My new clients love architecture and have a great appreciation of modern design. Their new home is a beautifully designed ultra modern split level in the West Slope neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. If you have preconceived notions about modern toss them out right here. Wow what a great house. My clients wanted to design their own landscape woodland sanctuary but the problems with the unusual site, especially in the back yard, had them baffled. Finding a landscape designer who sees her clients as design partners felt just right so they contacted me for a Landscape Design in a Day. Collaboration wins the day……… Full disclosure……….this property was too difficult to create in the same time frame as my more typical Landscape Design in a Day. It took several appointments and many more hours to reach the right design.
Easy access to the backyard from the house
What to do with the steep mound by the back doors?
Create a large enough entertainment area that is easy to access from the house
Create privacy from the adjacent park without blocking the view into the park
Block the view of 20′ concrete wall up the hill at the rear of the property. It loomed over the property
Create a planting plan for the steep shady hillside that provides year round color, and native plants for birds
Design an edibles garden for their narrow south side yard and create easier access to it
I’ve never seen a property like this one in 25 years of Portland landscapes. The back yard is separated into two sloped spaces, an uphill and a downhill divided by a gully.
There is no functional access from the house to the back yard. Reaching the back yard requires negotiating down a steep muddy slope. The only level area is too small to use and also skews the proportions of the house. The house feels as if it’s floating and not remotely connected to the site. How could we pull this property into an integrated whole?
It’s a tough one and deserves my Difficult Site Award. The house is truly amazing and I love the challenge of making the outsides match the value of the insides. Once we get the design just right and it is installed, the back yard will be a jewel…….and yep it’s going to be a lot of work.
I knew a multi-level deck would solve our 3 biggest problems.
The house is fantastic and modern so the deck design must be up to par. One way to do that is to give our deck interesting angles rather than a rectangle thrust straight out into space. Another way is to repeat the color of the house exterior in the planters and to skirt the deck to match the siding of the house. Integration is the mantra for this design.
Our deck design created several functional areas. The upper deck is for BBQ and intimate seating and sets up the transportation flow to the lower deck and north side yard. The stairs down to the lower deck is set at an angle creating both interest and best use of square footage for entertaining areas. The lower deck is for larger group dining. Their stairs help handle the grade issue (hide the steep mound) and allow us to easily reach the edibles garden.
Trex Contour Chateau Grey – deck walls and planters
Next, they tackled the deck installation which required professionals and significant expense. Now that the deck is mostly completed, boulders will be installed in a rockery style around the deck. Planting this area will follow which my clients will DIY.
The next project is the hillside. They hope to install the hillside paths and finish installing their woodland planting plan on their own. Understory trees and shrubs will soften the view of the 20′ concrete wall and provide for birds. Forest floor plants like Salal, Vancouveria and Trillium will feed birds and pollinators alike. The narrow south side yard was the only location with enough sun for the edibles garden. They installed this garden right away, satisfying their gardening itch.
“We are grateful that our painstaking research of local landscape designers led us to Carol and Alana. After a preliminary questionnaire to elicit our preferences, Carol and Alana spent significant quality time assessing our space and then sitting down with us at the dining table to begin their detailed and highly-tailored design process. We look forward to seeing our plants and gardens grow over the coming years and thoroughly trust that Carol and Alana have set us down the path of greatest success.”
Thank you to my collaborators; my clients and my design associate Alana Chau. For more information on how we can help your landscape design, contact us!
Making a backyard heaven the DIY way started with Peter and Lynn contacting me for a landscape design in the Foster Powell neighborhood. While they are solid DIYers, they also believe in getting professional help where it is needed. They wanted a designer who prefers collaboration with clients. Landscape Design in a Day creates the heart of the design with the clients at their home. This idea was appealing to them and so we found ourselves working together at the kitchen table.
This home, built in 1917, had existing plantings and my clients had furnishings they wanted to work into the design.
The back property line laurel hedge
The revered and large western red cedar
The old lilac trees for privacy in the summer
Their small apple tree
2 red Adirondack chairs
Free standing stumps to use for fire pit seating
All of the rough lawn, trees of heaven and other invasive weeds.
Design usable areas with good flow and good integration
A deck/back porch seating area, dining area for their
an improved fire pit area
Low water plants, raised beds for edibles
I wanted easy inviting access into the backyard. I designed a porch that serves 4 purposes: a threshold level for BBQ with a step down to seating (where we used the red Adirondacks) and built in their raised beds. I love that our BBQ area is large enough to comfortably pass the person doing the BBQing and to access the backyard.
I placed drought tolerant plants near the old cedar tree as that would be the best compatible planting companions for the tree.
The first time I saw the installation of the design was winter. I was so happy to see how the planters around the deck, which make the deck seem more like a porch to me and eliminate the need for railing…………were full of tall overwintering kale still being harvested in early February. Even in winter I could see what an excellent installation they had done. Peter’s only regret with his DIY work was that he did not get the exact crushed rock he requested from the local rock yard. The delivered product would not compact.
I loved how before the design, with the landscape more than a bit rough, Peter and Lynn would still sit out in the backyard even though they had no stairs from the house yet. We are all different but when you love being outdoors, having a fabulous backyard is very important. This garden calls them to come be outdoors. Time spent in this gardenly backyard and memories made are relished.
Peter says , “We’re very happy with the design and how everything came together.” Please see the front yard design we created together a few years after the back yard was installed. Sloped front yard landscape design for foster powell neighborhood home.
If you like to do it yourself but need a plan, contact me to make an appointment and start the landscape design process!
My clients, Dan and Patti, moved to Portland to be close to family, especially their grandchildren. The previous owner of this sweet 1920 bungalow in the Irvington neighborhood had used the backyard primarily as a place to park a large RV. The shed was located to face the driveway and a concrete pad for parking the RV was the main focus of the backyard. My new clients like to live and entertain in their back yard. They would be providing childcare for a handful of grand kids several days a week so room for kids to run and play was critical but knew they didn’t want any lawn.
The collaborative style of a Landscape Design in a Day was very attractive to them. They were happy to measure and draft their existing property for me. Most clients do their own measuring. If the lot is sloped or especially difficult, we will do the measuring and drafting. We talked about their goals and possibilities of their site. Their backyard abuts a large Portland park. They can watch movies that are played in the park from their backyard. They enjoy the sound of soccer games and kids playing. The park also provides two large shade trees near the property line that are well placed and provide cooling and privacy. As we talked we created a scope for the landscape design.
Integrate functional play space for the kids into a garden design
They didn’t want the landscape to look like a play yard
Keep the large shed (more about the shed later)
A large custom-built sandbox
(They had a construction design for a big sand box to incorporate into the design.)
Outdoor dining for large fourth of July family gatherings and summer birthdays
A lounging area for just the two of them with a heat source
Lots of flower power and foliage leaf color for Patty who loves the NW green foliage but misses the colorful exuberance of a sunny California flower garden
Existing Shed: There was a large existing shed and when they said they wanted to keep it but were willing to relocate it, I breathed a sigh of relief. The sheds existing location was a roadblock to a successful use of the space. I’m happy to accommodate my clients requests unless the request conflicts with having what they want. It’s my job to know when someone’s good idea is going to be a problem so I would have gone into my best persuasive methods but happily I did not have to.
The outdoor dining room: The sheds new location made a perfect wall that defined the dining room and gave us a place to hang a buffet board that would serve food and beverages for both the lounging and dining room area. It helps with screening out an unwanted view.
I added further definition to the dining room with a stone planter that also separated the large (very cool) sandbox from the dining area.
We created a large curved berm which serves 3 functions:
1. The path around the berm is great for kids running around.
2. We created a kids play area behind the berm. Their grandparents added a sun sail to protect them from the hot sun and to make it feel even more like a fort or hidey hole. The corner area is big enough for many kid activities.
3. Berming up the soil makes it a perfect place to plant Japanese Maples. They can get verticillium wilt here in Portland but rarely do when planted on a berm.
The spacious lounging area is conveniently located off the back door.
In addition to using colorful plants in the backyard, the south side of the backyard has an edibles area and flowers for cutting.
They hired my favorite landscape contractor Donna Burdick to install and Donna and I worked together on various issues for a fantastic installation experience.
“We are thrilled with the designs she created for both our front and backyards, which were executed and installed by D & J Landscape Contractors (another highly recommended company). The yards have been transformed into welcoming, beautiful spaces that we appreciate every day, whether we’re looking at our new views out the windows, or enjoying dinner outside”.
We used mutual materials for the patio pavers and the paths were compacted 1/4 minus crushed rock with steel edging. The soil was prepped and irrigation was installed. The stone planter walls are mortar set basalt locally sourced.
Here are a few of the more colorful plants we used
Coreopsis ‘Big Bang’
Fuschia magellinica – Hardy fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’ and ‘Beacon Red’ and ‘Double Otto’
Heuchera – Coral Bell ‘Purple Petticoat’, ‘Lime Marmalade’, ‘Havana’, ‘Paris’ and ‘Fire Chief’ for hot foliage colors and flowers
Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ Japanese Forest Grass- stone planter
Berginia C ‘Baby Doll’ – stone planter
Hosta ‘Halcyon’ (blue foliage)
A trio of classic Peony, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, ‘Red Charm’ and ‘Duchess de Nemours’
Dicentra ‘Goldheart’ – gold leafed bleeding heart
Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’-gold leafed mexican orange shrub
If you’re looking in the Portland area for a new landscape, contact me to see how we can work to design your property.
In my years working with my clients designing dog friendly yards, I’ve come up with many strategies to prevent my client’s dogs from bringing the outside in. In the summer it might be a stick which you can easily throw, and in the fall; it’s a few leaves. But here in Portland, Oregon, winter and spring means mud. And mud is not so easy to stop at the door. So is it even possible to have a mud free dog in Portland, Oregon? The solution starts with your experienced dog friendly landscape designer.
The changes we made to the landscape for Jackie and Kurt in Tigard have saved hours of grooming and large dog bathing. Their Newfoundlands are now clean and free of mud and can come in to the family room and hang out with their humans. This was a side benefit of their Landscape Design in a Day.
Their old house comes with huge magnificent old Douglas Fir trees and lots of shade. Where there was shade, there was mud. Prior to installing our landscape design, the dogs could not come into the house at all because they were extremely muddy. I was hired to design a new entry and garden for the front yard and to provide garden coaching for the backyard. No one was talking about having mud free dogs. They could not imagine it enough to ask for it.
It’s my job to solve landscape problems for the entire family. Kurt and Jackie used my special cedar chips to create a mud free woodland “floor” in their Douglas Fir Forest. It’s beautiful even now, ten years later, the dogs are clean and poop is easy to scoop even in the winter.
Cedar chips also worked well for another client with two large dogs, Rhodesian ridge backs. We created an enclosed area with plenty of room to rough house, so they were very happy in their new play yard. They didn’t track mud in the house (which made their guardian and my client happy) and other spaces around the property now have a far more aesthetically pleasing garden design. Heads up: If you have 2 large dogs who love to wrestle and chase, the cedar chips will eventually hill up in some areas and you will need to rake it out to keep a flat play space for the pups.
Yet another family had full sized standard poodles. Poodles are smart and they have a lot of energy. Many times, dogs (and the landscape plants) benefit from having clear paths installed to circle around and around and around. It’s a lovely way to play chase and get lots of exercise without the hard impact on their hips and backs that concrete or pavers do. A simple 12 inch raised bed can often be enough to point the pups in the right direction and build their running patterns. Once the plants fill in, most pups will stay on the paths and keep their feet mud free. In this scenario, you may need to protect your plants for the first growing season with a temporary barrier like a short wire fence or use plants that are either tough enough to handle tromping or can slightly repel the dogs because of smell.
Plant Tip: Hardy Geranium leaves (Geranium macrorrhizzum) smells like cedar if bruised. Dogs will play near by happily but don’t walk or lie in it because of the smell. I would never use plants with an odor that would hurt or cause discomfort to a dogs sensitive nose.
Creating landscape designs for dogs and their guardians is a joy and one of the perks of my profession. Read more ‘Protecting Your Yard from Your Pet and Your Pet from Your Yard’ on Houzz for an interview with your dog friendly landscape designer Carol Lindsay written by Gwendolyn Purdom. And make an appointment for your own dog friendly landscaping!