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Outdoor Living Garden Retreat

Outdoor Living Back Yard for Baby Boomer

Edibles, chickens,  colorful flowers and the works for my new garden please.

outdoor living includes hardscape stone path and seatingVictoria 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

Perennials

Pollinator plantings

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

Colorful Perennials for Outdoor Living back yardThe 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

patio for outdoor living in Portland city lansdcape

The pergola (with string lights) waiting on additional funding for completion.

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

Blueberries and colorful edibles in city outdoor living landscape design.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

Colorful planting includes chilli peppers nasturtium , and black eyed susan adorn colorful pots included in her outdoor living garden design.

My client loves colorful plants and pottery.

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.

Client Comments

“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

Chickens enjoying their yard in outdoor living garden designLife 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.

Modern Landscape Design for Kenton Neighborhood Front Yard

Modern Landscape Design for Kenton Neighborhood Front Yard

Modern landscape design adds functional space and charm to Kenton front yard in Portland

Modern Fun Front Garden Ready for Entertaining

Client Wish List

New homeowners Katie and Jeni (Kenton neighborhood Portland, Oregon) enjoy chatting with their neighbors in the front yard. Before the overhaul, they would just pull some chairs and a firepit from the back and hang out on the grass.   Eventually they realized it might be nice to create a more permanent sitting area in the front, so they poured a concrete patio. They are ‘get it done’ dedicated DIYers with more than a few successful projects under their belts.   Next came the hard part – how to integrate that stark concrete into a front yard garden that’s inviting and warm.  They realized they wanted some help with the integration efforts and hired Landscape Design In A Day because of our collaborative design approach.

Kenton neighborhood home with diy concrete before garden design process

BEFORE: mismatched concrete and no privacy.

Designer’s Perspective-Alana Chau

I was so pleased to see that the new concrete was well done and a wonderful size for the amount of people they host. But it felt huge in the small front yard space, and modern landscape style always needs visual softening. There were also disconnected downspouts to contend with, 3 in total. Due to the new concrete pour, I knew at least one of these downspouts needed to be moved. Yes, in some cases downspouts can be moved!

Originally, the homeowners wanted to keep the existing retaining wall and walkway to save money.  I showed them a couple designs hoping I could offer them useful visuals that might change their minds.  I knew how fabulous it could look if we changed the front walk. So we all stood at the sidewalk and talked about the potential for something different.   A front walk that was offset gave us a much more interesting entry and dramatic spaces for plantings. As you can see, they went for it and they are so happy they did.

Hardscape Landscaping design integrates existing concrete slab beautifully

A dynamic new front walkway.

Ruby the pup

The clients have the cutest pup, Ruby, and we wanted her to have some grass to play on. In this case, the grass will perform a double duty as Ruby’s lounge area and also the walkway to the backyard. Since this path will not be used in the winter, it is an acceptable solution. (In Portland, Oregon grass is NOT a good path material if it needs to be used in winter because it becomes wet muck and does not recover well.) 

small patch of dog friendly lawn in Kenton front yard

Lawn can be used as a walkway as long as it is not used in the winter.

Hardscape Landscaping

The Materials

The new retaining wall is modular concrete block, which creates a clean look while keeping costs down. The steps were created with steel risers filled with gravel for the treads. The walkway is created using 24″ square pavers, aka architectural slabs.

Old and new concrete did not work well together in this before photo of front entry walk and courtyard

BEFORE: view from the front door.

What a difference the new hardscape landscaping makes for this Kenton home's front entry

AFTER: view from the front door. 24″ Pavers, or Architectural Slab, create a dynamic front walkway

The short wood fence allows some privacy from the street, while maintaining a friendly feel.

front yard privacy screen for Kenton front yard is a pattern of wood boards

Short fence in front yard gives patio a bit of privacy.

front yard privacy screen for Kenton front yard is softened with pollinator plants

Gaura, aka Wandflower, adds texture and encourages pollinators to visit in the summer.

Modern landscape design adds steps with steel risers to Kenton front yard in Portland

Stairs with steel risers and crushed rock.

The Raingarden

A downspout was moved so that it could outlet into a new pseudo rain garden area where red-twig dogwood shrub and juncus, a type of rush (similar to ornamental grass)  will help us manage that water with their deep root systems. The City of Portland encourages rain gardens, but we recommend diy’ers doing a bit of research first.  Here’s a helpful publication: How to Build a Raingarden from City of Portland.

Plant Diversity

There is a wide variety of plants in this small front yard.  Rain garden plants, edibles and interesting textural ornamentals make up our landscape design plant list.

Modern Landscape style is expressed with architectural slabs, steel risers and colorful plantings

Modern Front Yard Garden with Plant Diversity One Year After Install

There is an edible theme going on in this garden too. Two raised beds, plus fruit trees; one Fuyu persimmon, and two columnar apple trees.

Pottery softens the concrete patio area for Kenton front yard

To soften a large concrete area, without sacrificing usable space, we added a fun and eclectic arrangement of potted plants, including a dwarf Japanese Maple with great fall color.

The Hardscape Landscaping is Softened with Pots

We had a lot of fun with pots on the large patio.  I designed some of them – such as a dwarf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Fjellheim’) and a funky conifer (Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin’ Blue’). I call it funky because the foliage is fantastically textural, very blue and oddly its’ foliage grows in a variety of directions.  The homeowners designed others, including one with carnivorous plants! This was a true collaboration and it was fun to see which parts the homeowners wanted to take off and run with.

solar night lighting with architectural slab front walk in Kenton front yard

Solar lighting adds fun and safety. Also seen here is Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin’ Blue’ in a pot, which is especially valuable for winter structure.

Rounding out the plants are some fun evergreens for winter structure, including a shrubby Manzanita (Arctostaphylos bakeri ‘Louis Edmunds’), and a New Zealand shrub better known as a houseplant (Sophora prostrata ‘Little Baby’).

“Alana, we never would have thought of all of this without you! We are super happy with how it all looks! It’s been so fun to be outside when a neighbor walks by and compliments the yard. That’s the best. Thank you again for all your work and creativity with our plans.” Katie and Jeni in Kenton neighborhood Portland, Oregon.

Let’s transform your front yard with a collaborative design process that explores the potential of your existing landscape and home.   Contact us and let’s create together.

 

 

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.