Archive for fragrant flowers

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.

Itoh Peony Low Maintenance Beauty

Itoh Peony – Low Maintenance Beauty and Thrills for All

Perfect Mothers Day gift for a NO FEAR gardener.

What’s all the fuss about the new Itoh (say it Eeetoe) peony?  These new plants eliminate the only weak point of the old fashioned peony, the weak stems which can really spoil the flowers in our often wild and wet spring weather. Okay, they do cost three times as much as the old fashioned but read on.

Why do we want peonies anyway? They are EASY and will outlive you!!  The flower is fabulous, fragrant and since the 1400’s has been filled with historical and cultural significance for us humans.  My grandmother loved them and picked an armload for the house and to decorate the family graves on Memorial Day.

I grew up loving to play and work in her garden and today I love these new peonies as well because:

#1 Later Bloom – June not May
#2 Sturdy fibrous stems
#3 Bigger flowers in new colors

North Portland Itoh Peony in Garden DesignItoh cost more than the old fashioned so expect $50 to $100 for a medium priced plant.  The tissue cultured plants may be cheaper but I don’t recommend them because they are not as strong rooted. This will effect how many flowers you get on your plant year after year and this is a plant where the flower really matters.  The dissected foliage is great but hey it’s about the flower this time.

Here is my best source for peony of any kind, herbaceous, tree or Itoh.  Rick Rogers is a second generation peony designer and grower in Silverton, Oregon.  His father is an international star of the peony world. Rick grows peonies the old fashioned way, propagating new peonies by extracting these perfect bits of root stock.  Taking these cuttings is an art form and his plants will outgrow and out flower tissue culture generated plants easily.  Rick’s nursery is called Treony……   Email him for his list of Itoh if he doesn’t have them on his web yet.  Also see Wayside Gardens web site, (with fabulous close up of the flowers).  Their plants are a lot smaller however than what Rick offers.  These are a lifetime investment.  They will outlive you and can be dug when you move but plan to dig very very deep.

North Portland Garden Design Itoh PeonyNow regarding NO FEAR gardening. The Itoh peony can test your ability to postpone gratification. The first year, cut off all flower buds, do not let any of them flower!!!! that takes faith, hence NO FEAR.  The second year, let yourself have one flower and cut all the rest off while they are still buds.  The third year, let them rip uhm……….flower.  Those who cannot do this may have to wait ten years to get anything near the number of flowers that you, gentle but fierce gardener, will have.  It rewards those gardeners who can take the long approach to getting their kicks.  I think perhaps Dulcy Mahar would have recommended nibbling on some good chocolate while you cut off the buds.  I can assure you having an Itoh peony with 40 blooms on it will stop you in your tracks so it is worth it.  Did I mention the plant has very attractive foliage, is low water and has golden fall color as well?