Archive for Aging in place in the garden – Page 2

Planters Are a Designer’s Best Friend

Steel planters make a low profile for modern style landscaping in Portland

Steel planters with yucca, heather and succulents create year round color with a modern twist.

Hardscape Is A Great Addition To Your Landscaping

I use large built in planters to solve a variety of landscape problems and here are some of my favorites.

planter uses hardscape to create privacy.

This front yard planter is about creating privacy for the living room window.  Their Willamette Heights house is 12 feet from the public sidewalk and they live near a park so there’s lots of foot traffic.  Juniper Communis ‘Gold Cone’, semi dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea Quercifolia, ‘Sykes Dwarf’, California lilac ‘Concha’ (Ceanothus) purchased as a tree form at Kinens Big Phat Plants. This is a specialty wholesale only grower who shapes his plants beautifully before selling which is why I love to purchase a focal point plant such as the California Lilac tree from him.

hardscape planter with arbor in Grant Park neighborhood

Grant Park Side Yard Privacy Planter – Anderson

This planter gets a privacy boost with an arbor which creates a visual barrier between the neighbors’ utility side yard and my client’s driveway.  The kids play in the driveway and the adults use the planter for edibles so this area has become an important part of their yard. It also adds dramatic curb appeal to the entry.  Read more



Hardy Geranium in peeled pole raised bed for dog friendly landscaping.Raleigh Hills NW Natural Backyard – The Coles

Here we use green peeled logs to make a raised beds/planter.  We wanted raised beds so the plants would be safe from the dogs (two very smart and active standard poodles) who fly through paths.  I chose the peeled logs because they fit into the woodsy Northwest natural setting of this property. I also had the specialty cedar chips laid at 6″ deep.  It’s too shady for lawn and other medium encourages fleas and doesn’t last.  It’s the perfect dog friendly solution for a shady back yard. The plants pictured are native Sword Fern and Hardy Geranium, Geranium Macrorrhizum ‘Mrs. Ingwersen’ also have a woodsy look.

 planter uses hardscape to increase the curb appeal in Grant Park neighborhood

NE Portland Entry Landscape Design for Alameda corner lot

Michaels planter – this stone planter gives us the opportunity to jazz up the curb appeal of this bungalow in NE Portland.  It’s about creating a dramatic and colorful entry experience and visually softening the foundation below the front porch. Helianthemun ‘Henfield Brilliant’ billows over the cap of the planter.



courtyard uses hardscape planters to allow easy planting area for senior livingBeaverton Condominium Patio – Knight

Here is a very modern patio and it would be nothing without these planters.  We chose planters rather than at grade planting beds because of ginormous tree roots that invaded all the planting beds.  There was no room to even dig holes for new plantings.  Gardening will be easier for my client who is approaching an age where bending down to tend the ground is a less attractive idea. Read more.


After photo of hardscape landscaping stone planters with privacy tree just installed Buckman Neighborhood

Tiny urban courtyard needed privacy-planters with small trees will provide it. See barely visible new vine maple trunk in center of planter.

 The Tiny Urban Courtyard Needs Privacy

My client’s 1909 house in Buckman Neighborhood fills most of his 36’ by 100’ lot. My mission?  Transform his tiny narrow utilitarian “yard” into a private sanctuary for relaxing outside.  His new planters create enough soil space to plant small screening trees that will provide privacy and ambiance for being outside in the summer.  The small trees (Acer Circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’) will be easier to walk around and easier to care for up the in planters. Read more

NE Portland home needs privacy on narrow side yard

These clear cedar wood planters are 30″ tall and 4′ wide to house a large clump of my favorite screening plant for city properties.  The plant is a clumping bamboo called Fargesia robusta ‘Campbell’ and the custom planters are beautifully crafted by Victor Vincelli, who worked with the design installer Donna Burdick of D and J Landscape Contracting.   He also built a perfect fire pit cover that acts as a table.  I’ll add a link here so you can see the final results in 2021.

Privacy solution planters for clumping bamboo in Irvington neighborhood

Donna Burdick of D and J Landscape Contracting sits on large custom privacy planter for clumping bamboo


If you are interested in how hardscape landscaping can be added to your garden, contact me for more information!


Hardscape Design Transforms A Gardeners Landscape

Hardscapes Support Lake Oswego Garden Landscaping

Hardscape stone patio with synthetic lawn supports landscaping.

Delightful patio replaces stodgy deck – notice the beautiful synthetic lawn.

Garden Consultation – Margaret hired me as a garden coach.  We worked together for several years. Her property in Lake Oswego has typical problems; clay soil, greedy tree roots, soggy lawn with moss and drainage problems.  But in my mind, the biggest problem was a deck that had been built by the previous owners.  The shape was boxy and didn’t fit Margaret’s colorful NW natural garden.

For 6 years our garden coaching focused on her garden plantings.  My client is hands on and did her own maintenance for her large property.  In fact, one time, the contractor was late and we just couldn’t wait for him….and I might add we were a lot younger… Margaret and I decided to plant these 5′ tall Arborvitae up on the hill ourselves.  Things were going well until one rolled down the hill and took me out like a bowling pin.

Blake before deck close up 2

The old deck had to go!

At last she was ready to have the garden of her dreams. How delightful it would be to play with her plants instead of mowing.  She was tired of fighting with fir tree roots, shade and clay.  Her lawn was never dry until August, when it was  then parched and it never looked good. She wanted to spend her time gardening, not doing basic maintenance. There is nothing worse than spending your time cleaning up a landscape that you don’t like the looks of.  She didn’t want that deck any more.  She wanted a NW natural design that would include two sitting areas (one a new patio off the house to replace the deck, a flagstone patio in the woods) and synthetic lawn for her and her dogs.  We also re-worked her garden paths so they would be easier to clean up and look  so attractive they would integrate the landscape.

Garden path with stone stairs are great supporting hardscapes.

The new stairs are complemented by easy care synthetic lawn.

The new design also met the horticultural needs of the fir trees since synthetic lawn doesn’t need summer water and our native fir trees are healthier without summer watering.

Now Margaret can blow or even use a dry vac on her lawn to remove fir needles.  It looks good all the time and the dogs are very happy and clean.  It is also a lot easier to clean up dog poop!

Before stone steps

Old garden path was hard to navigate and had no drama.

We worked together to create the design.  Because of the scope of the job Margaret choose to hire a professional,  Autumn Leaf Landscaping.

It is an amazing transformation.  Margaret’s plants and garden look fabulous because the supporting structures are well shaped and attractive.

For more information on how hardscapes can support your garden landscaping, make an appointment.

Garden Restoration Tips

Overgrown cookie monster shrubThe only thing that grows as much as a landscape in 10 years are the neighborhood kids. The design (if you had one) and the plants have matured.  Now you have tree creatures with stout trunks.  Your “shrublet” is now a 5’x5′ blob that eats the front sidewalk.  You dislike cutting it back three times a year because when you do, it still doesn’t look good.   Even gardeners hire designers and say, “Please help me select plants that still give me a thrill but don’t take as much work.”  Life has changed and most people want a break from chores that feel meaningless.

My approach regarding restoration of an overgrown landscape is part jungle explorer, part makeover expert and then of course,  good solid design.

Dog Friendly Landscape puppy on cedar chips Portland, Oregon

Planning on a puppy?

number1I listen to what my clients know they want.  I ask about expected lifestyle changes.  Will someone be working from home or retiring?  Planning to get a dog or have backyard chickens?  Our homes and landscapes need to change so we can spend our time doing what we want.

number2Next, I look for structural ‘jewels’. These are shapely trees and large shrubs hiding under years of benign neglect.  The hacked trees and shrubs – the individual varieties of plant material that are too much work or are diseased – are removed so we can get a better look at the possibilities.

number3Every property – regardless of size – needs good flow.  After removing plants that don’t work and identifying the plants that might be transplanted to a new location, I design the places, spaces and paths.  This means inviting, easy-to-use paths, stairs, patios and functional areas for pets, storage and garbage.  It is not as glamorous as other aspects of design, but it is the most important part.


Concrete wall is interrupted by nature

Finally, we get to the best part of the meal, the dessert!  We install new plantings that complement the mature plants – the ‘jewels’ – are low water and easier to care for by about six uphill miles, than the old plantings.

Do Experienced Gardeners Need a Professional Garden Designer?

"I hired Carol to help me make the most of every inch of my new property."  Photo by Kelly Uchytil

“I hired Carol to help me make the most of every inch of my new property.” Photo by Kelly Uchytil

Yes! But you may think being an expert gardener and having a life long passion for plants would mean you don’t need a landscape designer.

Sherry Uchytil had to sell her multi-level garden and home due to family health problems. She and her husband Kelly put on a brave face and found a new single level home they liked. The landscape was so important to them that she hired me before the new house had even closed.  This design did not include a planting plan because being a passionate and experienced gardener meant Sherry wanted to pick her own plants.

Kelly and Sherry had a round iron wheel they wanted to incorporate into the entry gate of the garden.

Kelly and Sherry had a round iron wheel they wanted to incorporate into the entry gate of the garden.

Our design process would focus on creating the perfect layout.  We had some typical issues, privacy, dog friendly, curb appeal but we also had wonderful art from the previous garden to place and the new planting beds needed to showcase her existing plants waiting patiently in pots from her former home.

There were so many functions that were needed for this landscape. How the shed was placed was critical since Sherry would be in and out of the shed constantly while playing with and caring for her plants.

This was accomplished with a design in a day on a rainy December day.  We couldn’t get inside the home because she did not yet own it, so we ended up finishing it in the local Starbucks because we got too cold to draw.

Sherry and Kelly got exactly what they wanted and more.

Sherry and Kelly got exactly what they wanted and more. Photo by Sherry Uchytil

It was so much fun and the results of our collaboration are stunning. Sherry’s garden was on a Clackamas County Master Gardeners garden tour this past summer.  Sherry is proud of her garden.

Salad Table Report

Growing greens above ground

Growing greens above ground

Growing Greens Above Ground Some of you may know from a previous newsletter that I built a “Salad” table from an old metal patio table.  My initial planting grew poorly because my soil was compacted from a hard rain right after I put the potting soil into the table.  I had stunted baby beets and very slow growing shallots.  I figured it out and l loosened up the soil with a small hand fork. All the plants started to grow. Next year I will add a shade cover when it gets into the high temps to prevent or minimize the bitter taste lettuce gets in heat. The cover also slows down summer bolting.