Outdoor Living Back Yard for Baby Boomer
Edibles, chickens, colorful flowers and the works for my new garden please.
Victoria had recently purchased a corner property in the city and was ready to transform her back yard into her outdoor living dream garden.
Our fun collaboration to create her dream garden started with our first phone call.
We had near instant rapport and we had to stop ourselves from designing it right then and get our design ducks in a row. We decided a landscape design in a day process would work well and we got going.
Her focus was on the back yard. She had plenty of ideas about what she wanted and let me tell you now there would be no room for lawn.
An Outdoor Living Back Yard Was the Theme
Two sitting areas; a dining area and a lounging area for outdoor entertaining
Screen out neighbors odd garage
Keep the shed and it’s concrete path, the big corner tree and one section of fence
Make room for plants – her list included lots of edibles including blueberry plants.
Colorful flowers, climbing roses and flowering vines
Unique plant material with a nostalgic bent
Dog friendly back yard
She and friends would DIY the plantings to save money and for the sheer joy of planting her own garden.
Hire professionals for everything else
Privacy and Grading were the Biggest Issues
Here are a few of my observations from my site visit. The back yard was the larger potion of the city lot; that was good because we would need every inch of space to realize our wish list. With no lawn we would utilize paths and add lots of planting areas. Victoria wanted a garden to live outdoors in not just a yard.
Multiple Grades Made the Design Challenging
The grade sloped toward the house, toward the side property line and then up to the back fence. The area next to the existing shed didn’t match any of the grades. Solving the different sloping areas was a practical need but the solutions would end up adding spice to the design.
The neighbors extra tall garage was very unattractive and the typical screening solutions (a tall tree or hedge) would make too much shade for the colorful plants and edibles Victoria craved.
Back Porch as Sitting area
Could we have one of our two sitting areas by modifying the tiny existing back porch? As is, it was too small for even a bistro table. Putting a sit spot there would have helped maximize the space for the garden Victoria envisioned. After consideration we let it go because of the location of the electric car charging unit and a window well, meant we could not alter the back porch. But better ideas were coming soon…….
Create Beauty to Hide a Bad View
Creating privacy, blocking the view of the back ally neighbors garage (a 12’ plus tall engine lift attached to the garage) and creating an attractive view along the back property was solved with one solution. A long pergola of Victoria’s favorite climbing roses (Joesph’s Coat) would solve the summer view. The best solution to a bad view is creating something amazing to see and enjoy. The posts were installed but the top boards for the pergola would have to wait until funds arrived.
Break the Rules About Year Round Plant Color
Given Victoria’s hearts desire for billowing colorful flowers and edibles, we decided most of the plantings would kowtow to spring, summer and fall. There is no rule that every design must look fabulous in the winter. It depends on what the views are out the windows and what activities occur near the windows. To design for the winter view as if it would be equally important would have been a poor match for this client. Full season interest is not a standard for all landscape design.
Dealing with Multiple (awkward!!) Grade Changes
The client wanted the shed to stay as is so that was the grade I could not change. I selected the grade we needed to be able to open the existing shed doors for my starting point . I ask myself, ‘What cannot be changed?” to figure out where to start. Then I worked my way up to the back gate and back up to the house. The patio became the new low point of the yard instead of the next to the house foundation. We accomplished this with a new low curved stone wall which retained the highest grade on the back side of the patio. This also made the patio feel like it’s own room. The wall continued toward and supported the new walkway up to the back gate on the alleyway. The LLC (Licensed Landscape Contractor), Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors made the necessary adjustments to my conceptual plan, created the final grades and determined and installed any needed drainage. Adding her expertise to the process is so important. I wish all my clients hired someone as experienced as Donna Burdick.
Collaborate With Landscape Professionals
A professional installation meant my conceptual design was approved and improved by an LLC who is licensed to determine and install drainage.
The existing large tree got the attention of a certified arborist who lifted selected branches to allow walking underneath the tree and more light for edibles. Now we could add a path to wind from the edibles area to the tree area. The path made easy access for plant maintenance and integrated the 3 primary planting areas of the design. Paths are so helpful.
It’s important to clue the arborist in to our design intentions with the tree. They needed to leave some of the lower branches to block the view of a busy intersection. Giving them that information is critical because they could prune the tree to some professional standard and remove our privacy in a way that cannot be put back.
Hardscape Landscaping Materials
Decomposed granite instead of standard crushed rock for the patio gives us an attractive cream colored surface for the patio. We used Camas basalt for the rock walls. Victoria especially loved her rock wall.
Flagstone for the paths is variegated lavender blue stone. I prefer large 14″ by same and 2″ thick stone.
Outdoor Living Accomplished with Fire Pit
The firepit is gas……..yes this was the dream garden for my client and there is nothing like stepping out to the garden and with just a flicking of a switch – instant warmth and the feeling of primitive flames. A gas firepit makes outdoor living easy to accomplish.
Portland Planting Plan Selections
My client had a bearded iris collection she loved and these were integrated into the planting plant.
Some of my tough dog friendly plants were NW native plants like huckleberry and sword fern. A very sturdy ground cover was planted under the big tree and repeated throughout the edibles garden. This hardy geranium groundcover, Geranium x cantabrigiense is a work horse of a plant and so pretty with its spring flowers. Bonus; the cedar smell from the leaves tends to keep dogs out of the groundcover and onto the path.
Blueberry plants, a small evergreen variegated shrub with intensely peach colored new leaves in spring, (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’) and flowing over on the walls of the patio, summer flowering heather (Calluna vulgaris) trailing sedum and wallflower. Uprights like lavender, cone flower, (Echinacea) and tall black eyed susan (Rudbeckia), with billowing hummingbird mint (Agastache), round out the flower power keeping the garden colorful from spring into fall.
“Carol is amazing! Her process is very collaborative and I feel that the final product reflects my vision guided and shaped with her expertise. So excited to see it develop and grow! Highly recommend – especially if you are interested in gardening and want something truly personal.” ~Victoria
Life can be full of surprises. While installing the rest of the design (DIY with friends) she found a wonderful friend and partner. They added chickens and then started keeping bees and outgrew the garden. After congratulating them on their marriage recently I went to their new property called Hummingbird Hill to design the layout of the new landscape on 5 acres. She says, ” This is my second project with Design in a Day – and likely not the last. I love being included in the design process as it is evolving. I really appreciate how knowledgeable and practical Carol is with a design that is both beautiful and functional. ” – Victoria
I loved helping Victoria. If you are looking for a professional to dream up your outdoor living landscape design, please contact us.