Archive for No Lawn – Page 3

Lawn Do Over for Portland Landscapes

Landscape Design in a Day's newly installed RTF grass.

Landscape Design in a Day’s newly installed RTF grass with dry stream bed.

This is the year for rethinking the lawn. As a Portland landscape designer many of my new clients want to make big changes in their landscapes.  I am recommending clients replace their old lawns with new and improved grass varieties.

My Lake Oswego clients, George and Marcia, contacted me completely discouraged about their front yard. I met them in the fall after our particularly hot and horrid summer of 2015. They had spent their entire summer watering and watering their lawn.  It wasn’t dead on the October day that I came to their home but as you can see it was quite unattractive.

Uplands Neighborhood of Lake Oswego

Damaged Lake Oswego lawn

They decided it was time to hire a designer and start over with their landscape. It is a typical Lake Oswego landscape with heavy clay soil, fir trees nearby with thirsty roots, and drainage problems.

Before we even started the landscape design process, I was able to share information about a new lawn grass that uses less water and is more durable than the grass (perennial rye grass blends) we have been using for the last 30 years.  Working closely with Kevin Schindler of Autumn Leaf Landscaping Inc. we replaced their old lawn with Rhizomatous Tall Fescue (RTF) grass and designed a naturalistic dry stream bed that also solves the drainage problems.  Solving the drainage problems also enhances the health of the grass.  Even RTF grass doesn’t do well in a boggy winter soil.  George and Marcia are very pleased with the appearance and performance of the new grass.  They love their new dry stream bed and how it has pulled together the entire front yard, giving it a dramatic focal point.

They are no longer slaves to watering.

Installation day at George and Marcia’s Lake Oswego home.

This year several of my clients have taken out their old grass and installed RTF.   From a distance it looks like any lawn, in fact it looks more uniform because it grows so thickly that it tends to crowd out weed grasses much better than our perennial rye grass does.  My Lake Oswego clients especially appreciate the fact that RTF tolerates more sun and heat and if they did decide to let it go dormant, it will come back beautifully.  RTF can even handle a south facing lawn with reflected heat from a sidewalk.  This is the most difficult place to successfully grow grass so Portland landscape professionals are embracing this new product.

It is available as a roll out turf product (sod) and as seed.  Kuenzi Turf & Nursery

After Landscape Design in a Day Front yard

Rose City Park Neighborhood

No grass lawn

West Portland Park  Neighborhood

Other clients want no lawn designs, thinking it will be lower maintenance.  No lawn will mean lower water usage but replacing a lawn with paths and plants does not promise low maintenance. Even the fairly new minimalist style using 90% round river rock and 10% plants isn’t as low maintenance as you think. Someone has to blow dust and debris out of the river rock frequently to prevent weeds from building up.  Many clients simply don’t want to mow any lawn and are fine with the first two years of extensive weeding that is needed to get a no lawn front yard established.  For a lot of people, however, weeding is the least favorite gardening chore.

Synthetic Lawn Installed in front yard

Newly installed synthetic lawn in Parkrose Heights neighborhood

Other clients are installing synthetic lawn.  Before you sneer at the idea of fake grass (which I did when I first heard about it), check out these photos of my Southeast Portland clients Bob and Norma Bleid.  They gave themselves a retirement gift, front and back synthetic lawn.  No water, no chemicals, no fertilizer; it is the ultimate low maintenance landscape lawn.

Early fall is a particularly good time to install a new lawn or landscape.  With a good irrigation system landscapes can be installed any time of the year.  As a Portland landscape designer I am not fond of July or August installations, I know my clients will be “nervous nellys”  seeing their plants’ leaves droop, scorch and burn in the summer sun.  The fall rains typically do a beautiful job of providing the moisture needed to get plants (including grass) well established.  This eliminates the stress and worry of summer planting.

 

 

 

Low Water Landscape Design for Young Family

Test after

After: New design includes drought tolerant plants and street tree.

Low water landscape design for young family: TJ and Lori had a new house  in the Beaumont Wilshire neighborhood.  They were planning the landscape long term for their son and future siblings. I love to design the landscape where my client’s children will grow up.    It’s so satisfying! We are creating the places where important moments, family traditions and their children’s earliest memories will be made.  Conserving water for the future was an important family value so a low water landscape design was very important.

During the interview, I asked about edibles.  They laughed and said in unison “Beans”!  Green beans were important and there was clearly some family joke about them.  Their wish list was extensive  but the top 5 were curb appeal, low water use, Rain Garden for disconnected down spouts, no lawn, four season plantings and a screen to define their property from their  neighbors without resorting to a fence…….and a  special place for green beans.

Test before

Before Landscape Design in a Day

We solved the curb appeal issue by designing the parking strip as if it were part of the front yard. This added needed depth and gave the large front facade of the house the feel of a much larger front yard.  The rain gardens had boulders with interesting plantings that added drama to the scene.

Test parking strip

True Dwarf Pines and herbs brighten parking strip.

parking strip stepables anderson

Elfin Pink Thyme acts as stepables for flagstone path.

The parking strip was 8′ wide so was treated as an extension of the front yard, and we need that 8′!  The house with such a tiny front yard floated.  The new design integrated the parking strip into the front yard and “planted” the house visually.

Typically no designer would select the driveway for family quality time.  As we worked together it became clear that the deep spacious driveway was the perfect place for the edibles garden and play space.  The driveway got a privacy treatment, a large arbor set within a stone planter.    The planter acts as art, adds curb appeal, and visually softens the size of the driveway .  It’s a functional divide between the properties and it can be seen from inside the house, replacing the view of the neighbors side yard and house wall.  Guess what they grow on the curved iron trellis?  Green Beans!! People tall and short sit on the planter cap to garden and talk or play.

photo (82)

Stone planter with an arbor.  Click here to see more stone planter options.

Top 5 Stepable Path Plants For Portland Landscapes

North Portland Landscape Design parking strip

Becky Clark Design Thymus Praecox ‘Coccineus’ ablaze w flower in north Portland parking strip

Selecting Stepable Path Plants for Portland Landscapes

Maybe it’s not fair that most people don’t know the finer points of selecting stepable path plants.   The truth is planting between pavers successfully without insider knowledge rarely ever results in what I would call low maintenance.   It’s a little like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, the plant has to be just right.  Remember?  The chair and the bed had to be the right size and the porridge had to be the right temperature.   If the plant you select is not right for the job,  your path or patio can have problems that will take a complete do over to solve.

Most people don’t want to trial and error plants. They want to know it will work before they put in their time and effort.  That is the advantage of hiring a Portland landscape designer.  We know what works here and what doesn’t.

Portland landscape designer walking on stepable plants

Step on these plants.  This keeps them growing low and dense.

Here’s how I think about selecting stepable path plants.

I want a plant that doesn’t grow higher than 1″  or 2″ tall maximum.  Many stepable plants tend to grow into a hump and must be walked on regularly to keep it from growing into a hump and being a trip hazard. Stepping on the plants frequently will cause them to grow dense and shorter.  My grandson Rain helped me plant my flagstone patio.  I  stepped away and his friend came running in and said “I keep telling him they’re stepables not stompables.”  I looked up to see my grandson stomping on the freshly planted ground covers.   Surprisingly, the plants survived just fine.

Portland Garden Design GroundcoverI want a plant that doesn’t grow over the flagstone too quickly.  If you plant a type of stepable that grows too vigorously you will be constantly cutting the plant off of the flagstone.  Untended it will completely cover your flagstone.  A slower plant might need a trim every year or two.

What do stepable groundcovers need?

Most stepable plants require good drainage in order to grow thickly and repel weeds.  If they don’t grow thickly, and have bare patches, weed seeds will be able to reach the soil, germinate and thrive.

I’ve listed plants below for part sun and full sun.   I don’t have a stepable plant that thrives in strong shade, regardless of what the plant labels say.  I’ve tried several that manage to stay alive in dappled shade but don’t grow thick enough to repel weeds.  Another tip:  Don’t plant in an area that was infested with weeds.  You will need to tackle the weeds first before you plant your stepables.

Here is my favorites list:

Leptinella with star creeper

Here’s a close up of  ‘Platt’s Black’ Brass Buttons with Star Creeper.

Stepable Plants for Part Shade/Part Sun:

Leptinella squalida –  New Zealand Brass Buttons.   The variety I prefer is ‘Platt’s Black’.  The other variety of Brass Buttons I like, ‘LePrinella P. Verdigris’  is a a little fast for pavers but I have used it for paths.  I don’t grow either of these in full sun. They spread until they find an environment they don’t like.  In my patio they run into too much shade and the strong roots of sword fern and they stop there.  These are spreaders so think before planting.

Stepable Plants Portland Modern LandscapeMentha requienii –  Corsican Mint  This is a crowd pleaser because it smells good when you step on the plant.  This plant needs some sun, and needs good drainage, too much shade and soil that is too wet in the winter will kill this plant.  Full day sun is too much for this plant.

Stepable Plants for Sun:

Elfin Pink Thyme fills in a path in Portland OregonThymus Serpyllum ‘Elfin’ or ‘Elfin Pink’  – I love this plant and it is truly a flat mat if you step on it regularly.  It does get weeds growing into the middle so it’s not maintenance free, but only garden magazines talk about maintenance free landscapes.  When it is successful you will have to cut it off of flagstones some but I find it quite manageable.

Stachys Densiflora ‘Alba’ – Alba Lambs Ear   First of all this plant looks nothing like  the traditional cottage garden plant (silver furry leafed) Lambs ear.  The tiny leaves are fully evergreen, dark green and leathery.  I love this plant because it doesn’t let weed seeds in.  Plant it on the edges of your path unless you plan to step on it every day, otherwise it will mound up.  It takes full sun easily and the flowering period is fantastic! The seed heads are interesting as well.

Stepable ground cover in Irvington neighborhood, Portland, OregonMy Favorite Stepable Plant

Azorella Trifurcata ‘Nana’ – Cushion Bolax   I have this plant at my vacation house in full morning sun (so 4 hours) and it will take full day sun as well.  It occasionally has a dandelion sprout in the middle, but other pesky weeds don’t invade.  I find it to be very low maintenance and perfect for a place I only visit every month or two.   It will creep over your pavers so plan to trim once every year or two.  It’s my favorite filler plant for pavers, paths and as a foreground plant in a planting bed.

My dog Barley looking at freshly planted Cushion Bolax ground cover.

My dog Barley looking at freshly planted Cushion Bolax.

I love the texture.  It goes through a change where the little needles feel like a plastic carpet (which sounds bad but is fun) and then it softens into a pettable surface.  The yellow flowers are tiny fat buttons and cute.

 

Full Season Color for a No Lawn Entry Garden

My client Susan is a gardener’s gardener.  Susan wanted a colorful no-lawn entry garden for her picturesque Craftsman bungalow.   Spending time puttering in her yard with her dog Peanut was a joy; full time maintenance, not so much.   She turned to Landscape Design in a Day for help.

Although Homely, the front yard had two strong points---- a picturesque Craftsman bungelow, a fabulous porch and an amazing mature red Japanese Maple. She wanted a cottage garden style to go with her home but didn't want to spend all her time maintaining it.

BEFORE: The front yard had two strong points – a picturesque Craftsman bungalow, a fabulous porch and an amazing, mature red Japanese Maple.

Problems:

  • Skinny front yard – little depth
  • South facing  hot sun
  • Base of porch looks unfinished
  • Side facing front walk was not inviting

Solutions:
A wonderful entry garden path set by stone artist, Brian Woodruff with
D&J Landscape Contractors

Susans Garden Path November 2012

This garden path provides double duty, easy access to plantings for the gardener and adds long lasting natural elegance to the design.

mikkleson halfway

First, we added drama to the front porch with a custom stone planter.

Full Season color at the front door

Stone planter creates finished look for front porch and dramatic full season color plantings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All  season color at the front door provided by evergreen rock rose, coral bell, cape fuschia and coneflower.

Details of walkway plantings

Textural plants such as Sedums, Hens and Chicks provided by my plant broker Roger Miller.

These plants love the hot south sun, provided long blooming periods and attracted hummingbirds.

Susan's red maple

Corrective and artistic pruning for the mature Japanese Maple provided by arborist Ann Taylor

After Design in a Day
AFTER: Landscape Design in a Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great results are what happens when I can share experienced professionals with my clients.

Landscape Swamp to Garden Paradise

Landscape Swamp to Garden Paradise

Vicki Masterson wanted her dream garden. She and her husband Pete were recently retired. She had a beautiful new home and was looking forward to having a yard to play gardener in for the first time in her life.

She expressed her deep concerns about the landscape’s ability to ever play its part in her dream. She and Pete had never worked with a landscape and yet accurately diagnosed severe drainage problems and an extremely high water table on their site.  Her neighbors told her that in winter, “everything is pretty much a lake“.  Their soil was sludge and the view from the great room was a 10′ high wall consisting of straight stacked ugly boulders, topped with a 6′ wood fence.

This Salmon Creek back yard in Vancouver had drainage problems before their landscape design.

Pete and Vicki selected Carol Lindsay of Landscape Design In A Day to help them with their difficult backyard.

Amending the soil and hiding this ugly wall with plants was not possible due to the high winter water table.  On our design day it was still summer – so instead of water logged muck – we had impossibly hard baked clay.  I was glad to know that I could solve it all and give Vicki her dream.  The first thing I did was meet with Donna Burdick of D&J Landscape Contracting. Over coffee we poured over photos and discussed the site’s problems.

Landscape design solves drainage problems in Salmon Creek back yard.

Notice all the raised beds? The drainage is hidden in the paths and will take the winter rain water off the property.

 

Donna designed a professional drainage plan.  With this kind of collaboration, the designer’s vision leads the process and the clients dreams are realized.  The drainage solution disappears into the design.

Good drainage opened the plant palette so I could pick from thousands of possible plants and combinations for Vicki and Peter Matterson. Deciduous shrubs such as Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ provide stunning winter interest with its rich orange, red and yellow stems. I created an area for wetland plants with varieties that will be perfectly happy with the high water table and tall enough to visually soften the wall.

Construction process for difficult site with poor drainage.

D&J Landscape Contracting created easy access to the backyard from the adjacent wetlands, saving the clients money.

“I LOVE the bones of the garden and all of the possibilities for me to play in.  It is a perfect garden for a senior to enjoy.  I thank you because it is perfect for me. Donna and her crew did an excellent job with the structure and construction which is so important to me.  Again thank you, I am glad I called you and got the benefit of your knowledge.”

“The longer I am here the more I appreciate the thought and your knowledge at designing my garden.  Our main concern was the drainage and we have
had no drainage problems so far.  Many thank you’s for designing my garden to fit my yard and my life.” – commented Vicki Masterson

Completed bones of the new garden

“I LOVE the bones of the garden and all of the possibilities for me to play in it. It is a perfect garden for a senior to enjoy.” Vicki Masterson

Masterson's backyard on design day

Her neighbors told her that in winter:”Everything is pretty much a lake.” Their soil was sludge. This photo shows the view from the great room – a 10′ high wall consisting of straight stacked boulders, topped with a 6′ plain, wooden fence.