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Archive for No Lawn

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.

Privacy for Irvington Back Yard with Clumping Bamboo

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 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. Portland

Fargesia ‘Campbell’ clumping bamboo in Irvington neighborhood creates privacy.

This 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.

 

Entry Garden for Ranch Style in Cully Neighborhood

Drought tolerant garden design in North Portland

My client Laurie had lived in her 1950’s ranch style home for over a decade and was only the 2nd owner. She removed all the lawn and added exuberant plantings that hid much of the house from the neighborhood. She loved lavender and (so do bumble bees) so much so her mail carrier would not use the front walk because of the generous number of happy bees. She loved her garden but over time the now overgrown plantings were not working for her NE Portland drought tolerant garden design transforms entry landscapeanymore.   It was time for professional solutions and a complete change.

She wanted a designer who would listen to her ideas and be easy to collaborate with. She found Landscape Design in a Day and from the first phone call we were having fun.  We had to make ourselves stop “design riffing”  to do the paperwork and set up our appointment.

Incorporate the ADU into Landscape Design

Integrate her landscape design around the ADU so it looks like one landscape for her home and the ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit).

A welcoming and comfortable walk to the front door and a separate entry walkway for ADU/studio building on the property.

Create an attractive and more professional drainage solution.  The 60’ long black pipe handling downspout water was fully visible on the surface of the front yard had to go.

No lawn.

Edit her existing plants and keep the best plants that fit into the new vision.

Select colorful interesting plantings to satisfy her gardeners heart that use little water. Use enough evergreen plants for winter cheer without sacrificing the lushness of spring and summer flowers and foliage colors.

Drip irrigation system so she could be frugal with water and have healthy plants.

Pollinator plants.

Include some plants typical to New Mexico where she grew up.  Must have prickly pear please.

Client wanted parking on the south side yard and easy paths to the house.

Incorporate boulders where possible

Designers Assessment and Solutions

I saw several issues in addition to my clients list

Entry needs a landscape update in NE Portland.The Front Door Entry Was Disappointing

I created a new front porch to give a boost to the overall appearance of the house and as a sit spot.  Initially most clients don’t consider what a difference changing the entry will make to the overall landscape.

She had the typical midcentury built in brick planters by the front door that kill every plant ever planted in them.  The planters, in addition to basically being a plant cemetery, took up too much room around the front door, making the entry feel cramped. To create a welcoming entry I knew the planters and aged cracked concrete porch must go.  We brought in Victor Vincill to design a wall treatment to replace the brick planter.  There was no siding under the brick. Victor used a vertical panel of warm cedar to add drama and to side the area where the brick planters had been.

With the new updated entry I wanted to open the house up to the neighborhood without losing too much privacy. We removed some beautiful but overgrown plants including smoke trees. We were not able to keep the hot pink flowering cistus as they do not transplant well but we added several into the new design.  Laurie loves them as do I.

There were several trees on the property I wanted to incorporate into the design:  a Japanese maple planted in honor of Laurie’s dad, a dogwood and a maple tree planted by her brother and a smoke tree. The rest of the plants needed to go, which can be a hard thing, but seeing how the proposed landscape would look Laurie was enthusiastic about clearing much of  the slate.

South Side Garden becomes SW Style

North Portland home in need of drought tolerant landscaping. Newly planted drought tolerant garden design in N PortlandLaurie wanted a fully drought tolerant garden on the south side that could defend itself against neighborhood foot traffic and dogs. Since this was the south side it was a perfect place to explore the more Arid and New Mexico style plantings. It was well over 100’ long and narrow.

I knew a bermed planting bed shape would create proportional mass for this corner lot garden. It is an especially long lot line.

I wanted to make a view for the south office window even though it had heavily curtained windows.  I felt Laurie would enjoy opening the curtains for morning light and seeing shrubs with butterflies and birds visiting it. I selected a fast growing large variety of California Lilac for her view which fit nicely with her New Mexico planting theme.

The Ugly Black Drainage Pipe Goes By Bye

N Portland ranch home gets landscape updateDesigner contractor collaboration (Donna Burdick, LCC) worked with me to discover the best drainage system.  We used a rain garden as a focal point for the front yard. It solves the drainage problem (bye bye black pipe!) and is an asset to the overall design and property.

Hardscape Landscaping in North Portland

Dyed Concrete with a sand finish for the new angled steps and porch

Vertical cedar siding solution for house façade replaces brick planters and adds interest

Compacted crushed rock paths with steel edge has dry set large flagstones to carry the eye through the garden

We used my special cedar chip for the woodsy garden path and sitting area for the ADU

Design Review

Drought tolerant landscape in N Portland“I want to thank you again for your incredible design sense and plant recommendations.  We are so happy with our south and front yard – we walk around it every evening, we sit on the new front porch and find so much solace and peace in it.  Our neighbors also love it and frequently comment.  The world needs more beauty and joy right now!! And how about my beautiful prickly pear (Nopales).  It’s grown exponentially from two pads to many!!!”

Laurie

 

2021 Update!

Drought tolerant landscape design includes cactus.

Cactus growing in the gravel garden. The plants in this section evoke the Desert Southwest, a special locale for this homeowner.

drought tolerant landscape design includes california lilac and italian cypress.

California Lilac and Italian Cypress growing happily in this gravel garden in NE Portland.

drought tolerant landscape design includes boulders

A stone step, leads to the crushed rock path. Ice plant is starting to creep nicely over the step and boulders.

If you love the drought tolerant and SW inspired landscaping, contact us for an appointment.

Beaumont Bungalow gets Front Entry Hardscape Makeover

Hardscape Landscaping Design creates attractive easy access in Beaumont neighborhood

New Hardscape creates fresh entry for Beaumont neighborhood bungalow

Portland Hardscape Landscaping Makeover in Beaumont Neighborhood

In May, I met with Pam and David to collaborate on their front yard design. They knew they wanted a new approach to the front door; the existing access up the driveway was not what they wanted but didn’t know where to start with style or material. They wanted relatively easy, drought tolerant plantings and ample space for bulbs. They love how neighbors always stop to chat when the bulbs are in full bloom.

Before: Beamont home has no front walk and a difficult landscape to maintain

BEFORE: The front garden in May, filled with weeds. The pink blooming rhododendron was kept in our new entry hardscape landscaping design.

Hardscape Landscaping installed in Beaumont Neighborhood

DURING: In August, D & J Landscape Contractors completed concrete forms and an intense weed removal.

Designers Perspective

The house is truly charming but no one could tell with the existing wild landscape.  Everyone had to walk up the driveway to get to the front door and so the house was cut off from the neighborhood sidewalk.  I wanted to showcase the charm of the house and the interesting texture of the old brick on their front entry archway.  So we opted to replace the skinny straight entry stairs with an oversized landing that extended out beyond the overhang and generous steps. As you walk up to the front door, you can enjoy the texture of the brick instead of staring at your feet trying to navigate the skinny old steps.

Existing brick surround was important to highlight in hardscape landscaping update.

Close-up of brick surrounding front door, a feature that we wanted to highlight with the new landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the hardscape landscaping design came together beautifully, creating smooth comfortable access from the driveway as well as the sidewalk.

Updated hardscape walkway in Portland landscaping.

Concrete walkway from driveway to front door.

Planning for a Low Maintenance Landscape

Managing the weeds was a topic I brought up early and often, as I could see the seed bank was very robust in this front yard. In fact, for this garden, D&J Landscape Contractors did two rounds of weed removal! The plant choices and thick application of mulch are also weed-mitigation strategies (more about that below).

Hardscape Landscaping Materials

The poured concrete is acid etched, which adds some texture and a hint of warmth. Poured concrete can look so bright when it’s first poured and will age and settle over time.  The acid etch helps it blend into its surroundings earlier in the process.

Flagstone is used in the parking strip for the walkway as well as strategically placed spots for people to get out of their cars without stepping on plants. We opted for a warm mix of colors that echoes both the peach of the siding and the reds of the brick.

Hardscape Landscaping in Beaumont neighborhood of Portland Oregon

Parking strip flagstone artistically laid by D&J Landscape Contractors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affordable Landscape Design

For a budget friendly solution to the front slope, we opted for basalt boulders. This works especially well around the stairs. Eventually the plants will fill in to soften this area. To see some similar front landscapes after the plants have had a chance to grow in, check out Montavilla Bungalow and Collaborative Design.

Hardscape landscaping helps retain soil next to steps in freshly planted Portland landscape

Boulders against stairs to help with the slope. Plants will also help hold the slope once their roots get a year or two to grow in.

Plant Selection for Planting Plan

In Portland, you can successfully plant any month of the year. The hardscape was completed in mid-August at the peak of heat. However, for this full sun, sloping garden with a DIY irrigation system, we all agreed that waiting for the fall would be better timing to get these plants in the ground. Luckily, Pam and David are patient – they had a bare landscape for a couple months. In the end, they are happy with the decision, knowing that hand watering at least once a day to overcome the 100 degree days was not their idea of a good time.

The drought-tolerant structural plants include Cistus, Carex grass and Creeping Thyme. See the full list below:

Plant list for Portland landscaping update in Beaumont.

We purposefully did not fill every last inch of the garden with plants. Pam and David want to add their own unique and colorful plants over time. They love iris as well as all bulbs. We talked about focusing on spring-blooming bulbs because this garden will not be heavily watered in summer. Spring bulbs will get all the water they need from the winter and then go dormant after their big show, before the summer drought sets in.  They dug and stored the bulbs and then replanted them after the installation of hardscape landscaping was done!

Purple and gold iris brighten Beaumont front yard in Portland Oregon

Purple Iris, one of the many bulbs the homeowners dug up from the old front yard.

Deep but mellow colored yellow Peony in Beaumont entry landscape

A yellow Peony, a special plant for the homeowners will be transplanted from the back yard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We are very happy to have found Landscape Design in a Day. We had been struggling for years to ‘do something’ with our front yard and entry. Finally, the experts came in and saved the day. Alana presented three draft designs. Her vision of extending our front porch and making a more dramatic entry and walkway to the house is brilliant. Her expertise provided a list of plants to choose from, based on our preferences, and then filled in the plan with our choices. We highly recommend Landscape Design in a Day.”

Ready for a beautiful and welcoming front landscape? Contact us today!

A Pollinator Garden Paradise

Designing a Garden for Bees & Birds

Concrete pavers on the angle create more useable space in this mid century backyard garden home in Portland Oregon

Some boulders were moved to frame the dining area.

Client Wish List

Before photo of garden design for mid century home in Roseway neighborhood portland oregon

Before. Lumpy, overgrown mess!

Doreen and Sam wanted a no-grass pollinator paradise in their backyard. They are successful vegetable and fruit gardeners and wanted to maintain that function in the new garden without sacrificing beauty. The side yard is flat and had been used by the previous owners for dining, but Doreen and Sam really wanted a dining area in the backyard. While they knew this complete transformation would require new materials, they also wanted to re-use any materials we could and, of course, watch the budget whenever possible.

 

 

Landscape Design Drawing for Roseway neighborhood Portland garden.

Landscape Design Drawing

Designer’s Perspective

 

before photo of existing boulder for Roseway neighborhood landscape design

Before: This huge mossy boulder became the focal point and the second large rock was kept as a step to the upper garden. Perfect fit!

In order to create a flat dining area in the backyard, we needed to carve into the existing land and some soil needed to be removed. For a bit of fun, and to take advantage of a FANTASTIC existing boulder (more on that later), I put the new patio on an angle. Sam likes straight edges and Doreen likes curves, so we pulled off a bit of both by having two areas – an angular dining spot and a curved and casual sit spot. Check out the design to see how the two spaces interacted from an aerial (birds-eye) view:

The Boulders

There were at least 9 large boulders on site, haphazardly placed probably when the home was built. One was too large to reasonably move, so I designed around it! This boulder became the focal point and transition piece between the side yard, new patio, and path to the veggie garden. Overall, 4 large boulders were kept in place and 5 were repositioned.

modern patio with two seating areas fits this NE Portland Mid Century home pollinator garden design.

New Modern Backyard Patio with Architectural Slab and Mossy Boulders

The Plants

Here is the entire list of plants for this project.

Roseway neighborhood plant list for garden design.

Echinacea P 'Ruby Giant' at Terra Nova test gardens added to Roseway neighborhood design.

Bring on the Butterflies! Echinacea p. ‘Ruby Giant’

We were going for a bit of the meadow look in the main, sunny part of the garden. This includes many ornamental grasses and pollinator plants.  Echinacea, Agastache and Salvia, oh my!

Hosta flowering in June in Roseway neighborhood backyard garden.

Hosta are known for their bold leaves, but the bloom is surprisingly attractive to bees and butterflies.

There is also a dry shade part of the garden, created by a very large maple. For this situation, we added hostas, ferns and geraniums.

We arranged for all the plants to arrive right before the client organized a “work party”. I helped place the plants and a handful of gracious friends helped the clients put everything in the ground. Many hands make light work!

Planting crew installs pollinator garden design in Roseway neighborhood backyard

Planting Day!  A crew of friends made fun and  fast work of planting.

The Cloud Wall

I would be remiss not to mention this fun and whimsical addition by the client. The light blue wall in the back was a drab concrete, and visible from their living room sliding doors. They painted clouds! I smile when I see it and I’m sure they do too. And a special thank you to our clients who supplied several photos for this blog.

“Last night, Sam and I sat at our picnic table after dinner, enjoying the evening and watching a hummingbird feed on the flowers in our garden.

modern landscape design is enhanced with large rustic boulder and pollinator garden plants in Portland, Oregon

Fun and whimsical painted wall has clouds.

Our scruffy backyard has been transformed, and we could not have done it without Alana’s help.  While we thought we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted, she saw potential that we did not. The design process was efficient, collaborative and enjoyable. The resulting landscape provides a variety of spaces, plantings and views that we plan to enjoy for many years.” – Doreen, Homeowner

Let’s transform your backyard with a collaborative design process that explores the potential of your existing landscape and home.   Contact us and let’s create together.