Archive for garden design with stone

Irvington Low Maintenance Front Yard Welcomes Her People Home

Low maintenance plantings and boulders for Irvington neighborhood.

Flowering Front Yard with Boulders and New Plantings Create Charm and hold the Slope

Welcoming No Grass Curb Appeal in Irvington Neighborhood

Our clients in the Irvington Neighborhood wanted their front yard landscape to welcome them home.

The house had amazing bones and the kind of porch you only see in a movie.  Big and roomy with a high ceiling and meant to be used as outdoor living space.  In fact Carol created their backyard design sitting on a big comfy outdoor sofa on this very porch (during Covid).  The front landscape had 2 old rhododendron trees and a large hydrangea hedge that fit the old 1920 era bungalow house perfectly.  The rest of the landscape including a very tired lawn needed to be re-imagined and re-designed.

Carol blogged about the backyard for this beautiful bungalow last year: Baby Boomers Downsize to NE Portland & Landscape Beautifully. Here is the rest of the story…

After Irvington curb appeal landscape design corrected front concrete walk

Simple concrete walk is possible after removing old Rhododendron

Sometimes You Have to Lose a Tree to Gain a Functional Front Yard

The front yard had a different set of goals than the back, as they always do. We integrated the two spaces, (front yard and back) through plants and materials while solving unique functional issues. The first goal was to create functional and charming access from the sidewalk to the front door.

Before Irvington low maintenance curb appeal landscaping.

Before: new concrete walkway ends abruptly to avoid tree trunk and roots.

There was a concrete front walk and steps up from the public sidewalk. Near the porch, the  concrete path ended with bits of broken flagstone which led guests smack into the side of the porch.  The funky twisted trunk of a sweet but misshapen rhododendron tree was in between the front entry path and the front porch entry. Someone needed to make the decision to remove the old rhododendron tree and connect the entry path to the porch.

It’s a sigh of relief sort of solution.

Tree blocks beautiful old house before landscaping update.

Before: overgrown rhododendron tree was blocking path access and hiding the best asset, the front porch.

And just in case we had any second thoughts about the old rhody our second goal, was to highlight the classic NE Portland front porch. The lines of the porch, the pillars and windows of the house are classic and perfect.  Unfortunately the tree was blocking this feature and so twice dammed, the large rhody tree was removed.

Boulders Versus Wall

The next element to address is the sloped front yard. In the summer, the clients would mulch their front beds, which is almost always a good practice. However, without sufficient retaining, the mulch would slide down the hill and unto the sidewalk every winter, creating a big mess and they didn’t want lawn. So we needed retaining that would fit well with the house and have a more natural style.  The clients knew they wanted an organic look and did not want a tall commercial looking wall – enter Basalt boulders.  Using local materials like Basalt boulders is also a better environmental choice since they don’t need to be trucked in from Montana.

Boulders are not as visually powerful as a wall since they don’t present as one piece.  How so?  They become so integrated with the plants that they don’t compete with the house.

Boulders help with low maintenance landscaping on front yard slope in Irvington.

After: Boulders and dense planting to hold slope and play up the porch.

Basalt Boulders to Tame the Slope

We love to use boulders and often do when a wall would clearly be too visually overpowering.  See previous projects Drought Tolerant and No Lawn. You can click on the photo above to take a closer look. The lower set of boulders are larger and provide the majority of the retaining, while the upper boulders are smaller and create useful planting pockets. This type of boulder design usually requires the designer to be on-site to assist with boulder placement as well as plant placement.

The drawing cannot communicate to an installer the exact placement of each boulder let alone how each plant would fit with the boulders as installed.   Instead it becomes a collaboration between the designer (me) and the installer.  Carol and I both find placing boulders to be very satisfying and it allows us to get it just right – plus it’s fun.  Also, the clients wanted some materials used in both the front and the back landscape and with boulders we could seamlessly repeat that material and style.

An Ice Storm Interrupts the Install

A late winter ice storm took down a huge tree in the neighbors yard just before the amazing contractor Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors started work on the front yard. If a tree has to come down crushing the yard and plants, the timing could not have been better.  It also took out our street trees which had some advantages since one of the trees was pretty funky looking.

Storm damage prior to curb appeal landscaping update in Irvington.

During: An ice storm brought a tree down on the landscape.

Special Irrigation for Drought Adapted Manzanita

The clients wanted a landscape that could handle our hot, dry summers here in Portland. Although their original thought was to have zero irrigation in the front yard, I had to advise them against this because we wanted to keep three mature hydrangeas and the mature rhododendron tree on the south end of the porch.  That rhododendron tree is fantastic and now has been professionally pruned, making it more fantastic.  But rhododendron and hydrangea will never be fully drought tolerate. So we went with mostly all low water plantings instead, aiming for a once-a-week drip-irrigated landscape with one focal point tree, (the manzanita) that will never ever be watered now that it is established.

Special front yard landscaping for Manzanita in Irvington neighborhood.

Heat loving Manzanita (Arctostaphylos bakeri ‘Louis Edmonds) has a special planting pocket with extra drainage to ensure the plant thrives.

Manzanita (Arctostaphylos bakeri ‘Louis Edmonds’) will thrive in the super-hot Southwest facing corner of the front yard. The planting pocket is created by boulders and the soil is prepared with added drainage so that the Manzanita will not only survive, but thrive. It’s small now but this will eventually be a focal point of the front yard. The versatility of drip irrigation allows us to specify that this Manzanita and a couple other plants in this design have absolutely zero irrigation in the summer while most of the other plants get that once-a-week drink. This is one of the biggest advantages of drip.  So after the first year of irrigation the installer cut out a section of drip tube and put a section back in that has no drip holes ensuring that the manzanita would not get irrigation.

Fun and floriferous plants included in this scheme: Wallflower (Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’), Stonecrop (Sedum ‘Fuldaglut’), Lavender (Lavandula stoechas ‘Otto Quast’) and Abelia (Abelia x chinensis ‘Rose Creek’)

Finishing Touches – Bold Container Planting

Just before guests walk up the steps to the front door, I wanted a bold container planting to greet them. The rusty-red container holds Sun Rose (Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant’) and New Zealand Flax (Phormium ‘Black Adder’), which echoes the Black Mondo Grass planted in the landscape.

Container planting for curb appeal landscaping update in Irvington.

Container planting includes Sun Rose (Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant’) and New Zealand Flax (Phormium ‘Black Adder’)

Contact Us

Are you ready for a welcoming front yard or a fun and functional front yard that uses less water?  Contact us for a collaborative design experience.

Time Travel a Willamette Heights NW Plant Lovers Garden

Residential landscape design for Portland gardeners.

After design installation for NW Native Garden Design Style.  When they said they were gardeners they were not kidding around!

Decades Designing a NW Natural Garden Landscape Design

Creating a NW Natural Native Garden Design for a hillside home in Portland, Oregon?  Why say time travel?  I met D and R and we created their first native garden design in 1997 and they are still enjoying their property and home now in 2022.

In the beginning they purchased a newly constructed home in Willamette Heights neighborhood of Portland.  They found me through their builder.  We connected at our first meeting and they saw I was a collaborative garden designer  rather than a person who finishes up a generic landscape for a builder.  Over the years we made a great team.  I’m grateful they picked me and this garden has meant much to me personally and professionally.

Design Phase-Getting to Know My Clients

They introduced themselves as people who like to garden. At my first glance, looking at their sloped back yard covered in English ivy and invasive blackberries, I figured we would not be doing much with the back yard.  The front yard and the side yard would be easier for them to care for so that would probably be where they would play with plants and garden.   I had no idea that over the next ten years we would transform the entire property into a lusciously planted NW style and native garden with  stone paths and steps to access multiple patios terraced into the hillside. Lush colorful plantings would knit the entire garden into a whole.  And so we began a garden transformation journey that would cover the next decade and a friendship that has gone on much longer.

We would collaborate to create the design, I had lots of experience with plants to know what plants would work for their non typical back yard and I was a designer who cared about their trees, (had worked for a tree service while in school) and the environment.  I would introduce them to my favorite arborist who helped them with their trees for over a decade. We would talk about drip irrigation and selecting low water plants that would work well with their trees and their sloped property.  Collaboration, spatial design eye, plant experience and environmental know how were all needed for this design as well as relationships with experienced landscape installers.

My Site Assessment

Portland hillside covered in ivy and blackberry before landscape design.

Before landscape design, back yard is covered in invasive ivy and blackberry

Blackberry and invasive ivy removed for Portland residential landscape design.

Blackberry and invasive ivy cover back yard before design process

Access to the Back yard – House Design and the Doors

Given the extreme site conditions who knew people who love plants and gardens would buy this property?

Here are the kinds of things a designer thinks about to create a Native Garden Design.  Initially the back yard was covered in ivy, blackberries and had 4 mature large native trees, 35’ (plus) feet tall. The smallest trunk was 30” through and another was closer to 42”. It sloped up steeply on the south side and at the very top you could easily see Mt. St. Helens over their multi story house roof.  Understanding the site conditions and how to move around on this property was the key to the right design.

Doors and their Locations Dictate the Layout of the Native Garden Design

Doors and their locations are one of the most important influences on a landscape design. I know it seems odd, not plants, doors. There were two doors. We had a well placed side door (located off the great room) that opened into a very narrow side yard. We planned to take full advantage of the existing rock walls in this area by planting them with dwarf ferns and other crevice filling plants. From the great room we see these evergreen plantings year round. The stone patio side yard was the only level area on the property and it became the first patio for outdoor living but would not be the last.

NW rockery with Himalayan Maidenhair Fern for residential landscape design.

Himalayan Maidenhair Fern – Adiantum Venustum creeps through rockery and is seen from the great room windows and door.

The only door that led directly to the back yard was off the master bedroom. There was very little level area there and way too small for a sitting area. The grade immediately pitched up the slope which was too steep for paths without significant grading and retaining work.

Site Conditions-Working with Existing Plantings

The back slope had mature native big leaf maple – Acer Macrophylla trees towering over the property and one Western Red Cedar.  Any other native plants had been taken over by the bank of ivy. A hedge of variegated Acuba ran all along the south property line and created needed privacy between neighbors.  Acuba is one tough plant and since it is so well established it doesn’t need much water and only needs annual pruning. It’s a great fit with low water native plants and would be compatible with the new plantings I would select to grow under the old trees.

Shade or Sun Plants?

Our light conditions for new plantings are also challenging because the back yard gets morning shade, and the intense mid day sun. By late afternoon the plants are getting dappled shade at best. Plant selection is tricky because sun lovers don’t get enough sun and shade plants get too much. Designers know from trial and error what plants will thrive in this ‘caught between the rules’ planting area. The internet, with the exception of Great Plant Picks, doesn’t address the many kinds of shade and to most people, it’s either a shade plant or a sun plant. Happily there is a world between the two.

More Site Condition Issues – Tree Roots don’t like to Share Water

The large leaves of the Oregon Big Leaf Maple create afternoon shade and their thirsty roots surely encompass the entire lot. Their roots would take water from anything we planted so new plants would need to be able to stand up to the competition.  For this native garden design I would select low water plants near the big trees for two reasons: They need to thrive on leftover water from the thirsty big trees.  And we can’t have plants that need a lot of water under the big native trees because overwatering them could cause them health problems.  Rain garden for NW residential landscape design.

 

Mysterious Water Sounds

Water problems in NW garden calls for new landscape design.There was a mysterious wet area part way up the slope. We could not see the water in the summer but we could hear it. In the winter it was much louder, a dull roar although oddly we did not see much water.  Even in the summer I could always hear the sound of water trickling somewhere underground.  A professional solution was needed and I wanted that solution to be part of the beauty.

Native Garden Design Phase

My first design concept drawings focused on the side patio garden and terracing along the back foundation of the house. I did not address the back yard hillside. My clients loved the design but kindly told me to think bigger with regard to the back yard. They wanted to get rid of all the ivy, not a common ideal in 1997, and design for access to the whole hillside, to result in a beautiful naturalistic style hillside garden. They had a view of Mt. St. Helens from the top south corner of their property and they wanted easy access to get there, and space to sit and enjoy that view. I went back to the drawing board. The next design added another terraced patio, the dry stream bed, paths and plantings. And in a few years there would be another phase of design that added more but you will have to wait until I write about it.

It’s All About How You Move-Paths

Design can be so simple. When I was still a student, Barbara Fealey, (Oregon famous and first female landscape architect) told me, ‘Design, it’s all about how you move’. It loses in the telling but it is a profound statement. The paths take us to where we want to be doing an activity (even if that activity is relaxing and doing nothing). I wanted taking the path to feel like an adventure while it simultaneously integrated the various terraces and planting areas into one whole. Paths are also designed to be practical and allow for easier maintenance of the plants and property.

Landscape design patio for mountain viewing in Portland.

Sneak peek into the last stone terrace patio added in 2009 at the upper north corner of the property. Clumping bamboo – Fargesia ‘Campbells’ is planted for privacy above the wall.

Path Tips

Hillside paths need to break up the steep slopes and lead us into spaces we can be in.

Think about the activities the paths would serve: access to sitting areas for outdoor living and plant maintenance.

Traversing across a slope is often the best way to go and in our case, it minimized the number of stairs.

The path that cuts across the slope creates beautifully shaped planting beds.

Having enough paths allows access to planting beds for maintenance.

NW Portland Landscape Design rock wall plantings Omphalodes c. 'Cherry Ingram'

Navel wort or Blue eyed Mary captivates us with blue spring flowers. This is a variety so not our true native omphalodes.

Walls and Terraces

The walls for the stone terraces showcase beautiful plants as well as carving out and retaining hillside to create a level place for the sitting area.

Uncommon Plants

Here is a list of fun plants that I do not typically use but that were perfect for this property.  Euphorbia amygdaloides  ‘Mrs. Robb’s Spurge’ for a dry tolerant groundcover under the maple trees.  It spreads by runner so we trapped it behind the stone paths and it was not watered much which helped it stay in bounds.  Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’ – Variegated Wood Rush; if you look up this evergreen grass on line, it will often say it has to be divided frequently so people shy away from it.  This is not true and it is a very low water plant and will become fully drought tolerant once it is well established.  This was used under the maple trees and picks up the gold from the variegated dogwood leaf nicely. It was a strong enough plant to hold its own with the ‘Mrs. Robbs Spurge’.

Not All Native Plants

Adding diversity to the landscape is a good thing and having lots of natives is a good thing.  If someone wants every plant to be a native plant to Willamette Valley I’m happy to create for this specification. It’s exciting. But most of us don’t have the proper soil or site conditions for just any native plant and many people want more summer and winter color than we can get with natives alone. I’m big on using native and non native plants for my clients who care about the environment but are not ready for the rough winter appearance of the fully native plant landscape. There are lots of ways to create an environmentally conscious garden design including using local native plants.

NW landscaping a dry creek bed for residential portland property.

Dry creek bed is a focal point but also has a drain to collect and move excess water on the property.

Native Plants List

We used quite a few natives to include tough and low water Sword Fern, Blue-Eyed Mary – Omphalodes verna (a cultivated variety of it called ‘Cherry Ingram’), a variety of our native red twig dogwood called Cornus S. ‘Hedgerows Golden’ with its variegated leaf in spring and summer, fall color and then red twigs in the winter. This is a plant that can be planted on the edges of wet and boggy locations or once established be drought tolerant.   We used a lot of different ferns. I’m sure we had over 20 different varieties and many of them crossed over the years and made variants (which I call frondlings).  These “frondlings” picked their spot to germinate, often in the crevices of the rock walls.  Ferns have so much fun texture and are very low maintenance when sited correctly. And many of our workhorse native shrubs like Vaccineum, Nine Bark and Ribes.

Pseudo Rain Garden/Dry Stream Bed

Another unique area for plants was the dry stream bed. We used large varieties of maiden hair fern tucked behind the logs so they didn’t get too much water in the winter when the dry stream bed was not dry…and lots of gold acorus grass which loved the winter water. The contrast of clean gold blades with the spring green of the maidenhair fronds was arresting. The contractor installed a drain at the bottom so the stream bed itself did not have hardly any plants in it like a typical rain garden would. Maidenhair fern – Adiantum and Toad Lilly – Tricyrtis are two plants that thrive planted up higher at the edge of the rocks; they would die from root rot planted into the middle. They don’t tolerant constantly wet soil in winter.

Plant Shopping

Since my clients D and R are gardeners, we experimented with many plants over the next decade. The front and side yards were also designed and so the entire property became a garden. Yes we used a lot of my trusty tried and true plants and native plants, but gardeners love plants. Some fun shopping happened at small plant nurseries like Fancy Fronds, Robins Nest and Joy Creek Nursery, (most of these are retired except Fancy Fronds who is going onto a 2nd generation).  If you are a plant geek or a wanna-be the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon can be counted on to provide great plants at their twice yearly sales. R and I had a lot of fun with blue flowering plants like Corydalis f. ‘China Blue’  and also used common groundcover Speedwell- Veronica u. Georgia Blue’ neither of these are drought tolerant btw. These days only a few clients are enthused plant geek shoppers so most clients have native plants and others delivered by my plant broker, a garden nursery or the installer.

Collaboration with Your Designer

If you want a naturalistic garden design or a full on native plants garden design, first select someone like me who is serious about connecting and collaborating with you. I believe in the power of no. In fact I will prompt you to say something when you see or feel something isn’t right when we are looking at a design concept together. I’ve already learned about what you like and I have the yes list.  Still without exception, learning about your ‘no’ allows me to make the design even better for you.

We want to help you make your new landscape a place that is not only safe for nature, but provides for and allows other life to be sustained besides your own. These days lots of Portlanders are right there with me wanting practical ways to make their landscape an asset to our environment.

Look at our reviews-they often go on a bit about how the space in some tiny or difficult yard was magically utilized. Spatial know how is a great talent and while it can be learned, Alana and I both seem to have that talent innately. And it’s a toss up as to which is more fun, figuring out the best layout of your back yard or creating the planting plan.

Are you interested in a naturalistic and native garden design style for your back yard?  Are you looking for a collaborative design experience?  Contact us.

 

 

Outdoor Living Landscape Design in Mt. Tabor Backyard

Outdoor Living Landscape Design has wide paths and easy access

Outdoor Living in Mt. Tabor neighborhood. Lounge area, dining area, hot tub, and chicken coop. Covered area is not installed yet. See below for finished design photo.

Outdoor Living in Mt. Tabor Backyard

These clients wanted to entertain and relax in their back yard

Matt and Nicole wanted all the classic elements for backyard outdoor living: outdoor kitchen, outdoor dining Area, and lounge area. They wanted to nix the lawn while also having open spaces for large groups to gather. They have beloved backyard chickens that need easy daily access, even in the winter. A small hot tub and a hammock were also must haves.

Mt Tabor Backyard Before Outdoor Living Landscape Design with muddy grass

Before: muddy lawn, few plants.

Designing for Outdoor Living on a City Lot

They wanted a lot of elements in a standard city lot. We needed to use every square inch wisely and have some overlapping functions. The first trick was the hot tub location. It needs to be close enough to electrical, away from basement egress windows and have some privacy. I could see that if we moved the gate, we could open up more space in the backyard and fit the hot tub into a cozy spot against the house. Fortunately, the fence needed an update anyway, so this solution was just right!

Backyard Access

The next design challenge was the lack of easy access. There is a gorgeous sun room on the back of the house but no access to the backyard. The only door to the backyard is from the basement. The primary way the family enters the backyard is the kitchen side door via the driveway. This was an important consideration for the entire design.

To make the garden to feel welcoming from all angles, we created sweeping curved lines for each of the beds. We chose crushed compacted rock for the paths. The paths needed to be easily accessible and dry all year long so that the family can collect eggs from either the basement door or driveway gate.

Hardscape Landscaping shows Flagstone, Crushed Rock Paths and Outdoor Kitchen

After: Believe it or not, this is the same angle as the “before” picture! The lawn is gone and the curved beds create a welcoming feeling from every angle.

Designing for Outdoor Living

Matt and Nicole wanted the outdoor living area to be able to accommodate a larger gathering. Therefore, I knew we would need to stack functions. Having the outdoor kitchen, dining table and lounge area together – similar to an open floor plan inside a house – allow all the functions to utilize the same open area. Friends can stand around the BBQ while someone is grilling. Or the family can easily bring out extra chairs whenever more guests arrive. They love the open feeling and flexibility of their new outdoor living space.

Hardscape Landscaping Materials

We used Bluestone (flagstone) for the dining patio surface and crushed rock for walkways and the lounge area.

The drainage was important for this project.  We chose crushed rock as the main hardscape material, which allows water to percolate through. Each disconnected downspout has either rock or water-tolerant plants to slow and sink the rain water as well. The dining area stands out with a higher end material – Variegated Lavender Bluestone. This flagstone is dry-set, (versus mortar set) which helps with drainage as well.

 

Outdoor kitchen, dining, hot tub and a lounging area fit into this Mt Tabor backyard
Lastly, I knew that the family would want to get to the hot tub without putting shoes on and gravel is not barefoot-friendly. This is overlooked more often than you might think! We made sure that the design included flagstone from the basement to the hot tub for easy, year round access.

Phase 2: Covered Dining and Landscape Lighting

Covered dining area completes Outdoor Living Landscape Design

Garden Installation by Sloan Martin. Dining and kitchen area cover was designed for construction and installed by a friend of the family.

Covered dining area completes Outdoor Living Landscape Design

Nicole and Matt worked with a friend to build the pergola.

In year 2, Nicole and Matt worked with a friend to build the pergola.

When you have a beautiful, brand new landscape, full of entertaining elements, lighting is a must! So, the homeowners added very simple string lights inside the new dining area. They also added a linear fire pit for night time ambiance. The backyard is now enjoyed after dark.

Design Review

“Thanks for all your help Carol and Alana.  We are so glad we hired you when we did.  You took all our wants and ideas to heart and the landscape design, which we love, is a true collaboration just as you say.  Thank you for helping us have our dream backyard.”

Are you ready to create a backyard for entertaining? Contact us today.

Baby Boomers Downsize to NE Portland & Landscape Beautifully

Landscape in Irvington Neighborhood for Downsizing Boomer Clients

This NE Portland backyard was updated for retiring baby boomers

My clients had just moved into a bungalow on a small lot in NE Portland.  They are baby boomers and were downsizing from a larger home and property.  This house was “charm” itself with a gracious front porch and had wonderful bones.  While we created a design for the entire property, this blog is about the back yard transformation.

The back yard had an existing covered dining area. It looked like a portico with the roof attached to their shed to me and was quite attractive but so badly placed. It was blocking access to the back yard. The clients wanted my direction for whether to keep it or have it demolished.

The existing landscape spaces didn’t fit together or make good use of the square footage available.  They wanted good flow.

Privacy Screening for an Urban Backyard was a Priority.

They especially wanted privacy and better views from inside the house.  In a larger property, creating lush green views from every window is easier with plenty of square footage between the windows and the neighbors.  In small urban properties, controlling the views is more tricky to do well with typically only 5′ to 10′ of space to work with.  This space always has paths and other functions to perform and so is not solely available for plantings.  The view of the next door neighbors multistory house and roof was especially obvious from inside the home office.

The rest of their wish list looked like this:

NE Portland back yard landscape design with gas firepit patio and colorful plantingsTwo entertaining areas

A fire pit

A better utility area for garbage cans

A grassy area for their dog

Keep the large shade tree to the north

BEFORE image of NE Portland backyard landscaping.

The existing covered dining area was very badly placed and blocked entry to the back yard.

Poor Access to the Back Yard

 This old Portland house had access from the home’s office to the back yard.  Not ideal.  No one wants friends and family traipsing through their office with BBQ prep and smores. The primary outdoor traffic would come from the kitchen door on the far north side which is a long ways from the activities of the back yard.

I feel when the home does not have access from a primary living room or kitchen directly into the back yard, we need to have a big reward (Carol make it magical!)  when we get to the back yard.  There is a psychological resistance when access doesn’t lead directly to the activity.

Landscape Integration

Repeating hardscape landscaping materials helps to integrate a small city propertyGiven what they wanted, the key to success was integration.  In this case it would involve bringing the walking surface to one grade and repeating hardscape materials.  The shapes of the sitting areas, paths and planting beds needed to be one continuous flowing piece.

I replaced the deck under the Portico (covered area) with a flagstone patio, level with the rest of the yard.  The flagstone is used again in the back yard to pull these previously separated areas into one.  The large fire pit patio also has touches of flagstone.  Using the same materials and making the walking surface the same grade did the trick.  A custom wood cover for the fire pit allows my clients to use it for a low table instead of a heat source when desired.

Blocking View of Roof Next Door

We blocked the view of the house and roof next  door with clumping bamboo.  To get a height boost, custom planters were built at 36″ high so my baby boomer clients would not have to wait for years to enjoy privacy and a lush wall of green to see  while working in their office.

The Kitchen Door

Clumping Bamboo in Custom Wood Planters Creates Privacy for Baby Boomers

Clumping Bamboo (Fargesia Robusta) in Custom Wood Planters will quickly provide privacy for this Irvington neighborhood home.

This little old concrete step was too big of a drop from the threshold and it wasn’t wide enough for a normal sized foot. We took the opportunity to legitimize this important family entry door by rebuilding this step with attractive materials that gave it beauty as well as function.  It sets the feeling for returning home and into the kitchen which is after all the soul of any home.

This step will be used every time anyone heads to the back yard for relaxing, entertaining, and family fun.

Cedar Gate is relocated to add utility space to Irvington Side Yard

Relocated Gate Saves Money and Improves Side Yard Flow and Function

Practicalities of Gates & Garbage Cans

We expanded the utility function of the side yard by relocating the double gate toward the front of the house.  I tend to always set the gate back some from the front corner of the house, (at least a foot or two).  I want all eyes on the front entry (in this case a magnificent front porch) not to the side yard. A gate parallel to the front of a house often waters down the beauty of the entry to the home.

The garbage cans and recycling bins needed to be easy to roll out to the road for pick up. I had some grand ideas about plants on one side that would then switch but the gas meter location and garbage cans had other ideas.

I’m always keeping one eye on the goal.  This area may be “just the side yard” but it must be attractive enough to be the introduction to the magical back yard entertaining area. In this case, the side yard had to do triple duty, block the view of tall house next door, welcome people home via the kitchen side door and make us want to keep going and see the back yard.

Back Yard Privacy

Modern Style Gas Fire Pit Table is perfect for downsized baby boomer back yard

Firepit from PyroMania

We didn’t have enough square footage of our own for back yard privacy. The trick here was to utilize some of the neighbor’s small trees “borrowing” their privacy plants.  Yes it’s true a neighbor could tire of a small tree and remove it and leave a hole in our vignette but it’s worth the risk.  There is nothing worse than a pile of beautiful plants fighting it out in the air space above the fence.  It spoils the view for everyone. We want to see the shapes of our trees and plants, not a muddle.

 Shade will Increase

The shade will increase over the years as the client’s old maple tree gets bigger. At some point the lawn will need to be replaced with synthetic lawn.  However, most of the plantings I selected will make the shift to heavier shade.

Working Together

My usual technique for any design is to take in the client’s desires and after careful site study create multiple layout drawings that all aim toward fulfilling those desires.

Heuchera 'Green Spice' is graced with Autumn LeafMy clients were very helpful as we worked through the different layout drawings.  Due to Covid we also worked over Zoom to finalize our layout.  During that process we discover our priorities and so the wish list was winnowed.

When the contractors estimate comes in sometimes there is another winnowing after the design is completed. We discovered we could not alter a fence because it belonged to the neighbor. We let go of a hidden garden behind the shed and kept the existing small deck off the home office as is rather than flipping it for cost reasons.

Fatsia Japonica Spiders Web is a perfect low maintenance plant for seniorsIt helps to have the design installed by a contractor who is familiar with my work and with whom I collaborate regularly.

My clients liked working with my recommended contractor Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors very much and got the benefit of our many years working together.  Victor Vencill of Vencill Construction designed and built the high end custom planters and the fire pit cover.  He also made corrections on their existing small deck.  The three of us work together regularly and together we make an amazing problem solving team and have fun while doing so.

Boulders create interest for gas fire pit patioCLIENT COMMENTS

NE Portland backyard gets dog friendly landscape update.

NE Portland clients love their new backyard including the family dog.

“We loved working with Carol. She created a beautiful design and final product. She is a great collaborator and listener. She drafted a number of versions of the landscaping design based on many conversations. We were not very experienced with landscaping and gardening, but she spent the time to educate us and listen to our perspective and style. She also understood our budget and provided a design that was beautiful and worked for our family. She continued to provide input during construction, which we very much appreciated. We now spend time every day enjoying the beautiful spaces Carol designed.”
~David, Portland.

Do you have a tricky backyard that needs privacy and thoughtful use of limited square footage?  We love tricky city properties and would be happy to help you downsize your landscape to fit your new senior lifestyle.

Laurelhurst Neighborhood Home Gets a New Backyard

Updated Hardscape With Existing Native Oregon Plants

Laurelhurst home landscape design creates functional space and room for plants.

Beautiful new backyard for this Laurelhurst Home

Clients Wish List

This client is a gardener extraordinaire. She had several beloved existing plants to work into the design, and a list of favorite plants.  The planting plan would be a collaborative design effort that would ensure her garden was colorful and encouraged hummingbirds and pollinators to visit.  The planting plan would be focused on summer and fall with full season interest plants situated for views from important windows.  Everything else would be for enjoying while outdoors.  She wanted her new garden to be a place that she could live in all summer and fall.

Her current backyard was not a friendly place to be in although it had beautiful plantings.  The existing sitting area was a narrow and awkward small deck.  Happily, it was old and rotting, so designing a comfortable sitting area right off the kitchen door didn’t mean removing a deck that still had years of life in it. She also wanted a bit more privacy on that upper deck.

She wanted a patio that could be multi-purpose –  seating or BBQ station or lounging with rooms for colorful plants in pots like Cuphea (Firecracker Plant).  Cuphea attracts hummingbirds like crazy in the summer and she always has a pot or two to enjoy.

Kebony Fence and gate updated teh hardscape for Laurelhurst neighborhood home.

Gate solution – Kebony instead of wood graces this Victor Vencill fence design in Laurelhurst neighborhood.

Laurelhurst home landscape design creates sitting area and room for gardeners plantsplants.

Designers Perspective

We love designing for city proprieties.  One of the challenges of the site is the short distance between the corner of the garage and the corner of the house. This is a classic spatial problem we often encounter with houses in old Portland neighborhoods like Laurelhurst.  It’s tricky for homeowners to figure out how to get a comfortable access path into the back yard without crowding out a useful back porch space.  We needed a ground level gate,  comfortable access to the garage and a big enough upper deck to accommodate a 4-person table.  The solution was a gate that opened out toward the driveway and also relocated the stairs to the house further away from this congested area.

Privacy

To create privacy for the upper deck from the neighbor’s yard, we designed a planter (flush with the deck).  Clumping bamboo will brighten the deck and provide the privacy needed.

Laurelhurst home gets creative and functional backyard landscape design

Before lower deck ate up space for plantings.

The large lower deck was ripped out and we opted for a smaller flagstone patio. The patio is at the same level as the garden and gives more space for plants, which this homeowner is keen on. The two materials also creates visual appeal by providing different colors and textures for different garden “rooms”.

Stairs Matter

Because the sliding glass door is so much higher than the backyard, 6 steps are needed to get down to ground level.  The key to increasing useful space that is more inviting is to stretch out our 6 steps and turn them.

Updated patio hardscape gets creative in Laurelhurst neighborhood, Portland, Oregon

After Design-Flagstone patio and Kebony deck creates functional space for two sitting areas.

While having stairs go straight isn’t wrong, we made a landing to easily access the stone patio on one side and the path for strolling through the lush and colorful hummingbird garden on the other.  Our client liked this simple and unique solution. If you turn right, you get to a lovely stone patio. If you turn left, you get to stroll through the beautiful hummingbird garden.

 

Laurelhurst back yard remodel before new hardscape with patio and fence.

Before – With the old deck removed, it’s easy to see how much space was wasted with the old layout.

Around the corner into the side yard, we opted for a budget friendly  low fence. We selected  Fi Bar cedar chips from Mt Scott Fuel for our path and for around the plants.  A generous helping of cedar chips makes for good weed suppression.  The plantings here will be seen from the dining room.  We used a few larger native shrubs to bring butterflies and other beneficial creatures.

Landscape design creates clients dream garden in Laurelhurst neighborhood with new fence, path and patio hardscape.

After photo-final day of installation. Notice the borrowed view of the neighbors trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plants

Textural combination of lavender with an ornamental purple leaf clover

Purple Four Leaf Clover with Lavander is a happy choice for client who collects 4 leaf clovers.

The client’s must-have plants included an assortment of salvias,  natives and other pollinator plants.

Salvia Guarantica 'Black and Blue' is just one of the plants kept from the original garden in Laurelhurst neighborhood backyard garden.

One of the Homeowner’s Salvia plants – She loves to share clumps with friends and neighbors.

Her favorite salvias include S. guaranitica, S. microphylla, and S. patens.

Big native shrubs included Red-Flowering Current (Ribes sanguineum) and Dwarf Vine Maple (Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’).

Besides the salvias, we added the Yuletide Camellia (Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’), which is like hummingbird candy in winter. It is positioned perfectly so that the clients can see it through their sliding glass door in the winter where it will flower for months.

Installation

Large curve in path will allow room for Adirondack chairs in Laurelhurst neighborhood backyard.

Designer/Contractor Team Alana Chau, Associate Designer LDIAD with Sam from D & J Landscape Contractors.

We referred the installation of the garden to D&J Landscape Contractors .

Materials

The client introduced us to a product called Kebony – a wood that is grown sustainably and treated with a natural preservative. It is made from pine instead of the more commonly used cedar.

Kebony has been used in Europe for many years and is now available in the US. It starts as a warm brown that will take on silver tones as it ages.  The installation of the product might cost about 25% more but according to their website, it requires no maintenance and has a 30 year warranty!

The railing is stainless steel cabling by Precision Rail of Oregon.

The patios were made using irregular bluestone flagstone and compacted crushed rock.

FiBar cedar chips were used for the side yard path.

Contact us

Would you like to create an inviting backyard to watch the hummingbirds and relax?  We would love to work with you.  Call us at 503-223-2426 or use our contact form.