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Archive for low maintenance plants

Grant Park Georgian Style House Gets an Entry Landscape Makeover

Portland Georgian Style Home Gets Entry Landscape Makeover

Landscape Design in a Day transforms a boring front yard into a welcoming entry with serious curb appeal for this Grant Park home in Portland Oregon.

Front Yard – After installation photo complete with Mary’s zinnias on the corner.

Clients Wish List

Mark and Mary have a beautiful double lot in NE Portland and their large backyard is dreamy. They have lived in their Georgian style home for decades.  They felt their existing front yard didn’t play with the house and that the street appeal was lacking.  They wanted the front yard to be at the same level as the amazing backyard. They hired Landscape Design in a Day via a referral from neighbor friends, Chris and Stacey.  See their backyard transformation.

They like their covered front porch for greeting visitors out of the rain, and wanted a secondary space for seating in the front yard. Mary specifically dreamed of a spot to be able to relax in the evening and look up at the night sky.

Mark wanted to retain much of the lawn and Mary wanted to make sure her Zinnia’s still had a spot in the final landscape.

Before photo of Portland residential front yard landscape design.

Front Yard – Before

Designers perspective

Before our new landscape was installed, the house didn’t feel connected to it’s land and the plantings were too sparse to be good company for the house. So, the first task was to create a strong walkway to visually ground the strong Georgian style of the house.

Usually a front walkway feels more inviting when originating from the sidewalk and not the driveway. The intersecting street butts directly into the front yard nearly lining up with the front porch. We were all cautious about having the front walkway start directly from the sidewalk. Since their lot is deep, they don’t park in front section of their driveway so the walkway can still be accessed with ease by their friends and family.  The shape of the walkway also gave us a perfect spot for a dramatic tree and interesting plantings near the front door.

Side Yard Transforms into Sit Spot

Before remodel of Portland client side yard landscape design.

Side Yard – Before Landscape Design w Fatsia Japonica – Japanese Aralia

We combined those Belgian Blocks and the homeowner’s desire for a sit spot into one serene solution. The new stone patio directly to the left of the front porch re-used the old front walk material nicely. This patio is close enough to the porch to give the sense of expanding the front entry. But because it is a few steps down, it allows the homeowners to be in their front yard and see the beautiful views while feeling separated from the function of a front door and the busyness of the sidewalk.

Landscape Design in a Day transforms a boring side yard into a welcoming entry with serious curb appeal for this Grant Park home in Portland Oregon.

Side Yard – After

While it was easy to fulfill their lawn and zinnia requests, it took a bit of a discussion to select the exact small tree for our final planting plant. The graceful form of the perfectly sized Japanese Maple helps balances out the tall evergreens in the neighbors yard. It provides some weight to that side of the landscape and anchors the house. Plus, you can watch the tree’s seasonal changes through the windows of the house – what a treat.

Portland installation of patio pavers with existing Fatsia japonica -Japanese Aralia landscape.

Side Yard – During installation with Sam with D and J Landscape Contracting

Installation

We referred the project to D&J Landscape Contractors .  They installed the landscape design and replaced the driveway.

Plants

The large upright Japanese Maple is Acer palmatum ‘Shin Deshojo’

For summer and fall fun – the ornamental grass Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’.

Landscape Design in a Day transforms a boring front yard into a welcoming entry with serious curb appeal for this Grant Park home in Portland Oregon.

Planting Close up – Little Bunny Ornamental Grass, Sedum ‘Xenox’, Daylilies

The purple-red tones of the Sedum ‘Xenox’ and Heuchera ‘Cherry Cola’ echo the brick of the house.

For evergreen texture – hens and chicks (Sempervivum sp.) and dwarf pines (Pinus mugo) ‘Sherwoods Compact’.

Other plants:  Heathers, American Switch Grass and dwarf varieties of Oak Leaf Hydrangea, Euphorbia, Hydrangea, and Lavender.

Materials

New walkway is Bluestone, patio is re-used Belgian Block

Reflection

Mar and Mary celebrating their newly installed Portland front yard residential landscape design.

Happy Clients

“Mary and I are thrilled with our front yard…it turned out just incredibly beautiful.  There’s so much more dimension to the front now and it is so creatively laid out.  We just really want to thank you for your fine work.  I hope you’ll have the chance soon to stop by and see the final product.  From the bottom of our hearts…thank you.” – Mark and Mary

Contact us

Would you like to create a welcoming entry experience that makes your house look and feel it’s best?  We would love to work with you.  Call us at 503-223-2426 or use our contact form.

 

Vancouver No Lawn Front Yard Landscape Design

Vancouver low-maintenance landscape design entry

After Landscape Design in a Day

Vancouver No Lawn Front Yard Landscape Design

Steve found Landscape Design in a Day after the remodel of their front porch and driveway walkway.  The grass was patchy at best and the plants were overgrown. Steve’s wife recently passed away; she was the gardener in the family and she had wanted a front yard landscape design. Her family wanted to honor her wishes and create a front yard that she would have been proud of, but one that they could care for.

Wish list:

The rose next to the driveway was his late wife’s very favorite plant, so we knew it would

Vancouver low-maintenance front yard landscape design before picture

Before Landscape Design in a Day

stay or be transplanted within the design. The family also liked the camellias that were providing great privacy for the porch as well as hiding the side yard trash can storage area.  No one wanted to mow the slope so no lawn.

They wanted inviting access from the sidewalk to the front porch for guests and to give the house more street appeal. The newly remodeled porch had a large prominent concrete landing. Our challenge was to integrate the new entry porch and the front yard.

Designers perspective:

The front yard has  considerable slope and no entry path. The approach to the front porch needed approximately 7 steps. The garbage cans needed to be brought from under the porch out to the street, which would be easiest to accomplish on a slope if there were no steps.

Vancouver low-maintenance landscape design during picture

During Installation (Sam with D and J Landscape Contracting)

We initially created designs with one walkway that would split – one way toward the garbage cans and gate, the other toward the front door. We found that this took away from the beauty of the new wide porch steps and would require a lot more expensive grading.

So, in the end between our designs and Steve’s input, we decided the landscape needed two walkways – a wide entry walk with modern style steps that welcome you onto the porch and a less obvious smaller NW natural style stone path leading toward the back yard (this path also happens to be perfect for rolling out the bins) to the front sidewalk.

Although the special rose is too close to the driveway, we decided to leave it in place.  The risk of moving it was not worth the possibility of losing it. Yearly pruning will be needed to allow people to pass by without a scratch or a worry as it grows larger.

No lawn front yard:

For lower maintenance, Steve wanted to go with a no-grass front yard. From a designers perspective this is easy to achieve with slope, adding boulders to manage the grade changes, provides a consistent NW Natural look. But with no grass at all, the front was calling for a visually calming negative space.  We designers know that many no-lawn front yards often look and feel too busy.  We were a little surprised when the family immediately liked our idea of a small sit spot for a bistro table or a couple Adirondack chairs. The sit spot acts as that calming negative space and connects the two walkways.  When the colorful plants fill in, this area will be very welcoming, and visually restful even if rarely used for morning coffee.

Installation:

We referred the project to D&J Landscape Contractors  for a fall installation.

Clients comments:

Our newly remodeled front porch and entrance looked wonderful but didn’t fit with our old front yard. We hired Carol Lindsay of Landscape Design in a Day.  

She and her assistant Alana came out on a Saturday to create the design with us.  Carol and Alana showed us several proposals.  They were all good, but we liked different parts of each one, and they were able to combine ideas to make a great final plan.  They were able to keep our old favorite trees and shrubs and incorporate them into the new design, including some that were special to my wife.  They also specified some interesting native plants which we liked.

Then at the end, Carol referred her favorite landscape installer so we did not have to find someone on our own.   Donna Burdick of D and J Landscape Contractors managed the construction of the new front yard and steps.  She was thoughtful, well organized and the work of her crew was excellent.  She worked with Carol to enhance the design even further based on some challenges and opportunities she saw from her construction perspective.  The new front yard enhances the remodeled entry and we have received many compliments from the neighbors.  Steve – Vancouver, WA

Plants:

We knew just the right attractive plants that are also low maintenance and can suppress weeds:

Rosemary ‘Golden Rain’ – Dwarf variegated rosemary

Lonicera nitida 'Twiggy' shows off the golden tiny textured leaves in low maintenance landscape in Grant Park neighborhood Portland Oregon

Lonicera nitida ‘Twiggy’ shows off the golden tiny textured leaves in Grant Park neighborhood Portland Oregon.

Lonicera nitida ‘Twiggy’ – Dwarf gold boxleaf honeysuckle shrub

Modern low maintenance Landscape Design Portland Carex m. 'Ice Dance' ornamental grass contrasts with Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil'

Classic modern landscape planting combination; ornamental grass Carex m. ‘Ice Dance with Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’

Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’ – Variegated sedge (grass)

Red foliaged Sedum spurium 'Red Carpet' low maintenance landscape groundcover in winter.

Red foliaged Sedum spurium ‘Red Carpet’ groundcover in winter

Sedum spurium – Stonecrop groundcover (hardy succulent)

Geranium cantabrigiense ‘Crystal Rose’ – Hardy geranium ground cover (Cranesbill)

And for that wonderful splash of yellow throughout is Erica carnea ‘Golden Starlet’ – An evergreen heather with early spring flowers for bees and beauty.

Ground cover hardy geranium 'Crystal Rose' lights up a low maintenance sidewalk planting in Portland (Mt Scott Arleta neighborhood).

The warm pink spring flowering groundcover is Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Crystal Rose’ with (Cephalotaxus Harringtonia ‘Korean Gold’ )

With a simple and easy plant pallet, we allow their favorite plants- the Rose and the Camellias – to shine. After a thoughtful  pruning, (by Anne Taylor of Living Elements) the upright Japanese Maple can now show off its glorious leaf colors throughout the seasons and glory in a beautiful silhouette when limbs are bare.

Materials:

The original design called for concrete steps to match the existing but during installation, D&J introduced these Belgard Landing Steps which matched beautifully and were a better choice for the size of the project. Between the steps are these Belgard Pavers in Victorian color which adds a nice texture. The stone used is Camas Basalt Boulders and A-Split Camas Basalt Stepping Stones.

Let’s re-imagine your front yard together.   Contact us here, or call 503-223-2426

Mud Free Dogs-Dog Friendly Landscape Designer

Options for Dog Friendly Landscaping in Portland Oregon

In my years working with my clients designing dog friendly yards, I’ve come up with many strategies to prevent my client’s dogs from bringing the outside in.  In the summer it might be a stick which you can easily throw, and in the fall; it’s a few leaves. But here in Portland, Oregon, winter and spring means mud. And mud is not so easy to stop at the door.  So is it even possible to have a mud free dog in Portland, Oregon?  The solution starts with your  experienced dog friendly landscape designer.

Mud Free Newfoundland Dogs

Cedar chips are recommended by dog friendly landscape designer

Sweet puppy Luna napping in the cedar chips

The changes we made to the landscape for Jackie and Kurt in Tigard have saved hours of grooming and large dog bathing.  Their Newfoundlands are now clean and free of mud and can come in to the family room and hang out with their humans. This was a side benefit of their Landscape Design in a Day.

Their old house comes with huge magnificent old Douglas Fir trees and lots of shade. Where there was shade, there was mud. Prior to installing our landscape design, the dogs could not come into the house at all because they were extremely muddy. I was hired to design a new entry and garden for the front yard and to provide garden coaching for the backyard. No one was talking about having mud free dogs. They could not imagine it enough to ask for it.

It’s my job to solve landscape problems for the entire family. Kurt and Jackie used my special cedar chips to create a mud free woodland “floor” in their Douglas Fir Forest. It’s beautiful even now, ten years later, the dogs are clean and poop is easy to scoop even in the winter.

cedar chips for dog play yard in Portland, Oregon

Elana and her brother play in a cedar chip yard just for them and are mud free.

Play Yard for Rhodsesian Ridge Backs

Cedar chips also worked well for another client with two large dogs, Rhodesian ridge backs. We created an enclosed area with plenty of room to rough house, so they were very happy in their new play yard.  They didn’t track mud in the house (which made their guardian and my client happy) and other spaces around the property  now have a far more aesthetically pleasing garden design. Heads up: If you have 2 large dogs who love to wrestle and chase, the cedar chips will eventually hill up in  some areas and you will need to rake it out to keep a flat play space for the pups.

Raised Beds Create Running Paths for Poodles Back Yard

round wood edging defines cedar chip path in Portland, Oregon

The short wood edging provided enough to keep two standard poodles down the right path.

Yet another family had full sized standard poodles. Poodles are smart and they have a lot of energy.   Many times, dogs (and the landscape plants) benefit from having clear paths installed to circle around and around and around. It’s a lovely way to  play chase and get lots of exercise without the hard impact on their hips and backs that concrete or pavers do.  A simple 12 inch raised bed can often be enough to point the pups in the right direction and build their running patterns. Once the plants fill in,  most pups will stay on the paths and keep their feet mud free. In this scenario, you may need to protect your plants for the first growing season with a temporary barrier like a short wire fence or use plants that are either tough enough to handle tromping or can slightly repel the dogs because of smell.

Plant Tip:  Hardy Geranium leaves (Geranium macrorrhizzum) smells like cedar if bruised.  Dogs will play near by happily but don’t walk or lie in it because of the smell.    I would never use plants with an odor that would hurt or cause discomfort to a dogs sensitive nose.

Hardy geranium and sword fern are two of my favorite dog friendly landscape plants for Portland Oregon.

Sword fern and hardy geranium in a raised bed work well for a dog friendly planting.

Creating landscape designs for dogs and their guardians is a joy and one of the perks of my profession.  Read more ‘Protecting Your Yard from Your Pet and Your Pet from Your Yard’ on Houzz for an interview with your dog friendly landscape designer Carol Lindsay written by Gwendolyn Purdom. And make an appointment for your own dog friendly landscaping!

 

Resistance is Futile-Plants that take over your landscape

Resistance is Futile-Plants that take over your landscape.

 

This blog is about attractive plants that take over your landscape.  They are tempting and for sale at most garden centers.

Star Trek The Next Generation came out 20+ years ago but I was busy building my landscape design practice and raising a stepdaughter so I missed the whole thing.

Maybe I’m just going to seed as I recently watched all seven seasons in short order. I encountered the Borg and was impressed with their ability to take over a universe. The Borg remind me of certain plants that will happily assimilate your entire garden and need to be avoided. 

Here’s a list of plants that are as devastating as the Borg and good at propagating their own kind without any assistance. They have an aggressive spreading growth habit and yet they are still sold at most nurseries and garden centers in spite of their thuggish nature. Be warned.

Foliage of houttynia 'Chamelon', is an aggressive spreader in Portland Oregon gardens.

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ Photo Source

Here is a beauty of a beast: Houttuynia

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ –  I’ve never known anyone who (once it was planted ever managed to get rid of it. It is famous for aggressive roots that will grow through other plants and overpower them. It can seed although it hasn’t in any of my clients gardens because I never use it.  Look at how cute the variegated leaf  is!

Aggressive Japanese Bloodgrass in Portlands' Raleigh Hills residential landscape design

Japanese Bloodgrass, Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’, can spread indefinitely

Japanese Bloodgrass Spreads

Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’ or ‘Rubra’- Japanese blood grass is a spreader but it can be dug out and eventually (as in years of work later) be banished but don’t sacrifice your time to this plant…you will be sorry!!

Aggressive Ribbon Grass in NW Portland parking lot is well contained by boulders.

Ribbon Grass, Phalaris arundinacea

Ribbon Grass is on the Fence

Ribbon Grass, Phalaris arundinacea, is a plant that can be very difficult to eradicate but if a designer suggests it for a contained area that doesn’t mean they are a newbie.  It is planted in a parking lot that I frequent. It’s been trapped there over 9 years and has not escaped. I myself have never used it in a design but it is very very low maintenance.   Here is an article regarding success in killing the ribbon grass. 

Front yard of North Portland Row House is lost to Aspens aggressive growth habit.

This stand of Aspens (Populus tremuloides) started out as one trunk!

Aspen Trees

Aspen trees, Populus tremuloides, are beautiful in a forest but not good for tiny city plotsOne tree will become many and fill your soil space with invasive roots that lift walkways, invade foundations and water lines and leave companion plants with no water or nutrition. See this great article from designer pal Beth Goodnight regarding the evils of aspen and some alternative suggestions.

Keep Mint in a Pot

If mint gets away from you – you will never get rid of it. Some people plant it in a pot and keep it on a concrete patio. The roots can escape from the pot and once it spreads in your soil you will have it forever so I never set my pot of mint into a planting bed. I like having mint for soups but it is strictly a container plant. 

Japanese Anemone in Portlands' Grant Park neighborhood in low maintenance residential garden design.

Japanese Anemone is beautiful but travels fast

Japanese Anemone and Bishops Weed in the Right Spot Only

Japanese anemone, Anemone sp., should only be used by experts. This one is very very seductive and over the top beautiful. It travels by root which is the problem. I like to use it in very low maintenance planting plans/landscape designs and in parking strips where it is easily contained. It doesn’t seem to invade the lawn so I’ve used it in plant borders too.

Bishops weed, Aegopodium podagraria, should be planted by people who know exactly what they are in for. It can be contained in the parking strip or a low maintenance planting where you have nothing but shrubs. Large shrubs with bishops weed as a ground cover can be a functional landscape choice. If I use it I have a rule:  You are not allowed to ever give a start of it to a friend.      

There are, of course, many plants besides my short list that should be avoided or used with caution. These plants are the stars of this blog because they are so attractive, tempting and readily available at your local garden center.

Wire Vine – Friend or Foe

Garden Design PortlandWire Vine – Friend or Foe?

Do you have a structure you need to cover and don’t mind occasional pruning?

Do you like plants with interesting color, texture and tiny leaves?  I have your plant.  Wire vine – Muehlenbeckia

Here are 4 ways to use wire vine.

Wire vine on an arbor and gate.

This entry gate has a definite hobbit landscape feel to it.  The wire vine growing on this rustic gate and arch creates a very unique look and is very easy care. All they need to do is trim it. It is mindless easy pruning and if it gets away from you it’s easily remedied by whacking it back to about 6” tall. If you don’t like trimming plants on a regular basis, this is not your plant. (Muehlenbeckia Complexa in photo)

Wire vine cascading down a wall

Garden Design PortlandHere is a photo showing a hot tub surrounded by a rock wall. It’s just a rubble style rock wall so no one painstakingly picked which rock to go where for the art form. It’s good looking with wire vine planted at the top of the wall.  The results are a cascading curtain of delicate looking foliage. The burgundy black stems add color to the winter view from the hot tub and softens the view of the wall. Another benefit, they don’t have to pull weeds out of the rock crevices because the wire vine does not share well with other plants. No weeding sounds like low maintenance to me. (Muehlenbeckia axillaris ‘Nana’ in photo)

Garden Design Portland

Wire vine as ground cover is only for hobby gardeners

Only use wire vine as ground cover if you are happiest out playing (working) in your garden.  Wire vine will try to grow right over the other plants and climb up the trunk of this lovely June Snow Dogwood (pictured). This photo of Muehlenbeckia axillaris is from a designer pals personal landscape.

Two kinds of wire vine

There are two kinds of wire vine and I find they get mixed up often at nurseries much to my annoyance. One is evergreen with slightly larger leaves  –  Muehlenbeckia Complexa. It’s also called Garden Design PortlandMuehlenbeckia complexa ‘Big Leaf’. This plant is less cold hardy than the smaller leafed type so could die in a bad winter but I’ve had it last for years in some client’s gardens.

Garden Design PortlandMuehlenbeckia axillaris ‘Nana’ has the smallest leaf but is not evergreen. In late fall the leaves turn a bronze orange (which is attractive) and fall. This wire vine will become drought tolerant and tolerates freezing temperatures best.

Sun or light shade

I grow wire vine in a variety of sun situations. They don’t thrive in deep shade.  I plant them in full morning sun or a mix of am and pm sun. I’ve placed it in full west facing afternoon sun where it gets dappled shade from trees or shrubs by 3 pm.

I would not grow it on my house but a garden shed is fair game.

Trim often or cut back by 4/5th’s at least once a year.  How you trim it depends on what you are using it for. If I grew it on a gate, I’d treat the stems and leaves as if they were fur and just shear it back to 1″or 2” thick.  If it’s in a pot I’d cut all the stems back to 2″ at least once a year.