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Mid Century Modern Landscape Design Starts With the Right Fence

Woodstock Mid Century Modern Landscape Design Remodel Starts with the Right Fence

 

Mid century modern landscape in Woodstock neighborhood

I got a phone call from Larry and Jan.  I could tell we were a great match from the first phone call.

Before photo of modern home with poor hardscape fence choice.

Before photo shows amazing windows and view of existing white fence and landscape.

This 1955 home sits on the corner. The white vinyl fence was on my goodbye list before I finished parking. It dominated the house and made some of the landscape problems 500% worse. It was new and expensive. I hoped they would not be appalled to learn I wanted it gone.

I walked into their house and I swear it felt like the house gave me a hello hug. There is a sense of a cape cod beach house owned for generations hidden in this modern mid-century. I could almost smell the pie.

Jan is a fabric artist and Larry has a keen appreciation of design and how things work together. This was going to be fun!

After landscape design mid century modern woodstock neighborhood includes new hardscape fence.

After design and installation of just right fence

The great room is all windows and makes the landscape outside of the home an intimate part of the inside of the home. The basement was beautifully finished with significant day light windows. They loved the light. My landscape plan would need to protect the light coming in from those windows.

My clients are neighborhood oriented. They like being across from the grade school and seeing kids come and go with their families. Yes, people could see them through some of those wonderful windows and no it didn’t bother them.

Clients Wish List

Before landscape design the fence accentuates the long line of the house with a poor hardscape choice.

Before our Landscape Design in a Day

Maximize view from inside the home by adding year round colorful plants

Summer flowers and hydrangeas and hostas for Jan

Create a more inviting entry

Expand the back porch for BBQ and access to a new covered deck or patio

Use a coral bark maple given to them as a housewarming gift

Covered outdoor dining area for 8

There was some thought to having no fence at all or keeping the fence that came with the house

Designers Take

The right fence would be the hero for this design. A fence connects to the architecture of a house more than any arrangement of plants. Even a tree, unless it’s huge does not have the trans-formative power of a fence. Get it wrong and it will bring the entire landscape and home down to its level. The right fence needs to be subordinate to the house and work with the style of the home not detract from it or cheapen it.

Getting It Right

New hardscape fence showcases the house and the new landscaping.

The right fence would be the hero for this landscape design

We all loved the design layout drawing that broke the straight lines of the fence and made space for plantings along the sidewalk. I worked through several versions of this design and my clients selected their favorite. They loved the fence I found on the Houzz site. It was a happy day when I saw the existing white vinyl fence being hauled off for donation to Habitat for Humanity Restore.

Covered Dining Area and Deck

We enlarged the back porch and brought a large covered dining area around the back corner of the house. The deck and cover stops before we get to the array of windows. I didn’t want to see deck furniture or lose light. The deck cover is a louvered roof system from Cardinal Motorized Pergolas. Larry and Jan were very pleased with their representative Kathy Hammer.

Jan preferred a flagstone entry path. It would look best with the original concrete porch side yard walk and brick planters. The flagstone would add contrast and create visual softening.

Synthetic Lawn, Planters and a Bench

Mid century modern landscape design with a flagstone path and bench are great hardscape updates.Raised planters answered Jan’s desire for herbs and a few edibles. The proportions of the planter, and an attractive construction, integrate nicely with the overall design.

Synthetic lawn is easy care and got their grandchild’s stamp of approval.

Installation

We moved into the installation phase without completing a planting plan because we knew we wanted to tweak the fence and path placements on site. I would never do this unless I have a long term working relationship with the contractor. I’ve seen many fantastic designs go down in sad smoke because a contractor redesigned and installed what he wanted.

I introduced my favorite landscape contractor, Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors and Victor Vincell, a building contractor with a most excellent eye and know how. The five of us, clients, designer and contractors worked together and a happy installation followed. The planting plan was completed and installed including a large Coral Bark Maple.

Finishing Touches Add Entry Appeal

Mid Century modern landscape style is simple and colorful to accent new hardscape fence.

Colorful sidewalk plantings with a balance of evergreens and deciduous shrubs and perennials created full season interest.

We went with a flagstone path (over modern slab pavers) for the entry and kept the original concrete porch and path. Keeping these elements worked well with the original brick planters which were painted a charcoal to go with the new colors of the house. The flagstone added a natural effect.

The clients replaced the skinny gutters (which didn’t handle the volume of winter rain water properly anyway) with nice big fat ones. It was amazing to me how this change amplified the modern style. The house body, trim and brick planters were painted, and the fence carefully stained to work well with the new colors.

The clients selected a bench to give the north side path a destination and provided me with a list of street tree options for their parking strips.  I selected Nyssa Sylvatica -Black Tupelo, two ‘After Burner’ for red leaves and one ‘Tupelo Tower’ for orange gold leaves. They were planted just in time to see their beautiful fall color.

Client Comments

Here is what Jan and Larry had to say about their experience.

“We loved our experience with Carol Lindsay of Landscape Design in a Day.  She understood us and our house and exceeded our expectations. The difference in the welcoming appeal of the house and the usability of the landscape is night and day. Her unique collaborative design process worked well for us. She suggested Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors to install and our experience with Donna was also over the top excellent.”

I love to work with landscapes in city neighborhoods.  Finding the right balance of privacy and adding value to the home and the neighborhood is a joy.  I’ve visited Jan and Larry and the friendly house several times since then.  It always feels warm and cozy.

To have your yard match your home, contact me for information on landscaping with hardscapes for your own personal style.

Violet Blue Flowers in Your Summer Garden

Violet blue flowers in your summer garden

There is something magical about violet blue flowers in a summer garden. A mass of long flowering intense violet, purple or blue flowers to see from your summer chaise is a joy. Here is a plant that I use in my garden designs that is easy care and long flowering.

Blue False Indigo – Baptista Australis ‘Purple Smoke’ is a long lived perennial so it will live for decades in your landscape. I use it in my landscape designs because it is colorful, low maintenance, fully drought tolerant, and long blooming. It has attractive foliage and interesting seed pods for fall. Clients who want color and easy care would line up for this plant if they knew about it. It looks great with ornamental grasses and has a more naturalistic look since it is related to lupine, a classic native wildflower.

Planting combinations for Portland Landscape Designs

I’ve used it in a low water parking strip in NE Portland with true dwarf pine, succulents like Sedum spurium ‘Green Mantle’, heather and black mondo grass.  In a SW Portland Landscape design I placed it to tower over a low boulder with plant companion ‘Kim’s Knee Hi’ Echinacea to the side.

Over time the plant will increase to a nice thick stand of charcoal green stems (which add to the beauty) and violet blue flower stalks.  ‘Purple Smoke’ is grown locally, other varieties and flower colors are only available by mail order.  I only use the  variety of Baptista Australis called ‘Purple Smoke’.  Don’t use the parent plant of  ‘Purple Smoke’, it is called just plain old Baptista Australis and gets too tall for most city gardens.

Plant uses

The primary use is ornamental and wildlife friendly. It’s not edible although it is a legume but it is not toxic. It’s a true native American plant.  North American Indians had many uses for this plant.  The Cherokee made a blue dye for fabric from the flowers.  The Osage made some kind of eye wash.  Others used the roots as an antiseptic for wounds.  It is not considered edible and was once thought to be highly toxic.  Modern research has changed this perception.  Read more about the plants chemistry.

How to kill Baptista: Water it every day in the summer and fertilize it heavily. Plant it in a low spot where winter rain water will puddle or sit.

Best practice:  Water deeply once a week the first summer.  The second summer water deeply but infrequently or put a plug in the drip emitter because it won’t need any water by the third summer.  I always place it with low water plants so it is easy to provide it with low water to no water. Don’t divide it. It has a tap root so dividing will kill the plant. If the clump gets too wide, take off new plants at the edge of the clump.

After the foliage yellows in the fall cut it down to the ground.  Mulch twice a year with garden compost.

Check out my Summer Watering Tips. Learning how to water properly can be a great stress reducer for you and protect your landscape investment.

 

Low Water Landscape Design for Young Family

After photo of colorful low water landscape design for Grant Park neighborhood front yard

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.

Client Wish List

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.

Before photo shows beautiful Portland home with unattractive front landscape

Before Landscape Design in a Day

Curb Appeal

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 disconnected downspouts were served with a pseudo rain garden dressed with boulders and interesting plantings for drama to the front foundation scene.

Landscape Design Grant Park Portland Oregon parking stripThe 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.

Driveway Doubles as Useful Family Play Space

Typically no designer, well this one anyway, would select the driveway for family quality time.  Rules are made to broken.  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, and 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 also 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.

Stone planter with edibles in Grant Park Low water landscape design

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

 

Other low water plantings:

Parrotia-Persian Iron Tree for parking strip

Garden planting of dwarf summer heather with summer daphne

4″ tall Summer flowering heather – Calluna vulgaris ‘Mrs Ron Green’

 

Butterfly on Echinacea 'White Swan'

Butterfly and pollinator friendly Echinacea – Coneflower

Callluna vulgaris ‘Mrs Ron Green’ – summer heather

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ – cone flower

Dwarf Pinus mugo – Tru dwarf varieties

Baptisia Australis ‘Purple Smoke’

North Portland Landscape Design parking strip

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

Stepable ground cover, Thymus praecox ‘Elfin Pink’

 

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.

 

Plantings for Parking Strips

This article describes a very attractive but low maintenance planting and hardscape design for a parking strip in NE Portland.

Making great access across a strip for dry, non-muddy feet is practical and provides an attractive low maintenance landscape that adds tons of curb appeal to your home. This is effectively demonstrated by my design at NE 35th and Stanton.

Easy Care Parking strip adds curb appeal

First year planting at parking strip NE Portland

The strip faces west and people rarely park there.  The strip, which has mature suckering ornamental pear trees, creates some cool for my client’s house in the summer, but are difficult to plant under because of root mass.  The trees also don’t share water or nutrients and have small but abundant leaf drop in the fall.  Selecting under plantings that don’t have to have every pear leaf removed prior to winter is simply smart and pays back every year in less work.

After creating a soft shape of practical hardscape, I selected a combination of plants that  will create interest for the entire year.  My client doesn’t have to think much about the plants because they are automatically irrigated with a drilled emitter tube system that is underground.  The irrigation also helps the plants compete with the pear tree roots. Over time, even in difficult conditions, the plants will need less and less water.  My client takes her weeding seriously, so even in the very first year, this planting is already filling in.  The style is very Northwest – natural and serene and adds to the curb appeal of the entire landscape.  By the third year, the weeding should be quite minimal as the plants have already spread and thickened, discouraging weeds effectively.

There are several things that need to be considered prior to designing an attractive solution for that difficult parking strip in front of your home.  On the top of the list are:   1) the sun direction;  2) whether you have trees in your strip and; 3) whether people often park near the strip.  Other things that are equally important to consider are the utilities near the strip – such as water meters, downspout connection to the street, electric and gas lines, fireplugs, and lastly, the rights of people, especially that of your neighbors to park and access the sidewalk. Remember that the parking strip actually belongs to the city or county.

Typical design issues such as soil preparation, irrigation and what style of planting that will look best with your home also figures in.  A parking strip is the foreground view of your home, so it matters what it looks like year round. And last, but most important, is how it will look in the internet photo when it is time to sell your home.

For more on parking strip gardens – check out Kym Pokorny’s article by clicking on the link below.  The featured designs don’t seem to be low maintenance. However,  they are quite beautiful and fun. Click on the following link to read her article.  http://blog.oregonlive.com/kympokorny/2010/08/design_parking_strips_for_beau.html