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Archive for fall color

Hummingbird Candy-Gardening for Birds

Gardening for Birds Makes Year-Round Entertainment

12 Portland Plants to feed Hummingbirds

Did you know Hummingbirds stay in Portland over the winter? You can attract these beautiful creatures to your yard, and provide much needed nectar, with a variety of plants. Here is a round up of plants we call “Hummingbird Candy” for every month of the year. If you’d like help integrating these plants into a Garden Design, contact us. Or just add one or two in a pot on the porch!

(Note: plants bloom at different times each year depending on the weather. The plant selection above is typical in Portland.)

Happy Bloomers for Early in the Year

Portland gardening for birds.

January: Oregon Grape

Portland gardening for birds

February: Witch Hazel

Portland gardening for birds.

March: Flowering Currant

January – Oregon Grape, Mahonia sp., blooms winter through spring, depending on the type. I enjoy Xera’s description of Mahonia x media ‘Charity’. Pair this Mahonia with other natives such as Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea, and a dwarf cultivar of our Western Red Cedar, like Thuja plicata ‘Excelsa’.

February – Witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’, is a winter must have. See the blog post Winter Garden Plants the Sizzle for some ideas where to view these beautiful shrubs in full size. This is one of those plants that improves with age.

March – Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum, is a beacon of joy in Portland’s dreary season. The bold pink of this bloom is just so happy! Ribes is one of the easiest Portland native plants to grow. For more easy natives, see Native Plants.

Usher in the Spring with these Reliable Plants

Portland gardening for birds.

April: California Lilac

May: Cape Fuchsia

June: Penstemon

April – California Lilac, Ceanothus sp., is great for Hummingbirds as well as Bees. Pair the small dark-green leaves of Ceanothus impressus ‘Dark Star’ with the strappy light-green foliage of Hakone Grass, Hakonechloa macra. Of course, you’ll need to water that Hakone Grass with drip irrigation until it’s established.

May – Cape Fuchsia, Phygellus sp., is a plant we like so much it has it’s very own blog post: Colorful Cape Fuchsia. 

June – Beard Tongue, Penstemon sp. is a wonderful bloomer for drought-tolerant landscaping. Many Penstemon’s are native to the west coast and all attract hummingbirds.

Enjoy the Lazy Days of Summer with Beautiful Blooms

July: Hosta

Portland gardening for birds

August: Crocosmia

Portland gardening for birds.

September: Salvia

July – Hosta cultivars are an often overlooked hummingbird magnet for shade. See A Pollinator Garden Paradise

August – Crocosmia blooms all summer long, ending around August in my Portland garden. This is often the first plant people think of when they want to attract hummingbirds. Check out some impressive captures in Portland on this instagram account.

September – Anise Sage, Salvia guaranitica, is a favorite of a recent client design and install, see Laurelhurst Neighborhood Backyard.

Keep the Hummingbird Entertainment Going through Fall

Portland gardening for birds.

October: Hardy Fuchsia

Portland gardening for birds.

November: California Fuchsia

December: Yuletide Camellia

October – Hardy Fuchsia, Fuchsia magellanica and hybrids bloom from summer into fall, depending on the type. Portland Nursery always has a nice selection.

November – California Fuchsia, Epilobium sp., is less widely known as others on this list. It blooms the entire fall season, later than most perennials. Pair it with ornamental grasses, which look fabulous at the same time. I might suggest an evergreen sedum or other evergreen groundcover in front of this plant as it gets pretty ugly after the first hard freeze of winter.

December – Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ and other Camellia’s fill a very important season for hummingbird plants. Some hummingbirds leave for the winter but our native Anna’s Hummingbirds stick it out through the cold and wet. Consider planting a winter-blooming Camellia for these pretty creatures. For more fun winter interest, see Cheery Winter Landscape.

If you are a bird lover who wants more wildlife in their garden, contact us to make an appointment.

Trees for Portland Residential Landscape Design in Woodstock neighborhood

Portland residential landscape design in Woodstock

Young Japanese elm in Woodstock neighborhood

Trees for Portland Residential Landscape Design in Woodstock neighborhood

One September afternoon while in Portland’s Woodstock neighborhood I  drove by a former client’s home. My clients had moved, and I was curious to see how the design (installed a dozen years ago) had held up. Once clients move I rarely have continuance with the landscape.  

This drive by is a mixed bag.

Shade Tree for the backyard

Affordable Landscaping Portland design in residential Woodstock.

The shade tree for the back yard is absolutely perfect, and exactly what I had envisioned. This is the part of drive bys I like the best. I used a Japanese Elm – Zelkova serrata variety called ‘Wireless’ because it’s one of the few shade trees that is compatible with lawn and ‘Wireless’ is the perfect shape and size to provide shade for city landscapes.

Their leaves are smaller than most shade trees and allow dapples of sunlight through the canopy to the lawn while filtering out the heat. The exaggerated vase shape of the tree also allows light to come in under the tree in the morning and late afternoon.  This tree provides shade to the south facing deck and the back of the house. It will get over 30’ wide at the top. It matures at 25’ tall so it is a tree that will be wider than it is tall.

If you are a discerning shade aficionado you will say hmmm…… the shade tree doesn’t have low branches so how can you sit on the back deck and have dinner without being blinded by the south sun? We kept a mature mixed hedge at the back of the property and it will block those dinner hour sun rays. The shade tree will filter the hottest sun of the day.

Privacy Screen Planting for side yard

Residential Garden Design Portland, Oregon Woodstock neighborhood.Less successful is the privacy screen planting for the side yard.  I used a narrow variety of Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Franz Fontaine’) to block the view of the neighbor’s driveway and their vehicles and also to create an attractive view from the bedroom Affordable Landscaping Portland residential trees.windows. For the design to be functional, the Hornbeam would need to be pruned once or twice a year to become a 10’ narrow wall of thick leaves. The maintenance did not happen since my clients moved.  Now the side yard privacy screen is wildly out of scale and the charm is gone.

Make an appointment to start your Portland residential landscaping with designer Carol.

Colorful Four Season Plant for Portland Residential Landscape Designs

North Portland residential landscape design for year round colorColorful Four Season Plant for Portland Residential Landscape Designs

I like to use Nandina as a colorful four season plant for my Portland landscape designs.

Advantages

The foliage is colorful year around.

Very low maintenance plants if you know the cool pruning tip.

They are easy to prune successfully so you can keep them for years.

Nandina varieties fit multiple diverse needs in the landscape because they can be small (18″ to 24” tall) or up to 8 feet tall.

They thrive in half or full day sun.  Deer don’t typically eat them.

Colorful Four Season Plant for Portland Residential Landscape DesignsDisadvantages

People prune it wrong and then it’s so ugly they remove them – this is so easy to avoid.

Many varieties require a lot of sun and will look leggy and sparse in the shade.  They will look so bad they will be removed. Some varieties will take more shade so you have to know which is which.  Best practice is to plant in at least 4 hours of strong sun.

People think Nandina is drought tolerant and they don’t water it in the summer……….this ends badly.

Nandina (from China) doesn’t feed our native insects; therefore, overusing it limits food for our native bird population.  I like to select at least a few native plants for companions.

Is this plant overused? Some garden designers snub the Nandina plant because it is used in commercial landscapes. Nandina is useful to my Portland residential landscape design clients who want low maintenance landscapes.  With the right plant partners Nandina can sparkle in a home landscape.

North Portland residential landscape design for year round colorHow I Use Nandina in Garden Designs

Nandina domestica – Heavenly Bamboo (not related to Bamboo)

There is a variety of Nandina to fit every landscape:

  • 6 to 8 foot tall  ‘Moyers Red’ or 4 to 6 foot tall ‘Plum Passion’ dress and soften an expanse of fence, hide the hot tub or garbage area nicely
  • 2 to 4 foot tall ‘Sienna Sunrise’, ‘Moon Bay’ or ‘Firepower’ work well in foundation plantings and entry areas.

Use a tape measure on planting day, assume the size info on the plant tag is being modest and give your plant more room to grow.  Some varieties of Nandina will grow 3 to 4 feet wide.   To keep your Nandina from getting too wide, I suggest pruning out entire canes at the base of the plant once a year.  For varieties that are listed as 3 to 4 feet wide, plant it at least 30 inches off your path.

A new variety called ‘Blush’ is typically 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide. The evergreen leaves turn an intense claret red and hold their color for months, longer and redder than other Nandina. ‘Blush’ was designed for the southern United States where it is fully drought tolerant. In Portland, all varieties of  Nandina including ‘Blush’, requires irrigation in summer. Multiple articles on the net enthusiastically state ‘Blush’ is drought tolerant but they do not mean here in the NW.  In the high humidity of an Alabama summer I too am probably drought tolerant…..Mint Julep anyone?

North Portland residential landscape design for year round colorPlant Partners

I love to combine Nandina with textured or needled plants that contrast with the narrow Nandina leaves.  Dwarf conifers, (Pinus mugo ‘Sherwoods Compact’), heather  Erica carnea ‘Adrienne Duncan’ or ornamental grasses like  Opiopogon (black mondo grass)  work well.  NW native plants, like salal, sword fern and huckleberry give  contrast and good looks.  They also provide food for native insects and for our birds who must eat native insects for food.  Pairing Nandina with typical cottage garden plants disappoints my aesthetic; there isn’t enough leaf contrast.

How to prune Nandina

The key to success with Nandina is learning how to prune it which is all about thinning the multiple canes (or stems) of the shrub.  Read more in my next blog or check out this u tube video I found to get you started.

 

 

 

Modern NW Natural Landscape Design

Modern Low Maintenance Landscape Design

After shot of modern Portland area backyard landscape design.

Freshly installed Landscape Design in a Day. Emily says, “Carol got my desire for simplicity and my style both with the plant material and the hardscapes.”

My new client Emily contacted me with two problems.  One – she needed a landscape design for her new home that would be pleasing and fit her space and her style.  She wanted to enjoy being outdoors in her small backyard in the summer.  She knew she didn’t want lawn and she wanted entertaining space.  She had a small terrace outside the kitchen door which is certainly big enough for a cuppa coffee, but it didn’t feel naturalistic and certainly wasn’t big enough to entertain.

Two – no matter what sort of landscape design we did she would need regular landscape maintenance.  In addition to finishing school, she spends a significant amount of time in France with family.  Lots of people say they need low maintenance.  Emily really needed low maintenance and a professional gardener who would not trim her Japanese maples into lollypops in her absence.

Previous landscaping was overrun with weeds before Landscape Design in a Day added a modern touch.

Spring of 2016 Emily’s new landscape was overrun with weeds.

When she called me late spring of 2016 her landscape was completely overrun with weeds, and her plants (recently planted fall of 2015) were struggling.   Emily is an affectionado of minimalist design. Her ultra modern Westmoreland home is designed for renting out the bottom floor and she has a tenant. Emily loves ferns and Japanese maples. She prefers green leaves to the overly colorful variegated designer plants. She loves a woodsy naturalistic style for her plantings but wanted a minimalist modern style for any hardscaping.

Tough Environment for plants – Dry Shade

Three huge maple trees in neighboring landscapes created deep to dappled shade.  In summer they took all the water and in winter they buried the landscape in pounds of wet mucky leaves.   Fall clean up with Oregon Bigleaf maple starts in December.  It is not the romantic vision of a person wearing a light sweater whistling and raking up dry pretty leaves. You’re wearing rain gear and using a shovel lifting up pounds and pounds of wet muck.   Many plants would simply rot and die.  I would need to carefully select plants that can survive being buried by such a deluge of leaves. This was a tough environment for plantings.

Dziedzic acer-japonicum-aconitifolium Japanese maple chosen for modern landscape design in Portland.

Emily loves Japanese maples. We selected Acer Aconitifolium ‘Full Moon’ Japanese maple for her shaded backyard.

Design Decisions

On our design day we focused on the backyard. She had one window on the second floor (the kitchen window) and I selected a special Japanese maple, two king-size ferns and some small evergreen shrubs to see in winter. The Japanese maple has both a hot spring leaf color and strong red fall color.  It was a lovely if obvious choice.   Her downstairs tenant had an egress window so I kept the plantings low to keep all the available light.

Privacy Plantings

To create privacy between properties we used three small evergreen trees with tiny leaves to contrast with the Oregon Bigleaf maple.  The rest of the plants were selected for summer interest because they would not be seen in the winter from the house.

Materials create the style

Modern landscape design using pavers.

Brian of D & J Landscape Contractors placing HydraPressed concrete slabs for woodland modern garden.

When I am designing a modern landscape, materials are everything.  The new modern landscape design, which is actually not all that new anymore, can become a cliché of itself.  Straight line paths without proportional balance look uninviting and cold. We used a warm gray HydraPressed concrete slab that is the epitome of modern style and will last forever if properly installed. We created two patio spaces and connected them with wide paths.  It looks like one space with plants flowing in between. This is a lot of hardscape for a backyard so you might think it would look harsh. Plantings will cover every square inch of soil and create such a lush and full complement so that the patios are fully integrated visually.  It’s a balancing act between hardscape and planted space.  Another help toward a serene and simple look is the lack of lawn.  Lawn, patio and plantings in such a narrow landscape wood tend to create a busy feeling and of course lawn would not thrive in such a shaded woodsy environment.

100 shades of green

It was important to honor Emily’s love of green leafed plants but in order to achieve the lushness needed to integrate the design, I had to find a way to provide a variety of textures (leaf shape, sheen, shade of green, habit of plant branches, etc.).   My ideal for Emily’s garden is that you could take a picture of it with black-and-white film and it would still look incredibly beautiful because of the contrasting textures and varying shades of green.

Japanese maple was used in modern landscape design.

Japanese maple – Acer Palmatum ‘Shindeshojo’

Because Emily loves Japanese maples she will have a succession of seasonal color changes to entertain her from spring to fall. The plantings we used are fairly low water once mature but it would be difficult to establish the plantings without irrigation because the huge Oregon Bigleaf maples roots will steal water from the new plants. With Emily’s school schedule and traveling, an irrigation system was necessary for long-term success.  No one wants to saddle their tenant with the job of hand watering the landscape.

Emily’s comments

Using existing maple tree in modern landscape design.

August of 2016 was too hot to transplant Emily’s favorite maple. The contractor and I redesigned the hardscape layout so we could leave her existing maple undisturbed.

Emily is very happy with the design “I absolutely love the garden and am so excited about it.  It’s wonderful.”

Diversity of Dogwoods Part II

Portland Landscape Designer Appreciates Diversity of Dogwood Trees

Overlook neighborhood has Dogwood 'June Snow' in parking strip - close up of flower.

We recommend this 30′ wide tree for back yard or front yards not parking strips but here it is doing well in a parking strip in Overlook neighborhood of North Portland.

The diversity of dogwoods is well illustrated by these two trees:  Cornus Kousa ‘Summer Gold’ and Cornus Controversa ‘June Snow’.

'Summer Gold' Dogwood in Flower

Bright cream flowers are backed by colorful leaf variegation of ‘Summer Gold’ dogwood. Photo courtesy of Heritage Seedlings

Colorful Summer Privacy Tree for Small Properties – Korean Dogwood ‘Summer Gold’

I love ‘Summer Gold’ partially because it’s so different from other dogwoods.   ‘Summer Gold’ has narrow bright green and gold leaves and an upright narrow shape.  The shape fits into urban settings much better than a round headed typical dogwood.  The foliage will be a delight from spring into fall and this tree is a narrow vase shape perfect to put between your patio and the neighbors to achieve attractive  privacy.

Traditional dogwoods (Cornus Florida and Cornus Kousa) have a wide oval solid green leaf and a  20′ or more wide round canopy.   ‘Summer Gold’ was created by local Crispin Silva who is a delight.  His curiosity and enthusiasm about plants has inspired many people in Portland including me. People here refer to his plants as “Crispin’s Creations”.

Elegant Branch Structure Cornus Controversa ‘June Snow’ Perfect Light Shade Tree

Overlook neighborhood has Dogwood 'June Snow' in parking strip - close up of flower.

The flowers of ‘June Snow’ giant dogwood float above the graceful branches in Overlook neighborhood.

‘June Snow’ can be the single tree in your  small city backyard because she has it all, grace, fall color, and an amazing floral display.

‘June Snow’ Dogwood matures at 30′ tall and spreads to 40′ wide. She has an arching shape and while bigger than typical dogwoods She has the most graceful silhouette even in winter.  I use her to create light shade for medium to medium small landscapes.  Too big for your typical row house back yard that is only 20′ wide, with another ten feet she can be the single beloved tree.  She was introduced by J. Frank Schmidt Company also near Portland, Oregon.

Her branch structure is incredibly graceful and open and for a shade tree she is typically limbed up so it is easy to walk and play under this tree.

Cornus 'June Snow' fall color in NW Portland

The fall color of ‘June Snow’ dogwood at Portland’s Legacy-Emanuel Hospital in The Children’s Garden.

When she flowers in June these flat topped clusters (which often exceed 6 inches) seem to float above the foliage.  The fall color on ‘June Snow’ can compete with any dogwood. The color show starts with orange yellows and moves into intense purple red and purple as fall deepens.  The fruit that develops from the flower clusters are quite tiny and not messy.  The local birds will eat them.

Studying trees is what Portland landscape designers do so we can bring you the best choices.  Ok and we are geeky about plants.   Read more about dogwood trees….. Diversity of Dogwoods Part 1

Cornus Controversa 'June Snow' as a border tree in NW Portland

More beautiful branch structure of ‘June Snow’ Dogwood. This tree used for a border keeps its’ lower branches. (ANLD Garden Tour)