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Archive for boulders

Landscape Remodel for Woodlawn Neighborhood Back Yard

Woodlawn neighborhood before photo of landscape design projectLandscape Remodel for Woodlawn Neighborhood Back Yard

My new clients have a corner lot in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. They were referred by their friend Julia whose Rose City neighborhood landscape I had designed. The flow of this back yard just didn’t work.  They didn’t have anywhere to enjoy sitting outside. They tried to imagine a new design but the house and property would not cooperate. I have felt this sort of surliness from a house in the past. The house crosses its arms and says I will not let you change me. Okay that’s a little weird but this was one of those times.

Designers Site Assessment

The yard area between the driveway and kitchen door on the west side is small and well past its maximum uses. It has the back porch, a planting area with a fig tree, a basement door, a garage door and a door to the mud room and kitchen. Each door requires transportation space to access it. They were trying to use the small back porch to BBQ and sit out on but in addition to being way too small, it was hot as Hades in the summer. The sunny south side yard was narrow but had no easy access to the kitchen. The door you see above leads to the basement, not the house, so they did not use the side yard.

Landscape designers know that a great design is all about how you move through a space and this yard needed someone to treat it like the Rubik cube it was and explore what was possible.

Client Want List

split level deck maximizes space in small NE Portland back yardThey wanted a place to BBQ and sit outside in cool shade.  Their small porch radiated heat and baked in the summer. They wanted shade and plantings that would bring birds and life into the landscape, plants for low water and oh did I mention SHADE? They wanted to want to use their south side yard for something but it had no easy access to the kitchen and had an extensive french drain to work around. They wanted absolutely no lawn and any new plantings to be low maintenance.

Design Solutions

We created many different layouts for the property searching for the best use of space. We all liked the design that replaced the tiny existing porch with a multi-level deck/porch. We  took out the planting bed with the fig tree. This allowed us to add a new lower level “dining” deck all the way to the fence and put the BBQ function on the upper level. Dan could not believe how much wasted space they had in the old layout and how much room they gained in the new one. But how would we provide shade to this baking area?

Getting great shade exactly where my clients wanted it was challenging. Designing overhead cover options for the new expanded 2 level porch was going to add another 8 to 15 grand. Our obvious choices were:

an arbor with canvas shade cloth – expensive

a large retractable awning – expensive

a very large tree (price tag installed at 8 to 10 grand)

After landscape design brings life to narrow side yard

Progress photo from D & J Landscape Contractors shows our two young shade trees and the partially completed new deck

The answer came from an unexpected place.

South Side Yard to the Rescue

After Alana and I flipped several layout drawings every which way, we discovered there was a perfect spot just around the house corner begging to be a small patio. We could plant a tree between this small patio sitting area and the SW sun to provide shade the very first summer. Our clients could use their new dining deck the first year on cooler days and use the new side yard patio for hot days. This small stone patio will have shade quickly. Which left us free to purchase our primary shade tree (to shade the porch) at an affordable size. We planted a 3″ caliper tree at about 12′ feet tall.

It will be 5 years before this tree provides much cooling. They will have to use an umbrella now and in ten years they will have the shade they want.

(Alana Chau was my apprentice for this Landscape Design in a Day and is now my design associate.)

The dry well and french drains were a little tricky for us. By law, landscape designers cannot make changes to drainage or make recommendations. We had to create solutions that would not disturb the drains. We knew our favorite licensed landscape contractor, Donna Burdick, would be able to simplify some of the restrictions we were given by our clients regarding the existing drain systems. Happily, our clients decided to hire Donna of D & J Landscape Contractors for the install.  She had installed the design for their friend Julia as well. Donna was able to improve the grade and lessen the volume of water to the dry well which gave us more room for our plantings.

New side yard patios create faster shade for clientsThe Side Yard Comes to Life

By adding a small stone patio along the side of the house and making a raised garden bed for the plants, we gave our clients a reason to enjoy their side yard which previously had been a dead zone. Dan says, “it’s so much better being back here because it is so much more alive. Now there are birds and bees in the garden.”  This planting area includes pollinator friendly cone flower, lavander and nearby native plants such as vine maple, ocean spray, salal and sword fern. We included a manzanita for hummingbirds and winter flowers.

Trees 

I confess I agonized over the selection. I wanted to use a Kentucky Coffee tree for its fast shade and strong wood but could not find one big enough to start with. I also toyed with an unusual evergreen oak but it grew too slowly. I finally went with a Japanese Elm, Zelkoua serrata ‘City Sprite’ because I could find it in the perfect size for planting and it would not get too wide for the space between the garage and the second story of the house. The “surprise patio” tree is a Cornelian Cherry, proper name is Cornus Mas and it is an unusual form of dogwood. It’s a wonderful tree for birds, handles hot sun well or part shade and will be a smaller round headed tree.

After residentail landscape design creates spacious and welcoming entry

Welcome home entry area has room to move an attractive gate and a (white tag) dwarf fig tree.

The Family Entry

Before driveway leaves little room for entry to the back yard

Before our Landscape Design in a Day process, the driveway space is a little tight.

The driveway didn’t have enough room to get out of the car comfortably because of the location of the fence and gate. I have to comment that my clients were fine with the tight access from the car. I am the one that felt it was too tight. It was hard for them to believe that giving up 18″ of their precious deck dining area could possibly be smart. However, they were  sure they only needed room for 4 people on the dining deck and that 90% of the time it would be 2. That gave me a stronger reason to gently push my idea about a spacious entry area from the driveway. Christie was the one who parked in the driveway and I think maybe she thought I was nuts at first. Happily they went for adding the additional space to the driveway area which gave us room to set the new gate at a welcoming 45 degree angle. They still had comfortable access into their new back yard whether carrying groceries or something more complicated. They lost their existing fig tree to the new dining deck –  it was extra sweet to find the perfect spot for a fig tree in the new design.

Materials used in the design

Variegated Lavender Blue stone for the dry set flagstone patio and path

Cedar decking 2 x 6

Deck stain brand is Storm – color is cedar

1/4″ minus compacted crushed rock for the paths

Woodlawn home gets Mossy rock delivery for new landscapeMossy rock for the raised planting bed -It has a rustic feel to it that I like and it will moss up nicely.  It also has the advantage of being lighter than basalt so easier for the contractors to bring in and use.

Check out the beautiful gate!!!

Cable railing for the deck; Dan says the open cable railing makes the whole garden feel like one space including the deck. He loves it.

 

 

 

No Lawn Back Yard Landscape Design in Grant Park

Grant Park back porch and patio need a re design.

Before landscape design

Read More →

Sloped Front Yard Landscape Design for Foster Powell Neighborhood Home

Steep sloped front yard with lawn Foster Powell neighborhood before landscape designLandscape Design Solutions for Sloped Front Yard in Foster Powell Residential Home

Peter and Lynn are patient people and maybe even a little old fashioned.  They purchased their home, made some repairs and updates, waited a bit, then hired me to create a landscape design for their back yard, installed it all themselves and waited for the front yard. This took several years. They hired me again to create a design for the front yard. 

Peter isn’t a lawn guy and I’m sure in the years between projects he wanted the lawn hump in the front yard gone gone gone gone.  When one considers the age of the home (built in 1917) and the fact it has always had the lawn hump, imagine the number of times it was mowed. Past home owners used thousands of gallons of water over the years to try to keep the hump green in the summer to no avail.  The water just rolled off. Peter had no intention to continue this tradition.

A landscape design is never about a single issue. A front yard landscape design is all about integrating the home and its land, however small, into harmony. I want it to welcome its humans, their friends and family and be an asset to the neighborhood.  This landscape design, however, is going to be very satisfying when we de hump this home.

Landscape problems

Steep sloped front yard entry landscape design solution Foster Powell NeighborhoodThe front yard was not welcoming and did not match the attractive bungalow’s interior or the fantastic back yard landscape.  The overgrown shrubs had been carved into lumps decades ago and while they were healthy, they did not fit my clients landscape vision. The driveway side needed some retaining to hold the steep slope. We could not magically lose the steep slope but we could soften it. The front yard looked even shorter in depth than it was which effected the curb appeal of the home.  This home was not visually connected to its land. While the hump of grass was partially responsible, the small straight front steps and walk lined up to the door added to the effect.

The area at the top of slope was narrow and allowed only 3’ of level area to walk around the house or access the driveway. Another problem, the parking strip floods in the winter from water that originates at the top-level area of the front yard.

Landscape design solutions

Entry path from driveway in Foster Powell Landscape DesignMove the front steps to one side to create an illusion of more depth.  Add some depth to the top grade of the yard.  Replace the hump of grass (sound of applause) by placing boulders to hold the new wider level area. Add plantings to soften and partner with the boulders. Add a catch basin to collect and direct winter water into a pseudo rain garden (after consulting with a drainage expert). Create an environment where the water can percolate down deep in the soil and eliminate or greatly lessen the winter swamp in the parking strip. Using boulders on the driveway side allows us to integrate this area into the front yard, and welcome people who park in the driveway. The boulders create planting areas and the new plants add softening and interest.

Boulders and attractive plants replace steeply sloped lawn in Foster Powell front yardA steep sloped front yard landscape cannot be “fixed” with a planting plan alone. Plants are wonderful but without the grading and boulders, it will never work. Covering a steep short slope with plants would mean impossible maintenance and it would not look good no matter what was planted. The hump would still be accentuated.

As soon as our design solution went to boulders it meant that while Peter will general the job, he will not be able to DIY the boulders. They DIYed as much as they could.

Landscape design plants

Lynn likes silver and gray green leafed plants. Silver and gray foliage plants are typically sun lovers. They wanted some NW native plants in their design.

Hebe albicans 'Sussex Carpet' in Mount Tabor neighborhood of Portland Oregon

My favorite hebe for Portland, Oregon

Russian Sage, many forms of sedum, both groundcovers and upright plants like Sedum ‘Xenox’. Helianthemun, euphorbia, hebe, phlomis and manzanita were some of the low water plants used. A fig tree creates privacy to the living room window and figs to the table. I gave Lynn a NW native plant combination for brown elfin butterfly which is sedum ‘Cape Blanco’ and native huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum in this landscape.

Here’s one Lynn added from Xera Plants.  Brachyglottis greyi/Senecio greyi or Daisy Bush. I love the fabulous silver green evergreen foliage and the plants very low water needs.

No lawn landscape design in Foster Powell residential neighborhood Portland Oregon

Phlomis ‘Russeliana’ is another silver gray green foliage plant that looks good in winter too.

They used my plant broker Brian Bradshaw for many of their plants (saving more money) and installed the stairs and paths, irrigation and plantings………..beautifully. Not all of us can DIY but we can admire those who do.

I dropped by the other day and took photos. The garden is about 18 months old. “We’re very happy with the design and how everything came together.”  Peter.No lawn landscape design in Foster Powell residential neighborhood Portland Oregon

Rose City Front Yard Landscaping With No Grass

Rose City residential front yard in need of child friendly landscape design.

Rose City Front Yard Landscaping With No Grass

Here is a classic Rose City Portland bungalow with a tiny front yard. My clients Julia and Bruce wanted a welcoming no lawn entry garden. They were planning to raise their family in this home so they wanted a landscape design for the long term. The front yard had difficult, near hostile growing conditions. Large trees to the south blocked sun and used up water and nutrients leaving little for other plants. Julia and Bruce had dealt with the greedy tree roots by installing raised beds for veggies in the front but then their new “Friends of Trees” street trees had grown to the point the veggies were not getting enough sun. The raised beds created a barrier, and made the walk to the front door too narrow. The raised beds had to go.

Landscape Designers Take

Our landscape design needs to solve these problems.

We need welcoming paths and walk that easily accommodate strollers and for extracting children from car seats. There was no path from the driveway to the front walk. They wanted some colorful plants and also winter interest for the front entry. They were ready to lose the raised beds and wanted to have professionals install the new front yard landscape. They wanted low maintenance in the front so they could focus their yard work efforts in the back where they have fruit trees and some edibles.

Julia and Bruce like and enjoy plants and when they have time, they like to play gardener so our planting plan needed to have spark…….but stay low maintenance in the front so they could focus their yard work efforts in the back.

Our plants need to be able to thrive in a hostile environment so the plants needed to be selected by an experienced garden designer. Our new plants will thrive in difficult light, soil full of greedy tree roots and become able to thrive with less water and little maintenance as they mature. The plants also need to be useful to birds, and insects including bees, providing food over a long period of time. Many plants will have color and interest year round and create a view from inside the house looking out the picture window. The current view was a neighbors driveway and a large number of garbage cans.

Unique Light Situation – Hot Shade

While they are not the only Portlanders who have trees blocking light, I want to point out that south facing yards with deciduous shade trees  require thoughtful planting for success. I call it hot shade. There is no morning light. The afternoon light will fall between the leaves of the neighboring trees and the plants will receive dappled light for intermittent periods of time. Late afternoon the front yard will get a blast of direct hot sun for at least an hour before the street trees leaves filter the summer sun into dapples again. The dappled light will support many kinds of plants nutritionally, (remember plants eat sunlight)  but the blast of full sun will toast deep shade plants leaves. There are not enough hours of  light to support full sun plants. Yep not fair!

In between plants for Rose City residential front yard landscape design.Solving This Dilemma

Internet authorities and plant books have lists of plants for shade and sun primarily but there is an entire universe of what I call “between plants”. For this tough little Portland front yard, I selected “shade” plants that I know will take quite a bit of sun. Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’  is one such plant. The first summer its leaves will scorch and so I always tell clients what to expect so they don’t think I’m off my rocker. The second summer there will be less leaf scorch if proper watering occurs. Not every Brunnera variety will tolerate afternoon sun dappled or not but ‘Jack Frost’ will.

Closer to the sidewalk and more sun, I selected (more “between plants'”) full sun plants that I know will tolerate some shade.  They don’t require 10 hours of direct sun to thrive.  Most black eyed Susan (rudbeckia) are listed as full sun plants but I have used them happily in part shade areas. Those dapples of light make enough food for them.  They are a perfect example of a “between plant’.

The sun was more intense and less dappled closer to the sidewalk so I placed the more sun tolerant plants there, including hens and chicks, summer flowering heather (calluna vulgaris) lavender and the strawberry tree. The strawberry tree was planted on a mound to help it thrive because it needs excellent drainage and this is a flat yard, and also to give it a head start from the big trees greedy roots. When the strawberry tree matures, the lavender will have to be removed as there will be too much shade for them at that point.

Portland hardscape path in Rose City residential front yard landscape design.Hardscape

We installed a path to the front walk from the driveway. There were a few muddy small flagstones there before. We actually walked though the motions of unloading a child from a child seat to sell ourselves on the idea of making the path even wider. When the front yard is so small it can seem wrong, or at least sad, to add more hardscape and take away room for plants; but being able to get kids and their accessories out of the car without contortion is a lovely thing.

The landscape contractor, D & J Landscape Contracting, used large flagstone to create this path and it’s so exactly what my clients wanted. It’s quiet beauty and thoughtful placement of each flagstone enhances the entire entry experience.

Potted dogwood for Rose City Portland landscape design.Foundation Planting Trick – Pot up that Red Twig Dogwood

For a little winter drama we planted a red twig dogwood in an attractive pot for the entry pizzazz. There is enough sun (remember those dapples!) to allow the twigs to go a dark red in the winter and have green and cream leaves for spring through summer and a bit of fall color.  If the twigs are in too much shade, there will not be pretty red twigs in winter and that would not produce the drama we want for winter.

Too often these narrow planting beds next to a house have vine maple or other small trees planted in a 36″ wide bed. This turns out badly because soon it will have to be deeply whacked just so people can use the walkway.  This will happen with my red twig dogwood too unless we cheat.

This is one tough plant and a great performer but it is not a forever carefree solution because it will get too big. They will have to remove the shrub/small tree red twig dogwood from the pot every 3 years and whack at least 1/3rd to 1/2 of the roots off or it will crack a glazed ceramic pot. You can plant it in a plastic pot and not have to root prune it.  Then in perhaps 5 to 7 years you will have to cut the pot off the plant, root prune the plant and put it in a new pot.

Their Google Review of Landscape Design in a Day

‘Listens to what you want (bird habitat, hosting, kids play area, privacy, interior views, etc.) and then draws up plans to fit your needs. Happy to refine the plans until it fits just right.

Great knowledge of plants. Chooses ones to accentuate your favorite season and colors.

Easy to work with. Had great references for contractors and where to source materials for a self completed project.’  Bruce and Julia

Strawberry tree focal point in residential Rose City landscape design.The Plants

Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’   Dwarf Strawberry Tree will become our focal point for the front entry  and our picture window view.

This large shrub or small tree looks wonderful in winter with its red “strawberries” and yes the fruit drop can be a little messy. If you are a neat nik pass on this plant.  My clients loved the color of the bark, color of the berries and are prepared to deal with some fruit drop. Butterflies use this plant for a host so don’t be alarmed if you see a large number of one kind of caterpillar on it. Do nothing and enjoy the show. The berries don’t taste good to people but some birds will eat them if hard pressed.

This tree will have a sinuous cinnamon barked trunk and branches and will become the focal point. Because it is evergreen it will also provide my clients with a view of something other than the  driveway and garbage cans across the street from their picture window. It’s all about the shape of the small tree so I suggest either no pruning or having a pro come and visit every five years. It’s very low water needs and will tolerate the hot sun and reflected heat from the driveway and sidewalk too so it fits our site perfectly.

Plant List

Arbutus Unedo Compacta – Dwarf Strawberry Tree

Azorella Trifurcata ‘Nana’ – Dwarf Cushion Bolax

Brunnera Macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ – Siberian Bug gloss

Azorella t. 'Nana' Cushion Bolax steppable ground cover in Rose City Park landscape design.

Azorella t. ‘Nana’ Cushion Bolax steppable ground cover.

Callunla vulgaris a perfect evergreen groundcover for Portland Oregon residential landscape design.

3″ high cascading textural wonder ground cover (photo from Singing Gardens)

Calluna Vulgaris – Summer Heather

Residential Landscape Design Portland Oregon Ice Dance Carex Grass with Sky Pencil Holly

Ice Dance Carex Grass with Sky Pencil Holly

Carex Morrowii ‘Ice Dance’ – Evergreen Grass

Daphne Odora ‘Marginata’ – Variegated Winter Daphne (existing)

Erica Carnea - Early Spring Flower Color attracts honey bee. Used in Portland residential landscape design.

Erica Carnea

Erica Carnea – Spring Heather

Rudbeckia f. ‘Little Goldstar’ – Dwarf Black Eyed Susan

Sword Fern - Polystichum munitum in Portland SW Hills in residential landscape design.

Sword Fern (Polystichum Munitum)

Polystichum Munitum – Native Sword Fern (existing and new plants)

Saxifraga ‘London’s Pride’ – Groundcover

Sedum ‘Cape Blanco’ – flower food for brown elfin butterfly and groundcover for landscape

Hen and Chicks in Portland residential landscape design

Remember: no mulch over your Hen and Chicks to avoid rot

Sempervirens – Hens and Chicks

Vaccinium Ovatum – Huckleberry (existing) host for brown elfin butterfly

Does this Portland residential project inspire your front yard? Contact me to see how I can help your landscape design.

 

Modern Entry Landscape for Portland Hillside Home

Modern style fencing creates courtyard style landscape design for West Hills home in Portland Oregon . Dyed concrete walls and wood fence

A modern fence creates a stylish entry and enclosure for the dog.

Modern Entry for Portland Hillside Home

Unique Front Entry Needed a Creative Solution

My client has a good design eye and she loves modern architectural style and modern style landscapes. However, her new home in Portland’s West Hills had a boatload of difficulties and she wanted a collaborative garden designer who would value her vision and strive to enhance it.

The first view of the house as you approach from the street is the roof.  It’s a classic landscape problem for hillside homes.  This is as far from welcoming as you can get.  You can’t see the front door at all.   The amazing view is in the back and the front yard is small, shallow and often below the road.

Basset Hound with Echinacea flower in his teeth Portland Oregon

Basset Hounds are adorable, but not made for multiple flights of stairs! Source

Courtyard for Curb Appeal

An modern styled entry courtyard would solve curb appeal, make a private sunny sitting area and give us an architecturally interesting entry appeal.  I was prepared for hours of preliminary design to create the perfect enclosure for the courtyard. Instead my client found a photo that was the perfect inspiration and the design came to life.

Courtyard is Dog Friendly

My client loves her dog.  We needed to accommodate the family Basset hound.  The entry area is the only easily accessible outdoor place for the dog.  The idea of a Basset hound with such short legs going down three sets of stairs, so he can potty in the backyard is torturous and potentially harmful for his back and hips. The enclosed courtyard is perfect for keeping the dog safe from cars and predators.

Designer’s Solutions

The fence would cut off  views of the entry from the street even if it was a short fence.  We accepted this and made the fence an attractive, visually strong presence on its own.  We went taller with the fence to block the view of any parked cars and headlights.

Client's choice of modern fencing inspired landscape design in Portland hillside home.The courtyard fence needed to be subordinate to the house. This meant it could not be too visually powerful.

  1. Using the concrete wall at the base of the wood fence gave us two materials which adds interest and lessened the feeling of height from the street view. The height also steps down to follow the slope which makes softens the effect of it’s length.
  2. The fence line also steps back (or bumps out) to break up what would otherwise be a long straight line. Each section that steps back is the length of the 10 foot long entry windows. By repeating the 10 foot length in the fence sections, we easily integrate the house and courtyard fence.
  3. Repeating a line that is prominent in the architecture of the house in the landscape is a classic way to integrate the two together. The step back also creates valuable planting space along the inside of the courtyard walls.
  4. We removed the 1970’s  brick facade on the house entry and replaced the tired aggregate and brick concrete walk with mortar set square  paving stone.

Before photo of entry landscape in West Hills neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

Plantings for the Courtyard Walls.

The plantings for the exterior of the courtyard walls (out on the street side) are tricky. The first section has crushed rock. It’s designed for guest parking. The other step back sections create room for a mass planting of  evergreen ornamental grass.  Carex Morrowi ‘Ice Dance’ was the most low maintenance option.

The entry gate area plantings are very simple and rely on two pots, one larger, one smaller and a very low bright lime colored evergreen ground cover to go around the pots such as cushion bolax, Azorella trifurcata ‘Nana’ . The  charcoal colored dyed concrete base of the fence needs the relief of  bright and light colored plants.

We created the planting plan for the courtyard interior, and designed an echo chamber water feature to enhance the entry experience and to enjoy while sitting outside on sunny days.

overgrown entry landscape in west hills neighborhood of Portland, OregonThe existing rockery style walls inside the courtyard were built with stone that was too small.  It doesn’t look great with the new modern style. Our design replaces 1/3rd of the retaining wall with large boulders. It is surprising to see that large boulders look and feel so good even in small spaces.  Small rock jumbled together to make a wall is rarely attractive and is far from a modern style landscape.

The final touches of the design are still in progress and I am looking forward to seeing the plantings completed.

If your hillside home is in need of a remodel, make an appointment today!Contact