Archive for Garden Tips

Portland Landcape Designer Shares Her Favorite Paths & Patios

Best Hardscape Landscaping Materials for Portland Backyards

Crushed rock landscaping material for paths & friendly chickens!

NE Portland backyard path with crushed rock and pet chickens.

Here are some of my favorite backyard paths and patios from landscape designs here in Portland!

Paths are a key element in any landscape design.  How we walk and move in a landscape is what shapes the design.  Selecting the best materials for these surfaces for function and style, makes the design come alive.

Crushed Rock is a Versatile Surface

Crushed rock fits modern and naturalistic landscape styles and is significantly more affordable than poured concrete or pavers.

It lends a soft and natural look to a NW Natural backyard landscape.  However crushed rock when crisply defined by steel edging is perfect for a modern or minimalist landscape too.

Water permeable crushed rock surfaces for your paths will allow water to find its way down into the earth instead of running off into the street and sewer.

Crushed rock is also the perfect material for a natural style garden.

Crushed rock in Woodlawn Neighborhood fits the naturalistic style of the garden.

Compacted crushed rock surfaces do not allow rainwater to filter through to the earth.  With professional grading the winter rain water can be directed away from the house and/or into a catch basin or other mechanical means of collecting water.  A licensed landscape contractor is qualified to create systems to manage winter rain water.

 

Colors of Crushed Rock

Irvington Neighborhood of NE Portland hardscape landscaping decomposed granite pathway matches the rock step.

Stone step color matches the decomposed granite crushed rock in the pathway.

Decomposed granite – the names of the colors change with each stone yard which is sure confusing but here in these photos you are looking at a soft gold tan or a cream rose color.  My clients like the look and I agree it adds visual elegance to the landscape design.  I prefer the cream rose color over the gold typically.

I’m also perfectly happy with the dark gray of locally sourced basalt.  Gray looks so good with the greens, limes and golds of plant foliage and it’s more affordable than the decomposed granite.

Crushed rock was picked to compliment this backyard patio.

Irvington neighborhood backyard patio and path materials blend beautifully.

The Cons of using Decomposed Granite

After a few years you will need to top up your patio surface because it has gotten thin, and  the color you installed may not be available.  Rock is different colors from different areas or even within the same mountain.

Granite is not local and is trucked from the east coast.  This uses a lot of fossil fuels.  We have a locally sourced attractive basalt rock here in Oregon which is gray and harder than the decomposed granite.  It won’t need to be topped up as often and doesn’t cost such a high price on the environment.

Granite is significantly more expensive then local basalt.

Using crushed rock for a drought tolerant garden top dressing.

Crushed rock acts as a top dressing for this drought tolerant garden in N Portland.

Top Dress Planting Beds with Crushed Rock for Drought Tolerant Plantings

Crushed rock can also be used as an attractive mulch for drought tolerant plantings.  This garden in N Portland shows crushed rock all around these heat and drought tolerant plantings.  Using the crushed rock as mulch on these slightly bermed planting beds helps protect the plants from our heavy winter rain.  The rain rolls off the crown of the plants roots in the winter and adds needed oxygen to the soil.  Here are narrow evergreen Italian Cypress’ Tiny Towers’ with 2 different varieties of California lilac, fountain grass and sedums for this hot south facing bermed garden.

Crushed Rock Can be the Stair Riser

Crushed rock landscaping material is great for a modern backyard path & steps.

Modern Landscape Style Entry in Kenton Neighborhood of N Portland.

Sadly, pea gravel is sometimes used for a path, patio or even as the top dressing for a planting bed but never in my designs.  It is not crushed or angled, it is round and does not stay put.  It will go all over your yard, out into the street and can actually roll under your feet as you walk and cause falls. Pea gravel makes an unsafe surface for a stair tread.  It has a softer visual look and people fall for its’ quiet beauty and then later deeply regret using it.

Contact Us

Are you considering a new landscape with paths, sitting areas, patios or firepits?  Contact us, we know how to shape your backyard paths and patio to make everything flow with the best use of space.  Let’s pick the materials that will best fit your preferred landscape style.

Hardscape landscape design in Portland Oregon, uses drought-resistant low maintenance crushed stone with in the front yard.

Drought tolerant Portland landscape design example. This front yard shown in winter is gravel, stone and plants.

Covered Outdoor Living for Baby Boomers in NE Portland Backyards

Covered outdoor living landscape design

Covered outdoor area in Rose City Park backyard protects from  sun, rain and walnuts.

Landscaping Outdoor Living in Portland’s Urban NE Neighborhoods

Backyard Outdoor Living in Portland’s Urban NE Neighborhoods often requires a covered area.  While backyard outdoor living conjures up visions of  intimate gatherings with close friends and family sometimes only a covered area will offer any privacy from a 3 story apartment building next door.  A small urban home may not have enough entertaining space indoors and some clients use a covered outdoor space for an extra office or a place for messy arts and crafts projects.  Finding ways to create overhead cover is an important tool for my designs since I often work  in urban neighborhoods.

Rain proof outdoor living’s best benefit in my opinion is leaving the cushions in place for easy use 9 months of the year.  When the rain is pelting us from the south in the winter few people will enjoy being outside and the rain will come in under the cover typically and soak the cushions anyway.  But a gentle rain in the late spring or early fall can easily be thwarted.  If I can use my furniture without having to go fetch the cushions, or peel off a plastic cover….. if it is just waiting for me to use…guess what ?  I use the sitting area so much more.

Here are 5 Portland backyard landscape designs that use overhead cover for outdoor living.

Rose City Park Backyard

My client Anna wanted a cool shady sitting area to read in her landscape.  We called it the book nook.  Her cover has a traditional tile roof with enough angle to keep dry in a light rain but the most important aspect of the cover for Anna is to protect her from walnuts dropping from her neighbors gorgeous huge walnut tree.  She loves the tree for it’s shade, and  for attracting wildlife.  Her covered outdoor area is designed for 2 people and is mostly for Anna’s use.

Design tip: A translucent cover would have gotten stained and looked filthy in one season because of the debris from the walnut tree.  Translucent covers under some trees are doable here in Portland but one needs to go into it knowing there will be regular maintenance needed to keep the cover attractive and not a visual detriment, (and not under a walnut tree).

Covered outdoor living landscape design includes motorized louvers

Covered outdoor dining in Creston neighborhood has motorized louvers to let the sun in or keep the rain out.

Creston Neighborhood Family Covered Dining Deck

My clients in the Creston neighborhood wanted the option of sun or shade plus rain protection so their furniture would stay dry. Their pergola by Cardinal Aluminum is steel posts and supports but the motorized louvers in the pergola are aluminum.  The louvers give them the choice of sun or shade.  I have several clients who have gone with Cardinal and been quite happy with the results. Given the cost of wood this no wood option is now seen as more affordable than in the past.

 

Covered outdoor living landscape design includes transparent roof.

“We all love the new space and have basically been living out there every time the weather is even a bit decent.” Clients in Richmond neighborhood

Richmond Backyard Year Round Outdoor Living

These clients  in Richmond neighborhood wanted it all.  After working with Landscape Design in a Day they have a heated covered patio with a translucent cover.  They wanted a comfy sofa under the cover and have a table up on the deck near the house.  Our client Emma says this.  “The summary is that we all LOVE the new space and have basically been living out there every time the weather is even a bit decent. We’ve been using the whole backyard too — before the redo the back part of the yard was kind of dead zone (except for the veggie beds) but now we find ourselves out there almost every afternoon, not just puttering in the veggies but sitting out on the little patio or kicking a ball around with our toddler.”

They have overhead heat (electric) for primary use and in the colder months they also use their tower heater which can be moved about.  They can leave their furniture outside year round.  The cover structure is steel posts with a wood structure for the translucent overhead cover.  This photo was taken in late spring so they still have their second heater out in the patio.    Most of the heat is electric so it has less of a carbon footprint than a natural gas firepit or propane or wood burning.  Design by Alana Chau, Landscape Design in a Day

Design Tip: Angle the cover to protect from south or SW sun to create a cooler summer retreat and help protect your cover for possible winter snow load.

 

Large covered outdoor living landscape for dining.

Outdoor living for these Mt. Tabor clients includes two barbeques and covered dining.

Large covered outdoor living patio designMount Tabor Backyard Transformed into Year Round Outdoor Living

My clients in Mount Tabor also wanted the entire backyard turned into outdoor living space.  Their wood pergola structure has a translucent cover.  They especially love the drama added by lighting the top of the cover.  The light is very soft and diffused coming through the semi opaque cover.  They have room for cooking, counter and storage space.  The posts for the cover are set into the property 5’.

Design Tip:  We used the corner of the property to gain the most useful square footage and space.

 

Heated covered outdoor living landscape design.

Here’s where I get my massage and body work done. This lovely covered area provides heat and protection from rain.

Outdoor Office in SW Portland

This is my massage practitioners heated outdoor treatment room in her SW Portland back yard.  This was her response to keeping her clients and herself safe when Covid came into our lives. As her patient I love hearing the birds, including the buzz of hummingbirds and the squirrel scolding while getting my treatment.  No music required.  I have  been treated out here even in November and December.  The powerful electric heat in the top of the arbor is directed down by the shape of the cover.  The shape also keeps the rain out except when it is too windy.  I’m very comfortable and I love listening to the birds while I’m getting a massage.  This structure is wood with a translucent cover.

Deluxe umbrella for covered outdoor living landscape design.

Concordia neighborhood backyard outdoor living gets a deluxe umbrella to create shade for dining.

Concordia Backyard  Patio gets Cover with an Offset Umbrella

My clients Ryan and Sam live in a very urban area of NE Portland with a pub next door that has outdoor dining.  This landscape design in particular was a very collaborative process, even more so than usual.  We had a new back porch in the design but the expense (wood is so expensive these days) blew our budget.   We kept the old porch and steps and together created this outdoor room that is such a perfect fit.  It distracts from the next door pub garden, creates privacy, integrates the other two important areas of the backyard beautifully and is highly useable.  A collaborative relationship with clients and installer always opens the door for new and even better fitting ideas.

Design Tip:  Using an off set or cantilevered umbrella creates a physically and visually spacious dining area.  An umbrella with post in the center of the table often makes a dining area feel small and blocks potentially good views, in this case the steel privacy panels (which add so much pizzazz to the space) would have been greatly diminished.

Contact us

Looking for an outdoor landscape design that can create solutions for your city property with all its challenges? Contact us.  We have the experience to know what is doable and the creativity to find the best design for you and your wish list.

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.

NE Portland Gardens with Outdoor Living Landscape Design

Concordia outdoor living landscape design.

Carol Lindsay and client Michael in Concordia Back Yard Outdoor Living Landscape.

Portland Landscape Designers Visit Portland Back Yards

We will see installed back yard landscape designs focused on outdoor living in  N. E. Portland neighborhoods Concordia, Cully, Roseway, Rose City Park neighborhoods.

Outdoor Living Patio Needs Privacy in Concordia Neighborhood

This small city back yard had 3 designers, myself and my talented clients.  It had the usual small city back yard issues and needed privacy, enough entertaining area and room for happy dogs to tear around.  The previous owners had planted Aspen trees (scary choice due to potential suckering) and they provided summer privacy for part of the back yard.  We especially needed year round privacy for the new hot tub and we needed it now so I went with my trusty clumping bamboo called Fargesia Robusta.  The design was installed in 2020 so 2 years ago and here the clumping bamboo is already giving my clients the privacy they wanted and more.  “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.”

Concordia planter designed by landscape client.

Check out this planter my client Michael in Concordia neighborhood designed and built.

Front Garden Charm for Ranch Style Home in  North Portland Neighborhood

Cully landscape client's prickly pear in their outdoor living backyard.

Prickly Pear in Cully neighborhood landscape design

North Portland landscape for outdoor living includes shade plants.

Hydrangea, Autumn Fern and Crocosmia make a great composition in N Portland neighborhood landscape.

My client is from New Mexico and wanted prickly pear for both nostalgia and jam.  Here is her plant going on it’s 3rd year in her new landscape installed in 2019.  It was only about 8” tall when she planted the single leaf (paddle). Her neighbor also worked with Landscape Design in a Day, Alana Chau and we stopped by and found this wonderful summer plant combination.

Roseway Neighborhood Front and Back Landscape Design

Roseway landscape for outdoor living including stones & statuary.

Stone and art contrast with the hundreds of tiny billowing flowers in Roseway Neighborhood.

Roseway landscape including lavender for outdoor living.

Carol Lindsay giving client pruning tips on her lavender in Roseway Neighborhood front yard.

We see our client Doreen in N.E. Portland and enjoy how her landscape is maturing.  I designed the front and Alana the back yard a few years ago. Look at this artful vignette from the back yard….a mound of tough Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’ contrasts with boulders and sculpture.

Pruning Lavender 

Doreen wanted tips on pruning lavender as her plants were 2 and 1/2 years in without much pruning.  She will start pruning them once in late summer and again in February so the plants will last for years without getting leggy and overgrown.  Here is a video that shows you how to do summer pruning on your lavander.   It’s best to start this pruning the very first year you plant your lavender.

 

 

 

Rose City Park Back Yard – Covered Outdoor Living and Privacy in the City

Rose City private book nook in backyard landscape for outdoor living.

Carol Lindsay relaxes in a private outdoor covered patio in Rose City Neighborhood back yard landscape.

Rose City outdoor living landscape includes multiple levels of hardscape.

Natural stone step makes easy access from BBQ to the outdoor dining patio in Rose City neighborhood.

Here’s my first peek at a back yard landscape in Rose City Park.  This was a tough design because of several different grade changes right next  to the back door.  The grading and hardscape solutions were in many ways the star of the design.

The Book Nook

Today I am sitting in her new covered outdoor reading room which we called “The Book Nook”.  The cover protects her from rain, sun and also the hailing of walnuts.  Getting bonked on the head with a walnut will make you lose your place in your book for sure.  The “Book Nook” is a very private retreat.

Hardscape was installed by an old pro, Pete Wilson of Pete Wilson Stoneworks.  It was wonderful to see his work again.

Instant Shade for Laurelhurst Back Yard Porch

Shade solution for Outdoor Living in Laurelhurst neighborhood.

Shade solution for Outdoor Living in Laurelhurst neighborhood is a retractable awning and vertical shade screen and privacy maker.

Laurelhurst backyard landscape designed for outdoor living.

Year 2 of a colorful garden design for Laurelhurst neighborhood back yard.

Our last garden to visit today is in historic Laurelhurst neighborhood.  It’s wonderful  to see the garden maturing and the plants filling in.

And we get to learn how different materials we selected for the design are holding up.  We used an expensive sustainable wood product called Kebony for the privacy fence, and back porch/deck we designed.  Kebony ages gracefully to a pale taupe silver and lasts for decades.  Today we see areas that are a darker shade or show mottled patterns where the wood gets wetter, such as a small panel next to the garage compared to the perfect silver taupe of the gate that it is next to.  Hmmm…..

Our client is very happy with the Kebony but as she stated, some clients would not like it being darker is some areas than others.  See more about the deck and the installation of this design by D and J Landscape Contractors in this previous blog.

Retractable Awning Shade Maker

Adding to the delightful outdoor living porch is this fabulous retractable awning.  It keeps her house and her dining deck cool in the summer and retracts at the touch of a button when she wants sun to provide warmth and light.  There is also a drop down shade to shade out the the west sun in the afternoon; a vital addition to making the dining porch fully shaded for summer outdoor living. And if that isn’t “cool” enough, it also has a wind indicator and will retract itself if it gets too windy.

Contact Us for a Collaborative Design Experience

We love solving the multiple problems of the city back yard with integrated solutions.  Sometimes my privacy solution is also a shade solution and just happens to creates a back drop for a dramatic planting.  Contact us and let’s get started creating your ideal outdoor living room.

Native Plants In An Ecological Garden

Sustainable Native Garden Design

Front Yard Meadow Garden

Dawson approached us at wanting a garden that is as good for the land as it is for him. He was on the cusp of retirement and had never tended a garden before, so part of our project plan included follow-up visits to teach plants, pests and maintenance. I just enjoyed one such visit at this truly sustainable garden.

An ecological native meadow garden in Portland

Spring in a Pollinator Paradise

An ecological garden is full of pollinators and little critters. It has only been 6 months since the garden was installed by Autumn Leaf Landscaping and even I am astounded by the ecosystem that has already developed in the garden. Today, the California Lilac, Ceanothus ‘Victoria’, and Lewisia cotyledon are delighting the bees. Last month it was Lupine and Western Azalea. Next month it will be Echinacea and Milkweed. In fact, this garden has pollinator plants for every month of the year. I wouldn’t design it any other way.

Native California lilac for a Portland ecological garden.

California Lilac, Ceanothus ‘Victoria’ with busy bees.

Lewisia Cotyledon native garden plant in Portland.

Lewisia cotyledon in the boulder garden.

Maintenance in a Native Plant Garden

Maintenance is different in a garden with wild native plants. The Bigleaf Lupine, Lupinus polyphyllus, is past it’s bloom when we visit in June. Last month the butterflies and hummingbirds enjoyed this robust plant. Now the blue racemes have faded to beige seedpods. A traditional landscaper would have cut the plant back to make a tidy mound. But here in this ecological garden, we want the seeds. Not only do they have a beauty all their own, we actually want to encourage a bit of seeding in this wildlife garden. The more the merrier. The entire planting plan allows for light self-seeding.

Plant diversity in Portland native garden.

When you let native plants go to seed, you actually create plant diversity within your garden. This native iris, Iris douglasiana, is seedling-grown and therefore blooms in a variety of colors.

Seedling grown Portland native iris. Portland iris is seedling grown for this native garden.

Not only that, but seedling-grown plants have great resilience. In a winter-wet, summer-dry garden like we have in Portland, only the seedlings that can handle these specific conditions (sun, soil, water) will survive. Over time the plants in this garden will be better adapted to this site than a plant from a nursery.

Pest Control in a Natural Garden

Many of the questions from a new gardener revolve around pest control. In an ecological garden, we avoid pesticides at all cost. Instead, we employ what is called Integrated Pest Management.  The most important difference between this method and traditional pest control is that the first step is to observe the “pest”.  What is it? Is it causing harm? Take this California Coffeeberry, Fragula californica ‘Eve Case’. Dawson asked how to get rid of the aphids.

Native California Coffeeberry in native ecological Portland garden.

California Coffeeberry, Fragula californica ‘Eve Case’ with minor aphid population.

Natural pest control in Portland native garden.

Same California Coffeeberry, Fragula californica ‘Eve Case’ with Ladybug feasting on aphid population.

Aphids can be a real problem, no doubt. If your situation has gotten out of control, check out this great article. In this garden, as we are standing there observing the number of aphids and noticing that the plant is otherwise healthy, we see a ladybug – the natural aphid enemy. Too good to be true? Not at all, it’s more common than you think in a diverse landscape. The most difficult part about gardening naturally is gaining the knowledge about when to intervene and when to let nature find her own equilibrium. Today, we don’t need to intervene.

There was also some root weevil damage, but we’ve already covered that one on this blog post.

Natural Materials

In a truly eco garden, the materials used should be natural as well. Here we use cedar chips for paths, wood risers for steps, and natural stone.

Cedar chips for Portland native garden design.

Cedar chips are a great path material. When applied 4″ thick, it is very good at suppressing weeds.

Natural river rock in Portland native rain garden.

Rain Garden using some on-site boulders plus natural river rock of various sizes. The native wetland grasses here are Carex obnupta and Juncus patens ‘Elk Blue’.

Wood risers used in Portland native garden design.

Wood risers used for steps in a natural garden. Two evergreen native plants flank the stairs: Sword Fern, Polystichum munitum, and Salal, Gaultheria shallon.

Stepping stones through Flowering meadow eco-turf in this Portland native garden design.

Stepping stones create a distinct path among the wild backyard eco-turf. Portland company PT Lawn Seed sells this Flowering Meadow mix under the name PT710.

Of course, I love creating a garden that is good to the land. But for me, the reason this garden is a home run is because the homeowner is absolutely loving it. The year-round blooms. The hummingbirds and ladybugs.

Are you interested in a sustainable garden that is good for the land and good for the soul? Contact us and get the process started!