Archive for Hardscape Design

Covered Outdoor Living for Baby Boomers in NE Portland Backyards

Covered outdoor living landscape design

Covered outdoor area in Rose City Park backyard protects from  sun, rain and walnuts.

Landscaping Outdoor Living in Portland’s Urban NE Neighborhoods

Backyard Outdoor Living in Portland’s Urban NE Neighborhoods often requires a covered area.  While backyard outdoor living conjures up visions of  intimate gatherings with close friends and family sometimes only a covered area will offer any privacy from a 3 story apartment building next door.  A small urban home may not have enough entertaining space indoors and some clients use a covered outdoor space for an extra office or a place for messy arts and crafts projects.  Finding ways to create overhead cover is an important tool for my designs since I often work  in urban neighborhoods.

Rain proof outdoor living’s best benefit in my opinion is leaving the cushions in place for easy use 9 months of the year.  When the rain is pelting us from the south in the winter few people will enjoy being outside and the rain will come in under the cover typically and soak the cushions anyway.  But a gentle rain in the late spring or early fall can easily be thwarted.  If I can use my furniture without having to go fetch the cushions, or peel off a plastic cover….. if it is just waiting for me to use…guess what ?  I use the sitting area so much more.

Here are 5 Portland backyard landscape designs that use overhead cover for outdoor living.

Rose City Park Backyard

My client Anna wanted a cool shady sitting area to read in her landscape.  We called it the book nook.  Her cover has a traditional tile roof with enough angle to keep dry in a light rain but the most important aspect of the cover for Anna is to protect her from walnuts dropping from her neighbors gorgeous huge walnut tree.  She loves the tree for it’s shade, and  for attracting wildlife.  Her covered outdoor area is designed for 2 people and is mostly for Anna’s use.

Design tip: A translucent cover would have gotten stained and looked filthy in one season because of the debris from the walnut tree.  Translucent covers under some trees are doable here in Portland but one needs to go into it knowing there will be regular maintenance needed to keep the cover attractive and not a visual detriment, (and not under a walnut tree).

Covered outdoor living landscape design includes motorized louvers

Covered outdoor dining in Creston neighborhood has motorized louvers to let the sun in or keep the rain out.

Creston Neighborhood Family Covered Dining Deck

My clients in the Creston neighborhood wanted the option of sun or shade plus rain protection so their furniture would stay dry. Their pergola by Cardinal Aluminum is steel posts and supports but the motorized louvers in the pergola are aluminum.  The louvers give them the choice of sun or shade.  I have several clients who have gone with Cardinal and been quite happy with the results. Given the cost of wood this no wood option is now seen as more affordable than in the past.

 

Covered outdoor living landscape design includes transparent roof.

“We all love the new space and have basically been living out there every time the weather is even a bit decent.” Clients in Richmond neighborhood

Richmond Backyard Year Round Outdoor Living

These clients  in Richmond neighborhood wanted it all.  After working with Landscape Design in a Day they have a heated covered patio with a translucent cover.  They wanted a comfy sofa under the cover and have a table up on the deck near the house.  Our client Emma says this.  “The summary is that we all LOVE the new space and have basically been living out there every time the weather is even a bit decent. We’ve been using the whole backyard too — before the redo the back part of the yard was kind of dead zone (except for the veggie beds) but now we find ourselves out there almost every afternoon, not just puttering in the veggies but sitting out on the little patio or kicking a ball around with our toddler.”

They have overhead heat (electric) for primary use and in the colder months they also use their tower heater which can be moved about.  They can leave their furniture outside year round.  The cover structure is steel posts with a wood structure for the translucent overhead cover.  This photo was taken in late spring so they still have their second heater out in the patio.    Most of the heat is electric so it has less of a carbon footprint than a natural gas firepit or propane or wood burning.  Design by Alana Chau, Landscape Design in a Day

Design Tip: Angle the cover to protect from south or SW sun to create a cooler summer retreat and help protect your cover for possible winter snow load.

 

Large covered outdoor living landscape for dining.

Outdoor living for these Mt. Tabor clients includes two barbeques and covered dining.

Large covered outdoor living patio designMount Tabor Backyard Transformed into Year Round Outdoor Living

My clients in Mount Tabor also wanted the entire backyard turned into outdoor living space.  Their wood pergola structure has a translucent cover.  They especially love the drama added by lighting the top of the cover.  The light is very soft and diffused coming through the semi opaque cover.  They have room for cooking, counter and storage space.  The posts for the cover are set into the property 5’.

Design Tip:  We used the corner of the property to gain the most useful square footage and space.

 

Heated covered outdoor living landscape design.

Here’s where I get my massage and body work done. This lovely covered area provides heat and protection from rain.

Outdoor Office in SW Portland

This is my massage practitioners heated outdoor treatment room in her SW Portland back yard.  This was her response to keeping her clients and herself safe when Covid came into our lives. As her patient I love hearing the birds, including the buzz of hummingbirds and the squirrel scolding while getting my treatment.  No music required.  I have  been treated out here even in November and December.  The powerful electric heat in the top of the arbor is directed down by the shape of the cover.  The shape also keeps the rain out except when it is too windy.  I’m very comfortable and I love listening to the birds while I’m getting a massage.  This structure is wood with a translucent cover.

Deluxe umbrella for covered outdoor living landscape design.

Concordia neighborhood backyard outdoor living gets a deluxe umbrella to create shade for dining.

Concordia Backyard  Patio gets Cover with an Offset Umbrella

My clients Ryan and Sam live in a very urban area of NE Portland with a pub next door that has outdoor dining.  This landscape design in particular was a very collaborative process, even more so than usual.  We had a new back porch in the design but the expense (wood is so expensive these days) blew our budget.   We kept the old porch and steps and together created this outdoor room that is such a perfect fit.  It distracts from the next door pub garden, creates privacy, integrates the other two important areas of the backyard beautifully and is highly useable.  A collaborative relationship with clients and installer always opens the door for new and even better fitting ideas.

Design Tip:  Using an off set or cantilevered umbrella creates a physically and visually spacious dining area.  An umbrella with post in the center of the table often makes a dining area feel small and blocks potentially good views, in this case the steel privacy panels (which add so much pizzazz to the space) would have been greatly diminished.

Contact us

Looking for an outdoor landscape design that can create solutions for your city property with all its challenges? Contact us.  We have the experience to know what is doable and the creativity to find the best design for you and your wish list.

Coming Back to See Fully Grown Privacy Landscape of North Portland Back Yard

Lush plantings create back yard privacy in Concordia neighborhood of N Portland

Privacy Landscape Design includes finishing touches applied by design collaborators Ryan and Michael

North Portland Back Yard Gets Private, Colorful Plantings

My new clients, Michael and Ryan, moved to N Portland’s Concordia neighborhood from a farm in Pennsylvania.   They knew some horticulture science and had a lot of confidence coming into the project from both a design point of view and working with plants.

Their new home in the Concordia neighborhood was a 1910 bungalow.     My clients hired me because they had no privacy and have a difficult landscape to work with. They believe in working with a designer and were sure I would amaze them with my solutions.  It’s great when clients have high expectations.

My clients wish for a landscape design also included:

  • Privacy for the patio to include dining and using the new hot tub
  • Dog friendly areas and grass for their two dogs to play and poop on
  • Interesting and colorful plants with lots of texture
  • Integrate the existing patio into the new design
  • Work with the existing aspen trees and magnolia

Privacy Landscaping

North Portland planting day shows wisps of the clumping bamboo for privacy screening.

Planting day shows only wisps of clumping bamboo.

Privacy was a very big concern.  Behind the house we had 3 homes with second story windows that had a good view into the patio and kitchen.  The properties to each side also had views not advantageous to our private hot tub plans.  Living in the city does mean getting to know your neighbors but not that intimately. And while in the hot tub we want to see natural beauty not someone doing their dishes.

The back porch was very attractive and had room for two people to sit and lounge but was too narrow for four. We tried a design that expanded the deck to fit a 4 top table but it was right on top of where we wanted the hot tub to go so it and a few other concepts went into the round file.

The former owners had installed a concrete patio and while I am sure it made sense to them, these odd concrete pedestals made no sense to us.  They were 4′ long and about a foot tall and wasted so much valuable space for outdoor living.  Huh? I’d love to know what they had on these pedestals. Big concrete lions?

Like most new homeowners they had already spent plenty of time and money getting the interior just right so I would consider carefully how to use the assets we had.

Lush plantings create back yard privacy for hot tub in Concordia neighborhood of N Portland

Our privacy planting solution for the patio is already thick in just 2 years.

The Privacy Solution for the Patio and Hot Tub Room

We measured the sight angles together and discovered that 10’ tall evergreen plantings would block the views into the hot tub area and the proposed dining table corner of the patio. My design solution put our privacy plantings in right next to the patio not out at the back fence line.

Kitchen view and privacy – We also had Ryan stand in the kitchen while we mocked up the height at various locations for privacy plantings.  It’s lovely to work on site and get the facts of exactly how high our privacy solutions needed to be.  Virtual design has it’s merits but there is nothing like being on site to create the best fitting design.

My favorite clumping bamboo worked beautifully for the patio privacy solution.  Ryan and Michael loved the texture and lush greenery of the Fargesia robusta ‘Campbell’ which grows 10′ in full sun (in Portland) and 12′ to 15’ tall in shadier settings.

I use this plant often for privacy solutions in city back yards because it’s tall enough to give us privacy, but doesn’t turn the whole yard into a shade setting.  It is evergreen and so is ideal for hot tub privacy even in winter and my clients love the drama and tropical effect of the leaves and form in the garden.  My only caveat on clumping bamboo is the amount of water it takes for it to thrive.  I prefer it to be on its own irrigation zone for this reason.  It needs more water than your other plants do and it will not become drought tolerant.  To put it on the same zone with other plants means you will waste water by over watering your other plants.

North Portland backyard shows privacy problems before privacy landscaping.

Planting day photo shows privacy problems.

Existing Tree in the Perfect Spot

We  had an evergreen Magnolia virginiana tree but  because it looked wimpy my clients wanted it gone.  Here is the cool thing.  This is the only magnolia tree I know about that will be happy as a companion to the frequently watered bamboo.  Both plants want evenly moist soils and once this magnolia recovers from two years without proper watering it will get taller than the bamboo and screen out the rest of those windows….oh did I mention it grows really fast and has a very fragrant flower.  I was and am very excited about having this existing tree to work with. It was planted in the perfect place to provide year round privacy from a corner neighbors windows. All it needed was a few years of proper watering.  And the bamboo is fine with some shade so the Magnolia can grow up to be itself without goofing up our lovely scheme. This is a rare moment in my design life but one I am always looking for.

Evergreen Privacy Selection Issues

Stepping aside for a moment:  I have limited plant choices when a privacy solution calls for evergreen plant material. Most clients don’t want to give up the space that a hedge takes but more important….they don’t want to prune a hedge regularly which is what they need.  I had already placed one evergreen hedge plant, Rhamnus Alata Varigata Variegated Buckthorn, between the hot tub and the side yard neighbor and it will have to be sheared a few times a year to keep it nice and thick.  That is a lot of work so adding another hedge was out. Trees are too big and just the wrong solution for the center of a small city back yard.

Lush plantings with custom planter and moon gate add drama to back yard landscape design in N Portland

Moon gate with lights and planter designed and built by clients.

Working with the Existing Aspen Trees

Aspen Trees in small city yards is a bad idea and yet we had 4 existing mature aspen trees to work with. And hey there, Aspen are beautiful trees with white trunks, fluttering leaves and gold fall color.  Since some butterflies and native insects lay their eggs in the leaves they are desirable for that reason alone.   Too bad they can be evil and sucker over an entire landscape and then head over to your neighbors.  I never put them in a design ever.

Second Opinion-Can I trust these Aspen trees to behave?

We removed one of the four existing mature Aspen trees as it was not growing well.  The remaining trees were so beautiful, well placed and were providing summer privacy and habitat for pollinators and birds. There were no evil suckers, not even one and my clients loved them.  I was so torn about them so I sought professional advice from the head grower at Heritage Seeds who said since the aspen had not suckered yet there was a very good chance they would not ever.  He grows and sells a type of aspen that is now (last 15 years or so) being used in the Willamette Valley by braver(?) or more fool hardy designers than I am. It is a different Aspen than the ones I have avoided but he says no guarantees about suckering even with the new ones. And if I had 20 years experience with using Aspen that was positive I would feel differently.

Colorful back porch adds to privacy landscape design in n Portland backyard

Check out the fun vine grid made by my clients that dresses the down spout.

Careful Plant Selection Starts with Experienced Designer

You are hiring me to recommend plants that I know and trust.  As a landscape designer it’s easy to want to use an in vogue plant (that you have no experience with) in designs.  This is wrong for me and my practice and I don’t do it.    OK yes occasionally I will use a sort of new perennial or even a shrub if my clients want a more adventurous planting palette.  Even then I have seen it in other designers gardens or it comes from a grower I trust.  If a plant has a well deserved reputation as being destructive, it won’t be in any of my designs.

Experience counts and I have been around long enough to see what harm aspen can do especially for small city properties.  I would not hesitate to use the new ones from Heritage seedlings on large properties where we are doing nature reclamation.  In these settings they are not typically irrigated so grow slowly and are planted as a community with other native plantings that are a benefit to wildlife.

Portland residential landscape designer Carol Lindsay stands in back yard privacy design of North Portland

Carol Lindsay stands in Concordia neighborhood privacy landscape design going on year 2.

Finishing the Privacy Design for Concordia Back Yard

The Aspen do a good job of making summer privacy from the houses behind us but we still had holes.  We used evergreen magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’ to finalize our privacy plan.  Teddy Bear Magnolia has a cute name due to very fuzzy gold brown felted backsides to the dark green leaves.  This tree has a narrow silhouette, is evergreen with large white summer flowers.

Plantings to go with the Aspen Trees

We added some native plants including flashy Echinacea to provide for the Aspens visitors, Western Tiger Swallow Tail and Loquinns Admiral butterflies.  A native blue fescue grass is part of the planting plan here and it hosts a variety of butterflies and insects.  Ryan is experimenting with different native flower seeds to include Gillia capitata, California poppy and Lupine to expand the diversity of visiting pollinators.

The north facing Aspen got a very different planting mix.  It already had a large group of autumn fern around it which we kept.  I added 3 white flowering clethra shrubs, Summersweet or Clethra alnifolia   The clethra, has a strong enough root system to compete with the Aspen and attracts hummingbirds, and bees including bumble bees.  The fragrant white flowers in spring with the white bark of the aspen create a beautiful vignette. I also use it around the edges of rain gardens in Portland.  We used Japanese forest grass ‘All Gold’ to add color.  This soft grass is also very popular with their dogs who love to munch on the blades.

Path and Surface Materials for Back Yard Design

Colorful coralbells collection enhances the privacy landscape of this North Portland backyard.

Ryan’s collection of colorful coralbells.

Materials used:  New concrete was added to mask where the odd concrete pedestals were.  Path materials used were both crushed rock with steel edger, and cedar chips for paths without edger.  The lawn was replaced with a tall type fescue which takes less water than a traditional lawn.

Clients Add Their Design Expertise

I mentioned they brought a lot of confidence into the project and were strong collaborators.  After the contractors installed our design, a great looking landscape I will brag on us all……. Ryan and Michael went to work adding the curved arbor pergola called a moon gate that became the heart of the design, and a custom wood vine trellis to the back porch exterior.

Look at the way they added both the lighting and the fern baskets to the arch.  The two planters under the curved arch were designed and built by Michael from wood and he used fiberglass for the top frame of the planter. They continue to experiment with plantings.

Dog friendly landscaping was required of this North Portland backyard. Hakonechloa macra pictured here.

Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ being nibbled on by a 4 legged client Concordia neighborhood N. Portland

 

Planting Day

My clients found their own contractors and I worked with them to order the plants from my plant broker and again to physically place the plants and coach on planting some of the plants that needed special techniques.  They did a great job.

I was able to work with Brian to make any necessary plant substitutions.  Since Covid many plants are scarce so we had to swap a few out but mostly we found the plants we wanted. The design was installed in fall of 2020 and these photos are from summer of 2022.

Coneflowers bring color in client made planters in North Portland backyard.

Vibrant coneflower (Echinacea) sizzles with color in privacy landscape design for small city back yard

Testimonial

Ryan gave me this comment to use from our design process, “We loved our experience and would recommended you to all our friends! We are very excited to see our finished project, and will surely enjoy it for years to come.”
~Ryan N. of Portland

If you are looking for residential privacy landscaping in Portland, contact us for more information.

Tricky Residential Corner Landscape Overhaul in Northeast Portland

Grant Park Neighborhood Home Gets Curb Appeal Design for Front Yard

New entry hardscape landscaping has spacious acid wash concrete steps and landing.

Outdoor Living Needed in Grant Park Residential Landscape Design

These Grant Park homeowners just finished updating the stucco exterior of their home and were eager to finally tackle the landscape. The entry was not working at all; it wasn’t clear how to get to front door and the fence was in the wrong spot for curb appeal. They wanted to add beauty and function.

Portland oregon residential landscape design needed

New Front Steps

The old entry had a short concrete wall and an old boxwood hedge. We ripped all of this out and opened up the entire area to maximum curb appeal. The stairs and landing are poured concrete, acid washed. We did not want to change anything about the old Portland charm (or function!) of the Tudor-style portico, so that section of concrete was just updated with paint. Yes, it will have to be re-painted every once in a while. However, it’s almost impossible to match old concrete with new, so a complementary color can be a great solution.  A small sit spot makes the front entry feel welcoming.

Curb appeal gets a landscape update in Grant Park neighborhood

Colorful Planting Plan

The entry plants have already made a splash in their first year in the ground. Last fall, the neighbors were commenting on how the yellow grass, Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’, glows in the low autumn light. It is always a joy when our gardens suit our clients and enhance the community at the same time.

Grant Park Neighborhood Front Yard gets Colorful plantings

Purple Hellebore blooms from February to May. The yellow grass, Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’, and Coral Bells, Heuchera ‘Grande Black’, bring color year round and are incredibly easy maintenance.

The entry is part shade and sloping so plant selection is important. (When is plant selection unimportant?) Two Vine Maples, Acer circinatum, flank the new steps, seen in the first picture of this blog. The Sarcococca ground cover brings a lovely fragrance in the winter. Hostas pop up for spring and bloom in summer. Into the fall, the small white blooms of Japanese Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ light up the entry.

Corner Lot Conundrum

I love working with corner lots because they almost always require out-of-the-box solutions. This one had a useless extra path and the grass was being used as a cut through for neighborhood kids on the way to school.

Grant Park neighborhood in need of residential landscape design

We removed the walkway, pushed the fence away from the front door and put in a Lavender Hedge so that the homeowners could reclaim this side yard space. The clients say that this solution has worked like a charm and no one cuts the corner anymore. With a new lawn installed, the side yard lawn can be a play space for the kids.

Grant Park neighborhood corner lot updates landscape for more usable space

Planting plan for corner lot in Grant Park neighborhood includes a Lavender hedge. It provides evergreen beauty and summer fragrance while gently discouraging people from cutting through the yard.

Dog Friendly Back Yard

With the layout of this property, the back yard is small, comprising about a quarter of the total outdoor space. We need all the usable space we can get for the family of four and two big dogs. Therefore, the back is mostly hardscape with plants squeezed in wherever we could get them. The casual crushed rock patio is a comfy lounge area.

Grant Park neighborhood outdoor living landscape update

A relaxed collection of different seating- a hammock, a couch and even a raised dog bed make this patio comfortable for the whole family.

The planting plan can take dog traffic – including sword fern, Japanese Forest Grass and the happiest Penstemon I’ve ever seen. The dogs can go to the bathroom on the crushed rock, but these city dog owners are very diligent about frequent walks.

Dog friendly design elements for Grant Park neighborhood landscape design

Check out the raised dog bed in the back, lucky pups. Plants include sword fern, Japanese Forest Grass and a single trunk Japanese Maple. Oh, and a fish planter spitting out strawberry plants. Too cute.

The dining table and concrete pad were existing, we just enhanced it with a simple sun sail and some planters to soften the garage wall. A low cost update.

landscape hardscaping is poured concrete, modern pavers and crushed rock work great for this outdoor living area in NE Portland.

Sun sail is a great low cost way to bring shade and a bit of color to this Grant Park Neighborhood back yard.

Clients Bring the Fun

It’s exciting as a designer for the ideas in my head to become a real-life landscape that a family gets to enjoy.  It’s even more joyful when the clients use their outdoor space so much that they add their own flair, like the cloud wall from a past project or the chairs made from whiskey barrels. This family took it up a notch by creating murals that they fixed to the inside of the fence. Although I had nothing to do with this creative work, I couldn’t help but take a picture with the client to celebrate the completion of their landscape.

Portland Oregon residential landscape designer with Grant Park diy mural

Alana Chau sits with her client in front of the family’s DIY fun mural art.

Contact us today to create a collaborative design that solves all those tricky problems with a corner city lot.  We love tricky lots but if your lot isn’t difficult, we are happy to bring our full design abilities to serve your needs.  Tricky is not required.

Modern Landscape Design Seen in NE Portland Back Yards

Hardscape Solutions for Portland Back Yards With A Modern Twist

We enjoy visiting our past back yard designs and today we are in NE and SE Portland.  We will see installed back yard hardscape landscape designs and modern gardens in Portland neighborhoods Grant Park, South Tabor, Richmond, Reed and Eastmoreland.

Eastmoreland Neighborhood Outdoor Living Patio

Modern landscape design in Richmond neighborhood

Covered Outdoor Living in Richmond Neighborhood gets minimalist modern landscape design treatment.

 

 

 

 

Eastmore neighborhood landscape design

Alana Chau sits in the new patio garden she designed in Eastmoreland neighborhood of Portland.

Richmond neighborhood with minimalist modern landscaping

Our clients installed almost everything in their new landscape including this echo chamber water feature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We start near the Sellwood Bridge to see a very small back yard ‘Remodel’ design.  With a landscape that already has mature trees and fairly good privacy our job is to keep what works, remove what doesn’t and create the missing elements.  We (designer: Alana Chau), added a perfect fit lounging patio to the existing concrete area, a water feature, and fresh new plantings.  Our client Eva Barnes loves the new design.  She and David had so much fun with friends and family installing most of the design including an electrician friend who came and installed the GIF (ground fault interrupter) for the water feature.  Eva says about her new backyard, ‘It’s just perfect’.

Design Incorporates New ADU/Studio for a Family Friendly Landscape

Reed neighborhood incorporate existing gate into landscape designAn important factor for this Reed neighborhood home was working the new Adu/studio into the overall back yard landscape design.  An important decision was whether to keep the existing fence and gate that separated the small intimate family covered dining area from the larger back yard.  After much deliberations, we kept the gate and fencing because it made more usable space for the covered dining area, created a separate (and sunny) sit spot near the studio door and kept the existing fence and gate which has whimsical and delightful carvings of crows that are incorporated into the wood.  These corvine illustrations are both carvings and wood work.  They are all through the fencing and there are illustrations also in the brick patio from the previous owner.  It felt good to honor those.

Privacy for Tiny Patio Garden in Creston Kenilworth Neighborhood

Portland landscape design

Alana Chau and client Bill Sims with dog Juniper.  Note: Bill built the planter himself.

Portland Oregon simple modern landscape pavers

Hardscape landscaping design results in simple but very attractive path for side yard.

This family needed a planting plan re-do for the front, back and side yard and a designer who could understand the balance of privacy needs and community connection for the sidewalk patio. Taller plants in the new planter create privacy from eye contact with passersby without cutting folks off from community. The large planter with wide wall cap doubles as a wonderful sit spot. It’s a very friendly neighborhood.  The new hardscape path for the side yard is such an asset to the patio views, sets the stage for dramatic foliage plants and also makes a way to the garbage cans with dry feet during the winter.

Hosford Abernathy Neighborhood Back Yard Privacy Design

Our clients did not have a good view from their back yard before hiring Landscape Design in a Day.

See our previous blog about privacy.  It’s still a young garden so we are waiting for the privacy plants to get going growing on the new screen. (Japanese Climbing Hydrangea) and other colorful maturing plantings are filling in and starting to diminish the power of the purple violet house nicely. The landscape also needed a lot of careful attention to water from downspouts and had other drainage issues.  These issues were solved collaboratively with the landscape contractor, D & J Landscape Contractors, Donna Burdick and Landscape Design in a Day designer Alana Chau.

Carol Lindsay Portland landscape designer hugs young oak tree in Portland back yard.

Portland landscape designer hugs young oak tree, (Oregon White Oak, Quercus garryana) in clients back yard.

There are 2 rain gardens, a small one in the back yard and a larger more dramatic rain garden in the front.  Our client wanted to protect the river by keeping his drain water on site and returning it to groundwater, a high priority for our client.  He also planted a native Oregon White Oak.

Richmond Neighborhood Back Yard Has Uber Modern Back Yard Landscape Design

Richmond neighborhood modern landscape design

Chartreuse flowers of Euphorbia contrast with black patio table in uber modern backyard landscape design.

We started our blog with a photo of this dramatic minimalist modern landscape design.  The best news is that the clients use this covered outdoor living area patio year-round.  They live out here whenever they can. There is no better complement for a designer.  In the winter they use a standing heater as well as a ceiling heater.  For summer entertaining they will put the standing heater away to make more room for guests. Meadow style grasses and other dramatic plants give the overall design a modern minimalist style.  There is even a Tetrapanax papifera ‘Steroidal Giant’ in the back corner which will add a tropical flair (with very large leaves) once it matures.  We will have a blog that shows photos and more details on this fun garden soon.

South Tabor Home Back Yard Landscape Design

This home is getting the full treatment being remodeled inside and out to include adding an ADU now that the back yard transformation is well on its way.  Alana’s landscape design is planned around the future ADU.

Tabor neighborhood modern patio landscape design

Modern hardscape landscaping back yard patio garden replaces previous backyard wasteland in South Tabor neighborhood.

Alana collaborated with our client to create a new modern landscape style patio area with plantings.  She kept it low maintenance and low water.  He loves the new plantings and especially the colorful carpet of hens and chicks.  The back yard was previously a bit of wasteland when the house was purchased in 2019.

Contact Us

We love driving around and seeing our clients in their new back yards.  Contact us for a collaborative landscape design process that takes your needs, likes and dislikes into account while we lead the way to a perfect fit back yard.

Pros & Cons of 5 Dog Friendly Landscaping Surfaces

Dog friendly Back Yards in North Portland

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping Fescue grass in St. Johns neighborhood of Portland

Westy got his lawn in St. Johns neighborhood of Portland. This is tall type fescue grass.

Here at Landscape Design in a Day we create a lot of dog friendly landscapes for our Portland clients.  Today I’ll share my experience (pro and con) with 5 typical surfaces for dog friendly backyards.  And I’ll have an excuse for cramming in lots of cute dog photos into the blog.

One of Alana’s designs featured 3 areas for the family dog.  One was for dry feet in the winter and so designed to be mud free.  One area is for summer and a dog cannot reach it during wet weather. The third area is for the dog only when its people are present.  Most of our clients don’t have enough yard for this solution but the following materials for the surfaces were at the heart of this design.

Materials for dog friendly landscapes

pros & cons of bark mulch dog friendly landscaping

My dog Daisy exploring her Aunt Kathy’s woodland garden on a bark mulch path.

 I’ll start with our least favorite surface – Bark Dust

I don’t like to use bark dust for the primary area for my dog or a clients’ dog.  Fleas, splinters, some of it tracks in and yet when I was a kid we had lawn and lots of bark dust and our dog never seemed to have a problem with it.  Maybe that is because she had so much lawn.  So I don’t use bark dust for the primary dog area.

Bark Dust

Bark dust harbors fleas and may need to be treated with chemicals to get rid of them.  Cedar chips don’t.  Cedar chips are not much more expensive than bark dust and it lasts longer.  We never used to allow cedar chips to mulch plantings, people believed it would remove nitrogen from the soils.  New research indicates this old idea is not true and I’m so delighted because having both cedar chips and bark dust in the same yard ends up looking very messy, bark dust migrating into the chips and vice versa.

Dog Friendly Landscape puppy on cedar chips Portland, Oregon

Luna the newest member of my client’s family snoozes on cedar chip path in NE Portland back yard.

Cedar Chips

This is my favorite for a dog area and I am also using it as a plant mulch when I don’t want my clients to have to install edging.  There is a specific kind of cedar chip that I like to use.  The easiest one to buy is at Mt Scott Fuel in SE Portland.  It is called NW Play Fiber and it doesn’t seem to splinter, it lays nicely together and makes a thick cover and it lasts for years.  Fir chips and other non cedar wood chips don’t last.

pros & cons of nw play fiber cedar chips dog friendly landscaping

NW Play Fiber Cedar Chips in doggie relief area near Mt Tabor.

I like to lay the chips 6″ deep.  The only negative I have noticed is with active large dogs in small spaces. Running and wrestling with their buddy dogs can displace some chips up against a fence.  The chips hold some moisture and now you have moisture up against the wood fence panels.

One client had an Irish setter who liked to run down the middle of her yard and then bounce up against the fence.  My clients have to rake the chips off the fence. They don’t mind because overall the chips have been such a blessing and are so much better than the muddy half grass they had.  Fir chips are not cheaper and will have to be topped up every year where cedar chips will last several years.  Arborist chips are too large and are awkward for dogs to run on and for people to walk on.  They have  an important place as a way to improve your soil and bring in good mycorrhizae (beneficial bacteria) but are not a product I recommend for a dog area.  They are just too lumpy.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

Westy in his kennel waiting for lawn installation and new fencing in North Portland

Synthetic Lawn Pro and Con – Dog Friendly Back Yard

Pro  Yes! Synthetic lawn can be a great solution for dog owners with shady back yards or small yards.  Anyone who wants to get away from wasting water, mowing and fertilizing may be attracted to synthetic lawn.  My clients with dogs and shady back yards love their synthetic lawn.   With synthetic lawn there is no muddy winter lawn and it’s easy to clean up those dog treasures year round.

Northeast Portland back yard with synthetic lawn dog friendly landscaping

Synthetic lawn can be the perfect solution for a shady back yard with dogs.

Con  Synthetic Lawn will it smell like dog pee?  yes it could especially if you have multiple dogs.

Some people hose the spots their pets tend to visit, others actually run their irrigation system to rinse the urine odor out.  Apparently people use a chemical on their synthetic lawn to keep them from smelling.  Using a chemical doesn’t seem to be going in the right direction.

Is Synthetic Lawn harmful to trees?

Portland dog friendly landscape design pee proof lawn

Daizzie on synthetic lawn roof garden of floating home

Con – I have had an arborist warn me to place synthetic lawn away from existing trees.  I was given this formula.  For every inch of tree (diameter at breast height) place the synthetic lawn out another foot.  This is not practical for small city properties with large trees.  I would suggest consulting an ISA certified arborist to advise about whether there is a way to mitigate problems for trees where the synthetic lawn would be close to the trunk.  Synthetic lawn as a surface over our soil that alters the living microorganisms in the soil.  Is it worse for trees than a concrete patio?  Concrete is a non natural surface.  Another arborist pointed out that many installation companies use a heavy application of herbicide as part of their preparation for the synthetic lawn installation.  I would want to be sure that if a herbicide is used, it is applied by a professional who knows when and how to apply it to avoid harm to bees.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

St Johns Portland client waiting for her dog friendly landscape design

Is there ever a good reason to use an herbicide? Well…..maybe.

Pro  Getting rid of the lawn will save all the water that would have been used to irrigate.  This will prevent using any of the fertilizers or chemicals typically used to maintain a lawn and many of these are harmful to bees.  Does this offset a one time use of professionally applied herbicide?  Each of us has to decide the answer to these questions.  I know of a large company who wanted to have a real Willamette Valley meadow installed on several acres specially for pollinators.  They decided to use herbicide to kill off the old lawn by first cutting the lawn down to an inch tall so there would be no flowers for bees to be attracted to.  Then they used the herbicide.  The meadow is now in its first spring and will be safely feeding thousands upon thousands of pollinators as it matures.

The New Tall Type Fescue versus old fashion short fescue blends

For yards with more sun, a newer type of grass, tall type fescue (one brand name is RTF) handles dog traffic, urine and poo better than traditional grass.  A contractor friend (with Autumn Leaf Landscape) has noticed the RTF lawn in his own backyard has fared much better than his old fescue blend lawn with his two large dogs.  Another benefit with RTF is that when you get a bare spot in the lawn, it can fill in faster because of its spreading (rhizomatic) root system.  Traditional lawn roots clump and do not spread quickly and so the old fescue blends needed more re-seeding because they clumped slowly.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping Fescue grass in St. Johns neighborhood of Portland

Some dogs just can’t help themselves and will try and dig their way to China.

Dogs who are Talented at Destruction will make a mess of your lawn no matter what kind you have.

RTF fills in quicker than traditional grass, which means less areas for dirt to become mud in the winter. But most anyone would have the new lawn area fenced off until it was well established before turning the dog(s) loose upon it.  If you have large dogs, and a small patch of grass even RTF isn’t going to cut it.  And some dogs who are (TAD) talented at destruction, regardless of their size will need the lawn very very well established before having access.  A professional lawn installer who used to install for dog parks told me he fenced off a new lawn area for 2 full years before it was open to dogs.

Of course, this solution depends on your type of dog, and how “fantastic” they are at tearing up your back yard. For some dogs, especially multi dog families, no real lawn is going to hold up to their needs so using grass means there will be worn paths into the grass.  You need a lot of grass to manage multiple dogs and lots of sun.  Shade, lawn and dogs means winter mud.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping for big and small dogs

Portland park offers relief for my client’s big dogs with a small backyard

Size of dogs obviously matters here.  Smaller dogs can wear a path into a lawn but they don’t pee in a large volume.  A large dog, after being in the house all day, could drop a quart 5 seconds after he or she is released into the yard.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

My neighbor Rudy happily lives on a Portland house boat and takes a lot of walks, sometimes with me. Proof some dogs don’t need a traditional lawn and yard.

City Dogs with Small Yards Need the Local Park to Save the Lawn

Small dogs and older dogs are often quite happy with lounging around on concrete or flagstone with their humans.  Many city people take their dogs for walks and to parks daily and this relieves the stress on your outdoor living areas of multiple daily doses of dog urine.  Most of these clients don’t want a special area for a dog potty because they simply do not have the room.

I never use these materials for dog friendly landscape surfaces

I do not recommend round rock,  also called pea gravel.  It can end up trapped inside a dogs foot pad.  It’s hard on their ankles and same  is true for humans.  People can slip because the round rock is not stable, it rolls and so can you.  Pea gravel is very appealing to the eye.  Don’t do it and if you have some, get rid of it.  It’s not a good surface for anyone.

I’m not fond of loose crushed rock but perhaps if you check your dogs pads frequently it might be fine for you.  It’s not what I would want for sharing a space with my dog but a non compacted crushed rock is becoming more popular because of how well it works with rainwater.  An un-compacted crushed rock surface  is fully water permeable and compacted crushed rock  is not.  I have plenty of clients with gravel patios whose dogs have not had issues with gravel or any gravel up in the dogs foot pads.  I had it happen once with my cocker spaniel but we caught it in time and it did not get infected.  Oddly he did not limp even though the gravel was up high inside his paw.  Don’t make the only surface for your dog crushed rock.

Concrete is terrible for dogs backs and knees and smells bad with repeated doses of urine.

City dog in Cathedral Park neighborhood in new front yard patio

Ruby hanging out on concrete patio waiting for a trip to the park.

Balance –  hard and soft surfaces for your dog

Ideally we are looking for hardscape for patios and areas for furniture and frequent human use with soft surfaces for dogs to play and walk on.  It’s a matter of balance.  Many clients want a concrete or stone patio but also have paths topped with soft materials like mulch or cedar chips.   Crushed rock is more affordable and non compacted crushed rock allows rain water to penetrate into the soil.  You have some concrete areas or some crushed rock areas but you also have other surfaces for them to romp and run on it may be fine for you.

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pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

My dog Daisy loves a soft snow surface to play on.

We love to work with the whole family when we design a Portland back yard.   Contact us for creative solutions that allow the whole family to enjoy the back yard including your 4 legged family members.