Tricky Residential Corner Landscape Overhaul in Northeast Portland

Grant Park Neighborhood Home Gets Curb Appeal Design for Front Yard

New entry hardscape landscaping has spacious acid wash concrete steps and landing.

Outdoor Living Needed in Grant Park Residential Landscape Design

These Grant Park homeowners just finished updating the stucco exterior of their home and were eager to finally tackle the landscape. The entry was not working at all; it wasn’t clear how to get to front door and the fence was in the wrong spot for curb appeal. They wanted to add beauty and function.

Portland oregon residential landscape design needed

New Front Steps

The old entry had a short concrete wall and an old boxwood hedge. We ripped all of this out and opened up the entire area to maximum curb appeal. The stairs and landing are poured concrete, acid washed. We did not want to change anything about the old Portland charm (or function!) of the Tudor-style portico, so that section of concrete was just updated with paint. Yes, it will have to be re-painted every once in a while. However, it’s almost impossible to match old concrete with new, so a complementary color can be a great solution.  A small sit spot makes the front entry feel welcoming.

Curb appeal gets a landscape update in Grant Park neighborhood

Colorful Planting Plan

The entry plants have already made a splash in their first year in the ground. Last fall, the neighbors were commenting on how the yellow grass, Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’, glows in the low autumn light. It is always a joy when our gardens suit our clients and enhance the community at the same time.

Grant Park Neighborhood Front Yard gets Colorful plantings

Purple Hellebore blooms from February to May. The yellow grass, Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’, and Coral Bells, Heuchera ‘Grande Black’, bring color year round and are incredibly easy maintenance.

The entry is part shade and sloping so plant selection is important. (When is plant selection unimportant?) Two Vine Maples, Acer circinatum, flank the new steps, seen in the first picture of this blog. The Sarcococca ground cover brings a lovely fragrance in the winter. Hostas pop up for spring and bloom in summer. Into the fall, the small white blooms of Japanese Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ light up the entry.

Corner Lot Conundrum

I love working with corner lots because they almost always require out-of-the-box solutions. This one had a useless extra path and the grass was being used as a cut through for neighborhood kids on the way to school.

Grant Park neighborhood in need of residential landscape design

We removed the walkway, pushed the fence away from the front door and put in a Lavender Hedge so that the homeowners could reclaim this side yard space. The clients say that this solution has worked like a charm and no one cuts the corner anymore. With a new lawn installed, the side yard lawn can be a play space for the kids.

Grant Park neighborhood corner lot updates landscape for more usable space

Planting plan for corner lot in Grant Park neighborhood includes a Lavender hedge. It provides evergreen beauty and summer fragrance while gently discouraging people from cutting through the yard.

Dog Friendly Back Yard

With the layout of this property, the back yard is small, comprising about a quarter of the total outdoor space. We need all the usable space we can get for the family of four and two big dogs. Therefore, the back is mostly hardscape with plants squeezed in wherever we could get them. The casual crushed rock patio is a comfy lounge area.

Grant Park neighborhood outdoor living landscape update

A relaxed collection of different seating- a hammock, a couch and even a raised dog bed make this patio comfortable for the whole family.

The planting plan can take dog traffic – including sword fern, Japanese Forest Grass and the happiest Penstemon I’ve ever seen. The dogs can go to the bathroom on the crushed rock, but these city dog owners are very diligent about frequent walks.

Dog friendly design elements for Grant Park neighborhood landscape design

Check out the raised dog bed in the back, lucky pups. Plants include sword fern, Japanese Forest Grass and a single trunk Japanese Maple. Oh, and a fish planter spitting out strawberry plants. Too cute.

The dining table and concrete pad were existing, we just enhanced it with a simple sun sail and some planters to soften the garage wall. A low cost update.

landscape hardscaping is poured concrete, modern pavers and crushed rock work great for this outdoor living area in NE Portland.

Sun sail is a great low cost way to bring shade and a bit of color to this Grant Park Neighborhood back yard.

Clients Bring the Fun

It’s exciting as a designer for the ideas in my head to become a real-life landscape that a family gets to enjoy.  It’s even more joyful when the clients use their outdoor space so much that they add their own flair, like the cloud wall from a past project or the chairs made from whiskey barrels. This family took it up a notch by creating murals that they fixed to the inside of the fence. Although I had nothing to do with this creative work, I couldn’t help but take a picture with the client to celebrate the completion of their landscape.

Portland Oregon residential landscape designer with Grant Park diy mural

Alana Chau sits with her client in front of the family’s DIY fun mural art.

Contact us today to create a collaborative design that solves all those tricky problems with a corner city lot.  We love tricky lots but if your lot isn’t difficult, we are happy to bring our full design abilities to serve your needs.  Tricky is not required.

Modern Landscape Design Seen in NE Portland Back Yards

Hardscape Solutions for Portland Back Yards With A Modern Twist

We enjoy visiting our past back yard designs and today we are in NE and SE Portland.  We will see installed back yard hardscape landscape designs and modern gardens in Portland neighborhoods Grant Park, South Tabor, Richmond, Reed and Eastmoreland.

Eastmoreland Neighborhood Outdoor Living Patio

Modern landscape design in Richmond neighborhood

Covered Outdoor Living in Richmond Neighborhood gets minimalist modern landscape design treatment.

 

 

 

 

Eastmore neighborhood landscape design

Alana Chau sits in the new patio garden she designed in Eastmoreland neighborhood of Portland.

Richmond neighborhood with minimalist modern landscaping

Our clients installed almost everything in their new landscape including this echo chamber water feature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We start near the Sellwood Bridge to see a very small back yard ‘Remodel’ design.  With a landscape that already has mature trees and fairly good privacy our job is to keep what works, remove what doesn’t and create the missing elements.  We (designer: Alana Chau), added a perfect fit lounging patio to the existing concrete area, a water feature, and fresh new plantings.  Our client Eva Barnes loves the new design.  She and David had so much fun with friends and family installing most of the design including an electrician friend who came and installed the GIF (ground fault interrupter) for the water feature.  Eva says about her new backyard, ‘It’s just perfect’.

Design Incorporates New ADU/Studio for a Family Friendly Landscape

Reed neighborhood incorporate existing gate into landscape designAn important factor for this Reed neighborhood home was working the new Adu/studio into the overall back yard landscape design.  An important decision was whether to keep the existing fence and gate that separated the small intimate family covered dining area from the larger back yard.  After much deliberations, we kept the gate and fencing because it made more usable space for the covered dining area, created a separate (and sunny) sit spot near the studio door and kept the existing fence and gate which has whimsical and delightful carvings of crows that are incorporated into the wood.  These corvine illustrations are both carvings and wood work.  They are all through the fencing and there are illustrations also in the brick patio from the previous owner.  It felt good to honor those.

Privacy for Tiny Patio Garden in Creston Kenilworth Neighborhood

Portland landscape design

Alana Chau and client Bill Sims with dog Juniper.  Note: Bill built the planter himself.

Portland Oregon simple modern landscape pavers

Hardscape landscaping design results in simple but very attractive path for side yard.

This family needed a planting plan re-do for the front, back and side yard and a designer who could understand the balance of privacy needs and community connection for the sidewalk patio. Taller plants in the new planter create privacy from eye contact with passersby without cutting folks off from community. The large planter with wide wall cap doubles as a wonderful sit spot. It’s a very friendly neighborhood.  The new hardscape path for the side yard is such an asset to the patio views, sets the stage for dramatic foliage plants and also makes a way to the garbage cans with dry feet during the winter.

Hosford Abernathy Neighborhood Back Yard Privacy Design

Our clients did not have a good view from their back yard before hiring Landscape Design in a Day.

See our previous blog about privacy.  It’s still a young garden so we are waiting for the privacy plants to get going growing on the new screen. (Japanese Climbing Hydrangea) and other colorful maturing plantings are filling in and starting to diminish the power of the purple violet house nicely. The landscape also needed a lot of careful attention to water from downspouts and had other drainage issues.  These issues were solved collaboratively with the landscape contractor, D & J Landscape Contractors, Donna Burdick and Landscape Design in a Day designer Alana Chau.

Carol Lindsay Portland landscape designer hugs young oak tree in Portland back yard.

Portland landscape designer hugs young oak tree, (Oregon White Oak, Quercus garryana) in clients back yard.

There are 2 rain gardens, a small one in the back yard and a larger more dramatic rain garden in the front.  Our client wanted to protect the river by keeping his drain water on site and returning it to groundwater, a high priority for our client.  He also planted a native Oregon White Oak.

Richmond Neighborhood Back Yard Has Uber Modern Back Yard Landscape Design

Richmond neighborhood modern landscape design

Chartreuse flowers of Euphorbia contrast with black patio table in uber modern backyard landscape design.

We started our blog with a photo of this dramatic minimalist modern landscape design.  The best news is that the clients use this covered outdoor living area patio year-round.  They live out here whenever they can. There is no better complement for a designer.  In the winter they use a standing heater as well as a ceiling heater.  For summer entertaining they will put the standing heater away to make more room for guests. Meadow style grasses and other dramatic plants give the overall design a modern minimalist style.  There is even a Tetrapanax papifera ‘Steroidal Giant’ in the back corner which will add a tropical flair (with very large leaves) once it matures.  We will have a blog that shows photos and more details on this fun garden soon.

South Tabor Home Back Yard Landscape Design

This home is getting the full treatment being remodeled inside and out to include adding an ADU now that the back yard transformation is well on its way.  Alana’s landscape design is planned around the future ADU.

Tabor neighborhood modern patio landscape design

Modern hardscape landscaping back yard patio garden replaces previous backyard wasteland in South Tabor neighborhood.

Alana collaborated with our client to create a new modern landscape style patio area with plantings.  She kept it low maintenance and low water.  He loves the new plantings and especially the colorful carpet of hens and chicks.  The back yard was previously a bit of wasteland when the house was purchased in 2019.

Contact Us

We love driving around and seeing our clients in their new back yards.  Contact us for a collaborative landscape design process that takes your needs, likes and dislikes into account while we lead the way to a perfect fit back yard.

Pros & Cons of 5 Dog Friendly Landscaping Surfaces

Dog friendly Back Yards in North Portland

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping Fescue grass in St. Johns neighborhood of Portland

Westy got his lawn in St. Johns neighborhood of Portland. This is tall type fescue grass.

Here at Landscape Design in a Day we create a lot of dog friendly landscapes for our Portland clients.  Today I’ll share my experience (pro and con) with 5 typical surfaces for dog friendly backyards.  And I’ll have an excuse for cramming in lots of cute dog photos into the blog.

One of Alana’s designs featured 3 areas for the family dog.  One was for dry feet in the winter and so designed to be mud free.  One area is for summer and a dog cannot reach it during wet weather. The third area is for the dog only when its people are present.  Most of our clients don’t have enough yard for this solution but the following materials for the surfaces were at the heart of this design.

Materials for dog friendly landscapes

pros & cons of bark mulch dog friendly landscaping

My dog Daisy exploring her Aunt Kathy’s woodland garden on a bark mulch path.

 I’ll start with our least favorite surface – Bark Dust

I don’t like to use bark dust for the primary area for my dog or a clients’ dog.  Fleas, splinters, some of it tracks in and yet when I was a kid we had lawn and lots of bark dust and our dog never seemed to have a problem with it.  Maybe that is because she had so much lawn.  So I don’t use bark dust for the primary dog area.

Bark Dust

Bark dust harbors fleas and may need to be treated with chemicals to get rid of them.  Cedar chips don’t.  Cedar chips are not much more expensive than bark dust and it lasts longer.  We never used to allow cedar chips to mulch plantings, people believed it would remove nitrogen from the soils.  New research indicates this old idea is not true and I’m so delighted because having both cedar chips and bark dust in the same yard ends up looking very messy, bark dust migrating into the chips and vice versa.

Dog Friendly Landscape puppy on cedar chips Portland, Oregon

Luna the newest member of my client’s family snoozes on cedar chip path in NE Portland back yard.

Cedar Chips

This is my favorite for a dog area and I am also using it as a plant mulch when I don’t want my clients to have to install edging.  There is a specific kind of cedar chip that I like to use.  The easiest one to buy is at Mt Scott Fuel in SE Portland.  It is called NW Play Fiber and it doesn’t seem to splinter, it lays nicely together and makes a thick cover and it lasts for years.  Fir chips and other non cedar wood chips don’t last.

pros & cons of nw play fiber cedar chips dog friendly landscaping

NW Play Fiber Cedar Chips in doggie relief area near Mt Tabor.

I like to lay the chips 6″ deep.  The only negative I have noticed is with active large dogs in small spaces. Running and wrestling with their buddy dogs can displace some chips up against a fence.  The chips hold some moisture and now you have moisture up against the wood fence panels.

One client had an Irish setter who liked to run down the middle of her yard and then bounce up against the fence.  My clients have to rake the chips off the fence. They don’t mind because overall the chips have been such a blessing and are so much better than the muddy half grass they had.  Fir chips are not cheaper and will have to be topped up every year where cedar chips will last several years.  Arborist chips are too large and are awkward for dogs to run on and for people to walk on.  They have  an important place as a way to improve your soil and bring in good mycorrhizae (beneficial bacteria) but are not a product I recommend for a dog area.  They are just too lumpy.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

Westy in his kennel waiting for lawn installation and new fencing in North Portland

Synthetic Lawn Pro and Con – Dog Friendly Back Yard

Pro  Yes! Synthetic lawn can be a great solution for dog owners with shady back yards or small yards.  Anyone who wants to get away from wasting water, mowing and fertilizing may be attracted to synthetic lawn.  My clients with dogs and shady back yards love their synthetic lawn.   With synthetic lawn there is no muddy winter lawn and it’s easy to clean up those dog treasures year round.

Northeast Portland back yard with synthetic lawn dog friendly landscaping

Synthetic lawn can be the perfect solution for a shady back yard with dogs.

Con  Synthetic Lawn will it smell like dog pee?  yes it could especially if you have multiple dogs.

Some people hose the spots their pets tend to visit, others actually run their irrigation system to rinse the urine odor out.  Apparently people use a chemical on their synthetic lawn to keep them from smelling.  Using a chemical doesn’t seem to be going in the right direction.

Is Synthetic Lawn harmful to trees?

Portland dog friendly landscape design pee proof lawn

Daizzie on synthetic lawn roof garden of floating home

Con – I have had an arborist warn me to place synthetic lawn away from existing trees.  I was given this formula.  For every inch of tree (diameter at breast height) place the synthetic lawn out another foot.  This is not practical for small city properties with large trees.  I would suggest consulting an ISA certified arborist to advise about whether there is a way to mitigate problems for trees where the synthetic lawn would be close to the trunk.  Synthetic lawn as a surface over our soil that alters the living microorganisms in the soil.  Is it worse for trees than a concrete patio?  Concrete is a non natural surface.  Another arborist pointed out that many installation companies use a heavy application of herbicide as part of their preparation for the synthetic lawn installation.  I would want to be sure that if a herbicide is used, it is applied by a professional who knows when and how to apply it to avoid harm to bees.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

St Johns Portland client waiting for her dog friendly landscape design

Is there ever a good reason to use an herbicide? Well…..maybe.

Pro  Getting rid of the lawn will save all the water that would have been used to irrigate.  This will prevent using any of the fertilizers or chemicals typically used to maintain a lawn and many of these are harmful to bees.  Does this offset a one time use of professionally applied herbicide?  Each of us has to decide the answer to these questions.  I know of a large company who wanted to have a real Willamette Valley meadow installed on several acres specially for pollinators.  They decided to use herbicide to kill off the old lawn by first cutting the lawn down to an inch tall so there would be no flowers for bees to be attracted to.  Then they used the herbicide.  The meadow is now in its first spring and will be safely feeding thousands upon thousands of pollinators as it matures.

The New Tall Type Fescue versus old fashion short fescue blends

For yards with more sun, a newer type of grass, tall type fescue (one brand name is RTF) handles dog traffic, urine and poo better than traditional grass.  A contractor friend (with Autumn Leaf Landscape) has noticed the RTF lawn in his own backyard has fared much better than his old fescue blend lawn with his two large dogs.  Another benefit with RTF is that when you get a bare spot in the lawn, it can fill in faster because of its spreading (rhizomatic) root system.  Traditional lawn roots clump and do not spread quickly and so the old fescue blends needed more re-seeding because they clumped slowly.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping Fescue grass in St. Johns neighborhood of Portland

Some dogs just can’t help themselves and will try and dig their way to China.

Dogs who are Talented at Destruction will make a mess of your lawn no matter what kind you have.

RTF fills in quicker than traditional grass, which means less areas for dirt to become mud in the winter. But most anyone would have the new lawn area fenced off until it was well established before turning the dog(s) loose upon it.  If you have large dogs, and a small patch of grass even RTF isn’t going to cut it.  And some dogs who are (TAD) talented at destruction, regardless of their size will need the lawn very very well established before having access.  A professional lawn installer who used to install for dog parks told me he fenced off a new lawn area for 2 full years before it was open to dogs.

Of course, this solution depends on your type of dog, and how “fantastic” they are at tearing up your back yard. For some dogs, especially multi dog families, no real lawn is going to hold up to their needs so using grass means there will be worn paths into the grass.  You need a lot of grass to manage multiple dogs and lots of sun.  Shade, lawn and dogs means winter mud.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping for big and small dogs

Portland park offers relief for my client’s big dogs with a small backyard

Size of dogs obviously matters here.  Smaller dogs can wear a path into a lawn but they don’t pee in a large volume.  A large dog, after being in the house all day, could drop a quart 5 seconds after he or she is released into the yard.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

My neighbor Rudy happily lives on a Portland house boat and takes a lot of walks, sometimes with me. Proof some dogs don’t need a traditional lawn and yard.

City Dogs with Small Yards Need the Local Park to Save the Lawn

Small dogs and older dogs are often quite happy with lounging around on concrete or flagstone with their humans.  Many city people take their dogs for walks and to parks daily and this relieves the stress on your outdoor living areas of multiple daily doses of dog urine.  Most of these clients don’t want a special area for a dog potty because they simply do not have the room.

I never use these materials for dog friendly landscape surfaces

I do not recommend round rock,  also called pea gravel.  It can end up trapped inside a dogs foot pad.  It’s hard on their ankles and same  is true for humans.  People can slip because the round rock is not stable, it rolls and so can you.  Pea gravel is very appealing to the eye.  Don’t do it and if you have some, get rid of it.  It’s not a good surface for anyone.

I’m not fond of loose crushed rock but perhaps if you check your dogs pads frequently it might be fine for you.  It’s not what I would want for sharing a space with my dog but a non compacted crushed rock is becoming more popular because of how well it works with rainwater.  An un-compacted crushed rock surface  is fully water permeable and compacted crushed rock  is not.  I have plenty of clients with gravel patios whose dogs have not had issues with gravel or any gravel up in the dogs foot pads.  I had it happen once with my cocker spaniel but we caught it in time and it did not get infected.  Oddly he did not limp even though the gravel was up high inside his paw.  Don’t make the only surface for your dog crushed rock.

Concrete is terrible for dogs backs and knees and smells bad with repeated doses of urine.

City dog in Cathedral Park neighborhood in new front yard patio

Ruby hanging out on concrete patio waiting for a trip to the park.

Balance –  hard and soft surfaces for your dog

Ideally we are looking for hardscape for patios and areas for furniture and frequent human use with soft surfaces for dogs to play and walk on.  It’s a matter of balance.  Many clients want a concrete or stone patio but also have paths topped with soft materials like mulch or cedar chips.   Crushed rock is more affordable and non compacted crushed rock allows rain water to penetrate into the soil.  You have some concrete areas or some crushed rock areas but you also have other surfaces for them to romp and run on it may be fine for you.

Contact Us

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

My dog Daisy loves a soft snow surface to play on.

We love to work with the whole family when we design a Portland back yard.   Contact us for creative solutions that allow the whole family to enjoy the back yard including your 4 legged family members.

 

 

Portland Backyard Privacy Screening for a Family’s Outdoor Room

Family Needs a Private Backyard Landscaped in Portland

2 Patios with privacy screen are loosely connected with flagstone stepping stones in Portland, Oregon.

Two patios – one stamped concrete and the other crushed rock – are loosely connected with flagstone stepping stones.

Kristen and Rob have lived in their home long enough to remember when privacy fences did not exist between the backyards. Rob specifically remembers the days when he felt like their backyard was much bigger because there were no definitive boundaries from tall wooden fences. Fast forward a couple decades and the situation has changed – it’s time to create a backyard that is a more private family hangout space.

Instantly Hide an Eyesore with a Landscape Privacy Screen

Goal number one is to create a privacy screen without the cost of replacing the entire fence. The neighbors window had a direct view into the family backyard and, more importantly, a new flood light that the neighbor installed was beaming into their backyard at all hours of the day and night.

Portland Home Gets Privacy Landscape Treatment

Before: Hello Purple House!

Sometimes the solution to a privacy problem can be solved with plant material alone, but this one needed a quicker resolution. The client sketched out the tall wooden privacy screen that I happily incorporated into the design. See the photo below to see how much that helps! That is only the beginning of the solution, however. In order to truly feel like a private space, we must create layers.

Portland Home Gets Privacy Screen for Back yard Privacy Landscape

During. Wood Privacy Screen built in front of the fence provides instant gratification. Vines will eventually adorn the trellis.

Vines and Trees create Privacy and Shade

To create layers, we use plant material. This not only adds to the screening but it also creates something more beautiful for the eye to concentrate on instead of seeing the house. Look how the Japanese Maple in the foreground adds to the privacy and the layered plantings create a wonderful distraction.

A wooden trellis, Japanese Maple and multiple planting beds complete this private backyard for the family in Portland, Oregon..

A wooden trellis, Japanese Maple and multiple planting beds complete this backyard for the family.

The Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum, had to be just the right shape for the space. We purchased the tree as a single trunk with a high canopy. Over time, the tree will spread out to create a natural shade from the blasting afternoon sun. We discussed attaching a permanent structure to the garage to create that instant shade, but all parties agreed that in this case, the shade of a tree creates the type of atmosphere they want, even if they have to wait a couple years for it to bulk up.

Japanese inspired privacy screen planted with climbing hydrangea.

Trellis and privacy screen with climbing hydrangea, Schizophragma hydrangeoides

Three climbing hydrangeas, Schizophragma hydrangeoides, will scramble up the back trellis. This is a dappled shade area, which is ideal for this plant.  Unfortunately, climbing hydrangeas are not the fastest grower, but if you’ve ever seen a full grown one, you know it is worth the wait, and the clients thought so too.

Hardscapes create different “Garden Rooms”

 

Private backyard landscape design.

Landscape Design with Two Seating Areas and Lawn. Click image to see more detail.

This family backyard features two seating areas, aka “Garden Rooms”. The main dining area is poured concrete with a flagstone-style stamped pattern. The secondary seating area is crushed rock, installed to allow drainage. The secondary area is designed as the tween hangout – slightly set apart from the main area.

Asian theme continues throughout private backyard.

Simple arbor with view of lawn and patios beyond.

Drainage Solutions including a Rain Garden

As usual in Portland backyards, drainage is an important consideration. Luckily, the clients hired one of the best contractors for attention to detail – Donna Burdick of D&J Landscape Contractors.  One disconnected downspout had to be moved, the crushed rock had to be installed correctly for extra drainage, and the poured concrete had to slope in just the right way to ensure the winter water moved away from the house.

Portland rain garden for downspout.

Small rain garden with hidden dry well captures water from a disconnected downspout

Additionally, a small rain garden with a dry well captures the water from a small portion of the roof gutters.

Contact Us to Create Your Private Backyard Hangout

Are you ready to tackle your backyard to create privacy and a hangout for the whole family? Contact us today!

 

Drought Tolerant Plants for Front Yard Curb Appeal In Portland

Evergreen Ground Cover Plantings for Portland Front Yards

This blog could be called many things…..Drought tolerant Plants for Front Yard Curb appeal in Portland or  Evergreen Groundcovers for Front Yard Curb Appeal but actually it should simply say these plants together are my favorite all season interest groundcover.

Year round color for drought tolerant groundcovers in Concordia neighborhood of North Portland

Evergreen texture and contrast party in my client Lisa’s garden in late winter. Heather and Hen and Chick together.

Low Water Ground Cover Plants – Heathers with Succulents

I want to introduce a drought tolerant heather that looks fantastic with hens and chicks and talk about how to use these plants for year round good looks in your Portland landscape.

Reasons to use Heather with Succulents or Hens and Chicks

We garden designers want attractive planting combinations to be year round colorful attractive plants that look great together, suppress weeds, feed bees and are simple to care for.  This is my 2nd blog of three showcasing the use of low water and drought tolerant plants.

What is Great About Planting Heathers and Hens and Chicks together?

Drought tolerant heather, sedum and hen and chicks landscape in Portland.

Shortie Heather  (with Sedums and Red foliaged Hens and Chicks), grow nicely in rock crevices

Contrast!  The fine soft needles of the heather, the large blunt shape of the Sempervivum leaf and the rosette that it forms creates a strong contrast.  Using these combinations really tickles my designer’s fancy.  Using contrast is an important tool for design.

Drought Tolerance:   They both need well drained soil and must be irrigated the first summer to establish mature drought tolerant roots.  So yes plant them together – they are a perfect fit.

Heathers and hens and chicks are evergreen, provide multiple foliage and flower colors to create interest.  It’s fun to see a gold leafed heather with the dark red rosettes of a hen and chick by the front door in winter.  No wonder I love to use them for a colorful year round landscape planting plan.

The Shortie Heathers are My Favorites

Texture galore with drought tolerant evergreen groundcovers including heather, hens and chicks and sedums

Heather and succulents make a tapestry of color in the garden of Marcia Peck on ANLD garden tour.

The shorties – Besides being so attractive these very low (4” tall or less) heather (Calluna vulgaris) are well worth it because they need very little to no pruning at all.  Some clients don’t remember to prune anything so these shorties are just right for them.  All the other types of heather have to be pruned.  I’ve nicknamed these heather ‘shorties’ to set them apart from the many many other kinds of heathers.  If you call them a “shortie heather” at a plant nursery they will not know what you are talking about.  Stick with the latin and look for these at specialty growers and nurseries.  See end of blog for where to buy these special heathers.

I like to use a very short heather with my hens and chicks like this three inch high heather called Calluna vulgaris ‘Mrs. Ronald  Gray’. This heather has needles that grow in a configuration that look like tiny ferns fronds and is my favorite of them all.   Other very short 2 inch to four-inch-tall heathers include Calluna vulgaris ‘Caleb Threkheld’, and ‘White Lawn’.  I use these shortie heathers in a variety of situations with many different kinds of plants but they look especially good with the succulents. They will also drape over a wall nicely.

The Difference Between Drought Tolerant Heather and Other Heathers

Rose City Park front yard shows Calluna Vulgaris 'Mrs Ron Gray' this Designer favorite drought tolerant heather.

The stems look like feathery tiny ferns on this unique Calluna vulgaris, Mrs Ron Green (shortie heather)

I want to be sure my readers will understand that not all heathers are drought tolerant (and most of them are not shorties either).  Heathers named Calluna vulgaris – Scotch Heather (summer and fall flowering heathers) are very different from the spring flowering heathers (Erica carnea and Erica darleyensis) in terms of their soil conditions and water needs.  The Calluna must have well drained soil. They must be watered regularly and carefully their first summer, after that, they prefer less water and can become drought tolerant after just a few years of maturity.   They need full sun or at least 8 hours where Erica carnea can make do with less.  Erica darleyensis can take light shade although I like to grow them in full morning sun.

I Water My ‘White Lawn’ Heather Once a Month in Summer

My Calluna vulgaris ‘White Lawn’ at my vacation house gets watered once a month if its been hotter than usual in the summer.  I’m only there once a month and they even made it through the heat dome of 2021.

Portland landscape cascading Caleb Threkheld heather.

Calluna vulgaris ‘Caleb Threkheld’ cascades down the sides of an elevated planter in early fall.

Plant Heathers in fall

Portland front yard with drought tolerant Calluna vulgaris "Mrs. Ron Gray' with dwarf blanket Flower in late summer

Calluna vulgaris ‘Mrs. Ron Green’ borders synthetic lawn flowering in mid summer at my clients home.

Life will be easier, and kinder if you plant your heathers in the fall-best practice.  Planting in early spring would be next best.  Planting in late spring or early summer will mean complete devotion to watering these plants.  It’s easy to kill heather their first summer and here is why – most plants leaves will droop a little and let you know they are dry.  You water them and all is forgiven.

Heathers Cannot Dry Out The First Summer

Not so with heathers – Heather cannot dry out the first summer, not even once or it’s all over.  This is why planting in the fall is easier on you.  If the chance they will have to be replaced come fall is not a problem for you, you have nothing to lose except the plants.  Most of us won’t be planting 50 of these so our loss is minimal except for the shorties which are harder to get in the first place…..still calculate your potential loss and decide if you want to gamble now that you have the facts.

No Pruning for the Shortie Varieties of Calluna Vulgaris – Scotch Heather

Portland landscape with freshly pruned heather.

Calluna vulgaris – heather freshly pruned at the Oregon Garden. These heathers get about 12″ tall and must be pruned each year.

Taller type heather must be pruned thoughtfully every year but mostly one never needs to prune these shortie Calluna vulgaris – Scotch Heather.  I have plants Calluna vulgaris ‘White Lawn’ that are over 10 years old.  I’ve let one heather spread out and moved any hens and chicks that got in the way.  I have a patch that is over 15 years old and it’s about 24″ wide now.  I like it that wide and I still have room for plenty of hens and chicks.

Drought tolerant Calluna Vulgaris heather in Portland landscape.

My large two foot swath of Calluna vulgaris ‘White Lawn’ gets little to no water at my vacation home. This is what I call a “shortie” heather.

If you are still with your heathers in ten years, you can choose to either referee so the heather doesn’t totally bury the hens and chicks as it matures by carefully pruning out a section of the heather or….You could be a lazy gardener and just let the heathers grow over the top of the hens and chicks since by then you will have lots and lots of the hens and chicks.  I love the combo so I have done a little of both. Just realize that the section you cut out of the heather will not grow back.

Happily hens and chicks are so easy to transplant.  Sometimes I pick little chicks off the mother plant and tuck them into a cooler spot in the ground even with no roots on them at all and often they root and thrive – they are that easy to transplant. Learn more about hens and chicks.

 

Drought tolerant Sempervivum Carmen Hen and Chick pictured in Portland.

Exquisite foliar texture on this Sempervivum –  hen and chick called ‘Carmen’.

Finding the Shortie Heathers to Buy

So perhaps I’ve convinced you that these shorties heathers are just right for adding full season color and interest to your low water landscape.  Where to buy them?

Highland Heathers – Janice Linewebber can u.p.s. right to your door. If her web site is not updated just e mail her at [email protected]  Ask her if she has any Calluna vulgaris that grows only 3 or 4 inches tall.  She will probably ask if you are my client…I love these little shortie Calluna vulgaris heathers so much in my designs.

Heaths and Heathers is mail order and while there are threats of retirement….so far we can still order from her. She is also on Facebook as Heaths and Heathers Nursery and is in Washington.  Ask her for substitutions as she has some shortie heathers I’ve never grown or used. A shortie is 4″ or under when mature.

There is a large wholesale grower in the area called Little Prince that sometimes grows these heathers. Therefore, I have found them at Cornell Farms and Portland Nursery at times.

Drought tolerant Sempervivum arachinoides called 'Pekinense' grown by Little Prince

Top marks for this Sempervivum arachinoides called ‘Pekinense’ grown by Little Prince and photo by Little Prince as well.

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