighbors garage (a 12’ plus tall engine lift attached to the garage) and creating an attractive view along the back property was solved with one solution. A long pergola of Victoria’s favorite climbing roses (Joesph’s Coat) would solve the summer view. The best solution to a bad view is creating something amazing to see and enjoy. The posts were installed but the top boards for the pergola would have to wait until funds arrived.

Break the Rules About Year Round Plant Color

Given Victoria’s hearts desire for billowing colorful flowers and edibles, we decided most of the plantings would kowtow to spring, summer and fall. There is no rule that every design must look fabulous in the winter. It depends on what the views are out the windows and what activities occur near the windows. To design for the winter view as if it would be equally important would have been a poor match for this client.  Full season interest is not a standard for all landscape design.

 Dealing with Multiple (awkward!!) Grade Changes

The client wanted the shed to stay as is so that was the grade I could not change. I selected the grade we needed to be able to open the existing shed doors for my starting point . I ask myself, ‘What cannot be changed?” to figure out where to start.  Then I worked my way up to the back gate and back up to the house.  The patio became the new low point of the yard instead of the next to the house foundation. We accomplished this with a new low curved stone wall which retained the highest grade on the back side of the patio.  This also made the patio feel like it’s own room.  The wall continued toward and supported the new walkway up to the back gate on the alleyway. The LLC (Licensed Landscape Contractor), Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors made the necessary adjustments to my conceptual plan, created the final grades and determined and installed any needed drainage.  Adding her expertise to the process is so important.  I wish all my clients hired someone as experienced as Donna Burdick.

Collaborate With Landscape Professionals

Blueberries and colorful edibles in city outdoor living landscape design.A professional installation meant my conceptual design was approved and improved by an LLC who is licensed to determine and install drainage.

The existing large tree got the attention of a certified arborist who lifted selected branches to allow walking underneath the tree and more light for edibles.  Now we could add a path to wind from the edibles area to the tree area. The path made easy access for plant maintenance and integrated the 3 primary planting areas of the design. Paths are so helpful.

It’s important to clue the arborist in to our design intentions with the tree. They needed to leave some of the lower branches to block the view of a busy intersection. Giving them that information is critical because they could prune the tree to some professional standard and remove our privacy in a way that cannot be put back.

Hardscape Landscaping Materials

Decomposed granite instead of standard crushed rock for the patio gives us an attractive cream colored surface for the patio. We used Camas basalt for the rock walls. Victoria especially loved her rock wall.

Flagstone for the paths is variegated lavender blue stone.  I prefer large 14″ by same and 2″ thick stone.

Outdoor Living Accomplished with Fire Pit

The firepit is gas……..yes this was the dream garden for my client and there is nothing like stepping out to the garden and with just a flicking of a switch – instant warmth and the feeling of primitive flames.  A gas firepit makes outdoor living easy to accomplish.

Portland Planting Plan Selections

Colorful planting includes chilli peppers nasturtium , and black eyed susan adorn colorful pots included in her outdoor living garden design.

My client loves colorful plants and pottery.

My client had a bearded iris collection she loved and these were integrated into the planting plant.

Some of my tough dog friendly plants were NW native plants like huckleberry and sword fern. A very sturdy ground cover was planted under the big tree and repeated throughout the edibles garden. This hardy geranium groundcover, Geranium x cantabrigiense is a work horse of a plant and so pretty with its spring flowers. Bonus; the cedar smell from the leaves tends to keep dogs out of the groundcover and onto the path.

Blueberry plants, a small evergreen variegated shrub with intensely peach colored new leaves in spring, (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’) and flowing over on the walls of the patio, summer flowering heather (Calluna vulgaris) trailing sedum and wallflower.  Uprights like lavender, cone flower, (Echinacea) and tall black eyed susan (Rudbeckia), with billowing hummingbird mint (Agastache), round out the flower power keeping the garden colorful from spring into fall.

Client Comments

“Carol is amazing! Her process is very collaborative and I feel that the final product reflects my vision guided and shaped with her expertise. So excited to see it develop and grow! Highly recommend – especially if you are interested in gardening and want something truly personal.” ~Victoria

Chickens enjoying their yard in outdoor living garden designLife can be full of surprises. While installing the rest of the design (DIY with friends) she found a wonderful friend and partner. They added chickens and then started keeping bees and outgrew the garden. After congratulating them on their marriage recently I went to their new property called Hummingbird Hill to design the layout of the new landscape on  5 acres.  She says, ” This is my second project with Design in a Day – and likely not the last.  I love being included in the design process as it is evolving. I really appreciate how knowledgeable and practical Carol is with a design that is both beautiful and functional. ” – Victoria

I loved helping Victoria.  If you are looking for a professional to  dream up your outdoor living landscape design,  please contact us.

Colorful Backyard Low Maintenance Garden Design in Portland

Low Maintenance Garden Design for Backyard in Woodstock Neighborhood

Client Wish List:

Low maintenance Landscape Design in Woodstock neighborhood

New Dining Area! Just waiting on the rest of the plants to make this corner complete.

Jill recently moved to Portland from an entirely different climate.  She is a gardener and knows that a different climate means an entirely different set of plants, watering strategies, and soils.  So she wanted Portland native plants to celebrate her new home in the Pacific Northwest. Getting expert advice about plants that would thrive here was her number 1 concern.  She wanted a vibrant garden with some traditional and colorful plants.  She also wanted her grandchildren, who live nearby, to enjoy playing in the backyard.

She already had a covered area for lounging adjacent to the house. She wanted to add an area for family dining, some edibles, and a play structure.

Landscape designer considers location of huge tree trunk for small back yard design in Woodstock neighborhood

Before – Doug Fir Trunk is 6′ wide at the base.

Designing around a large tree

The elephant in this room is that beautiful huge Douglas-fir. It took up a lot of space situated in the center of the backyard but to Jill it was a part of nature and she was happy to accommodate the tree.  Lawn is a poor choice near a Doug-fir and Jill did not want any lawn so we already had a good fit there.

The 6 foot diameter trunk will continue to grow so we needed to remember that as we worked toward the right design.  Many sources maintain that fir tree roots would prefer as little disturbance as possible. And we must be careful with how we water the plants around it so selecting drought tolerant planting companions was a strong consideration.  See Kym Pokorny article on stressed trees and how to care for them.

We had to address the elephant in the room first. In it’s natural habitat, the Doug-fir is surrounded by natural forest mulch and select native plants. More on the plants later. With the smaller size of the lot, the mulch around the trunk does double duty as a pathway. The color of the mulch will fade over time to blend in nicely with needles cast from the tree. It is important to only lay mulch around the tree and not up onto the tree’s trunk like a volcano.

Playground cedar chips are part of low maintenance landscape design in Woodstock neighborhood

During – Wide path designed around Doug-fir

Designing  the Dining Area near large tree roots

One way to create dining space near a large tree is to install a deck – it will have relatively low impact on the root system and allows rainwater through. A deck versus a patio is a better choice for our tree.  However, Jill was not too fond of the upkeep or cost of a deck. So we moved on to another good option – cedar chips and crushed rock. These materials also allow rainwater to soak into the ground and do not require too much excavation to be installed. And it’s easy on the budget.

Edibles in Containers

Jill initially wanted veggie beds in the soil, but due to greedy tree roots and the shade cast by the Doug-fir, we needed to employ some tricks to incorporate edibles into this yard. Three large pots or half wine barrels are designed in the sunniest part of the garden for annual veggies like tomatoes. A raised bed was designed next to the existing patio – and furthest from the Doug-fir – where part-sun veggies could thrive, such as greens and lettuces.

Flagstone path will lead through the plants to the back table with low maintenance plantings around the fir.

Structure of the Garden all ready to be filled in with Plantings

play house for low maintenance landscape design has cedar chip surface

Playhouse for Grandkids

Turn Unused Side Yard into Play House Space

We turned a previously unused side yard into the perfect play area for grandchildren. Kid-approved plants like Fuzzy Lamb’s Ears lead us down the path to a play structure. As the plants grow up, this area will transform into a miniature secret garden. As a bonus, when the grandkids outgrow the space, the structure can be easily replaced with a bistro table for an afternoon tea.

Planting Plans

Jill is a plant person and we especially had fun creating with a broad plant palette for this garden design.

Drought-tolerant plants that are native plants surround the Doug-fir such as Salal, Sword Fern and a vase shaped shrub called Oceanspray are all up to the task. 75% of the plants we selected are very low maintenance plantings.

For flower power we used well known color magnets like peony, cape fuchsia, hydrangea and more. Jill will add annuals to spice up the summer color.

Acer Circinatum "Pacific Fire" photo from Handy Nursery is a low maintenance plant.

Acer Circinatum “Pacific Fire” photo from Handy Nursery is the winter view from living room

For the view from the living room window we selected a native cultivar of Vine Maple (Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’) which has red twigs in winter.

Materials

Cedar chips, crushed rock and also large flagstone for the path to the dining table.

We enjoyed this design process with Jill and helped her create functional hardscape landscaping with paths and a 2nd sitting area that works well.  Now she has plantings that fit our region as well as the color she craves for summer.  And the deck?  If she decides to add the deck, she has the design for future consideration.  With our laid back NW lifestyle and regular visits from grandkids, her simple table and benches sitting on cedar chips will suffice as her second dining area for many years.

Can we help you have the backyard that fits your ideals and lifestyle?    Contact us and let’s create together.

A Pollinator Garden Paradise

Designing a Garden for Bees & Birds

Concrete pavers on the angle create more useable space in this mid century backyard garden home in Portland Oregon

Some boulders were moved to frame the dining area.

Client Wish List

Before photo of garden design for mid century home in Roseway neighborhood portland oregon

Before. Lumpy, overgrown mess!

Doreen and Sam wanted a no-grass pollinator paradise in their backyard. They are successful vegetable and fruit gardeners and wanted to maintain that function in the new garden without sacrificing beauty. The side yard is flat and had been used by the previous owners for dining, but Doreen and Sam really wanted a dining area in the backyard. While they knew this complete transformation would require new materials, they also wanted to re-use any materials we could and, of course, watch the budget whenever possible.

 

 

Landscape Design Drawing for Roseway neighborhood Portland garden.

Landscape Design Drawing

Designer’s Perspective

 

before photo of existing boulder for Roseway neighborhood landscape design

Before: This huge mossy boulder became the focal point and the second large rock was kept as a step to the upper garden. Perfect fit!

In order to create a flat dining area in the backyard, we needed to carve into the existing land and some soil needed to be removed. For a bit of fun, and to take advantage of a FANTASTIC existing boulder (more on that later), I put the new patio on an angle. Sam likes straight edges and Doreen likes curves, so we pulled off a bit of both by having two areas – an angular dining spot and a curved and casual sit spot. Check out the design to see how the two spaces interacted from an aerial (birds-eye) view:

The Boulders

There were at least 9 large boulders on site, haphazardly placed probably when the home was built. One was too large to reasonably move, so I designed around it! This boulder became the focal point and transition piece between the side yard, new patio, and path to the veggie garden. Overall, 4 large boulders were kept in place and 5 were repositioned.

modern patio with two seating areas fits this NE Portland Mid Century home pollinator garden design.

New Modern Backyard Patio with Architectural Slab and Mossy Boulders

The Plants

Here is the entire list of plants for this project.

Roseway neighborhood plant list for garden design.

Echinacea P 'Ruby Giant' at Terra Nova test gardens added to Roseway neighborhood design.

Bring on the Butterflies! Echinacea p. ‘Ruby Giant’

We were going for a bit of the meadow look in the main, sunny part of the garden. This includes many ornamental grasses and pollinator plants.  Echinacea, Agastache and Salvia, oh my!

Hosta flowering in June in Roseway neighborhood backyard garden.

Hosta are known for their bold leaves, but the bloom is surprisingly attractive to bees and butterflies.

There is also a dry shade part of the garden, created by a very large maple. For this situation, we added hostas, ferns and geraniums.

We arranged for all the plants to arrive right before the client organized a “work party”. I helped place the plants and a handful of gracious friends helped the clients put everything in the ground. Many hands make light work!

Planting crew installs pollinator garden design in Roseway neighborhood backyard

Planting Day!  A crew of friends made fun and  fast work of planting.

The Cloud Wall

I would be remiss not to mention this fun and whimsical addition by the client. The light blue wall in the back was a drab concrete, and visible from their living room sliding doors. They painted clouds! I smile when I see it and I’m sure they do too. And a special thank you to our clients who supplied several photos for this blog.

“Last night, Sam and I sat at our picnic table after dinner, enjoying the evening and watching a hummingbird feed on the flowers in our garden.

modern landscape design is enhanced with large rustic boulder and pollinator garden plants in Portland, Oregon

Fun and whimsical painted wall has clouds.

Our scruffy backyard has been transformed, and we could not have done it without Alana’s help.  While we thought we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted, she saw potential that we did not. The design process was efficient, collaborative and enjoyable. The resulting landscape provides a variety of spaces, plantings and views that we plan to enjoy for many years.” – Doreen, Homeowner

Let’s transform your backyard with a collaborative design process that explores the potential of your existing landscape and home.   Contact us and let’s create together.