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Archive for difficult small gardens

Creating Privacy with Plants for Small N.E. Portland City Landscapes

Privacy for SE Portland city home makes front yard dining work beautifully

The lush beauty of clumping bamboo creates privacy for a front yard dining patio in SE Portland.

Privacy for Small City Landscapes

I like to use clumping bamboo for my small city properties to achieve privacy and to screen out unattractive views.  Here are 3 small city landscapes that make good use of clumping bamboo.

Private Entry Garden in Busy Hawthorne Neighborhood

These clients created a private entry garden on a very busy street. They used a clumping bamboo with a strongly arching, almost weeping structure called Fargesia sp.’ Rufa’.  The need for a feeling of an oasis around the home in their friendly neighborhood outweighed the need for security. The front gate discourages uninvited visitors. Neighbors cannot see into the front yard and the clients cannot see the sidewalk or the cars.

From inside the home they look out their windows to see curtains of green and it is very restful.  The back yard is so small that they tend to do most of their outdoor dining and entertaining in the front yard where the privacy is perfect for intimate gatherings.

NE Portland Home gets Kitchen Window Privacy

backyard privacy in SE Portland with clumping bambooEveryone spends lots of time at the kitchen sink.  My NE Portland clients had their kitchen window lined up perfectly with the neighbor’s kitchen window.  The lots in this neighborhood are small, 5,00 square feet and less.  This tiny city back yard needed privacy and needed it fast.

We wanted our privacy screen to be at most 10’ tall with a very upright growth habit to preserve space.  In a yard this small we needed every useable inch!  We used the clumping bamboo named Fargesia robusta ‘Campbell’ again and if we had used a weeping form like the ‘Rufa’ that would have been a mistake for obvious reasons. The client and her brother are very talented and installed everything including the new concrete patio.

Screening Out the Neighbors House and Large Roof in Irvington

These clients in Irvington neighborhood wanted privacy and also wanted to screen out the house and roof of the large house next door.  The home office also had a large window looking out onto the 10’ wide side yard and into a view dominated by the neighbors overly large roof.

Clumping Bamboo being planted in tall wood planters creates privacy fast for NE Portland home.I want solutions that work not solutions that make work.

They specified screening that was going to be 15’ tall and evergreen.  They also wanted low maintenance.  It was on the north side and even if we wanted arborvitae, I was concerned we would not have enough light for them to thrive and maintaining them at 15’ was going to take a long time and then require professional pruning as well.  There were lots of plants people typically use for this situation and they are all going to be high maintenance and potentially trespass onto their neighbors air space and light.

backyard privacy gets a boost with planters and clumping bamboo in N.E. PortlandThis was a perfect place for clumping bamboo.  To get the plants at the 15’ mark we had custom planters that were 30” above the grade built.  This would give our plants a boost so they won’t have to wait as long for the screening.

Caveats:  The plants will make some leaf debris year-round but especially in the spring. The plants will require regular irrigation forever.  They are not drought tolerant.  And even with a few minuses, let me tell you, this is a lot less work than other options for a 15′ screen.

Clumping bamboo, in particular Campbell’s Variety, is an excellent choice for small city back yard and privacy solutions. For an even taller clumping variety consider Fargesia robusta ‘Green Screen’.  It is more likely to top out above 15’ tall.  Clumping bamboo do not need to be contained in a planter.  In this case, the planter is there to boost height and to have other plants in it to complement the clumping bamboo.

For more information about clumping bamboo see Bamboo Garden web site.

Looking for attractive and thoughtful solutions for privacy in your small city property?  We love tricky city backyards! Contact us.

 

 

 

Mid Century Modern Ranch Front Yard Landscape Design Tips in North Portland

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:

Kenton Neighborhood 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?

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.

 

 

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.

 

Mid Century Modern Landscape Design Starts With the Right Fence

Woodstock Mid Century Modern Landscape Design Remodel Starts with the Right Fence

 

Mid century modern landscape in Woodstock neighborhood

I got a phone call from Larry and Jan.  I could tell we were a great match from the first phone call.

Before photo of modern home with poor hardscape fence choice.

Before photo shows amazing windows and view of existing white fence and landscape.

This 1955 home sits on the corner. The white vinyl fence was on my goodbye list before I finished parking. It dominated the house and made some of the landscape problems 500% worse. It was new and expensive. I hoped they would not be appalled to learn I wanted it gone.

I walked into their house and I swear it felt like the house gave me a hello hug. There is a sense of a cape cod beach house owned for generations hidden in this modern mid-century. I could almost smell the pie.

Jan is a fabric artist and Larry has a keen appreciation of design and how things work together. This was going to be fun!

After landscape design mid century modern woodstock neighborhood includes new hardscape fence.

After design and installation of just right fence

The great room is all windows and makes the landscape outside of the home an intimate part of the inside of the home. The basement was beautifully finished with significant day light windows. They loved the light. My landscape plan would need to protect the light coming in from those windows.

My clients are neighborhood oriented. They like being across from the grade school and seeing kids come and go with their families. Yes, people could see them through some of those wonderful windows and no it didn’t bother them.

Clients Wish List

Before landscape design the fence accentuates the long line of the house with a poor hardscape choice.

Before our Landscape Design in a Day

Maximize view from inside the home by adding year round colorful plants

Summer flowers and hydrangeas and hostas for Jan

Create a more inviting entry

Expand the back porch for BBQ and access to a new covered deck or patio

Use a coral bark maple given to them as a housewarming gift

Covered outdoor dining area for 8

There was some thought to having no fence at all or keeping the fence that came with the house

Designers Take

The right fence would be the hero for this design. A fence connects to the architecture of a house more than any arrangement of plants. Even a tree, unless it’s huge does not have the trans-formative power of a fence. Get it wrong and it will bring the entire landscape and home down to its level. The right fence needs to be subordinate to the house and work with the style of the home not detract from it or cheapen it.

Getting It Right

New hardscape fence showcases the house and the new landscaping.

The right fence would be the hero for this landscape design

We all loved the design layout drawing that broke the straight lines of the fence and made space for plantings along the sidewalk. I worked through several versions of this design and my clients selected their favorite. They loved the fence I found on the Houzz site. It was a happy day when I saw the existing white vinyl fence being hauled off for donation to Habitat for Humanity Restore.

Covered Dining Area and Deck

We enlarged the back porch and brought a large covered dining area around the back corner of the house. The deck and cover stops before we get to the array of windows. I didn’t want to see deck furniture or lose light. The deck cover is a louvered roof system from Cardinal Motorized Pergolas. Larry and Jan were very pleased with their representative Kathy Hammer.

Jan preferred a flagstone entry path. It would look best with the original concrete porch side yard walk and brick planters. The flagstone would add contrast and create visual softening.

Synthetic Lawn, Planters and a Bench

Mid century modern landscape design with a flagstone path and bench are great hardscape updates.Raised planters answered Jan’s desire for herbs and a few edibles. The proportions of the planter, and an attractive construction, integrate nicely with the overall design.

Synthetic lawn is easy care and got their grandchild’s stamp of approval.

Installation

We moved into the installation phase without completing a planting plan because we knew we wanted to tweak the fence and path placements on site. I would never do this unless I have a long term working relationship with the contractor. I’ve seen many fantastic designs go down in sad smoke because a contractor redesigned and installed what he wanted.

I introduced my favorite landscape contractor, Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors and Victor Vincell, a building contractor with a most excellent eye and know how. The five of us, clients, designer and contractors worked together and a happy installation followed. The planting plan was completed and installed including a large Coral Bark Maple.

Finishing Touches Add Entry Appeal

Mid Century modern landscape style is simple and colorful to accent new hardscape fence.

Colorful sidewalk plantings with a balance of evergreens and deciduous shrubs and perennials created full season interest.

We went with a flagstone path (over modern slab pavers) for the entry and kept the original concrete porch and path. Keeping these elements worked well with the original brick planters which were painted a charcoal to go with the new colors of the house. The flagstone added a natural effect.

The clients replaced the skinny gutters (which didn’t handle the volume of winter rain water properly anyway) with nice big fat ones. It was amazing to me how this change amplified the modern style. The house body, trim and brick planters were painted, and the fence carefully stained to work well with the new colors.

The clients selected a bench to give the north side path a destination and provided me with a list of street tree options for their parking strips.  I selected Nyssa Sylvatica -Black Tupelo, two ‘After Burner’ for red leaves and one ‘Tupelo Tower’ for orange gold leaves. They were planted just in time to see their beautiful fall color.

Client Comments

Here is what Jan and Larry had to say about their experience.

“We loved our experience with Carol Lindsay of Landscape Design in a Day.  She understood us and our house and exceeded our expectations. The difference in the welcoming appeal of the house and the usability of the landscape is night and day. Her unique collaborative design process worked well for us. She suggested Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors to install and our experience with Donna was also over the top excellent.”

I love to work with landscapes in city neighborhoods.  Finding the right balance of privacy and adding value to the home and the neighborhood is a joy.  I’ve visited Jan and Larry and the friendly house several times since then.  It always feels warm and cozy.

To have your yard match your home, contact me for information on landscaping with hardscapes for your own personal style.

Privacy for Tiny Urban Back Yard in Buckman Neighborhood

Tiny Buckman Neighborhood Backyard needs Hardscape Landscaping

After photo of tiny urban back yard in Buckman neighborhoodMy client’s 1909 house fills most of his 36’ by 100’ lot. My mission?  Transform his tiny narrow utilitarian “yard” into a private and relaxing place to be for summer. He was especially interested in finding a designer with a close working relationship with an installer.  He didn’t want to end up with a great design and no one trusty to install it.

Client want list

Before photo of tiny urban back yard in Buckman Neighborhood needing hardscape landscaping.Usable private outdoor sitting space for 2 with a meditative and natural feel

Hide the garbage cans from sitting area but keep easy access

Privacy from south and west neighbors’ windows

Very low maintenance

Dog friendly

Use plants that remind him of nature

Use the most environmental materials and low water plants.

Designers Perspective on the existing site

My client was making do with a 3’ x 3’ private sitting area. It was only private with the back of his Adirondack chair tight to the fence. The neighboring houses had large windows and “looked” down into the tiny yard and one of the garages (happily with no windows) sat on the property line and was part of the yard enclosure.

He loved the neighbor’s large and mature cherry tree. There was a high 30’ long single branch whose side branches provided cool shade all along the back of the house. They were beautiful to look up into, but the branches were too high to provide privacy. I think there is something very inviting about being under tree branches. The downside was the sticky cherry pits.

Dog Friendly

After photo close up of hardscape landscaping stone planters with privacy tree just installed Buckman Neighborhood

Look closely for the ‘Pacific Fire’ Vine Maple privacy tree with coral red tiny trunk

Many city dogs spend a lot of time on walks and at the park so the small yard would not be his primary exercise or potty area.  Initially we talked about using my happy dog cedar chips as an easy care and affordable surface, but we decided flagstone would be easier for cleaning up the sticky cherry pits and be better for re sale value.

Creating a private sitting area

How small can you go? I prefer an 8 x 8-foot minimum area to fit a 36” table w 4 chairs. While space for 2 was fine with my client, we agreed space for 4 would add re sale value.

Where should our sitting area go?

The narrow back yard was eliminated because there were too many unknowns as to what we could do with the exterior of the neighbors’ garage. So, we circled back to the side yard for our private area. There were many problems to solve to make this area work.

After photo in Urban Back yard Buckman Neighborhood with hardscape landscaping

Carol LIndsay, Landscape Design in a Day

This was the widest area available at 8’ x 9’, just right for our private sitting area but it had the disconnected downspout extension sticking out into the walking area by a foot. It was a trip hazard. The path to the front yard and garbage cans cuts through this area. Once I remembered my client took out his garbage from the front door, I was confident we could make our sitting area on the side.

My privacy solution was multi-purpose

I used two large stone planters at 18” high with a wall cap for sitting.  Our screening plant material is planted at 18” above grade and gives our plants a boost so they will be tall enough to create some privacy in the first two years. Another advantage to the planters is our plants won’t be competing with the mature cherry tree roots.

We needed privacy screening in the 8 -10-foot range but for summer months only. Most people don’t sit out in their courtyard here in Portland in the winter months. It’s important to know whether I want evergreen or deciduous screening. If I only want summer privacy, I can use a deciduous small tree. They provide privacy faster because they are typically round headed and make screening right where we want it.  An evergreen conifer is very narrow at the top, so it takes years to get the screening where we want it and there are very few small fast growing leafed evergreen trees for shade.

Privacy from kitchen back door window

I did want evergreen for the view from kitchen. I used shade tolerant Azara microphylla – Box leaf tree.  It’s one of very few leafed evergreens with the right shape that is fast growing.   The attractive stone planters add an inviting presence from the tiny back porch and make a second sitting area.

Hiding the garbage cans

I created two wood screens to hide the garbage that can be walked around, setting them 6 feet apart makes for a very comfortable access.  The simple screens match the existing fence.

After photo of hardscape courtyard for tiny urban back yard in Buckman neighborhood

Before photo of tiny urban back yard in Buckman Neighborhood

Trip hazard solved

The trip hazard downspout extension had to go away. It stretched across the only access path area between the kitchen door and the new private sitting area. Happily, Donna Burdick D & J Landscape Contractors was able to design a solution.  She installed one of the new flow wells.  Now the water from the downspout goes under the stone path and into the flow well unobtrusively.  The flow well has a tiny little cap for cleaning out. These kinds of solutions allow us to use the square footage available to the client.

This garden design is very simple, and the solutions consist more of hardscape then they do from plants. This is perfect for my client.  Over ‘gardenifying’ this landscape would not have been in his best interests. Having said that, I will be happy when the small trees, ferns and ground covers mature and bring more life to the courtyard. On planting day, it looks a little skimpy on the planting side of our design.

The cool back yard area was not neglected even though it may never become a sitting area for my client.  We created 2 different design ideas for the 7’ deep back yard.  Both added a small tree to block the large window on the far end of the corridor like yard and this planting area was installed.  Halfway through the installation he learned the neighbor was remodeling the old garage which sits on the property line into an ADU.  Our client decided not to change anything else there. Once it’s finished, he may consider integrating the back yard into the new landscaping.

Client Comments

“From the concept and design through implementation, I really appreciated Carol’s understanding of my needs and desires, and her ability to think outside the box on my behalf for a solution for a small tight space that suited me. The design kit, survey and phone interviews gave me a sense of ownership of the project. Carol’s expectations and availability were clear. My advice is to spend some time on the kit and bring your ideas to vet with Carol. Seeing the outcome, my only regret is that I didn’t commit to this project years earlier”.  Ben

I love challenging landscapes.  Contact me with your twisty little yard and let’s find a great design that makes best use of your property. Whether small or large, your landscape can be made to suit your lifestyle with hardscape and landscaping. Go to my Contact Page for more info.

Landscape Designer:  Carol Lindsay of Landscape Design in a Day

Landscape Contractor:  Donna Burdick of D & J landscape Contractors

 

Materials used

Planters-Concrete pavers with an 8” concrete cap

Sitting area surface – Variegated Lavender Blue Stone Flagstone mortar set

Garbage can area surface – Fiberx Cedar Chips

Wood screens to hide garbage cans were built to go with the existing fencing and are simple cedar boards.  Our client plans to use an oil to preserve the wood once the dry weather arrives.

Flow well

 

Plants

Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’

Azara microphylla – Box leaf Azara

Pacific Northwest Native Plants: Vaccinium ovatum – Huckleberry, Polystichum munitum – Sword Fern, and Dicentra formosana – Bleeding heart, various maidenhair fern and groundcovers

Selecting Dwarf Apple Trees for Small City Landscapes

Dwarf Apple Tree (Liberty ) with fruit in Cedar Hills Portland Landscape Design

Dwarf Liberty Apple Tree after pruning with fruit

Selecting Dwarf Apple Trees for Small City Landscapes

Recently I specified apple trees for a client with a small yard. I chose ‘Liberty’ for disease resistance and flavor and ‘Akane’.  Along with the name of the apple I wanted, I also specified which dwarfing root stock.  Why should we care about what root stock my apple tree is grafted on?  The first step to success in selecting dwarf apple trees for small city landscapes is picking the right root stock.  I define success as planting fruit trees that stay small but produce lots of fruit and are easy to care for. I picked an EMLA 26 for the ‘Liberty’ and an EMLA27 for the ‘Akane’ which we put into a container.

Dwarf Apple Tree Selection Tip

Please do not buy an apple tree with a tag that only says dwarf.  If the tag does not identify the specific root stock you have no idea how big the tree will be.  Given the small yards most people have these days….not knowing the size your tree will grow to is a mistake that will cause you grief literally as you remove a tree that you cannot manage just when it’s finally producing lots of fruit.

Why Plant Dwarf Apple Trees?

There are many excellent reasons to plant a dwarf apple tree grown on specialized root stock.

  1. Dwarf trees are compact.  If you are a beginner, you probably are in love with having a garden and want everything, all at once. Dwarf trees give you more room for “everything;” because they don’t use much room in the back yard.  Semi dwarf can be 18′ feet tall or more……..that is not small.
  2. Portland area landscape design with Dwarf Liberty Apple Tree pruned in Cedar Hills Oregon.

    Liberty Apple Tree pruned by homeowner

    Smaller trees make picking and thinning the fruit easier.  Dwarf trees produce lots of easy-to-reach fruit. This is very important, especially during the first few years, when you thin (pick off) half or more of the immature fruit so your tree can develop the strong wood it needs for a long and fruitful life. Some apple varieties require you pick all the flowers off for a couple of years which would be hard to do on a ladder.

  3. Spraying is easier, too.  When you learn how to spray the tree with a dormant oil, it will be so easy to completely coat the stems and the areas where the buds will break because you will be able to reach them. Check out this Spring Spraying of fruit tree coating a [watch video] tree with a dormant oil spray.
  4. Modern dwarf fruit tree rootstocks help you avoid common problems.  Please, please, please, don’t buy a tree with a label that just says “dwarf apple” or “mini pear” on the label.  The impulsive buy may cause you to miss all the fruits of recent horticultural progress.  Some root stocks in addition to dwarfing the size of the tree, allow your tree to thrive in heavy clay, you won’t get that from a non-specified root stock.  Instead, make sure that it tells you which specific rootstock the tree is grafted to. For example the label could say something like “EMLA 27 creates a 4-to-6-foot tall and wide tree, grows well in containers, tolerates clay soils and is resistant to rot and other diseases.”
  5. Espaliered apple tree in Milwaukie Oregon landscape design.Pruning a smaller tree is physically less work. You won’t even need a ladder.  Brainy Garden has a video on pruning dwarf fruit trees.  Pruning is not a no brainer.  Many sources conflict with each other on how much you should prune…..so best is a class from a local nursery or through the Home Orchard Society.  Not pruning promises that your little trees will rip and tear their branches from the weight of too many apples, so get some help.

Resources for Dwarf Apple Trees

This list of modern rootstocks and their characteristics gives you an idea of  how critical (and cool) it is to select the right root stock for your fruit tree.  I could come up with some more reasons, but you can see how dwarf fruit trees are perfect for how most of us live and garden—in smaller yards with less time but no less plant lust.   RainTree Nursery, One Green World or Burnt Ridge Nursery are three sources for special rootstock apple trees and more.

Landscape design includes dwarf apple trees 'Sentinel' take little space planted against the south wall in NE Portland.

Sentinel Apple Trees take little room in this south facing garden.

Don’t want to figure out which rootstock?

Talk to an expert at one of these specialty growers:   RainTree Nursery, One Green World or Burnt Ridge Nursery or The Home Orchard Society.  Portland Nursery (503-231-5050) has a specialist on staff who orders their fruit trees and they will be knowledgeable about root stocks.   Call ahead to be sure their expert is in.