Archive for Dog and Cat Friendly Gardens

Coming Back to See Fully Grown Privacy Landscape of North Portland Back Yard

Lush plantings create back yard privacy in Concordia neighborhood of N Portland

Privacy Landscape Design includes finishing touches applied by design collaborators Ryan and Michael

North Portland Back Yard Gets Private, Colorful Plantings

My new clients, Michael and Ryan, moved to N Portland’s Concordia neighborhood from a farm in Pennsylvania.   They knew some horticulture science and had a lot of confidence coming into the project from both a design point of view and working with plants.

Their new home in the Concordia neighborhood was a 1910 bungalow.     My clients hired me because they had no privacy and have a difficult landscape to work with. They believe in working with a designer and were sure I would amaze them with my solutions.  It’s great when clients have high expectations.

My clients wish for a landscape design also included:

  • Privacy for the patio to include dining and using the new hot tub
  • Dog friendly areas and grass for their two dogs to play and poop on
  • Interesting and colorful plants with lots of texture
  • Integrate the existing patio into the new design
  • Work with the existing aspen trees and magnolia

Privacy Landscaping

North Portland planting day shows wisps of the clumping bamboo for privacy screening.

Planting day shows only wisps of clumping bamboo.

Privacy was a very big concern.  Behind the house we had 3 homes with second story windows that had a good view into the patio and kitchen.  The properties to each side also had views not advantageous to our private hot tub plans.  Living in the city does mean getting to know your neighbors but not that intimately. And while in the hot tub we want to see natural beauty not someone doing their dishes.

The back porch was very attractive and had room for two people to sit and lounge but was too narrow for four. We tried a design that expanded the deck to fit a 4 top table but it was right on top of where we wanted the hot tub to go so it and a few other concepts went into the round file.

The former owners had installed a concrete patio and while I am sure it made sense to them, these odd concrete pedestals made no sense to us.  They were 4′ long and about a foot tall and wasted so much valuable space for outdoor living.  Huh? I’d love to know what they had on these pedestals. Big concrete lions?

Like most new homeowners they had already spent plenty of time and money getting the interior just right so I would consider carefully how to use the assets we had.

Lush plantings create back yard privacy for hot tub in Concordia neighborhood of N Portland

Our privacy planting solution for the patio is already thick in just 2 years.

The Privacy Solution for the Patio and Hot Tub Room

We measured the sight angles together and discovered that 10’ tall evergreen plantings would block the views into the hot tub area and the proposed dining table corner of the patio. My design solution put our privacy plantings in right next to the patio not out at the back fence line.

Kitchen view and privacy – We also had Ryan stand in the kitchen while we mocked up the height at various locations for privacy plantings.  It’s lovely to work on site and get the facts of exactly how high our privacy solutions needed to be.  Virtual design has it’s merits but there is nothing like being on site to create the best fitting design.

My favorite clumping bamboo worked beautifully for the patio privacy solution.  Ryan and Michael loved the texture and lush greenery of the Fargesia robusta ‘Campbell’ which grows 10′ in full sun (in Portland) and 12′ to 15’ tall in shadier settings.

I use this plant often for privacy solutions in city back yards because it’s tall enough to give us privacy, but doesn’t turn the whole yard into a shade setting.  It is evergreen and so is ideal for hot tub privacy even in winter and my clients love the drama and tropical effect of the leaves and form in the garden.  My only caveat on clumping bamboo is the amount of water it takes for it to thrive.  I prefer it to be on its own irrigation zone for this reason.  It needs more water than your other plants do and it will not become drought tolerant.  To put it on the same zone with other plants means you will waste water by over watering your other plants.

North Portland backyard shows privacy problems before privacy landscaping.

Planting day photo shows privacy problems.

Existing Tree in the Perfect Spot

We  had an evergreen Magnolia virginiana tree but  because it looked wimpy my clients wanted it gone.  Here is the cool thing.  This is the only magnolia tree I know about that will be happy as a companion to the frequently watered bamboo.  Both plants want evenly moist soils and once this magnolia recovers from two years without proper watering it will get taller than the bamboo and screen out the rest of those windows….oh did I mention it grows really fast and has a very fragrant flower.  I was and am very excited about having this existing tree to work with. It was planted in the perfect place to provide year round privacy from a corner neighbors windows. All it needed was a few years of proper watering.  And the bamboo is fine with some shade so the Magnolia can grow up to be itself without goofing up our lovely scheme. This is a rare moment in my design life but one I am always looking for.

Evergreen Privacy Selection Issues

Stepping aside for a moment:  I have limited plant choices when a privacy solution calls for evergreen plant material. Most clients don’t want to give up the space that a hedge takes but more important….they don’t want to prune a hedge regularly which is what they need.  I had already placed one evergreen hedge plant, Rhamnus Alata Varigata Variegated Buckthorn, between the hot tub and the side yard neighbor and it will have to be sheared a few times a year to keep it nice and thick.  That is a lot of work so adding another hedge was out. Trees are too big and just the wrong solution for the center of a small city back yard.

Lush plantings with custom planter and moon gate add drama to back yard landscape design in N Portland

Moon gate with lights and planter designed and built by clients.

Working with the Existing Aspen Trees

Aspen Trees in small city yards is a bad idea and yet we had 4 existing mature aspen trees to work with. And hey there, Aspen are beautiful trees with white trunks, fluttering leaves and gold fall color.  Since some butterflies and native insects lay their eggs in the leaves they are desirable for that reason alone.   Too bad they can be evil and sucker over an entire landscape and then head over to your neighbors.  I never put them in a design ever.

Second Opinion-Can I trust these Aspen trees to behave?

We removed one of the four existing mature Aspen trees as it was not growing well.  The remaining trees were so beautiful, well placed and were providing summer privacy and habitat for pollinators and birds. There were no evil suckers, not even one and my clients loved them.  I was so torn about them so I sought professional advice from the head grower at Heritage Seeds who said since the aspen had not suckered yet there was a very good chance they would not ever.  He grows and sells a type of aspen that is now (last 15 years or so) being used in the Willamette Valley by braver(?) or more fool hardy designers than I am. It is a different Aspen than the ones I have avoided but he says no guarantees about suckering even with the new ones. And if I had 20 years experience with using Aspen that was positive I would feel differently.

Colorful back porch adds to privacy landscape design in n Portland backyard

Check out the fun vine grid made by my clients that dresses the down spout.

Careful Plant Selection Starts with Experienced Designer

You are hiring me to recommend plants that I know and trust.  As a landscape designer it’s easy to want to use an in vogue plant (that you have no experience with) in designs.  This is wrong for me and my practice and I don’t do it.    OK yes occasionally I will use a sort of new perennial or even a shrub if my clients want a more adventurous planting palette.  Even then I have seen it in other designers gardens or it comes from a grower I trust.  If a plant has a well deserved reputation as being destructive, it won’t be in any of my designs.

Experience counts and I have been around long enough to see what harm aspen can do especially for small city properties.  I would not hesitate to use the new ones from Heritage seedlings on large properties where we are doing nature reclamation.  In these settings they are not typically irrigated so grow slowly and are planted as a community with other native plantings that are a benefit to wildlife.

Portland residential landscape designer Carol Lindsay stands in back yard privacy design of North Portland

Carol Lindsay stands in Concordia neighborhood privacy landscape design going on year 2.

Finishing the Privacy Design for Concordia Back Yard

The Aspen do a good job of making summer privacy from the houses behind us but we still had holes.  We used evergreen magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’ to finalize our privacy plan.  Teddy Bear Magnolia has a cute name due to very fuzzy gold brown felted backsides to the dark green leaves.  This tree has a narrow silhouette, is evergreen with large white summer flowers.

Plantings to go with the Aspen Trees

We added some native plants including flashy Echinacea to provide for the Aspens visitors, Western Tiger Swallow Tail and Loquinns Admiral butterflies.  A native blue fescue grass is part of the planting plan here and it hosts a variety of butterflies and insects.  Ryan is experimenting with different native flower seeds to include Gillia capitata, California poppy and Lupine to expand the diversity of visiting pollinators.

The north facing Aspen got a very different planting mix.  It already had a large group of autumn fern around it which we kept.  I added 3 white flowering clethra shrubs, Summersweet or Clethra alnifolia   The clethra, has a strong enough root system to compete with the Aspen and attracts hummingbirds, and bees including bumble bees.  The fragrant white flowers in spring with the white bark of the aspen create a beautiful vignette. I also use it around the edges of rain gardens in Portland.  We used Japanese forest grass ‘All Gold’ to add color.  This soft grass is also very popular with their dogs who love to munch on the blades.

Path and Surface Materials for Back Yard Design

Colorful coralbells collection enhances the privacy landscape of this North Portland backyard.

Ryan’s collection of colorful coralbells.

Materials used:  New concrete was added to mask where the odd concrete pedestals were.  Path materials used were both crushed rock with steel edger, and cedar chips for paths without edger.  The lawn was replaced with a tall type fescue which takes less water than a traditional lawn.

Clients Add Their Design Expertise

I mentioned they brought a lot of confidence into the project and were strong collaborators.  After the contractors installed our design, a great looking landscape I will brag on us all……. Ryan and Michael went to work adding the curved arbor pergola called a moon gate that became the heart of the design, and a custom wood vine trellis to the back porch exterior.

Look at the way they added both the lighting and the fern baskets to the arch.  The two planters under the curved arch were designed and built by Michael from wood and he used fiberglass for the top frame of the planter. They continue to experiment with plantings.

Dog friendly landscaping was required of this North Portland backyard. Hakonechloa macra pictured here.

Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ being nibbled on by a 4 legged client Concordia neighborhood N. Portland

 

Planting Day

My clients found their own contractors and I worked with them to order the plants from my plant broker and again to physically place the plants and coach on planting some of the plants that needed special techniques.  They did a great job.

I was able to work with Brian to make any necessary plant substitutions.  Since Covid many plants are scarce so we had to swap a few out but mostly we found the plants we wanted. The design was installed in fall of 2020 and these photos are from summer of 2022.

Coneflowers bring color in client made planters in North Portland backyard.

Vibrant coneflower (Echinacea) sizzles with color in privacy landscape design for small city back yard

Testimonial

Ryan gave me this comment to use from our design process, “We loved our experience and would recommended you to all our friends! We are very excited to see our finished project, and will surely enjoy it for years to come.”
~Ryan N. of Portland

If you are looking for residential privacy landscaping in Portland, contact us for more information.

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.

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.

 

 

Protecting Plants from Dogs

Protecting Plants from Dogs in Portland Landscapes

NE Portland boxer dog laying in Zinnia flower bed

Some dogs like to sit outside and enjoy the flowers. But others like to eat, dig or otherwise destroy plants. Here are some tips how to have happy plants and happy dogs.

Carol had the opportunity to be interviewed by Houzz about Protecting Your Pet From Your Yard and Your Yard from your Pet.  There are more tidbits and photos in this blog. But first, a story…

Some clients of mine had two yellow lab puppies. I say puppies because they were a year old and since they are Labs (and don’t mature in their sweet heads until they are 3 years old), I call them puppies.

My clients purchased their plants for the backyard design and planted over the weekend. Monday evening, when they came home, every plant was neatly popped up out of the ground and laying in the hot summer sun. They re-purchased all of their plants and re-planted the next weekend with their dogs temporarily banished to the garage. Many dogs seem to think they are helping in this way…giving their humans something to do when they get home from work. We love dogs, we even pardon dogs who trashed $1,000 worth of plants. Be warned.  The first few months of your new landscape means you need to supervise your dogs interaction with the new plantings.  You may need temporary fences that will keep your dog away from your new plants until they are big enough to defend themselves. If your pups don’t get to have the experience of tearing up plants then when they are older your odds are much better your dogs won’t bother them.

Temporary Fencing Ideas for Dogs

For some dogs, all we need to do is provide some guidance – in the form of a temporary fence. These types of fences are inexpensive, usually metal, and stake into the ground at short intervals. Now, if a dog (or chickens, as in the picture below!) really needed to get on the other side of that fence, it probably could. But it works most of the time – a great balance between cost and effectiveness. The purpose of this fence is to allow the plants to bulk up so that they do not get trampled or dug out. I use this solution all the time, and change the recommended amount of time based on the pup. For well-behaved, small to medium-sized dogs, I might only recommend to keep it up for a few months. For the labs in the story above, it might be three years!

temporary chicken fence on gravel path with colorful flower bed

Temporary fence keeps chickens out of planting beds. The same can be used for dogs.

Some clients have added a temporary fence because the fence wars were so bad.  The neighbor dog was alone a lot and he was crazed.  He was a 60 lb dog and would throw himself at the fence.  I found it frightening and no one wants to be the straw that would cause someone to euthanize their dog out of frustration so my clients literally built a 2nd fence about 4′ off their fence line.  It made a huge difference but obviously is not an ideal situation.

Perimeter Patrol along the Fence

For some, running the perimeter of the yard is a benign behavior, perhaps to get the zoomies out or exchange a sniff with the friendly neighbor dog.  In those cases, I will incorporate it into the design by creating a space along the fence where the dogs can sniff and run back and forth without ruining your plants.  I call that area the dog perimeter area or the dog highway.  Let them have 24″ or so next to the fence and cover it in sturdy cedar chips. Then make the planting bed several feet away from the fence. After a few years, the plants will grow up and you will not even see the perimeter path.

dog friendly path and plantings near Portland Oregon

Can you see the cedar chip path along the fence line? This pup likes to run the perimeter, so instead of planting the edge we just allowed it to be a path. After a few years the foreground plants grow in, and you can barely see the dog path. Win-win!

I once had clients whose dog passed toys back and forth to the neighbor dog through the fence. When time came to replace the fence, the clients will keep Charlie and Maggie in mind to continue the adorable exchange.

Dog Run Reinvented

A dog run is a permanent structure or area that is meant for everyday use. These are absolutely great for the quick and frequent bathroom breaks, especially if the alternative is a muddy mess. Our favorite material for covering the ground in dog runs is big playground cedar chips like NW Play Fiber or Rexius Forest Products Fiber x. It lasts for years, masks smells, is easy on dog feet and backs, and is a natural material. Alternatives for the Portland climate include artificial turf (may need to be sprayed down in the summer due to urine odor), crushed rock and pavers or flagstone with 4″ spacing.

Fencing provides potty area for dogs that separate from the garden protecting plants from dogs

This permanent fence allows the dog to have a quick access to a daily bathroom spot. When the homeowners are outside, they open the gate and the dog explores under supervision.

happy dog in cedar chip play area in Portland OregonThe cost of a dog run is higher than the other options I mentioned above, but your dog can truly be unsupervised without worry. When someone is outside, or at least home to keep an eye out, the dog can explore other parts of the yard. Here are a lot of great ideas for dog runs – any of these can have cedar chip floor instead of the artificial turf the article is suggesting.

Use the Right Plants

Urine, especially from boy dogs, can be the most common cause of plant death. Many city clients don’t expect their backyard to be the primary potty for their dogs.  These dogs go for daily walks and have play dates with other dogs at a local park year round.  It’s called dedication.  Most plants can handle a little urine but if a plant near the back door is getting “watered” regularly by your dog it’s not going to survive.  Consider how many quarts of urine your dog will deliver to one spot in your grass.  If you have a mastiff, give up and go with synthetic lawn that has an irrigation system to water the smell away.  My client with two Rhodesian Ridgebacks opted for a cedar chip play yard for her dogs rather than a muddy patchwork lawn.

Dog friendly plants Sword Fern and Hardy Geranium are protected from dogs in a planter

Sword fern (polystichum munitum and Hardy geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) are perfect for active dogs in a dog friendly landscape.

Multiple Tricks to Protect Plants From Dogs

Regardless of how fastidious you are about walking your dog, it’s good to employ some tricks in every dog friendly backyard to have your best chance at a successful garden.  When developing the planting plan for a dog-conscious design, tough plants are necessary. Native Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum)Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica), and Hardy Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) are my easy top 3 plants for serious doggy yards. Placement in the design matters – a swath of tough Hardy Geranium in front of a Hydrangea, for example, works well for many dogs. Utilizing planters and raised beds can help too, especially for female dogs or shorter male dogs.

Be Careful with Ornamental Grass

White poodle playing in ornamental grass in garden design Portland Oregon

My pup, Roxanne, loves to roll in the grass (Carex marowii ‘Ice Dance’) and luckily does not eat it.

Be aware that if you want ornamental grasses in your yard, some dogs will eat them and promptly barf all over your rugs after eating the grass. It’s apparently really fun for dogs and cats to eat grass and then come in and barf. Luckily, Roxanne, pictured here in the Carex, does not actually eat the plant. She loves to rub her face in it and this plant, Carex marrowii ‘Ice Dance’ is tough enough to withstand her 20 lbs. of glory. Now a bigger dog, or two, you might need to provide the fencing we were talking about earlier.

So there you have it – many tips and tricks we use to design landscapes that protect your plants from your dog….with dogs happiness in mind too. For more information check out the many articles I linked here, or better yet, have a designer create a plan precisely for your situation. Contact us today!

 

 

Tips for Privacy Landscape Design In NE Portland

Happy Landscape Creating Privacy in Kerns Neighborhood

I love to create privacy landscape design solutions that integrate solutions to all the issues.  Next let me say I love this property because it’s tricky and the design is going to be all about happy outdoor living in the city. Creating a privacy landscape design for small city properties needs an experienced landscape designer to create an integrated solution.

I approach creating our design by creating a wonderful view that just happens to soften a bad view and create privacy. Designing an apartment building sized hedge or huge tree would ruin this small city back yard  for anything else.

Small City Backyard Needs More than Privacy

Designed landscaping that includes existing patio and creates privacy in Kerns neighborhood.

Our design keeps the existing concrete patio, integrates the studio and gets our shade tree started. Installation with D & J Landscape Contractors, Donna Burdick and her crew.

My clients Chris and Veronica have a small city backyard with a ginormous apartment building at their back property line.  They wanted bird friendly plants, lots of edibles, to get rid of the lawn, integrate the studio cottage and most important, create privacy from the apartment building windows.  They also wanted a place for a Catio so their indoor only cats could enjoy being outside without harming birds.

Hiding an Apartment BuildingKerns property needing privacy and wanting landscaping designed for birds.

BEFORE: apartment building looms.The apartment building near the back property line creates both privacy issues (people looking down into the back yard) and the need for blocking the view of the neglected building’s exterior – it’s very unattractive. I have a more horrible photo below so you can get a better view of very ugly.

We didn’t have enough yard for the more typical ideas on hiding such a large building.  A three story high evergreen hedge is not practical for a variety of reasons: takes too long to grow, would require expensive professional pruning often and would be rude to the people living in the apartments by cutting off all their light.  Nor did I want to use up all our square footage with a layered planting of trees.  (Which would have been rude to the trees as there isn’t enough room.)  So if we can’t hide it what can we do?

Reduce the Visual Power of the Building

First I want to decide where we will be and what we are doing when we want privacy the most.  My clients wanted  privacy for dining outdoors with family and friends, and then while puttering about with the edible plantings (Veronica is a gardener). We let blocking the apartment building from our second story window view go – it got an interior window treatment because landscape solutions for the 2nd story would take away too many choices.

Adding interesting paths and plantings will help diminish the visual power of the wall.   Expanding our existing patio into the new garden also adds more weight to the landscape.

Working with Existing Concrete Patio

Finding where in the Kerns property privacy was needed with landscape design.

Hydropressed concrete pavers extend the patio into the garden and the garden into the patio.

There were a lot of assets to work with; for example the existing concrete patio was kept (which saved sooo much money).

We used hydropressed concrete slab pavers to extend the patio into the garden and make it big enough for the end chairs of the large table.   I pulled the patio into the garden and garden into the patio by adding about ten 24″ x 24″ concrete pavers.  It did the trick!  Donna Burdick placed the pavers as designed and then we all added the last three pavers by consensus design.  [Ok the crew placed them, (they weigh about 60lbs each) and we stood around and had them try a few different configurations until we were all happy.]

Free Oversized Teak Table

Usually I don’t design around a specific piece of furniture because it is almost always short sighted but this time it worked well for us. The existing patio had to be bigger to fit their very large teak outdoor table and the new catio took up a chunk of space too.  They got the table for a very good price, (used and free), so they could have ten friends over for dining in the summer and I wanted to be sure the chairs on the end would be comfortable to use.  We moved the table and large chairs into different configurations on our design day to get it just right.

The Right Tree for Privacy in Kerns Landscape Design

Finding the perfect tree for privacy and gardening in Kerns project.

After photo:  The shed is painted to match the new studio and the existing patio is extended into the garden.  Foreground plant is a compact Strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’.

Veronica and Chris wanted a tree that would break up that bad view and also block people in the apartment building from seeing into the kitchen and outdoor dining area.  Sure they wanted some shade too but also enough sun to grow edibles and while this seems contradictory… by using a semi dwarf Japanese elm tree we will get light shade.  Lower light edibles like currents and blueberries will do well

The tree was purchased already limbed up to allow sunlight in under the tree. We also get filtered sunlight through the smaller leaves of this tree.  (and yes I did agonize a bit over the tree selection and the landscape contractor) Donna Burdick spent a lot of time to find me the perfect tree in a big enough size. Our special tree is called Zelkova serratta ‘ City Sprite’, a Japanese elm.

Including privacy for backyard patio in Kerns neighborhood landscape design.

Carol Lindsay trying to interest kitty in her car keys. Kitty was unimpressed. Client Veronica to left and in foreground is the salvaged large teak table in NE Portland backyard.

Native Plants Help Integrate the ADU into the Landscape

The adu/studio needed plantings that would connect it with the backyard. I wanted the foundation area above the retaining wall planted with lots of easy care native sword ferns and flowering fringe cup, a native perennial, Tellima grandiflora beloved by bumble bees.  Once the plants are mature we won’t see the block wall.

Catio Creates Safe Haven for Birds and Indoor Cats

The new Catio creates a safe outdoor room for my clients indoor cats. The cats access their new sun bathing room from the basement window and can express how they feel about birds without harm.

Existing Japanese Snowbell Tree Helps with Privacy Landscape Design

Kerns property in need of privacy landscape design from next door apartment building.

BEFORE: this is the ghoulish view of the apartments exterior wall from our 2nd story.  A small lawn and  a few plants were not powerful enough to gain our attention.

The existing Japanese Snowbell on the left was a little damaged but a jewel in the rough that Chris and Veronica loved.  I was excited we had it to work with. With proper pruning, (provided by Anne Taylor of Living Elements), it will become a master piece and help soften more of the wall.  Using an established tree shaves years off the time it will take to soften the view of the apartment building with a new tree.

Vine Structure Visually Softens Wall

New and existing plantings used for privacy and to cover up large next door building in Kerns.

The interesting paths and plantings diminish the power of the apartment wall…..when we are inside the backyard. Note the small rain garden with boulders off the back path. And existing trellis with vine growing on it.

Here is one more way to diminish the lower view of the apartment building.  We can’t grow anything right against the wall as it is not our property but we can distract the eye. We will add a 2nd vine and a sturdy structure/trellis.  These structures will be placed inside my clients property (so several feet off the apartment wall).  The existing trellis, built by Chris, is planted with an evergreen vine called Akebia.  This vine is an evil scourge in the southern united states but lovely and useful here in the Pacific Northwest. Akebia vine needs a strong growing structure, the tiny sheet of trellis pictured on the right is temporary and would never support our vine properly.

Know What Works from Where

A reminder, from our view out the 2nd story bedroom these two vine covered structures won’t help but while we are down in the garden they make a significant difference.

In our photo the privacy landscape design is freshly installed and already the paths and plantings diminish the power of the apartment wall.

Client Review

“We liked Carol’s approach. She took the time to understand what we each wanted and helped us make good choices.  I was surprised at how much the new garden helps me not notice the apartment building in the summer and fall.  I expected that the design would center on hiding the ginormous wall and could only hope that somehow I could have all the other features I wanted too. 

We all wanted an evergreen tree for our screen tree for a year round block of the apartment building wall but the trees that would work were either going to get so huge it would spoil the light or had to be purchased so small Chris and I just could not face planting a tree that was only 24″ tall.  This in reference to the Manzanita Carol suggested as an evergreen tree option.  The elm ‘City Sprite’ once planted on the berm is already at 15 feet tall one year out from planting day.  It works and should continue to create shade and soften the view of the apartment building better every year.

A year after the landscape design and the clients love the privacy and outdoor living in Kerns.

Carol Lindsay and her client Veronica enjoying the garden about a year after the installation. Erysimum (wallflower), blueberry shrub and daylilly are in the foreground with Zelkova s. ‘City Sprite’, the semi dwarf Japanese elm to the right. Far left is new Catio. Photo by Alana Chau

The design process was perfect for us and we appreciated digging into our property’s assets by measuring and drafting the existing backyard layout and answering the preferences survey.  Also her referral to D & J Landscape Contractors, Donna Burdick was a gift.  She told us she wanted us to have her favorite landscape contractor so she would not have to worry.  No worries, and the installation was mostly fun, although it was pretty dusty since it was installed in summer, but every day we could see our new back yard heaven emerging. 

The contractor was on board to help us save money without being cheap.  There are a lot of little touches in the landscape from Donna Burdick which were not on the drawing but had been discussed with Carol so they were a great team – we even have a small rain garden.

This was a good experience and we are enjoying the results every day.”  Ver0nica and Chris N.E. Portland

For more information on how you can include privacy in your yard, contact us with your landscaping needs.