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Archive for No Lawn Front Yards

Portland Landscape Designers Visit front yards in NE Portland

bye 2019Portland 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Alana Chau visits maple that has the dreaded verticillium wilt 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……

 

 

 

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.

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.

Drought Tolerant Landscape Design for Small Portland Front Yard

Creating A Dream Portland Front Yard with Drought Tolerant Plants

Drought tolerant front yard landscaping in Portland.

Bold Front Garden with Exciting Plants

Jazz up the Entry of this Modern Style Home

Ashley and family had just taken down two huge trees in the front yard. As they stared at the piles of mulch from grinding the stumps, they thought “now what”? They didn’t like their front walk, in fact they didn’t like hardly anything in the front yard except the front porch and a Japanese maple.  Ashley had ideas and favorite plants, but needed some direction and a design. They hired Landscape Design in a Day to make their dream front yard a reality.

Before Portland landscape design.

BEFORE: two large trees had just been removed

After Portland property removed nuisance trees they wanted a drought tolerant landscape.

BEFORE: Two trees wreck havoc on city sidewalk and must be removed.

The Japanese Maple was the only plant to keep in the front yard. It was poorly shaped and looking sad due to the big trees that had been crowding it, but we knew it could be an asset.  (Update) The clients have restored the tree with professional pruning and appropriate watering and 2 years later it is now the focal point of the entry.

Modern Style Hardscape Landscaping – Widen the Entry

The first objective is to create a better looking entry to the home.  We worked with the existing porch but changed the entry area dramatically.  Next we took a look at how to create more room for the family to get out of the car in the driveway. Getting a car seat out of a skinny Portland driveway is no treat, and creating a generous entry to the front door feels wonderful to use.  Dry-set Architectural slab with no gap creates an open level entry with fabulous curb appeal.  Brian of Mortar and Petal installed the design expertly.  We were able to achieve this transformation without replacing the existing driveway which would have been prohibitively expensive for a family who had just paid to remove 2 huge trees and replace their city sidewalk.

Modern design for special drought tolerant landscape plants.

DURING: Hardscape includes architectural slab, basalt boulders and steel raised beds

Raised Beds for Drought Tolerant Special Plants

Ashley wanted some special needs plants like Agave, which require extremely good drainage in order to survive our wet winters. Sometimes this can be accomplished by creating a berm, or tucking the desert plants under a deep eve. A third strategy, and the one that we employed here, is to create raised beds with a special soil/rock mix for drainage. The steel beds add to the modern landscape style and will look even more beautiful over time as the patina of the steel changes.  The warm rust reds echo the orangish tone of the cedar deck and front door.

Drought tolerant landscape during Portland winter.

AFTER: With the right design elements and enough evergreen, a front garden can look great even in winter, seen here on a sunny late-winter day.

Winter Wet, Summer Dry Plants

It surprises some people that you can use some classic rain garden plants, such as Juncus grass, in normal conditions. This Juncus creates a perfect vertical element that goes well with the dwarf mugo Pine in the background.  It’s a low water tolerant plant and a classic rain garden plant.

Drought tolerant landscape plants: Mugo pine and Juncus grass.

March Garden: Juncus grass, basalt boulder, Mugo Pine, architectural slab

Other plants in this garden include:

Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’

Ice plant, Delosperma

Heathers, Calluna and Erica

Several Agave’s, picked out by Ashley and doing great in the raised beds

Blue Fescue, Festuca idahoensis ‘Siskiyou Blue’

California Fuchsia, Epilobium ‘Bowman’ (a fabulous hummingbird plant)

Several sedums, including Sedum ‘Fulda Glow’

Drought tolerant landscape plants: blue fescue, sedum fulda glow and California fuchsia are so colorful

August Garden: California Fuchsia (Epilobium ‘Bowman’) Blue Fescue (Festuca idahoensis ‘Siskiyou Blue’), and Sedum ‘Fulda Glow’ below the boulders

Drought Tolerant Landscape Design

Creating a drought tolerant garden can be achieved in many different styles – Mid-Century Modern, Curvy, Native.  There is a bit more soil prep and hand watering to set it all up, but the long term garden is very low-maintenance and saves money on your water bill!

Ready for a drought-tolerant garden makeover? Contact us today!

North Portland Landscape Design Tips for Modern Ranch Front Yards

Curb Appeal Tips for North Portland Mid Century Modern Ranch Front Yards

Here are three landscapes where we focused on the treatment of the front porch and steps, downspouts, railing, columns and brick planters of mid century ranch homes in Portland.

Let’s make your homes best feature the dominant visual experience.  To me curb appeal is not just for selling your home, it’s what you see every time you return home.  These are some simple ways to increase your home’s curb appeal right at the front door.  (Other LDIAD blogs will share information and examples about front walks as part of curb appeal or plantings, but not this one).

Modern ranch curb appeal starts at the front door.

I especially loved this design process with a creative spirited client in North Portland.

Modern Landscape Style Curb Appeal

After       Mid century modern entry in Kenton now has excellent curb appeal. The dark porch floor makes the brick façade on the house look amazing. The downspout and vertical railing simply disappear instead of distracting.

Kenton neighborhood ranch style curb appeal in North Portland after Landscape Design in a Day

The brick looks rich with the new simple color scheme.  A white downspout and the white original vertical railing was painted black to make them all but invisible.  The only white left is the windows and trim around the door.  Even the porch is stained a dark shade but the face of the steps is a warm shade.  That was my clients idea which I think is genius.  The original brick now looks right at home.  Simplicity and contrast are so helpful.

Pots placed at the base of the downspout and vertical rail interrupt the power of a vertical line.  Everything on this house is about a horizontal line, typical to mid century style.

Here are lessons from this design:

Portland Ranch Style Home wants a change

Before    Vertical railing and downspout match the trim of this mid century modern ranch house in Kenton neighborhood

Tip:  Treat the downspouts as background not trim. Match the body color of the house where possible.

Tip:  Use contrast to bring out the exterior details we want people to see and mute details we don’t want to see.

Brick Accents

If you have brick façade on the house, evaluate its worth to you.  Some of the brick was just cheap where other brick is unusual and well worth working with.  All the builders copied other builders and many put the planters on the ranch houses for visual interest without much thought. It was a thing.  This is especially prevalent in homes built in the early years of ranch style homes.  Ranch houses were mass produced and remain the most predominate style of house in the united states particularly 1945 to 1970.

Options:  Find a color for the body of the house that enhances the brick. It’s easier to paint the house. If the brick is ugly, remove it and replace with a different material that is interesting and adds good looks to your home.  Change it to siding. The siding could even be a group of attractive vertical cedar panels.  Even painting the brick (a last resort) might be worth doing if it’s really unattractive and you don’t want to replace it.  Put rocks in the top of the planter or grow succulents or if in the shade, other incredibly tough plants like our native sword fern.

Mid Century Brick Planters

So what about those mid century homes with brick planters?

Modern design update for Portland ranch home.

Mid-century modern ranch brick planter with river rock instead of plants.  A custom iron screen adds interest.  This was a great solution for this brick centric front entry in N.E. Portland.

I often say these planters are where plants go to die. Let me confess to a deep frustration because my clients rarely ever have plants that thrive in them.  I tried adding new drainage, changing out all the soil with potting soil, (a big job btw) and still never got the plants to look healthy and front yard attractive.  Adding polymers to the soil to increase moisture holding capacity was somewhat successful but only lasted a few years. I question the environmental stewardship of polymers in soil.

Deep Overhang Creates Dry Shade

Mid century modern ranch always has a deep overhang so these planters occupants must be hand watered even in the winter….who is going to do that?  I have successfully grown sword fern in them and clients who want to putter grow annuals in them but with difficulty. The soil is as dry as a stone and usually filled with leftover soil from from when the foundation was dug. They were meant for seasonal annuals at best. We want them to look good year round since they are front and center and they never do.  Aaargh.

Tip:  Don’t be afraid to change some of the original features if they don’t work.

Strong red brick tends to read as colonial instead of modern. There is a style of home called Colonial Ranch and you will see lots of strong red brick accents. Original brick planters or ugly brick façade are not the holy grail of a mid century modern ranch.  Be willing to consider alternatives unless the brick is attractive rather than garish.

Planting Success in Brick Planters?

Please send me a photo if you -happy homeowner- have managed to grow plants in them year round that add to the beauty of your front yard.  I’ll be happy to acknowledge your skills. If you keep the planters, take out the soil, add drain rock at the bottom. Replace the soil  or greatly amend it. Add a drip system to water the plants unless you have concerns about getting water in your basement.  My strong suggestion…..get rid of those plant killing planters or fill them with attractive stone like my clients in NE Portland did.

Tip: Exterior details of your house are more visually powerful than plants for enhanced curb appeal.

Sleek Modern Entry and Planters for Portland Ranch Style House

Ranch Style in Portland gets curb appeal Before Photo

Before: original brick planters disappoint the new home owners who want a sleek modern style for their front landscape and entry.

 

 

Modern update of landscape planter.

Phormium and Hens and Chicks fill this replacement modern concrete planter for the entry of a mid century ranch home in Portland.

 

Modern Landscape Style for Portland Home includes Front Porch and Planters

Curb appeal success after modern entry design is installed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Portland home also had its old brick planters removed and new smart modern concrete planters were installed with drip irrigation.  The new concrete landing of the front porch was greatly enlarged and steps opened on both sides. What a difference it made.

Overlook Neighborhood Home wants a curb appeal landscape design

Columns wrapped in cedar distract from the lines of this home in North Portland

Front Porch Columns needed help to achieve curb appeal for this 1990’s Overlook Neighborhood Bungalow Want to be.

While a mid century ranch typically does not have columns, changing this exterior detail fits right in with simple changes you can make to improve your homes curb appeal.  This client in North Portland’s Overlook neighborhood is a gardener and wanted a new look for her front yard landscape to achieve better curb appeal. She also wanted help with what to do with the columns on the house.  Her thinking had been to match the cedar siding on the second story by wrapping the columns for the porch in cedar.  She didn’t like the effect and wanted help with what to do.

Overlook Neighborhood Home in North Portland with updated columns for curb appeal

Treating the columns to match the body color of the house creates an attractive and elegant effect to this homes entry.

My suggestion, which she implemented right away, was to paint the columns the same color as the body of the house. This treatment put the columns back in their subordinate place as a supporting exterior detail. Then we had fun re-designing the plantings in the front yard…..designing around the obvious keeper plants and removing what didn’t work.  She had a Viburnum tinus that had grown into such an attractive large tree I almost didn’t recognize it.  Typically this common plant is a shrub.

Tip: Columns are a supporting exterior detail not a primary and need to be simple.

The change in the columns made a bigger immediate contribution to curb appeal, where our re-designed planting plan took a few years to make an impact.

My next blog will show dramatic examples of how changing the location, shape or materials of front walkways gives a house loads of curb appeal and increases the welcoming energy of your home.

Alana Chau and I love plants and creating planting plans. We know that making your home feel welcoming and looking great from the curb requires vision that includes your home and its exterior circumstances and details….not just plants.

Contact us for a collaborative and satisfying design process that integrates your home and landscape.

 

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.

Beaumont Bungalow gets Front Entry Hardscape Makeover

Hardscape Landscaping Design creates attractive easy access in Beaumont neighborhood

New Hardscape creates fresh entry for Beaumont neighborhood bungalow

Portland Hardscape Landscaping Makeover in Beaumont Neighborhood

In May, I met with Pam and David to collaborate on their front yard design. They knew they wanted a new approach to the front door; the existing access up the driveway was not what they wanted but didn’t know where to start with style or material. They wanted relatively easy, drought tolerant plantings and ample space for bulbs. They love how neighbors always stop to chat when the bulbs are in full bloom.

Before: Beamont home has no front walk and a difficult landscape to maintain

BEFORE: The front garden in May, filled with weeds. The pink blooming rhododendron was kept in our new entry hardscape landscaping design.

Hardscape Landscaping installed in Beaumont Neighborhood

DURING: In August, D & J Landscape Contractors completed concrete forms and an intense weed removal.

Designers Perspective

The house is truly charming but no one could tell with the existing wild landscape.  Everyone had to walk up the driveway to get to the front door and so the house was cut off from the neighborhood sidewalk.  I wanted to showcase the charm of the house and the interesting texture of the old brick on their front entry archway.  So we opted to replace the skinny straight entry stairs with an oversized landing that extended out beyond the overhang and generous steps. As you walk up to the front door, you can enjoy the texture of the brick instead of staring at your feet trying to navigate the skinny old steps.

Existing brick surround was important to highlight in hardscape landscaping update.

Close-up of brick surrounding front door, a feature that we wanted to highlight with the new landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the hardscape landscaping design came together beautifully, creating smooth comfortable access from the driveway as well as the sidewalk.

Updated hardscape walkway in Portland landscaping.

Concrete walkway from driveway to front door.

Planning for a Low Maintenance Landscape

Managing the weeds was a topic I brought up early and often, as I could see the seed bank was very robust in this front yard. In fact, for this garden, D&J Landscape Contractors did two rounds of weed removal! The plant choices and thick application of mulch are also weed-mitigation strategies (more about that below).

Hardscape Landscaping Materials

The poured concrete is acid etched, which adds some texture and a hint of warmth. Poured concrete can look so bright when it’s first poured and will age and settle over time.  The acid etch helps it blend into its surroundings earlier in the process.

Flagstone is used in the parking strip for the walkway as well as strategically placed spots for people to get out of their cars without stepping on plants. We opted for a warm mix of colors that echoes both the peach of the siding and the reds of the brick.

Hardscape Landscaping in Beaumont neighborhood of Portland Oregon

Parking strip flagstone artistically laid by D&J Landscape Contractors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affordable Landscape Design

For a budget friendly solution to the front slope, we opted for basalt boulders. This works especially well around the stairs. Eventually the plants will fill in to soften this area. To see some similar front landscapes after the plants have had a chance to grow in, check out Montavilla Bungalow and Collaborative Design.

Hardscape landscaping helps retain soil next to steps in freshly planted Portland landscape

Boulders against stairs to help with the slope. Plants will also help hold the slope once their roots get a year or two to grow in.

Plant Selection for Planting Plan

In Portland, you can successfully plant any month of the year. The hardscape was completed in mid-August at the peak of heat. However, for this full sun, sloping garden with a DIY irrigation system, we all agreed that waiting for the fall would be better timing to get these plants in the ground. Luckily, Pam and David are patient – they had a bare landscape for a couple months. In the end, they are happy with the decision, knowing that hand watering at least once a day to overcome the 100 degree days was not their idea of a good time.

The drought-tolerant structural plants include Cistus, Carex grass and Creeping Thyme. See the full list below:

Plant list for Portland landscaping update in Beaumont.

We purposefully did not fill every last inch of the garden with plants. Pam and David want to add their own unique and colorful plants over time. They love iris as well as all bulbs. We talked about focusing on spring-blooming bulbs because this garden will not be heavily watered in summer. Spring bulbs will get all the water they need from the winter and then go dormant after their big show, before the summer drought sets in.  They dug and stored the bulbs and then replanted them after the installation of hardscape landscaping was done!

Purple and gold iris brighten Beaumont front yard in Portland Oregon

Purple Iris, one of the many bulbs the homeowners dug up from the old front yard.

Deep but mellow colored yellow Peony in Beaumont entry landscape

A yellow Peony, a special plant for the homeowners will be transplanted from the back yard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We are very happy to have found Landscape Design in a Day. We had been struggling for years to ‘do something’ with our front yard and entry. Finally, the experts came in and saved the day. Alana presented three draft designs. Her vision of extending our front porch and making a more dramatic entry and walkway to the house is brilliant. Her expertise provided a list of plants to choose from, based on our preferences, and then filled in the plan with our choices. We highly recommend Landscape Design in a Day.”

Ready for a beautiful and welcoming front landscape? Contact us today!