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Drought Tolerant Landscape Design for Small Portland Front Yard

Posted on: June 3, 2021

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!