Call now to schedule your appointment
503-223-2426

Archive for Rain Gardens

St. Johns Front Yard with Rain Garden

Colorful Low Maintenance Landscape Update In St. Johns

St. Johns Portland front yard low maintenance landscape update.

New Front Garden

Clients Wish List

Terry and Connie wanted a carefree front yard with nice curb appeal. After new construction finished next door, they felt motivated to update their mess of a front yard (their words, not mine!). One main objective for the project was to fix the transportation. Wobbly pavers and stairs that were too close to the driveway caused issues each time they parked in the driveway. No one wants dents on the driver side door!

Before low maintenance landscape update in St Johns.

Before

As for the garden, he wanted a bit of grass while she wanted none. Both wanted a plant palette that is low on maintenance and high on color.

Designers perspective

I helped the homeowners decide between lawn or no-lawn by discussing the “why”. He wanted lawn for ease of maintenance and to cut down on weeding. She wanted no lawn for the look of a colorful front garden. After collaborating and tweaking the design several times, we settled on no-lawn but with ample walking paths. This appeals to both parties because the paths are low maintenance and make it easy to reach from all sides of the bed for weeding. On top of that, I selected plants that are particularly good at suppressing weeds. More about the plants below.

New matched hardscape in this St Johns front yard update.

During – Construction by D&J Landscape Contractors

I solved several issues through fencing in this design. The front fence provides a separation between road and home. It remains inviting and interesting because of the see-through slats and low 42″ height. A matching 6′ fence hides the garbage cans and shed in the side yard.

New low front yard fence uses existing azalea in St Johns front yard update.

Low Front Yard Fence with Azalea Peeking Through

The disconnected downspout dumped directly into the yard, which caused too much water in the winter, a classic problem in Portland. The new rain  garden provides the perfect solution for excess winter water and also creates a beautiful focal point which can be seen from the front porch.

Rain garden added to fix water problems in this landscape update.

Rain Garden

Installation

We referred the project to D&J Landscape Contractors.  The low fence was installed by Rick’s.

Plants

The established Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) is a beautiful old tree and was able to stay with minimal pruning.

St Johns landscape update uses existing Vine Maple.

Look how the new landscape highlights that Vine Maple!

Other plants in good shape and able to stay were the Azalea, Rhododendron, and Fatsia.

The new tree is an Evergreen Magnolia.

Low maintenance landscape update with evergreen magnolia.

Evergreen Magnolia anchors this garden bed.

Groundcovers are very integral to the continuity of this design. The gold highlights are Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’) and Sweet Flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Variegatus’). The purple contrast is Heuchera ‘Purple Petticoats’. The evergreens that ground the look are Inkberry (Ilex glabra) and Geranium (G. cantabrigiense ‘Crystal Rose’).

Materials

The new walkway is Variegated Bluestone, and the mossy boulders were brought in to give the garden a nice established feel.

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.

Portland Rain Garden with Year Round Color

Portland Rain Garden Plants with Year Round Color

Rain garden landscape design in Raliegh Hills Portland Oregon

Downspout disconnect rain garden in Raliegh Hills. Landscape Design in a Day and D & J Landscape Contracting

As a Portland landscape designer I like my rain garden designs to have year round color. Many Portlanders have  rain gardens in the front yard so it’s important to have year round color.   Without careful plant selection rain garden plantings can look forlorn in the winter months with no leaves or color present.  I love a good hit of color to offset our typically gray winter season.

To select plants for a rain garden I start by thinking about the areas of a rain garden that have different degrees of wetness. There are fewer evergreen plants that work well in the wettest areas and a wider range of plants for the sides and the top which are less wet. Knowing which plants will thrive in this situation ensures I select the right plant for the right place.

Rain Garden Planting Design in Raliegh Hills, Portland, Oregon

Southwest Hills Portland Rain GardenPlantings used: Miniature Golden Sweet Flag is a 4″ tall chartreuse evergreen blade. Use the Latin name,  Acorus gramineus ‘Minimus Pusillus Aurea’, to get the right plant. The evergreen narrow gold tufts form a somewhat flattened pinwheel which adds interesting texture. It will take standing water that drains away so it’s perfect for the wettest areas of a rain garden.  If the area is a lake for a week at a time, that is too wet. Miniature Sweet Flag is unique because it also thrives in dryer sunny areas.  I don’t use it in heavy shade designs.

Portland garden design evergreen ground cover

Beesia

False Bugbane – Beesia deltophylla has glossy evergreen heart shaped leaves. It’s a perfect companion plant for the narrow blades of the Miniature Gold Sweet Flag; together they make a perfect year round color  combination. The Beesia would die planted in the lowest wettest area so I plant it above the Golden Sweet Flag in a rain garden.

Designers know Compact Inkberry Holly – Ilex Glabra ‘Compacta’,  will survive temporary standing water but there are few if any other choices for the Pacific Northwest.   I’ve used Compact Inkberry Holly,  on the sides of a rain garden.  It works as a house foundation planting too. Don’t be fooled by the word “compacta”.  It will happily grow to 4′ tall. Fortunately you can prune this shrub once or twice a year and keep it 2’ by 2’.

North Portland Rain Garden Landscape DesignNot convinced about wet soil and evergreen shrubs? I will restrain myself to listing just 5 evergreen that die a sad little death in overly wet winter soil:  Azaleas, Escollonia, Pieris, Rhododendron, and a variety of conifers to include expensive little dwarf Hemlocks.  Ouch!

Portland Landscape Designer creates rain garden design for courtyard entry.

New rain garden design gets rid of the winter lake in this entry courtyard. My client built it herself.

Portland Courtyard Rain Garden Planting Design

A winter lake flooded this small entry courtyard every year for weeks at a time.  My client installed her own rock and plantings from my design but had the pipe that carried away the water installed by professionals. After the rain garden was installed we added two vine maple on either side.  The vine maple trees on either side of the rain garden would be dead instead of showing their glorious fall color.  Vine maple hate poor drainage and prove it by promptly dying.

Dwarf 16″ tall red twig dogwood “shrublets” Cornus Sericea ‘Kelseyi’ and a 12″ tall Golden Sweet Flag called Acorus gramineus ‘Aurea’ adds interest and year round color.

Get the Right Plant

Lots of people love red  twig dogwood.  It’s a great plant for year round color and its important to get the right plant!

Some varieties of dwarf red twig dogwood get 6′ tall.  Other red twig dogwood can get 15′ tall.  Cornus sericea ‘Kelseyi’  is 12″ to 18″ tall. This dwarf dogwood variety has short colorful red twigs in winter but can get unattractive fungal leaf spots in spring.  I don’t know of a dwarf variety of red twig dogwood that is free from spring fungal leaf spots.  It’s a very useful plant.  Life is too short for spraying plants with chemicals and really dear reader, who has time to intelligently apply fungicides?

Willamette Heights Hillside Garden Design

Hillside garden with dry stream bed in NW Portland.

NW Portland Hillside Dry Stream Bed Plantings

This hillside garden was designed to be seen from the master bedroom.  There is a lot of water that moves through this hillside so it has a dry stream bed to collect the water with a drain at the bottom.  It doesn’t have any plants inside the winter water area so I don’t consider it a true rain garden.  The plants were installed behind a low retaining wall which is hidden by the plants foliage which spills over the walls. These clients are gardeners so I use a wider variety of plantings for their design than I would for non gardeners.  Ferns carry the garden for 9 months of the year. Evergreens such as native Oregon Oxalis – Oxalis organa, Japanese Soloman’s Seal Polygonatum Falcatum  (evergreen Soloman’s Seal), Hardy Geranium – Geranium Macrorrhizum  and Carex grass provide year round color.  Toad Lilly – Tricyrtis hirta, provides exotic color in the fall.  Out of all these plantings only the Carex grass can handle excessively wet winter soil.

Alameda Landscape Design Rain Garden

Designers Garden Tour Barb Hilty Design

Portland Industrial Modern Style Rain Garden

Landscape Designer Barb Hilty designed this rain garden using no plants at all.  The full season interest relies on the ornamental rain chain, the shape of the steel boxes and the black rock to carry the day year round and allow this home owner to disconnect the downspouts in style.