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Entry Garden Make Over in North Tabor Neighborhood

Instant Gratification for Cottage-Style Front Garden Design

Front yard boasts colorful naturalistic plantings with bird friendly water feature

Front garden plant bonanza! Foxglove (Digitalis) and lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’) surround a peaceful water feature on a busy street in Portland.

Marian recently moved into her Southeast Portland home and knew how much love and care the previous owner took in the garden. The backyard is beautiful and oversized for the neighborhood but the front yard just looked tired and dull. She hired me to do a complete planting design overhaul.

Hardscape Landscaping makes a great improvement in this North Tabor front entry

Sometimes a path just needs a refresh – in this case the homeowner removed the square pavers, refined the shape, then topped it up with new stone.

Landscape Design To Installation Timeline

Getting from design day to finished garden can take anywhere from 1 month to several years! It depends on the size of the project, the skill of the people doing the work and the budget. This is a great example of a quick timeline for a landscape project. I collaborated with Marian in April to turn her goal (“I want to smile when I walk up the driveway”) into a full garden design and planting plan.

In about a month, Marian DIY’d the entire plan- ripping out plants and the old path, and installing a new path, adding a fountain and putting her new plants in their places.  As she will say, she met all of the neighbors finally because she was out front so much. Check out the before photo!

Before photo shows a path that subtracts beauty from a landscape

BEFORE: the front garden was always well loved, but the planting was tired and dull and the path was not an asset.

Blooms Backed by Evergreens

Even a cottage-style garden needs to have winter structure in order to work. The design’s winter structure includes Carex (Grass), Erysimum (Wallflower), and Calluna (Heather). There are also a few larger structural plants that will take time to make an impact, including Abies procera ‘Glauca Prostrata’ (Dwarf Noble Fir) and Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star Jasmine vine)

 

Water feature bowl with wildflowers in bloom in Portland Oregon front yard

Water fountain with Foxglove (Digitalis). The design incorporates instant gratification plants for the first year to look good while some of the more structured plants grow in. This can be achieved in many ways including annuals, wildflowers and bulbs.

Instant Gratification Gardening in Portland

Most gardens take 2-3 years to fill in. You’ve seen photos on this blog or perhaps watched a neighbors yard take a few years to really grow in. For many people this is part of the joy and seeing fresh mulch without weeds is a beautiful thing. But, if you are the sort that wants the garden to look fantastic in year one, I can share a few tricks.

  1. Hardscape landscaping matters so pay attention to the paths and hardscape. Even the most beautiful plants can’t make up for a path that doesn’t work.  All we did was change the line of the path to a simple clean curve and ditch the existing paver materials.  The client installed the new path line without a single wobble and now her path sets off her new plants beautifully.
  2. Add lots of bulbs, biennials and annuals: These are easy to buy in bulk or even seed. They add that wow factor that gives the feeling that you’ve really transformed the space. This is the main trick used in this garden.
  3. Plant densely:  yes, it costs more to buy twice as many plants and yes, you will have to remove some plants after 5 years. But for the most part, their foliage will knit together quickly and look nice and lush years earlier.  Take care that your long term trees and shrubs are properly spaced and planted in their long term location. Do the fun overplanting with bi-annuals, trust worthy perennials, bulbs and annuals too.
  4. Buy big: this one is obvious. Focal point plants or front and center beds that will make the most visual impact and are the best places to splurge. Get a bigger size (aka older plant) to start out with and plant it correctly.  This is especially true for trees and it’s as important with boulders and garden art because dinky doesn’t do it.
Echinacea, (Coneflower) Salvia, and Erysimum (Wallflower) provide spring through midsummer color in this Portland front entry garden design

Echinacea provides a long season of beautiful blooms in the growing season but dies back in the winter. The wallflower (Erysimum) in the background and carex grass in the foreground will provide evergreen structure.

Client Testimonial:

I truly couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out. It’s even better than I imagined…”  Marian in North Tabor Neighborhood of Portland Oregon

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Are you ready to transform your garden and smile every time you come up the driveway? Contact us today to get started.

Front Yard Landscape Designs in NE Portland

Four Portland Front Yards Get Landscape Makeover

Pathways are an opportunity to connect your house to the land.

Before front yard landscape redesign.

BEFORE: the front yard detracts from the charming Irvington neighborhood bungalow.

Front yard landscape make over.

AFTER: adding a large concrete landing matches the proportions and value of the home.

Front yard landscape design in Portland neighborhoods.

Front yard plants are filling in the new design. (2nd year) See Back Yard Design Story

These clients in the Irvington neighborhood had a pretty dinky underwhelming entry path from the sidewalk that did nothing for their home.  The 2 huge street trees towering over their home meant the lawn under the trees would never be attractive and besides these clients were retired and the mower needed to be banished.

A new stone landing was installed along with a stone veneer on the porch steps and porch floor.   The humpy lawn was removed, gentle grading commenced to include adding boulders and new NW Natural Style plantings.   Now the entry of this Irvington home sparkles.  The back yard is designed for outdoor living and has a large patio, outdoor dining room and play area for grandkids.  Installed by D and J Landscape Contractors.

Before landscape design redid the front yard.

BEFORE:  This Grant Park neighborhood house didn’t have the right path.

Portland landscape design with new entry path and colorful plantings at the front porch.

The new path is all 90 degree angles and much wider. See more of this project

A New Entry Path Leads the Design for this Historic Georgian Home

Pennisetum alocuroides 'Little Bunny' a dwarf fountain grass shows its late summer blooms in a Portland front yard

Colorful plants in Grant Park includes Little Bunny Fountain Grass

This landscape re-design is an example where changing the entry walk made a dramatic difference to the curb appeal of this historic Georgian style home.  This house (in Grant Park of NE Portland) seemed to loom over its land.  My clients wanted the landscape design to complement their home. Now the new entry walk (and driveway) has the right proportions and fits with the strong architectural style of the home.   The landscape design puts the focus back on the marvelous front porch.

Front yard landscape design with water feature.

Rain Garden in St Johns – Ranch House

 

Rain Gardens in St Johns

Before front yard landscape redesign.

Before: No front walk leaves ranch house cut off from the neighborhood.

This modern ranch needed a front walk.  My clients were done with walking up the narrow driveway.  The new front walk from the public sidewalk also improved access from the new wider driveway. Gardeners paths integrate this landscape beautifully instead of lawn.  A rain garden works as an accent to the overall NW Natural Style landscape and handles water from a disconnected downspout.  We carefully kept the old and lovely vine maple for privacy to the living room window, a mature Fatsia japonica, and several tree like rhododendrons.  Some of the new plants in this design are:

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’

Erica Carnea-Spring flowering heather

Brunnera m. ‘Jack Frost’-azure blue flowering groundcover with silver and green leaves

Spirea japonica-low maintenance easy care summer flowering shrub

Pinus mugo ‘Sherwoods Compact’ a specialty dwarf pine

This design was installed by D and J Landscape Contracting 

 

Rain Garden Becomes the Focal Point

Portland front yard landscape design with rain garden

When my client Amy and I work together I take her design ideas and make them work. This is our 3rd project together in St. Johns Portland, Oregon.

Landscape design for Portland front yard.

This modern craftsmen style home in St Johns belongs to a serious DIY client of many years.  She wanted a working rain garden as the focal point of her front landscape and no lawn.

We worked together on a Landscape Design in a Day to refine her front yard design, rain garden design and add paths and plantings.  She acted as her own general contractor and managed the installation.  The crew she hired was inexperienced but she was able to guide them.  While working with them was quite a bit more work than she expected, she prevailed and the installation finished well with attractive boulder and stone placement.  The rain garden handles most of the rain off her front roof.  We also made a wide spot in the path for her neighbors to get out of their car into her path.  Like many city properties there wasn’t much room between houses. The photo shows her freshly installed plantings fall of 2020.

Some of the key plants for the rain garden are Gold Sweet Flag – Acorus gramiense ‘Ogon’,  Inkberry – Ilex glabra ‘Shamrock’ and Juncus ‘ Blue Arrows’ – a cultivated variety of a native rush.

Privacy Landscape Design and Modern Curb Appeal in Kenton Neighborhood

Portland neighborhood front yard landscape design.

Kenton neighborhood small front entry needs to gather guests from the sidewalk, the driveway and provide a small seating area for homeowners.

Portland modern front yard landscape design.

This very modern landscape design provides access to the house from both driveway and sidewalk and creates a semi private spot to sit.

This simple modern landscape design gave this Kenton neighborhood home much more than curb appeal.  There is a hidden seating area in addition to easy access from the driveway and the public sidewalk. Our clients didn’t need a lot of privacy, but enough to avoid accidental eye contact from walkers by.  Clients acted as general contractor and used M and J Landscape from Salem for the install.  Alana Chau designed this landscape and placed plants.  See more of this project.

 

 

Portland Landscape Designers Visit front yards in NE Portland

NE Portland Oregon client uses drought tolerant plants.Portland Landscape Designers Visit Front Yards in NE Portland

We enjoy visiting our installed landscape designs and today we are in North and NE Portland.  We will see installed front yard landscape designs and gardens in St. Johns,  Rose City Park and Cully neighborhoods in Portland Oregon.

Portland Oregon residential landscape in Portland St Johns neighborhood.

Alana Chau at one of our Landscape Designs in St Johns Neighborhood

We started near the St Johns Bridge to see a corner property landscape design.  Our client David has been working on his landscape for about 4 years now and this espalier has matured under his careful tending.  It’s on the sunny south side and is perfect for fruit trees.  The espaliered apples also act as a buffer from the public sidewalk.

Modern Landscape Design in Kenton has Drought Tolerant Plants

Three years ago this client installed her modern hardscape landscaping design and planting plan.  The focus was low water  plantings for a sunny west side front yard.   The main plantings in this modern landscape design are Arizona blue cypress, California lilac, heather, yucca, euphorbia and various succulents to include lots of hens and chicks.  We also jazzed up the entry of the house so be sure to see the before photos.  Our client was very talented….too.

Portland Oregon residential landscape design in St Johns neighborhod.

Drought tolerant plantings of Yucca, Arctostaphylos and heather show off their colors in this St Johns modern landscape design

See our previous blog about curb appeal for the story of the hardscape landscaping and more photos.Portland Oregon residential landscape design Kenton neighborhood.

Kenton Neighborhood Home has Uber Modern Landscape Design

Alana Chau visiting her hardscape landscaping design in Kenton neighborhood of Portland

 

Next we visited a fairly newly installed front yard and got to see the puppy who was brand new on the day of the on site Landscape Design in A Day.  On the design day (where all the collaborative magic occurs) Ruby, (the puppy) was just settling in from adoption so Alana got in on the new puppy energy.  Ruby is now 7 months old but still has her soft puppy fur.

Portland Oregon residential landscape modern design with clients puppy.

Ruby our Kenton Landscape Design Clients puppy

Besides petting the puppy, we  loved the installation of the design, especially the front walk  and the modern touch using steel for the step.  This design (by Alana Chau and her clients) gets our clients many compliments on their modern front entry garden and outdoor living area. Read more…

Irvington Landscape Design Clients Lose Japanese Maple

Portland Oregon residential landscape design with Irvington neighborhood client.

Alana Chau visits maple that has the dreaded verticillium wilt in Irvington neighborhood.

Portland Oregon residential landscape design in Irvington neighborhood.

Plantings w brilliant color grace this Irvington back landscape design.

Visiting the Irvington neighborhood we came to mourn the passing of a special Japanese maple from dreaded verticillium wilt.  This backyard courtyard style landscape is about 3 years old and the after photos are the most popular photos on my web site.  The clients are leaning toward a dogwood which is resistant to verticillium wilt.  I also suggested Crape Myrtle such as ‘Arapaho’ or ‘Dynamite’or  ‘Natchez’.  For Manzanita I suggested a small tree form that stays fairly narrow, such as ‘St. Helena’, ‘Monica’ or ‘Sentinel’ This back yard was designed for outdoor living and privacy and had many assets on the property prior to the design.  Read more……

 

 

 

Portland Oregon residential landscape design in Cully neighborhood.

Italian cypress and California lilac make structure for this sizzling hot south side landscape design.

Cully Neighborhood Front Yard Transformation

Here is a quick drive by of a complete re-design of a Cully neighborhood ranch style home and landscape.  The transformation of the front entry is dramatic.  On this day we especially wanted to see the south side of the front yard.  It’s the first year the California lilac was big enough to show off all those pollinator friendly blue flowers and here it is making a good showing.  To see the entire front yard transformation, check out our blog.

Portland Oregon residential landscape design with front yard rain garden.

Freshly installed front yard rain garden and stone paths integrate the front yard and entry walk.

Rain Garden Takes Focal Point in St. Johns Front Yard Landscape Design

This client and I have worked together many times over the years.  She typically DIYs the entire project.  This time, she acted as her own general to install this landscape and had many adventures but the results as usual are quite lovely and satisfying.  Best of all, her rain garden handles most of her roof water just as she had planned.  She is located in St. Johns and the landscape here is newly installed.   Some of her plants are Ilex glabra ‘Compacta’, Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’, and various Juncus, a native ornamental grass.  The photo was supplied by the client.

 

Do you have a city front yard that needs a collaborative and creative design?  Contact us, we would love to talk with you.

Hummingbird Candy-Gardening for Birds

Gardening for Birds Makes Year-Round Entertainment

12 Portland Plants to feed Hummingbirds

Did you know Hummingbirds stay in Portland over the winter? You can attract these beautiful creatures to your yard, and provide much needed nectar, with a variety of plants. Here is a round up of plants we call “Hummingbird Candy” for every month of the year. If you’d like help integrating these plants into a Garden Design, contact us. Or just add one or two in a pot on the porch!

(Note: plants bloom at different times each year depending on the weather. The plant selection above is typical in Portland.)

Happy Bloomers for Early in the Year

Portland gardening for birds.

January: Oregon Grape

Portland gardening for birds

February: Witch Hazel

Portland gardening for birds.

March: Flowering Currant

January – Oregon Grape, Mahonia sp., blooms winter through spring, depending on the type. I enjoy Xera’s description of Mahonia x media ‘Charity’. Pair this Mahonia with other natives such as Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea, and a dwarf cultivar of our Western Red Cedar, like Thuja plicata ‘Excelsa’.

February – Witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’, is a winter must have. See the blog post Winter Garden Plants the Sizzle for some ideas where to view these beautiful shrubs in full size. This is one of those plants that improves with age.

March – Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum, is a beacon of joy in Portland’s dreary season. The bold pink of this bloom is just so happy! Ribes is one of the easiest Portland native plants to grow. For more easy natives, see Native Plants.

Usher in the Spring with these Reliable Plants

Portland gardening for birds.

April: California Lilac

May: Cape Fuchsia

June: Penstemon

April – California Lilac, Ceanothus sp., is great for Hummingbirds as well as Bees. Pair the small dark-green leaves of Ceanothus impressus ‘Dark Star’ with the strappy light-green foliage of Hakone Grass, Hakonechloa macra. Of course, you’ll need to water that Hakone Grass with drip irrigation until it’s established.

May – Cape Fuchsia, Phygellus sp., is a plant we like so much it has it’s very own blog post: Colorful Cape Fuchsia. 

June – Beard Tongue, Penstemon sp. is a wonderful bloomer for drought-tolerant landscaping. Many Penstemon’s are native to the west coast and all attract hummingbirds.

Enjoy the Lazy Days of Summer with Beautiful Blooms

July: Hosta

Portland gardening for birds

August: Crocosmia

Portland gardening for birds.

September: Salvia

July – Hosta cultivars are an often overlooked hummingbird magnet for shade. See A Pollinator Garden Paradise

August – Crocosmia blooms all summer long, ending around August in my Portland garden. This is often the first plant people think of when they want to attract hummingbirds. Check out some impressive captures in Portland on this instagram account.

September – Anise Sage, Salvia guaranitica, is a favorite of a recent client design and install, see Laurelhurst Neighborhood Backyard.

Keep the Hummingbird Entertainment Going through Fall

Portland gardening for birds.

October: Hardy Fuchsia

Portland gardening for birds.

November: California Fuchsia

December: Yuletide Camellia

October – Hardy Fuchsia, Fuchsia magellanica and hybrids bloom from summer into fall, depending on the type. Portland Nursery always has a nice selection.

November – California Fuchsia, Epilobium sp., is less widely known as others on this list. It blooms the entire fall season, later than most perennials. Pair it with ornamental grasses, which look fabulous at the same time. I might suggest an evergreen sedum or other evergreen groundcover in front of this plant as it gets pretty ugly after the first hard freeze of winter.

December – Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ and other Camellia’s fill a very important season for hummingbird plants. Some hummingbirds leave for the winter but our native Anna’s Hummingbirds stick it out through the cold and wet. Consider planting a winter-blooming Camellia for these pretty creatures. For more fun winter interest, see Cheery Winter Landscape.

If you are a bird lover who wants more wildlife in their garden, contact us to make an appointment.

Creating Privacy with Plants for Small N.E. Portland City Landscapes

Privacy landscape design for NE Portland city home makes front yard dining work beautifully

The lush beauty of clumping bamboo creates privacy for a front yard dining patio in SE Portland.

Privacy Designs for Small City Landscapes

I like to use clumping bamboo for my small city properties to achieve privacy and to screen out unattractive views.  Here are 3 small city landscapes that make good use of clumping bamboo.

Private Entry Garden in Busy Hawthorne Neighborhood

These clients created a private entry garden on a very busy street. They used a clumping bamboo with a strongly arching, almost weeping structure called Fargesia sp.’ Rufa’.  The need for a feeling of an oasis around the home in their friendly neighborhood outweighed the need for security. The front gate discourages uninvited visitors. Neighbors cannot see into the front yard and the clients cannot see the sidewalk or the cars.

From inside the home they look out their windows to see curtains of green and it is very restful.  The back yard is so small that they tend to do most of their outdoor dining and entertaining in the front yard where the privacy is perfect for intimate gatherings.

NE Portland Home gets Kitchen Window Privacy

backyard privacy landscape design in NE Portland with clumping bambooEveryone spends lots of time at the kitchen sink.  My NE Portland clients had their kitchen window lined up perfectly with the neighbor’s kitchen window.  The lots in this neighborhood are small, 5,00 square feet and less.  This tiny city back yard needed privacy and needed it fast.

We wanted our privacy screen to be at most 10’ tall with a very upright growth habit to preserve space.  In a yard this small we needed every useable inch!  We used the clumping bamboo named Fargesia robusta ‘Campbell’ again and if we had used a weeping form like the ‘Rufa’ that would have been a mistake for obvious reasons. The client and her brother are very talented and installed everything including the new concrete patio.

Privacy for Irvington Back Yard with Clumping Bamboo

These clients in Irvington neighborhood wanted privacy and also wanted to screen out the house and roof of the large house next door.  The home office also had a large window looking out onto the 10’ wide side yard and into a view dominated by the neighbors overly large roof.

Clumping Bamboo in tall wood planters creates privacy landscape fast for NE Portland home.I want solutions that work, not solutions that make work.

They specified screening that was going to be 15’ tall and evergreen.  They also wanted low maintenance.  It was on the north side and even if we wanted arborvitae, I was concerned we would not have enough light for them to thrive and maintaining them at 15’ was going to take a long time and then require professional pruning as well.  There were lots of plants people typically use for this situation and they are all going to be high maintenance and potentially trespass onto their neighbors air space and light.

Backyard landscape gets a privacy boost with planters and clumping bamboo in N.E. Portland

Fargesia ‘Campbell’ clumping bamboo in Irvington neighborhood creates privacy.

This was a perfect place for clumping bamboo.  To get the plants at the 15’ mark we had custom planters that were 30” above the grade built.  This would give our plants a boost so they won’t have to wait as long for the screening.

Caveats:  The plants will make some leaf debris year-round but especially in the spring. The plants will require regular irrigation forever.  They are not drought tolerant.  And even with a few minuses, let me tell you, this is a lot less work than other options for a 15′ screen.

Clumping bamboo, in particular Campbell’s Variety, is an excellent choice for small city back yard and privacy solutions. For an even taller clumping variety consider Fargesia robusta ‘Green Screen’.  It is more likely to top out above 15’ tall.  Clumping bamboo do not need to be contained in a planter.  In this case, the planter is there to boost height and to have other plants in it to complement the clumping bamboo.

For more information about clumping bamboo see Bamboo Garden web site.

Looking for attractive and thoughtful solutions for privacy in your small city property?  We love tricky city backyards! Contact us.