Archive for garden tips

Portland Backyard Privacy Screening for a Family’s Outdoor Room

Family Needs a Private Backyard Landscaped in Portland

2 Patios with privacy screen are loosely connected with flagstone stepping stones in Portland, Oregon.

Two patios – one stamped concrete and the other crushed rock – are loosely connected with flagstone stepping stones.

Kristen and Rob have lived in their home long enough to remember when privacy fences did not exist between the backyards. Rob specifically remembers the days when he felt like their backyard was much bigger because there were no definitive boundaries from tall wooden fences. Fast forward a couple decades and the situation has changed – it’s time to create a backyard that is a more private family hangout space.

Instantly Hide an Eyesore with a Landscape Privacy Screen

Goal number one is to create a privacy screen without the cost of replacing the entire fence. The neighbors window had a direct view into the family backyard and, more importantly, a new flood light that the neighbor installed was beaming into their backyard at all hours of the day and night.

Portland Home Gets Privacy Landscape Treatment

Before: Hello Purple House!

Sometimes the solution to a privacy problem can be solved with plant material alone, but this one needed a quicker resolution. The client sketched out the tall wooden privacy screen that I happily incorporated into the design. See the photo below to see how much that helps! That is only the beginning of the solution, however. In order to truly feel like a private space, we must create layers.

Portland Home Gets Privacy Screen for Back yard Privacy Landscape

During. Wood Privacy Screen built in front of the fence provides instant gratification. Vines will eventually adorn the trellis.

Vines and Trees create Privacy and Shade

To create layers, we use plant material. This not only adds to the screening but it also creates something more beautiful for the eye to concentrate on instead of seeing the house. Look how the Japanese Maple in the foreground adds to the privacy and the layered plantings create a wonderful distraction.

A wooden trellis, Japanese Maple and multiple planting beds complete this private backyard for the family in Portland, Oregon..

A wooden trellis, Japanese Maple and multiple planting beds complete this backyard for the family.

The Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum, had to be just the right shape for the space. We purchased the tree as a single trunk with a high canopy. Over time, the tree will spread out to create a natural shade from the blasting afternoon sun. We discussed attaching a permanent structure to the garage to create that instant shade, but all parties agreed that in this case, the shade of a tree creates the type of atmosphere they want, even if they have to wait a couple years for it to bulk up.

Japanese inspired privacy screen planted with climbing hydrangea.

Trellis and privacy screen with climbing hydrangea, Schizophragma hydrangeoides

Three climbing hydrangeas, Schizophragma hydrangeoides, will scramble up the back trellis. This is a dappled shade area, which is ideal for this plant.  Unfortunately, climbing hydrangeas are not the fastest grower, but if you’ve ever seen a full grown one, you know it is worth the wait, and the clients thought so too.

Hardscapes create different “Garden Rooms”

 

Private backyard landscape design.

Landscape Design with Two Seating Areas and Lawn. Click image to see more detail.

This family backyard features two seating areas, aka “Garden Rooms”. The main dining area is poured concrete with a flagstone-style stamped pattern. The secondary seating area is crushed rock, installed to allow drainage. The secondary area is designed as the tween hangout – slightly set apart from the main area.

Asian theme continues throughout private backyard.

Simple arbor with view of lawn and patios beyond.

Drainage Solutions including a Rain Garden

As usual in Portland backyards, drainage is an important consideration. Luckily, the clients hired one of the best contractors for attention to detail – Donna Burdick of D&J Landscape Contractors.  One disconnected downspout had to be moved, the crushed rock had to be installed correctly for extra drainage, and the poured concrete had to slope in just the right way to ensure the winter water moved away from the house.

Portland rain garden for downspout.

Small rain garden with hidden dry well captures water from a disconnected downspout

Additionally, a small rain garden with a dry well captures the water from a small portion of the roof gutters.

Contact Us to Create Your Private Backyard Hangout

Are you ready to tackle your backyard to create privacy and a hangout for the whole family? Contact us today!

 

Tips for Planting Under Mature Trees

Planting Under Mature Trees in Portland Landscapes

Flowering Tree with plantings underneath

Fatsia Japonica, Beesia and Hosta thrive under Japanese Snowbell Tree in NE Portland.

A designer pal of mine asked for some help with selecting plants to grow under large mature trees.  Here is what I have learned over many years.  Also a thank you to Bruce Hegna (Nature Nurture Landscape Design) for his contributions to the list and Stacey Stewart, Eden’s Gate Garden Design.

 

Carol’s rules for planting under big trees

  1. Do no harm to your big trees roots.  Please don’t chop into them, bury them with additional soil or treat suckers with herbicides. They may see you coming but they cannot run away.
  2. Plants competing with mature tree roots will grow very slowly. Two or three times as slow as plants who do not have tree root competition.  Patience is a requirement.
  3. Up close to the tree trunk where there are so many large woody roots is the hardest place to plant with success.   Also, the size of root ball for your new plants will need to be smaller close in to the trunk so you don’t damage your trees roots. And yet….see #4
  4. A larger sized plant will establish with a higher percentage of success than the tiny sized plants. (Which isn’t fair but I did not make up these rules, nature did)
  5. When you discover a root where you want to put a plant try splitting the root ball of your new plant so the new plant is straddling the root. This can work surprisingly well in fall and winter, but not in the heat of July.
Lush plantings under mature trees in Portland Landscape Design

Plants thrive with morning sun only in hillside garden in NW Portland’s Willamette Heights neighborhood.

Plants to grow under mature trees

Morning sun and afternoon shade under deciduous trees

Under 3’ tall plants:  Sword Fern,-Polystichum munitum, Bishops Hat-Epimendium ‘Sulpereum’ ‘Frohnleiten’,  Hardy Geranium-Geranium Macrhorhizum,Creeping Oregon Grape-Mahonia repens, Hellebore, Hosta

Taller shrubs:  Osmanthus, Japanese Aralia-Fatsia, Huckleberry- Vaccinium ovatum

Understory trees:  Variegated Red Twig Dogwood Shrub- Cornus S. ‘Hedgerows Golden, ‘Vine Maple-Acer circinatum, Rhamnus Variegata, (Variegated Italian Buckthorn) Azara microphylla, Russian Olive. Eleagnus ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’

Woman with Sequoia Tree

Carol Lindsay communing with a grove of Sequoia trees – nothing grows here.

Deep shade is the most difficult.  It’s much easier to grow plants with some dappled light coming through deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the fall). Here is a deep shade landscape of mine in Portland.

Naturescape Portland Oregon Native Plants

Evergreen Huckleberry used as a screen in SW Portland.

Huckleberry used as drought tolerant planting under mature tree in Portland.

Huckleberry Hedge at the edge of a shade garden in NW Portland.

Plants to grow under limbed up fir trees

These plants are getting direct sun for part of the day

Plants Under 3’ Tall:

Mahonia repens (needs some shade), Sword Fern, Tellima grandiflora, (Fringe Cup), Ceanothus t. ‘Kurt Zadnik”, groundcover California Lilac, Abelia ‘Rose Creek’, cold hardy Hebe, a variety of hardy geranium groundcovers like Geranium x cantabriginense and more.

Taller plants:  Corylus cornuta, (native hazelnut),  Holodiscus discolor, (Ocean Spray), Vaccinium ovatum, (Native Huckleberry) Acer Circinatum, (Vine Maple and please be sure you have room for the Vine Maple to 10’ wide and more)  Azara microphyllya, (Box leaf Azara Chinchin) Mahonia (Tall Oregon Grape).

Most of these plants are drought tolerant or low water but you will be watering them carefully, not too much or too often but regular water is a must under such difficult conditions. After many years most of these plants will require less frequent watering.

Hardscape design Sellwood Moreland Garden Design in Portland

Freshly installed Landscape Design in a Day. Emily says, “Carol got my desire for simplicity and my style both with the plant material and the hardscapes.”

After care for plants growing under mature trees

  1. Drip irrigation-you will need to water the new plants so they actually get some of the water.  This means a long slow watering practice such as what you can achieve with drip irrigation.
  2. Top dress with a mulch rather than push the plants with fertilizers. Add mulch around the new plants twice a year or at least once unless they are a plant like California lilac or Manzanita, (they do not tolerate any fertilizer or rich mulch).
  3. I’ve had great success with dressing just the crowns of the plants with tiny crushed rock such as quarter ten crushed rock. Plants that had not grown in years had a growth spurt when I started adding crushed rock around the plant.  (Great tip from Maurice Horn—Joy Creek Nursery.)

There is still some trial and error but I hope you will be inspired to try underplanting your big trees.  You can have successful, healthy and attractive plants under and near many kinds of large mature trees.

We love  to create designs that work with your mature trees.  Contact us and tell us all about what you want in your landscape—503-223-2426 or use our contact page on our web site.

 

Designers List of Shade Plants for Root Weevil Resistance

NE Portland Hostas with Root Weevil Damage

Root weevil damage distracts from an otherwise beautiful collection of shade loving plants.  

Designers List of Shade Plants for Root Weevil Resistance

Root weevil disfigure so many shade garden plants and can make a garden look ravaged. It’s disappointing to see hosta and other plant leaves looking all chewed up. Can we design a shade garden with beauty and style without using root weevil favorite snack plants?

“Well HELL that’s not much of a shade garden” is what I said after eliminating plants root weevil like to eat. I was disappointed in the tiny number of plants that would work and wandered off to write about something different, something a bit cheerier!!!! However, I’ve been thinking about it and yes, we have some great plants we can use. 

Evergreen Shrubs  

Fatsia japonica Spider's Web in SE Portland Residential Landscape Design

Sometimes choosing an interesting variegated leaf, such as this Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ can hide the notching caused by Root Weevil (look close!)

Aucuba, Daphne and Fatsia are not root weevil favorites and if you select the variegated forms the notching doesn’t show as much. To be specific, Daphne odora ‘Marginata’,  Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’, and Aucuba japonica ‘ Gold Dust’ are varieties that I recommend.

I have never seen much leaf damage on our Native Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) probably because the leaves are so tiny.  It doesn’t show which is what we are after.

Three Root Weevil Resistant Rhododendron for Part Shade 

Grant Park Garden Design Rhododendron with Root Weevil resistance

The fuzziness on the bottom of the leaves on some Rhododendrons reduce Root Weevil damage.

I’ve found  lists of root weevil resistant rhododendron less than helpful since most Rhododendron listed are sun lovers. Root weevil prefer part shade to shade loving plants.

Rhododendron ‘Clipiense’ is my best weevil resistant compact rhododendron for shadier situations. This rhody has fine hairs on the leaves so root weevil rarely bother it. It’s a slower growing variety and can take more shade than the other two I have listed but not deep shade.  Any rhododendron with a hairy or fuzzy leaf will be root weevil resistant.  Many of the hairier leafed plants are sun lovers but not all.

Rhododendron ‘Sappho’ is a tall white flowered w burgandy splotched flower.  Sappho does well in morning sun, dapples and afternoon shade.  

Rhododendron ‘Blue Diamond’ can take full sun but does well in full am sun and afternoon shade. It can get taller than wide.

Perennials   

NW Portland Sword Fern and Hardy Geranium in Residential Landscape Design

Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) and Hardy Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) do not show Root Weevil damage.

Sword fern (Polystichum munitum)  has a fuzzy frond (leaf) and root weevil don’t eat fuzzy leaves typically. Most fuzzy fronded ferns will be root weevil resistant and are an important player in a root weevil free planting. 

Hellebore argutifolius is perfect for NW Portland Landscape Designs

Helleborus argutifolius photo credit: Great Plant Picks

Hellebores are typically safe from weevil once they are mature plants. When the soft and munchable new leaves unfurl in February the root weevil have not hatched yet (here in Portland) so are not present until late April or May. The harder leafed hellebores like Helleborus argutifolius seem particularly impervious. 

Groundcover Plants   

Oregon Oxalis (Oxalis oregana) doesn’t seem to get a lot of weevil attention in my gardens and it is fun to add to salads. Same with our native piggy back plant Tolmiea menziesii. It has hairy leaves and is great for shade. For Saxifraga varieties, use the hairy leaved varieties for weevil resistance, the smoother ones are on the weevil munch list. Hardy geranium varieties that smell like cedar and have a fuzzy leaf are 100% weevil resistant – Geranium macrorrhizum for deep to moderate shade and Geranium x cantabrigiense for part sun areas. Another good bet is Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)

Last but not least, Euphorbia Rob’s spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae) is a tough evergreen ground covering shade plant. I consider it a thug but it’s great to use in gardens where I have a path that doubles as barrier to their creeping roots. This plants roots must be contained or it will march right over your hostas. I’ve never seen any root weevil damage on this plant.

 Know Thy Enemy?   

Root Weevil have no natural predator here in the Pacific Northwest so it’s rare to find a shade garden without them.  We can cut the population of root weevil down to tolerable numbers and thus get our beautiful shade garden back. Read my blog “Attack of the Root Weevils”  to learn what can be done to reduce their population in your garden. 

 

Success with Crape Myrtle in Portland Landscape Designs

Residential Landscape Design PortlandLandscaping with Crape Myrtle in Portland

I responded to a request for help from clients in Northeast Portland who were concerned their crape myrtle trees planted two years ago were not healthy because they didn’t flower. They had done their research on crape myrtle but unfortunately not from a source familiar with their trees cultural needs or growth patterns here in the Willamette Valley.

Let me knock a few myths out of the way to save you the same unease and help get our crape myrtle trees off to a good start.

  1. Crape myrtle are drought tolerant so don’t ever water them. Not so!

Latest wisdom is to water them deeply with a drip irrigation or soaker hose once every 10 days. Touch the soil with your hands down a few inches to ensure you are not over watering. It should be moist and then as you get closer to the time to water again it should be almost dry. This may change some once they have been growing for ten years in your landscape, at that time you might be able to experiment with occasional deep slow and long watering.   Then they might become  low water needs.

I like to design plant companions for the crape myrtle that have the same water needs. In this garden I have crape

Red winter flowers in Foster Powell landscape design

Red Chinese Camellia in Waldron Garden

myrtle with Chinese Camellia – Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ and American Switch grass-Panicum virgatum ‘Shenendoah’. The clients added ground cover sedum.    None of the plants near the tree need to be watered more than once a week ever after except perhaps for their first summer. A splash of hose water once a week is not at all what I am talking about, I am talking about slowly applied water and preferably drip system or soaker hose.

  1. Fertilize if you want a lot of flowers, that’s true for all plants, right? Not so!

First off, nothing is true for all plants. There are plenty of plants that are harmed by fertilizer so tuck that behind your ear for a future conversation. We typically have fertile soil here in the Willamette Valley, so I would never fertilize crape myrtle beyond adding garden compost to the soil once a year as a top dressing. Adding fertilizer will work against your goal of having flowers.A young crape myrtle in SE Portland landscaping.

  1. You must dead head (pinch off) all the spent flowers. No way!!

If I had to deadhead crape myrtle flowers, it would take a bazillion hours and eventually a ladder.  Nope, you don’t need to deadhead. When your tree is young, and you get a heavy crop of flowers you might want to thin out some flowers to prevent the young branches from breaking.

  1.  Flower timing will depend on our summer temperatures. True.

It’s got to be hot enough and stay warm even at night to kick off the flowering of crape myrtle here in the Willamette Valley. If we have a cool June which we do sometimes, the flowers will be delayed until it’s been warm enough for long enough. For a deeper dig into crape myrtle read my comments published in this in-depth article from The Digger, July 2020.

Sleep-Creep-Leap

These clients came from California, a climate where plants grow fast. They were not familiar with the saying “Sleep-Creep-Leap” which describes typical plant growth for the first three years.

A crape myrtle in the late Portland summer. Photo by Carol LindsayOnce roots are well established many plants grow fast and then after many years, they slow their growth. Just to be perverse, some plants grow slowly when young and then after they are a decade old, they grow much faster. It depends on the genetic makeup of each plant as to its growth rate.  Generally, it takes 3 years of root growth in a plant to get to leap.

Patience in our culture is a revolutionary idea. Contact me if you have more questions on your landscaping.

Colorful Four Season Plant for Portland Residential Landscape Designs

North Portland residential landscape design for year round colorColorful Four Season Plant for Portland Residential Landscape Designs

I like to use Nandina as a colorful four season plant for my Portland landscape designs.

Advantages

The foliage is colorful year around.

Very low maintenance plants if you know the cool pruning tip.

They are easy to prune successfully so you can keep them for years.

Nandina varieties fit multiple diverse needs in the landscape because they can be small (18″ to 24” tall) or up to 8 feet tall.

They thrive in half or full day sun.  Deer don’t typically eat them.

Colorful Four Season Plant for Portland Residential Landscape DesignsDisadvantages

People prune it wrong and then it’s so ugly they remove them – this is so easy to avoid.

Many varieties require a lot of sun and will look leggy and sparse in the shade.  They will look so bad they will be removed. Some varieties will take more shade so you have to know which is which.  Best practice is to plant in at least 4 hours of strong sun.

People think Nandina is drought tolerant and they don’t water it in the summer……….this ends badly.

Nandina (from China) doesn’t feed our native insects; therefore, overusing it limits food for our native bird population.  I like to select at least a few native plants for companions.

Is this plant overused? Some garden designers snub the Nandina plant because it is used in commercial landscapes. Nandina is useful to my Portland residential landscape design clients who want low maintenance landscapes.  With the right plant partners Nandina can sparkle in a home landscape.

North Portland residential landscape design for year round colorHow I Use Nandina in Garden Designs

Nandina domestica – Heavenly Bamboo (not related to Bamboo)

There is a variety of Nandina to fit every landscape:

  • 6 to 8 foot tall  ‘Moyers Red’ or 4 to 6 foot tall ‘Plum Passion’ dress and soften an expanse of fence, hide the hot tub or garbage area nicely
  • 2 to 4 foot tall ‘Sienna Sunrise’, ‘Moon Bay’ or ‘Firepower’ work well in foundation plantings and entry areas.

Use a tape measure on planting day, assume the size info on the plant tag is being modest and give your plant more room to grow.  Some varieties of Nandina will grow 3 to 4 feet wide.   To keep your Nandina from getting too wide, I suggest pruning out entire canes at the base of the plant once a year.  For varieties that are listed as 3 to 4 feet wide, plant it at least 30 inches off your path.

A new variety called ‘Blush’ is typically 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide. The evergreen leaves turn an intense claret red and hold their color for months, longer and redder than other Nandina. ‘Blush’ was designed for the southern United States where it is fully drought tolerant. In Portland, all varieties of  Nandina including ‘Blush’, requires irrigation in summer. Multiple articles on the net enthusiastically state ‘Blush’ is drought tolerant but they do not mean here in the NW.  In the high humidity of an Alabama summer I too am probably drought tolerant…..Mint Julep anyone?

North Portland residential landscape design for year round colorPlant Partners

I love to combine Nandina with textured or needled plants that contrast with the narrow Nandina leaves.  Dwarf conifers, (Pinus mugo ‘Sherwoods Compact’), heather  Erica carnea ‘Adrienne Duncan’ or ornamental grasses like  Opiopogon (black mondo grass)  work well.  NW native plants, like salal, sword fern and huckleberry give  contrast and good looks.  They also provide food for native insects and for our birds who must eat native insects for food.  Pairing Nandina with typical cottage garden plants disappoints my aesthetic; there isn’t enough leaf contrast.

How to prune Nandina

The key to success with Nandina is learning how to prune it which is all about thinning the multiple canes (or stems) of the shrub.  Read more in my next blog or check out this u tube video I found to get you started.