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Archive for Before and Afters – Page 3

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.

Baby Boomers Downsize to NE Portland & Landscape Beautifully

Landscape in Irvington Neighborhood for Downsizing Boomer Clients

This NE Portland backyard was updated for retiring baby boomers

My clients had just moved into a bungalow on a small lot in NE Portland.  They are baby boomers and were downsizing from a larger home and property.  This house was “charm” itself with a gracious front porch and had wonderful bones.  While we created a design for the entire property, this blog is about the back yard transformation.

The back yard had an existing covered dining area. It looked like a portico with the roof attached to their shed to me and was quite attractive but so badly placed. It was blocking access to the back yard. The clients wanted my direction for whether to keep it or have it demolished.

The existing landscape spaces didn’t fit together or make good use of the square footage available.  They wanted good flow.

Privacy Screening for an Urban Backyard was a Priority.

They especially wanted privacy and better views from inside the house.  In a larger property, creating lush green views from every window is easier with plenty of square footage between the windows and the neighbors.  In small urban properties, controlling the views is more tricky to do well with typically only 5′ to 10′ of space to work with.  This space always has paths and other functions to perform and so is not solely available for plantings.  The view of the next door neighbors multistory house and roof was especially obvious from inside the home office.

The rest of their wish list looked like this:

NE Portland back yard landscape design with gas firepit patio and colorful plantingsTwo entertaining areas

A fire pit

A better utility area for garbage cans

A grassy area for their dog

Keep the large shade tree to the north

BEFORE image of NE Portland backyard landscaping.

The existing covered dining area was very badly placed and blocked entry to the back yard.

Poor Access to the Back Yard

 This old Portland house had access from the home’s office to the back yard.  Not ideal.  No one wants friends and family traipsing through their office with BBQ prep and smores. The primary outdoor traffic would come from the kitchen door on the far north side which is a long ways from the activities of the back yard.

I feel when the home does not have access from a primary living room or kitchen directly into the back yard, we need to have a big reward (Carol make it magical!)  when we get to the back yard.  There is a psychological resistance when access doesn’t lead directly to the activity.

Landscape Integration

Repeating hardscape landscaping materials helps to integrate a small city propertyGiven what they wanted, the key to success was integration.  In this case it would involve bringing the walking surface to one grade and repeating hardscape materials.  The shapes of the sitting areas, paths and planting beds needed to be one continuous flowing piece.

I replaced the deck under the Portico (covered area) with a flagstone patio, level with the rest of the yard.  The flagstone is used again in the back yard to pull these previously separated areas into one.  The large fire pit patio also has touches of flagstone.  Using the same materials and making the walking surface the same grade did the trick.  A custom wood cover for the fire pit allows my clients to use it for a low table instead of a heat source when desired.

Blocking View of Roof Next Door

We blocked the view of the house and roof next  door with clumping bamboo.  To get a height boost, custom planters were built at 36″ high so my baby boomer clients would not have to wait for years to enjoy privacy and a lush wall of green to see  while working in their office.

The Kitchen Door

Clumping Bamboo in Custom Wood Planters Creates Privacy for Baby Boomers

Clumping Bamboo (Fargesia Robusta) in Custom Wood Planters will quickly provide privacy for this Irvington neighborhood home.

This little old concrete step was too big of a drop from the threshold and it wasn’t wide enough for a normal sized foot. We took the opportunity to legitimize this important family entry door by rebuilding this step with attractive materials that gave it beauty as well as function.  It sets the feeling for returning home and into the kitchen which is after all the soul of any home.

This step will be used every time anyone heads to the back yard for relaxing, entertaining, and family fun.

Cedar Gate is relocated to add utility space to Irvington Side Yard

Relocated Gate Saves Money and Improves Side Yard Flow and Function

Practicalities of Gates & Garbage Cans

We expanded the utility function of the side yard by relocating the double gate toward the front of the house.  I tend to always set the gate back some from the front corner of the house, (at least a foot or two).  I want all eyes on the front entry (in this case a magnificent front porch) not to the side yard. A gate parallel to the front of a house often waters down the beauty of the entry to the home.

The garbage cans and recycling bins needed to be easy to roll out to the road for pick up. I had some grand ideas about plants on one side that would then switch but the gas meter location and garbage cans had other ideas.

I’m always keeping one eye on the goal.  This area may be “just the side yard” but it must be attractive enough to be the introduction to the magical back yard entertaining area. In this case, the side yard had to do triple duty, block the view of tall house next door, welcome people home via the kitchen side door and make us want to keep going and see the back yard.

Back Yard Privacy

Modern Style Gas Fire Pit Table is perfect for downsized baby boomer back yard

Firepit from PyroMania

We didn’t have enough square footage of our own for back yard privacy. The trick here was to utilize some of the neighbor’s small trees “borrowing” their privacy plants.  Yes it’s true a neighbor could tire of a small tree and remove it and leave a hole in our vignette but it’s worth the risk.  There is nothing worse than a pile of beautiful plants fighting it out in the air space above the fence.  It spoils the view for everyone. We want to see the shapes of our trees and plants, not a muddle.

 Shade will Increase

The shade will increase over the years as the client’s old maple tree gets bigger. At some point the lawn will need to be replaced with synthetic lawn.  However, most of the plantings I selected will make the shift to heavier shade.

Working Together

My usual technique for any design is to take in the client’s desires and after careful site study create multiple layout drawings that all aim toward fulfilling those desires.

Heuchera 'Green Spice' is graced with Autumn LeafMy clients were very helpful as we worked through the different layout drawings.  Due to Covid we also worked over Zoom to finalize our layout.  During that process we discover our priorities and so the wish list was winnowed.

When the contractors estimate comes in sometimes there is another winnowing after the design is completed. We discovered we could not alter a fence because it belonged to the neighbor. We let go of a hidden garden behind the shed and kept the existing small deck off the home office as is rather than flipping it for cost reasons.

Fatsia Japonica Spiders Web is a perfect low maintenance plant for seniorsIt helps to have the design installed by a contractor who is familiar with my work and with whom I collaborate regularly.

My clients liked working with my recommended contractor Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors very much and got the benefit of our many years working together.  Victor Vencill of Vencill Construction designed and built the high end custom planters and the fire pit cover.  He also made corrections on their existing small deck.  The three of us work together regularly and together we make an amazing problem solving team and have fun while doing so.

Boulders create interest for gas fire pit patioCLIENT COMMENTS

NE Portland backyard gets dog friendly landscape update.

NE Portland clients love their new backyard including the family dog.

“We loved working with Carol. She created a beautiful design and final product. She is a great collaborator and listener. She drafted a number of versions of the landscaping design based on many conversations. We were not very experienced with landscaping and gardening, but she spent the time to educate us and listen to our perspective and style. She also understood our budget and provided a design that was beautiful and worked for our family. She continued to provide input during construction, which we very much appreciated. We now spend time every day enjoying the beautiful spaces Carol designed.”
~David, Portland.

Do you have a tricky backyard that needs privacy and thoughtful use of limited square footage?  We love tricky city properties and would be happy to help you downsize your landscape to fit your new senior lifestyle.

Beaumont Bungalow gets Front Entry Hardscape Makeover

Hardscape Landscaping Design creates attractive easy access in Beaumont neighborhood

New Hardscape creates fresh entry for Beaumont neighborhood bungalow

Portland Hardscape Landscaping Makeover in Beaumont Neighborhood

In May, I met with Pam and David to collaborate on their front yard design. They knew they wanted a new approach to the front door; the existing access up the driveway was not what they wanted but didn’t know where to start with style or material. They wanted relatively easy, drought tolerant plantings and ample space for bulbs. They love how neighbors always stop to chat when the bulbs are in full bloom.

Before: Beamont home has no front walk and a difficult landscape to maintain

BEFORE: The front garden in May, filled with weeds. The pink blooming rhododendron was kept in our new entry hardscape landscaping design.

Hardscape Landscaping installed in Beaumont Neighborhood

DURING: In August, D & J Landscape Contractors completed concrete forms and an intense weed removal.

Designers Perspective

The house is truly charming but no one could tell with the existing wild landscape.  Everyone had to walk up the driveway to get to the front door and so the house was cut off from the neighborhood sidewalk.  I wanted to showcase the charm of the house and the interesting texture of the old brick on their front entry archway.  So we opted to replace the skinny straight entry stairs with an oversized landing that extended out beyond the overhang and generous steps. As you walk up to the front door, you can enjoy the texture of the brick instead of staring at your feet trying to navigate the skinny old steps.

Existing brick surround was important to highlight in hardscape landscaping update.

Close-up of brick surrounding front door, a feature that we wanted to highlight with the new landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the hardscape landscaping design came together beautifully, creating smooth comfortable access from the driveway as well as the sidewalk.

Updated hardscape walkway in Portland landscaping.

Concrete walkway from driveway to front door.

Planning for a Low Maintenance Landscape

Managing the weeds was a topic I brought up early and often, as I could see the seed bank was very robust in this front yard. In fact, for this garden, D&J Landscape Contractors did two rounds of weed removal! The plant choices and thick application of mulch are also weed-mitigation strategies (more about that below).

Hardscape Landscaping Materials

The poured concrete is acid etched, which adds some texture and a hint of warmth. Poured concrete can look so bright when it’s first poured and will age and settle over time.  The acid etch helps it blend into its surroundings earlier in the process.

Flagstone is used in the parking strip for the walkway as well as strategically placed spots for people to get out of their cars without stepping on plants. We opted for a warm mix of colors that echoes both the peach of the siding and the reds of the brick.

Hardscape Landscaping in Beaumont neighborhood of Portland Oregon

Parking strip flagstone artistically laid by D&J Landscape Contractors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affordable Landscape Design

For a budget friendly solution to the front slope, we opted for basalt boulders. This works especially well around the stairs. Eventually the plants will fill in to soften this area. To see some similar front landscapes after the plants have had a chance to grow in, check out Montavilla Bungalow and Collaborative Design.

Hardscape landscaping helps retain soil next to steps in freshly planted Portland landscape

Boulders against stairs to help with the slope. Plants will also help hold the slope once their roots get a year or two to grow in.

Plant Selection for Planting Plan

In Portland, you can successfully plant any month of the year. The hardscape was completed in mid-August at the peak of heat. However, for this full sun, sloping garden with a DIY irrigation system, we all agreed that waiting for the fall would be better timing to get these plants in the ground. Luckily, Pam and David are patient – they had a bare landscape for a couple months. In the end, they are happy with the decision, knowing that hand watering at least once a day to overcome the 100 degree days was not their idea of a good time.

The drought-tolerant structural plants include Cistus, Carex grass and Creeping Thyme. See the full list below:

Plant list for Portland landscaping update in Beaumont.

We purposefully did not fill every last inch of the garden with plants. Pam and David want to add their own unique and colorful plants over time. They love iris as well as all bulbs. We talked about focusing on spring-blooming bulbs because this garden will not be heavily watered in summer. Spring bulbs will get all the water they need from the winter and then go dormant after their big show, before the summer drought sets in.  They dug and stored the bulbs and then replanted them after the installation of hardscape landscaping was done!

Purple and gold iris brighten Beaumont front yard in Portland Oregon

Purple Iris, one of the many bulbs the homeowners dug up from the old front yard.

Deep but mellow colored yellow Peony in Beaumont entry landscape

A yellow Peony, a special plant for the homeowners will be transplanted from the back yard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We are very happy to have found Landscape Design in a Day. We had been struggling for years to ‘do something’ with our front yard and entry. Finally, the experts came in and saved the day. Alana presented three draft designs. Her vision of extending our front porch and making a more dramatic entry and walkway to the house is brilliant. Her expertise provided a list of plants to choose from, based on our preferences, and then filled in the plan with our choices. We highly recommend Landscape Design in a Day.”

Ready for a beautiful and welcoming front landscape? Contact us today!

Colorful Backyard Low Maintenance Garden Design in Portland

Low Maintenance Garden Design for Backyard in Woodstock Neighborhood

Client Wish List:

Low maintenance Landscape Design in Woodstock neighborhood

New Dining Area! Just waiting on the rest of the plants to make this corner complete.

Jill recently moved to Portland from an entirely different climate.  She is a gardener and knows that a different climate means an entirely different set of plants, watering strategies, and soils.  So she wanted Portland native plants to celebrate her new home in the Pacific Northwest. Getting expert advice about plants that would thrive here was her number 1 concern.  She wanted a vibrant garden with some traditional and colorful plants.  She also wanted her grandchildren, who live nearby, to enjoy playing in the backyard.

She already had a covered area for lounging adjacent to the house. She wanted to add an area for family dining, some edibles, and a play structure.

Landscape designer considers location of huge tree trunk for small back yard design in Woodstock neighborhood

Before – Doug Fir Trunk is 6′ wide at the base.

Designing around a large tree

The elephant in this room is that beautiful huge Douglas-fir. It took up a lot of space situated in the center of the backyard but to Jill it was a part of nature and she was happy to accommodate the tree.  Lawn is a poor choice near a Doug-fir and Jill did not want any lawn so we already had a good fit there.

The 6 foot diameter trunk will continue to grow so we needed to remember that as we worked toward the right design.  Many sources maintain that fir tree roots would prefer as little disturbance as possible. And we must be careful with how we water the plants around it so selecting drought tolerant planting companions was a strong consideration.  See Kym Pokorny article on stressed trees and how to care for them.

We had to address the elephant in the room first. In it’s natural habitat, the Doug-fir is surrounded by natural forest mulch and select native plants. More on the plants later. With the smaller size of the lot, the mulch around the trunk does double duty as a pathway. The color of the mulch will fade over time to blend in nicely with needles cast from the tree. It is important to only lay mulch around the tree and not up onto the tree’s trunk like a volcano.

Playground cedar chips are part of low maintenance landscape design in Woodstock neighborhood

During – Wide path designed around Doug-fir

Designing  the Dining Area near large tree roots

One way to create dining space near a large tree is to install a deck – it will have relatively low impact on the root system and allows rainwater through. A deck versus a patio is a better choice for our tree.  However, Jill was not too fond of the upkeep or cost of a deck. So we moved on to another good option – cedar chips and crushed rock. These materials also allow rainwater to soak into the ground and do not require too much excavation to be installed. And it’s easy on the budget.

Edibles in Containers

Jill initially wanted veggie beds in the soil, but due to greedy tree roots and the shade cast by the Doug-fir, we needed to employ some tricks to incorporate edibles into this yard. Three large pots or half wine barrels are designed in the sunniest part of the garden for annual veggies like tomatoes. A raised bed was designed next to the existing patio – and furthest from the Doug-fir – where part-sun veggies could thrive, such as greens and lettuces.

Flagstone path will lead through the plants to the back table with low maintenance plantings around the fir.

Structure of the Garden all ready to be filled in with Plantings

play house for low maintenance landscape design has cedar chip surface

Playhouse for Grandkids

Turn Unused Side Yard into Play House Space

We turned a previously unused side yard into the perfect play area for grandchildren. Kid-approved plants like Fuzzy Lamb’s Ears lead us down the path to a play structure. As the plants grow up, this area will transform into a miniature secret garden. As a bonus, when the grandkids outgrow the space, the structure can be easily replaced with a bistro table for an afternoon tea.

Planting Plans

Jill is a plant person and we especially had fun creating with a broad plant palette for this garden design.

Drought-tolerant plants that are native plants surround the Doug-fir such as Salal, Sword Fern and a vase shaped shrub called Oceanspray are all up to the task. 75% of the plants we selected are very low maintenance plantings.

For flower power we used well known color magnets like peony, cape fuchsia, hydrangea and more. Jill will add annuals to spice up the summer color.

Acer Circinatum "Pacific Fire" photo from Handy Nursery is a low maintenance plant.

Acer Circinatum “Pacific Fire” photo from Handy Nursery is the winter view from living room

For the view from the living room window we selected a native cultivar of Vine Maple (Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’) which has red twigs in winter.

Materials

Cedar chips, crushed rock and also large flagstone for the path to the dining table.

We enjoyed this design process with Jill and helped her create functional hardscape landscaping with paths and a 2nd sitting area that works well.  Now she has plantings that fit our region as well as the color she craves for summer.  And the deck?  If she decides to add the deck, she has the design for future consideration.  With our laid back NW lifestyle and regular visits from grandkids, her simple table and benches sitting on cedar chips will suffice as her second dining area for many years.

Can we help you have the backyard that fits your ideals and lifestyle?    Contact us and let’s create together.

Modern Landscape Design for Kenton Neighborhood Front Yard

Modern Landscape Design for Kenton Neighborhood Front Yard

Modern landscape design adds functional space and charm to Kenton front yard in Portland

Modern Fun Front Garden Ready for Entertaining

Client Wish List

New homeowners Katie and Jeni (Kenton neighborhood Portland, Oregon) enjoy chatting with their neighbors in the front yard. Before the overhaul, they would just pull some chairs and a firepit from the back and hang out on the grass.   Eventually they realized it might be nice to create a more permanent sitting area in the front, so they poured a concrete patio. They are ‘get it done’ dedicated DIYers with more than a few successful projects under their belts.   Next came the hard part – how to integrate that stark concrete into a front yard garden that’s inviting and warm.  They realized they wanted some help with the integration efforts and hired Landscape Design In A Day because of our collaborative design approach.

Kenton neighborhood home with diy concrete before garden design process

BEFORE: mismatched concrete and no privacy.

Designer’s Perspective-Alana Chau

I was so pleased to see that the new concrete was well done and a wonderful size for the amount of people they host. But it felt huge in the small front yard space, and modern landscape style always needs visual softening. There were also disconnected downspouts to contend with, 3 in total. Due to the new concrete pour, I knew at least one of these downspouts needed to be moved. Yes, in some cases downspouts can be moved!

Originally, the homeowners wanted to keep the existing retaining wall and walkway to save money.  I showed them a couple designs hoping I could offer them useful visuals that might change their minds.  I knew how fabulous it could look if we changed the front walk. So we all stood at the sidewalk and talked about the potential for something different.   A front walk that was offset gave us a much more interesting entry and dramatic spaces for plantings. As you can see, they went for it and they are so happy they did.

Hardscape Landscaping design integrates existing concrete slab beautifully

A dynamic new front walkway.

Ruby the pup

The clients have the cutest pup, Ruby, and we wanted her to have some grass to play on. In this case, the grass will perform a double duty as Ruby’s lounge area and also the walkway to the backyard. Since this path will not be used in the winter, it is an acceptable solution. (In Portland, Oregon grass is NOT a good path material if it needs to be used in winter because it becomes wet muck and does not recover well.) 

small patch of dog friendly lawn in Kenton front yard

Lawn can be used as a walkway as long as it is not used in the winter.

Hardscape Landscaping

The Materials

The new retaining wall is modular concrete block, which creates a clean look while keeping costs down. The steps were created with steel risers filled with gravel for the treads. The walkway is created using 24″ square pavers, aka architectural slabs.

Old and new concrete did not work well together in this before photo of front entry walk and courtyard

BEFORE: view from the front door.

What a difference the new hardscape landscaping makes for this Kenton home's front entry

AFTER: view from the front door. 24″ Pavers, or Architectural Slab, create a dynamic front walkway

The short wood fence allows some privacy from the street, while maintaining a friendly feel.

front yard privacy screen for Kenton front yard is a pattern of wood boards

Short fence in front yard gives patio a bit of privacy.

front yard privacy screen for Kenton front yard is softened with pollinator plants

Gaura, aka Wandflower, adds texture and encourages pollinators to visit in the summer.

Modern landscape design adds steps with steel risers to Kenton front yard in Portland

Stairs with steel risers and crushed rock.

The Raingarden

A downspout was moved so that it could outlet into a new pseudo rain garden area where red-twig dogwood shrub and juncus, a type of rush (similar to ornamental grass)  will help us manage that water with their deep root systems. The City of Portland encourages rain gardens, but we recommend diy’ers doing a bit of research first.  Here’s a helpful publication: How to Build a Raingarden from City of Portland.

Plant Diversity

There is a wide variety of plants in this small front yard.  Rain garden plants, edibles and interesting textural ornamentals make up our landscape design plant list.

Modern Landscape style is expressed with architectural slabs, steel risers and colorful plantings

Modern Front Yard Garden with Plant Diversity One Year After Install

There is an edible theme going on in this garden too. Two raised beds, plus fruit trees; one Fuyu persimmon, and two columnar apple trees.

Pottery softens the concrete patio area for Kenton front yard

To soften a large concrete area, without sacrificing usable space, we added a fun and eclectic arrangement of potted plants, including a dwarf Japanese Maple with great fall color.

The Hardscape Landscaping is Softened with Pots

We had a lot of fun with pots on the large patio.  I designed some of them – such as a dwarf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Fjellheim’) and a funky conifer (Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin’ Blue’). I call it funky because the foliage is fantastically textural, very blue and oddly its’ foliage grows in a variety of directions.  The homeowners designed others, including one with carnivorous plants! This was a true collaboration and it was fun to see which parts the homeowners wanted to take off and run with.

solar night lighting with architectural slab front walk in Kenton front yard

Solar lighting adds fun and safety. Also seen here is Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin’ Blue’ in a pot, which is especially valuable for winter structure.

Rounding out the plants are some fun evergreens for winter structure, including a shrubby Manzanita (Arctostaphylos bakeri ‘Louis Edmunds’), and a New Zealand shrub better known as a houseplant (Sophora prostrata ‘Little Baby’).

“Alana, we never would have thought of all of this without you! We are super happy with how it all looks! It’s been so fun to be outside when a neighbor walks by and compliments the yard. That’s the best. Thank you again for all your work and creativity with our plans.” Katie and Jeni in Kenton neighborhood Portland, Oregon.

Let’s transform your front yard with a collaborative design process that explores the potential of your existing landscape and home.   Contact us and let’s create together.