Archive for drought tolerant plantings

Adding Curb Appeal With No Lawn Landscaping to Portland 1960s Home: Part One

Portland 1960s Ranch House Transformed With No Lawn Landscape

Portland no lawn landscaping helps this 1960s home curb appeal!

This Reed Neighborhood house has a welcoming landscape and entry after working with Landscape Design in a Day

Updating Curb Appeal for Windowless 1960s Ranch Home

As a landscape designer, I recently had the opportunity to transform the front of a windowless ranch house in the Reed neighborhood of SE Portland. The homeowners, Jeff and Lyn fell in love with the house for its great floor plan and proximity to their grandkids.  They did not love the front of the house.   The front entry courtyard was dark, windowless, and in need of updating. The old front walkway, likely installed in the 50s or 60s, was too narrow, and was damaged.

Portland 1960s home in need of a landscaping update to enhance curb appeal.

The front entry courtyard was dark, windowless and in need of updating. The old front walkway, likely installed in the 50s or 60s was too narrow and was damaged.

They needed solutions to make their front yard more welcoming and aesthetically pleasing. They needed a complete re-haul with creative solutions for a tough situation.

I have used a landscape design process to fix a house before but I was looking forward to this design in particular since the difference in the before and after would be so dramatic and  satisfying.

Using my Landscape Design in a Day kit they supplied me with the information I needed to create a customized solution.  Happily they were open to removing everything; the front steps, old concrete walk and the lawn.  Armed with their preferences, I worked with them to design a landscape that would greatly enhance the curb appeal of their home, create a warm and inviting entry, add functional walkways and good flow to the front door of their home.

A new porch helped with curb appeal of this Portland 1960s ranch home.

New porch and planters soften tunnel effect of narrow courtyard entry.

Creating a Welcoming Entry

The front entry of the house was dark and windowless, which made it feel unfriendly. To address this issue, we implemented four key solutions. First, we designed and built a real porch (not a deck) and incorporated different shapes and sizes of planters and steps to break up the tunnel effect and add interest to the entry.

Additionally, we designed a large well-planted berm, which served as an attractive focal point and helped diminish the tunnel effect of the entry. We added a multi-stemmed, vase-shaped tree to the berm to integrate the house with the land.  Lastly, we created a curved path from the street to a center landing point, which complemented the Northwest natural landscape style that Jeff and Lyn desired.  Landscape installer was D and J Landscape Contractors, Donna Burdick.

Look for our upcoming Part Two article!

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Transforming the front of the windowless ranch house in SE Portland was a rewarding project. I loved the challenge of transforming this difficult front yard and entry without the need for a remodel.  We enjoy taking our 30 years of experience and applying it to your existing landscape no matter the level of difficulty.  We can look at your landscape and see what is possible.  Difficult sites are fun but not required.  Contact me today, and let’s create a front yard you love to come home to.

 

 

Designing a Charming Outdoor Living Space in Overlook Neighborhood for 20 Guests: Part Two

Pollinator-Friendly Garden Creates Oasis in North Portland Small City Backyard

Overlook neighborhood oasis garden includes pollinator friendly plantings.

Brachyglottis (Daisy Bush) in N.E. Portland in winter. Photo from Hilary’s front yard.

A continuation of Landscape Design in a Day’s Overlook Neighborhood design of a welcoming party garden space that comfortably seats up to 20 guests.  Part One discussed the outdoor living space design that incorporated the soft curving lines our clients wanted. Now we will discuss the low-maintenance, pollinator-friendly garden plantings wanted by our clients. Our mission was to create a back yard that didn’t scream “seating area for 20,” but rather felt inviting and lush for every day enjoyment too.

Lush and Lively Pollinator Plantings

Pollinator friendly garden flower called Aztec Pearl incorporated into Overlook neighborhood design.

Fragrant flowers grace this April flowering Mexican orange shrub The variety is called ‘Aztec Pearl’ and can be used as a shrub or small tree.

Our landscape design focuses on the integration of beautifully shaped, curved planting beds surrounding the large patio. To add color, texture, and attract pollinators, I selected a range of drought-adapted plants. These include the curvaceous burgundy bark of Howard McMinn Manzanita, the lightly fragrant blooms of Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl,’ and the striking silvery leaves of Brachyglottis (Daisy Bush). Additionally, tall sedums, colorful heather groundcover, salvia, cistus, agapanthus, and Pacific Iris contribute to the exuberant plantings.

Client Testimonial

The collaboration was excellent. The Landscape Design in Day questionnaire and packet helped us probe our desires and constraints as well as to further familiarize ourselves with our space.

Hilary was wonderful to work with! She helped brainstorm how to address our concerns and meet our goals of having a low-maintenance entertaining area that feels whimsical. The finished product is incredible!

Our space is totally transformed from an unpleasant, bumpy, muddy terrain to an inviting space with dedicated garden beds separated from walking areas & leisure areas.

We have plenty of lighting for entertaining (which includes the light from the built-in bench on the patio and icicle lights on the trees and arbor).

We really benefited from her experience and insights – like knowing how much lighting would be just the right amount, how to create flow between the distinct parts of the yard (including adding a staircase on the deck and removing a gate), and how to enhance areas of the yard that we previously considered “dead space”. This was an excellent experience that was well worth the investment!

Brian and Annie

Overlook Neighborhood.

Pollinator friendly garden plants for Overlook Neighborhood landscape design.

This ‘Howard McMinn’ Arctostaphylos is a much photographed manzanita with burgundy bark and handsome year round foliage at the XERA Garden Store in SE Portland.

The Right Landscape Design

With the right landscape design, even a small city property can be transformed into a functional and inviting outdoor oasis and a pollinator-friendly garden. The Overlook Neighborhood back yard design now offers Annie and Brian a party garden capable of comfortably seating 20 guests, all while incorporating lush plantings.  We will share after photos from their installed design later this year.

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If you’re looking to unlock the potential of your own outdoor space, reach out to Landscape Design in a Day. We can help turn your unused city back yard into a beautiful and practical extension of your lifestyle. Contact us today to bring your vision to life!

Designing a Charming Outdoor Living Space in Overlook Neighborhood for 20 Guests: Part One

Small City Living Space Designed as a Lush Outdoor Oasis in North Portland

Before picture of yard prior to transformation into outdoor living space designed for 20 guests.

BEFORE: This Overlook neighborhood back yard lawn was hard to walk on because it was so uneven and it was also a mud pit for months at a time.

Welcome to the world of landscape design, where we transform unattractive and unusable spaces into vibrant outdoor living spaces. In this blog post, we’ll explore how Landscape Design in a Day turned a lackluster back yard in the Overlook Neighborhood into a welcoming party garden that comfortably seats up to 20 guests. Get ready to be inspired by our innovative design solutions for integrating additional seating areas and lush plantings into a small city property.

Lush outdoor living space designed as oasis in Overlook Neighborhood. Sedums.

Sea foam green foliage and large compound flower heads on tall sedum at a NE Portland clients garden.

A No Lawn Back Yard was Top of their Wish List

Brian and Annie from Overlook neighborhood contacted us with some typical small city property problems in their North Portland back yard.  As we talked on the phone I learned their back yard was very uneven, hard to walk on and muddy.  Their small dog Peanut wasn’t big on grass and neither were they.  A no lawn back yard was top of their list.  They wanted drought tolerant plantings and so I knew Hilary Hutler would be the perfect designer for them.  She specializes in drought tolerant plantings and she lives close by so having an on going relationship with their designer over the years would be easy.  Let’s tag along with Hilary as she works some design magic for our clients.

Outdoor living space in Overlook neighborhood designed with California Lilac.

Bumble bee busy feeding on California Lilac, which is a low water pollinator friendly plant. with beautiful blue flowers.

Creating Usable Outdoor Living Space

When I first met Annie and Brian, we quickly realized they needed more outdoor entertaining space than the average city client. With regular gatherings of up to 20 friends, accommodating their large number of guests was a top priority. Additionally, they wanted a design that featured soft curving lines and low-maintenance, pollinator-friendly plants. Our mission was to create a back yard that didn’t scream “seating area for 20,” but rather felt inviting and lush for every day enjoyment too.

Making an Entrance

To begin the transformation, we utilized the 10-foot wide south-facing side yard, turning it into the entrance of the party garden living space. Guests are greeted by a tall gate and a whimsical flagstone path surrounded by enchanting plantings. This path leads them towards a dramatic Moon Gate, clearly indicating the entrance to the back yard party garden. Annie and Brian will also enjoy the scenic view of the Moon Gate and garden from inside their home.

Outdoor Living Landscape Design Drawing of Overlook Neighborhood Portland Backyard by Landscape Design in a DayExpanding the Gathering Spaces

The centerpiece of the design is a generous 16-foot round patio, strategically designed to maximize seating. To further optimize the use of space, we added a slim seat wall around one-third of the patio, providing built-in seating. The seat wall not only offers more seating options but also adds a touch of elegance to the overall design. With this clever addition, the patio can comfortably accommodate even larger groups.

Room to Move

To facilitate smooth movement around the property, I created a wide, curving crushed rock path that leads from the house and connects to the back patio. This path not only serves as a practical route but also becomes an additional gathering space. Its contrasting materials and attractive shape beautifully complement the large patio, creating a harmonious flow throughout the yard.

Seamless Connectivity

To enhance accessibility during large gatherings, I suggested adding an extra set of stairs off the back patio. This simple addition ensures that guests can easily come and go without feeling trapped. By making these seamless connectivity improvements, we’ve optimized the functionality of the space for maximum usability.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to unlock the potential of your own outdoor space, reach out to Landscape Design in a Day. We can help turn your unused city back yard into a beautiful and practical extension of your lifestyle. Contact us today to bring your vision to life!

Portland Pollinator Friendly Garden Plants for the Ardenwald Neighborhood Front Yard part 2

A Mid Century Inspired Ardenwald Neighborhood Garden Includes Pollinator Friendly Plants

Pollinator friendly garden plants for Portland Mid Century design.

Pollinator Friendly Front Entry Design for Mid Century Modern in Ardenwald Neighborhood.

In the second part of our blog series about the Front Yard Makeover in the Ardenwald neighborhood of Portland, we’ll delve deeper into the selection and installation of the plants that brought the design to life.

Finding the Plants for the Landscape Design

When it came to sourcing plants, Val and Holli decided to take on the challenge themselves. While many of our clients opt to use our plant broker for convenience, they enjoyed the process of roaming local nurseries and even ordering plants online. For the most part they stayed true to their design only straying when a plant could not be found such as Crocosmia ‘Little Redhead’.

Designer Selected Plants

Portland pollinator friendly garden design desired with a Mid Century makeover.

Clients Val and Holli with their design prepare to start their installation of the new exciting front yard landscape design

One standout plant choice is Calluna vulgaris ‘Firefly’, a summer-flowering heather. Its orange ‘evergreen’  needled foliage becomes even more vibrant in cold weather, and its mounding shape adds texture and interest to the overall design. It pairs beautifully with the billowing ornamental grasses and pollinator friendly lavender chosen for the space.

Grasses & pollinator friendly garden plants were picked for this Portland client.

Fountain grass, Lavander, Summer Heather and Grama Grass add color and movement to the new welcoming front yard landscape design

Bird and Bee Friendly Plants

For bird-friendly native plants, Alana selected Myrica californica, also known as Pacific Wax Myrtle.  This evergreen shrub or small tree provides berries that attract birds and adds vertical interest to the landscape.  It is also a host plant to our native hairstreak butterfly and  provides food for other pollinators including many native bees.

Another native shrub, Gaultheria shallon or Salal, thrives in both sunny and shady areas and contributes to the lush greenery of the front yard. Native bees and insects feed from the flowers and birds eat the berries.  Or how’s about a  cocktail made with Salal Berry Liquor?

Fragaria chiloensis, a native strawberry plant, covers the ground with shiny evergreen leaves and provides an excellent food source for birds and is also a host plant for some pollinators.

Grasses Add Contrast

Grasses play a crucial role in adding movement and texture to any landscape. Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’ Fountain Grass and Bouteloua gracilis Grama Grass ‘Blonde Ambition‘ were selected for their ornamental value and ability to withstand hot summer weather conditions. Carex testacea, a beautiful copper-colored sedge, adds visual interest year round and provides contrast among the other plants.  By the way…these grasses don’t act as a host plant for natives.  There are grasses that are important as host plants and even as food but didn’t work for this design.

 

Portland front yard includes rain garden and pollinator friendly garden plants in this landscape design.

With the hardscape installed, (fence and modern concrete entry walk way) and the rain garden installed, it’s time for more plants.

Rain Garden Plants

A significant aspect of the design was the inclusion of a rain garden. Rain garden plants need to be able to tolerate wet conditions in the winter and many kinds of  plants will die in these conditions from root rot.  Experience counts when selecting rain garden plants.  Cornus sericea ‘Kelseyi’, a dwarf dogwood shrub, not only withstands wet winter areas but also displays white flowers and red twigs during winter.

Carex obnupta, a useful sedge, (grass like plant) is specifically suited to rain gardens and low-lying areas. While it spreads by roots, controlling it is easier than maintaining a traditional lawn so says our clients.  They don’t miss their lawn.  Tip:  t’s best to limit watering on this plant to slow down the spread. By the 2nd or 3rd year this plant should receive no water at all in summer.

Flowering Plants for Pollinators

Flowering plants were selected for pollinator food and most will only need water once a week to ten days when the roots are fully established. We specified a dwarf Crocosmia ‘Little Redhead’ but Val and Holli could not find it anywhere.  So they went with one of the common larger varieties.  An aside…we designers love the dwarf  Crocosmia (also called Montbretia) varieties because unlike the taller types, they spread slowly and continue to flower year after year even on the older stems.  See my blog called Crocosmia-Don’t Settle for Lucifer if you love Crocosmia and want to learn more.  Pollinators such as hummingbirds especially seem to enjoy the nectar from these flowers regardless of which variety you plant.

Lavender variety Hidecoat Blue was selected for this Portland garden because it is pollinator friendly.

Lavender pairs beautifully with Calluna vulgaris ‘Firefly’ and both provide food to bumble bees and a myriad of other pollinators.

The Penstemon pinifolius ‘Melon’ selected has such an incredible texture, with long flowering tube like petals, and tiny leaves.  The overall shape of the plant plays nicely with the grasses.  Again big with hummingbirds or smaller bees that can fit into the narrow flower tube for nectar.

Plant Varieties Matter-Get the Right Lavender for Your Pollinator Garden

Pay attention to the variety of plant your designer has selected.  The lavender variety ‘Hidecoat Blue’, a favorite of Alanas, can be 36″ wide unlike the variety ‘Hidcoat’ which is only 12″ to 18″ tall.  Most varieties of lavender plants will add fragrance and beauty and also food for bumble bees.  Obviously planting a lavender that will get 36″ wide only 10 inches off the front walk will be problematic in just a few years.

Plants were also selected to grow in the openings of the driveway.

Pollinator friendly plants were even chosen for the driveway of this Portland home. Including Prostrate thyme.

Prostrate thyme, Thymus praecox ‘Elfin Pink’, Delosperma (Ice Plant) and sedums thrive in the gravel and soil mix of the driveway strip. These plants, especially the thyme, feed many kinds of pollinators including bumble bees.

The Hardscape Installation

The entire installation process was taken on by Val and Holli who oversaw the concrete and fence work.  They installed their own watering system as well.

They sourced all the plants themselves, which proved challenging at times due to the scarcity of plants during the initial years of covid. However, their perseverance paid off, even though they ended up with slightly different versions of the ‘Little Bunny’ Fountain Grass’. They say the variations in size are not too distracting.

Arctostaphylos, shown here in a North Portland front garden during a snowy February day has flowers that provide food for overwintering hummingbirds and the early bumblebee queens.

Manzanita (probably Louis Edmunds) flowering in February is an important pollinator and  food source for overwintering hummingbirds in Portland.

Client Comments

“We sourced all the plants and did all of the planting ourselves, which proved a bit challenging (and tiring), also some plants were pretty difficult to find.”

One of the jewels of the design was a particular variety of Manzanita.  Val and Holli looked everywhere locally but could not find it.  They wanted to have the exact variety Alana had selected for them so it would be the right size and shape to fit into the design.

Val says it’s a crazy story…”so after being cooped up for so many months due to the pandemic, (2019), we made a road trip to the Monterey area in California.  Purely by serendipity we found a nursery that grew the correct variety, Louis Edmunds’ manzanita.  That plant is thriving and is a beauty!”

Val and Holli are overjoyed with their new front yard.

Client Testimonial

It was a terrific experience and the results are way beyond anything we could have ever designed ourselves.

Val and Holli

Ardenwald Neighborhood of Portland Oregon

Contact us

Do you want to have every aspect of your design installation handled by our trusted professionals, or take it all on yourselves? Either way, Landscape Design in a Day provides a design process that you can participate in and we do our best to make it easy and fun.  The results and our clients speak to our success in doing just that.  Contact Us.

Landscaping for Privacy in Portland Small Front Yard

Portland front yard landscape design with Magnolia grandiflora and white flowering dogwood

Small city front yard with new Magnolia grandiflora ‘Teddy Bear’ and existing magnificent Cornus x ‘Venus’, a white flowering dogwood cross between our PNW dogwood and a disease resistant Korean dogwood.

Privacy Landscape Design for Gardener’s Yard

This small city front yard was fun because my clients Sam and Austin love plants and Sam in particular was itching to get his hands in the soil.  They wanted to see year round plants in the front yard from inside the house and sit on the front porch without looking into the neighbor’s windows across the street.  We had good success with our design and a lot of fun and joy….but I acknowledge that as they settled into their new city home, they wanted even more screening.

Before photos for Portland landscape design

Before hardscape landscape design in N Portland.

Flowering dogwood gives front yard privacy in landscape design.

Here is the view from the living room picture window in May. Cornus x ‘Venus’ has 5″ across white flowers and wonderful fall color. We designed around this existing treasure, a dogwood cross between our PNW dogwood and a disease resistant Korean dogwood.

Now most of my clients don’t want experiments with plant selection.  They want my tried and true plants placed to my spacing requirements.  I stick to my spacing requirements especially for trees and the spacing is part of the value of a landscape design that will fit your property.  Most of us don’t want our plants to overwhelm the space and each other or want to referee with lots of pruning. But Sam is a gardener and loves a little trial and error.

Before and after photos of Portland front yard landscape design for privacy.

After photo of this N.E. Portland ‘No Lawn’ Landscape Design on Planting Day.

More Privacy Plantings for Small City Front Yard

He has added  more Magnolia to the parking strip to greatly increase blocking the view of the city street and apartment building.  Me, I look into the future 10 years or less and see the landscape too crowded but Sam unlike most of my clients, is prepared to prune and shape.  He has got that whole no fear gardening thing going for him so I’m excited to see how it works.  City living requires creative and different approaches for privacy, maybe even breaking the rules.

Sam, Austin and I worked closely with Donna Burdick (D & J Landscape Contractors) for the landscape installation.

Plants for this N.E. Portland Front Yard

The most important specification was creating a screen of plants to see from inside the house without burying the charm and curb appeal of the home’s front entry porch. Our plantings need to work with and enhance the existing fabulous Dogwood tree.  The style was a mix of NW Natural and Cottage Garden.  We had other specifications such as low water, pollinator friendly, fragrance.

Clients Favorite Plants in Front Yard

Acer palmatum is a dramatic focal point for Portland yard.

Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’ at a client’s large woodland garden – also used as the dramatic focal point.

The Shaina Japanese Red Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’)  is the favorite plant.  I selected it for it’s dramatic orange red spring color and also the shape.  It’s a little boxy; most Japanese maple are either weeping or have tall upright branching structures .  Shaina’s ‘boxy’ shape fits in my smaller city landscapes and provides more screening than a weeping form.  My clients just love how vibrant the red foliage is both in spring and fall.

We had played around with a pear tree for the entry walk but this was discarded for a narrow evergreen Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’.  This tree was selected by Sam for screening the street and cars as seen from the front porch and the angled view from the living room window.  The back yard has the fruit trees.

Spring Flowering Heather in privacy landscaping design in Portland.

Summer Flowering Heather and Fragrant Summer Flowering Daphne. Calluna vulgaris ‘Mrs Ron Green’ and Daphne t. ‘Summer Ice’

Three fragrant plants, all evergreens starts with Daphne odora,  Mexican Orange (Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’), and semi evergreen Daphne t. ‘Eternal Fragrance’.

These fragrant plants all bloom at different times of the year.  They are planted for my clients to enjoy the fragrances as they come and go from the front door.

Japanese anemone planted in Portland privacy landscaping.

Japanese Anemone

 

Plantings for a Small City Front Yard

Less flashy but excellent lower maintenance plants include spring flowering heather (February, March April), Iris x pacifica Rio Dorada (April and May), an evergreen Iris,  the hardy geranium groundcover Geranium x cantabrigense ‘Karmina’ flowers in May, June and July under the mature dogwood.  Japanese anemone, Anemone huphensis late summer flower add flower power at different times of the year and provide good groundcover and attractive foliage when not in flower.

Smaller Hydrangeas to Fit Small City Front Yard

The clients love mop head flowered hydrangea so we have 3 in the front.  Again size is an important consideration.  There is not enough room for the typical  6′ x 6′ hydrangea so I specified the dwarf Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Pia’ and 2 of the newer semi dwarf varieties called the City Line Series ‘Rio’ .  Rio should be only 4′ x 4′ or less and will give my client the more traditional blue and purple flower heads.  Pia is so reliably smaller than most, (and an excellent plant) at less than 3′ x 3′ but she will stay a pink mop head flower for many years and eventually go to a purple pink.  Many people like the traditional blue flower.

Pacific Northwest Native Plants

We also have a section of pure Pacific Northwest native plants on the far side of the Dogwood tree.  These are Vaccinium ovatum, native huckleberry, great for native bees and birds, Mahonia aqufolium, Tall Oregon grape for pollinators including Anna hummingbirds.  We have used PNW sword fern to good effect and it integrates much of the front yard plantings.  We want to get Oregon phacelia, a ground cover, going with the other natives but so far seeds have not been successful.  Oregon phacelia can leave small burrs in a dogs fur so not best with long furred dogs btw. My seeding efforts at my property has also failed so clearly there is a trick to it I do not have yet.  Sam has a good crop of the Tellima grandiflora (fringe cup) and that pollinator plant is working very well so if the Oregon phacelia doesn’t happen,  we still have great native plants for pollinators.

 

Portland privacy landscaping.

Before Landscape Design in a Day this family had no backyard for kids play area, and no privacy just lawn and a white picket fence.

 

Contact us

Do you love city living but want more privacy and charm to your front yard?  Going lawn less?  We love to create landscape designs with our city clients.  Contact us!

My next blog is about a family with 3 kids living in the city with no backyard, no place to play and no privacy for dining and hanging out.  Their new home, (a wonderful Portland Old House) is on a corner which is always challenging.  What to do?  Read on.