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Outdoor Living Garden Retreat

Outdoor Living Back Yard for Baby Boomer

Edibles, chickens,  colorful flowers and the works for my new garden please.

outdoor living includes hardscape stone path and seatingVictoria had recently purchased a corner property in the city and was ready to transform her back yard into her outdoor living dream garden.

Our fun collaboration to create her dream garden started with our first phone call.

We had near instant rapport and we had to stop ourselves from designing it right then and get our design ducks in a row.  We decided a landscape design in a day process would work well and we got going.

Her focus was on the back yard. She had plenty of ideas about what she wanted and let me tell you now there would be no room for lawn.

An Outdoor Living Back Yard Was the Theme

Two sitting areas; a dining area and a lounging area for outdoor entertaining

Screen out neighbors odd garage
Keep the shed and it’s concrete path, the big corner tree and one section of fence

Make room for plants – her list included lots of edibles including blueberry plants.
Colorful flowers, climbing roses and flowering vines
Unique plant material with a nostalgic bent

Perennials

Pollinator plantings

Dog friendly back yard

She and friends would DIY the plantings to save money and for  the sheer joy of planting her own garden.

Hire professionals for everything else

Privacy and Grading were the Biggest Issues

Here are a few of my observations from my site visit.  The back yard was the larger potion of the city lot; that was good because we would need every inch of space to realize our wish list.  With no lawn we would utilize paths and add lots of planting areas.  Victoria wanted a garden to live outdoors in not just a yard.

Multiple Grades Made the Design Challenging

Colorful Perennials for Outdoor Living back yardThe grade sloped toward the house,  toward the side property line and then up to the back fence.  The area next to the existing shed didn’t match any of the grades.  Solving the different sloping areas was a practical need but the solutions would end up adding spice to the design.

The neighbors extra tall garage was very unattractive and the typical screening solutions (a tall tree or hedge) would make too much shade for the colorful plants and edibles Victoria craved.

Back Porch as Sitting area

Could we have  one of our two sitting areas by modifying the tiny existing back porch?  As is, it was too small for even a bistro table. Putting a sit spot there would have helped maximize the space for the garden Victoria envisioned.  After consideration we let it go because of the location of the electric car charging unit and a window well, meant we could not alter the back porch.  But better ideas were coming soon…….

Create Beauty to Hide a Bad View

patio for outdoor living in Portland city lansdcape

The pergola (with string lights) waiting on additional funding for completion.

Creating privacy, blocking the view of the back ally neighbors garage (a 12’ plus tall engine lift attached to the garage) and creating an attractive view along the back property was solved with one solution. A long pergola of Victoria’s favorite climbing roses (Joesph’s Coat) would solve the summer view. The best solution to a bad view is creating something amazing to see and enjoy. The posts were installed but the top boards for the pergola would have to wait until funds arrived.

Break the Rules About Year Round Plant Color

Given Victoria’s hearts desire for billowing colorful flowers and edibles, we decided most of the plantings would kowtow to spring, summer and fall. There is no rule that every design must look fabulous in the winter. It depends on what the views are out the windows and what activities occur near the windows. To design for the winter view as if it would be equally important would have been a poor match for this client.  Full season interest is not a standard for all landscape design.

 Dealing with Multiple (awkward!!) Grade Changes

The client wanted the shed to stay as is so that was the grade I could not change. I selected the grade we needed to be able to open the existing shed doors for my starting point . I ask myself, ‘What cannot be changed?” to figure out where to start.  Then I worked my way up to the back gate and back up to the house.  The patio became the new low point of the yard instead of the next to the house foundation. We accomplished this with a new low curved stone wall which retained the highest grade on the back side of the patio.  This also made the patio feel like it’s own room.  The wall continued toward and supported the new walkway up to the back gate on the alleyway. The LLC (Licensed Landscape Contractor), Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors made the necessary adjustments to my conceptual plan, created the final grades and determined and installed any needed drainage.  Adding her expertise to the process is so important.  I wish all my clients hired someone as experienced as Donna Burdick.

Collaborate With Landscape Professionals

Blueberries and colorful edibles in city outdoor living landscape design.A professional installation meant my conceptual design was approved and improved by an LLC who is licensed to determine and install drainage.

The existing large tree got the attention of a certified arborist who lifted selected branches to allow walking underneath the tree and more light for edibles.  Now we could add a path to wind from the edibles area to the tree area. The path made easy access for plant maintenance and integrated the 3 primary planting areas of the design. Paths are so helpful.

It’s important to clue the arborist in to our design intentions with the tree. They needed to leave some of the lower branches to block the view of a busy intersection. Giving them that information is critical because they could prune the tree to some professional standard and remove our privacy in a way that cannot be put back.

Hardscape Landscaping Materials

Decomposed granite instead of standard crushed rock for the patio gives us an attractive cream colored surface for the patio. We used Camas basalt for the rock walls. Victoria especially loved her rock wall.

Flagstone for the paths is variegated lavender blue stone.  I prefer large 14″ by same and 2″ thick stone.

Outdoor Living Accomplished with Fire Pit

The firepit is gas……..yes this was the dream garden for my client and there is nothing like stepping out to the garden and with just a flicking of a switch – instant warmth and the feeling of primitive flames.  A gas firepit makes outdoor living easy to accomplish.

Portland Planting Plan Selections

Colorful planting includes chilli peppers nasturtium , and black eyed susan adorn colorful pots included in her outdoor living garden design.

My client loves colorful plants and pottery.

My client had a bearded iris collection she loved and these were integrated into the planting plant.

Some of my tough dog friendly plants were NW native plants like huckleberry and sword fern. A very sturdy ground cover was planted under the big tree and repeated throughout the edibles garden. This hardy geranium groundcover, Geranium x cantabrigiense is a work horse of a plant and so pretty with its spring flowers. Bonus; the cedar smell from the leaves tends to keep dogs out of the groundcover and onto the path.

Blueberry plants, a small evergreen variegated shrub with intensely peach colored new leaves in spring, (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’) and flowing over on the walls of the patio, summer flowering heather (Calluna vulgaris) trailing sedum and wallflower.  Uprights like lavender, cone flower, (Echinacea) and tall black eyed susan (Rudbeckia), with billowing hummingbird mint (Agastache), round out the flower power keeping the garden colorful from spring into fall.

Client Comments

“Carol is amazing! Her process is very collaborative and I feel that the final product reflects my vision guided and shaped with her expertise. So excited to see it develop and grow! Highly recommend – especially if you are interested in gardening and want something truly personal.” ~Victoria

Chickens enjoying their yard in outdoor living garden designLife can be full of surprises. While installing the rest of the design (DIY with friends) she found a wonderful friend and partner. They added chickens and then started keeping bees and outgrew the garden. After congratulating them on their marriage recently I went to their new property called Hummingbird Hill to design the layout of the new landscape on  5 acres.  She says, ” This is my second project with Design in a Day – and likely not the last.  I love being included in the design process as it is evolving. I really appreciate how knowledgeable and practical Carol is with a design that is both beautiful and functional. ” – Victoria

I loved helping Victoria.  If you are looking for a professional to  dream up your outdoor living landscape design,  please contact us.

North Portland Residential Landscape Design for Shade

North Portland Residential Landscape Design for Shade

Chris and Jennifer of North Portland contacted me for help with their large shady back yard.

Problems

They were overwhelmed with the high maintenance of lawn under huge trees. They wanted a back yard for entertaining a large family (with lots of adult kids and future grand kids).  They wanted to DIY and had a strict budget, so spending 20 grand on a concrete patio was not realistic.Cedar chip patio makes affordable landscaping for North Portland home. Views over the fence included other neglected yards and they had a large (evil) tree of heaven that had to go. Many plants had died or looked leggy and sun starved.

The back yard was longer than deep and made creating a design on their own more difficult.

Solutions

My best contributions were getting the shapes of the new rooms to work with their long but shallow yard. Introducing them to the concept of using cedar chips as their primary surface for entertaining and paths was a perfect fit also. It looks great with their NW Natural style landscape, it’s affordable and it’s very easy to care for. If you get the right kind of chips you can even use a leaf blower on them and they don’t blow away.

We tucked different outdoor rooms into the perimeter of the landscape and kept the existing small concrete patio as a spacious entry to the house and the BBQ center. No more trying to fit a dining table on it as they had done before the design.

Crushed rock firepit patio makes for affordable landscaping in this N. Portland backyard.Selecting low water plants

Sword fern works well for the woodsy nature of this North Portland garden design.

Sword fern works well for the woodsy nature of this North Portland garden design.

The plant selection was also critical.  Shade plants had to survive on the water the big trees would let them have so our palette needed to be all low water plants. We used a lot of sword ferns and kept native plants wherever possible.

On the south end we used one of my favorite little evergreen trees, Boxleaf Azara – Azara Microphylla. They planted them up on a berm which made them taller and helped do a faster job of screening out the neighbors garage wall.  Planting Azaras up on a berm prevents root rot since these plants do not tolerate poor drainage.

DIY installed

Their DIY install of the landscape turned out fantastic. They loved their back yard. When change came along, and they had to put their house on the market, the yard was another major asset and selling point. These photos, which they took, are from their marketing page.

I especially love the hammock room. The fire pit patio is clearly the largest entertaining area and is used for lounging with or without a fire. Their fire pit patio is a crushed rock surface, not cedar chips.

low maintenance evergreen screens tall wall in Raliegh Hills garden design

Azara Microphylla has fine evergreen leaves that add texture to this wall in SW Portland.

The chips continue around to the side yard gate and match the rest of the now low maintenance landscape.

“Carol understood us and got our style for a NW Natural landscape design for our North Portland yard.  We were very happy that she surpassed our expectations for low maintenance, no lawn, great textured plantings, backyard design.  She understood that we wanted to do some of the work ourselves and helped us make a beautiful-yard-on-a-budget a reality.”

 

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.”

Willamette Heights Hillside Landscape Design

Willamette Heights Hillside Landscape Design Portland, Oregon

NW Natural landscape for Willamette Heights Home with boulders and stone steps

New boulders define the original pathway leading to Forest Park from the backyard.

Hillside Residential Garden Design 

The Willamette Heights neighborhood of NW Portland is special for many reasons. The architecture of the grand old houses, views of the city, Mount Hood and that it is surrounded by Forest Park.  There is a simple 2 lane bridge for traffic in and out of the hillside neighborhood.  It feels private. My clients happened to have a path that leads into a secluded part of the park from their backyard. It’s an old neighborhood with serious garden history. It was the playground for the famous landscape architects Wallace Huntington and Barbara Feeley. I’ve been privileged to create many residential landscape designs in this Portland, Oregon neighborhood including the restoration of the Bertha Cooper Garden, renamed Cooper Phillips Garden in honor of the builder that saved it from destruction.

My client grew up here.  She and her husband bought a beautiful craftsmen house (1905) about a mile away from her childhood home with views and a private path into Forest Park. She had the clearest vision for what she wanted that I have come across. Her first priority was finding a designer who would fully understand her ideas and hold true to them in the design. Read More →