Modern Landscape Design for Kenton Neighborhood Front Yard
Client Wish List
New homeowners Katie and Jeni enjoy chatting with their neighbors in the front yard. Before the overhaul, they would just pull some chairs and a firepit from the back and hang out on the grass. Eventually they realized it might be nice to create a more permanent sitting area in the front, so they poured a concrete patio. They are ‘get it done’ dedicated DIYers with more than a few successful projects under their belts. Next came the hard part – how to integrate that stark concrete into a front yard garden that’s inviting and warm. They realized they wanted some help with the integration efforts and hired Landscape Design In A Day because of our collaborative design approach.
Designer’s Perspective-Alana Chau
I was so pleased to see that the new concrete was well done and a wonderful size for the amount of people they host. But it felt huge in the small front yard space, and modern landscape style always needs visual softening. There were also disconnected downspouts to contend with, 3 in total. Due to the new concrete pour, I knew at least one of these downspouts needed to be moved. Yes, in some cases downspouts can be moved!
Originally, the homeowners wanted to keep the existing retaining wall and walkway to save money. I showed them a couple designs hoping I could offer them useful visuals that might change their minds. I knew how fabulous it could look if we changed the front walk. So we all stood at the sidewalk and talked about the potential for something different. A front walk that was offset gave us a much more interesting entry and dramatic spaces for plantings. As you can see, they went for it and they are so happy they did.
The clients have the cutest pup, Ruby, and we wanted her to have some grass to play on. In this case, the grass will perform a double duty as Ruby’s lounge area and also the walkway to the backyard. Since this path will not be used in the winter, it is an acceptable solution. (In Portland, grass is NOT a good path material if it needs to be used in winter because it becomes wet muck and does not recover well.)
The new retaining wall is modular concrete block, which creates a clean look while keeping costs down. The steps were created with steel risers filled with gravel for the treads. The walkway is created using 24″ square pavers, aka architectural slabs.
The short wood fence allows some privacy from the street, while maintaining a friendly feel.
A downspout was moved so that it could outlet into a new pseudo rain garden area where red-twig dogwood shrub and juncus, a type of rush (similar to ornamental grass) will help us manage that water with their deep root systems. The City of Portland encourages rain gardens, but we recommend diy’ers doing a bit of research first. Here’s a helpful publication: How to Build a Raingarden from City of Portland.
There is a wide variety of plants in this small front yard. Rain garden plants, edibles and interesting textural ornamentals make up our landscape design plant list.
There is an edible theme going on in this garden too. Two raised beds, plus fruit trees; one Fuyu persimmon, and two columnar apple trees.
The Hardscape Landscaping is Softened with Pots
We had a lot of fun with pots on the large patio. I designed some of them – such as a dwarf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Fjellheim’) and a funky conifer (Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin’ Blue’). I call it funky because the foliage is fantastically textural, very blue and oddly its’ foliage grows in a variety of directions. The homeowners designed others, including one with carnivorous plants! This was a true collaboration and it was fun to see which parts the homeowners wanted to take off and run with.
Rounding out the plants are some fun evergreens for winter structure, including a shrubby Manzanita (Arctostaphylos bakeri ‘Louis Edmunds’), and a New Zealand shrub better known as a houseplant (Sophora prostrata ‘Little Baby’).
Let’s transform your front yard with a collaborative design process that explores the potential of your existing landscape and home. Contact us and let’s create together.