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Tips for Privacy Landscape Design In NE Portland

Privacy Landscape Design in Kerns Neighborhood

I love to create privacy landscape design solutions that integrate solutions to all the issues.  Next let me say I love this property because it’s tricky and the design is going to be all about happy outdoor living in the city. Creating a privacy landscape design for small city properties needs an experienced landscape designer to create an integrated solution.

I approach creating our design by creating a wonderful view that just happens to soften a bad view and create privacy. Designing an apartment building sized hedge or huge tree would ruin this small city back yard  for anything else.

Our design keeps the existing concrete patio, integrates the studio and gets our shade tree started. Installation with D & J Landscape Contractors, Donna Burdick and her crew.

Small City Backyard Needs More than Privacy

My clients Chris and Veronica have a small city backyard with a ginormous apartment building at their back property line.  They wanted bird friendly plants, lots of edibles, to get rid of the lawn, integrate the studio cottage and most important, create privacy from the apartment building windows.  They also wanted a place for a Catio so their indoor only cats could enjoy being outside without harming birds.

BEFORE Privacy Landscape Design: apartment building looms.

Tips for Creating a Privacy Landscape Design

Hiding an Apartment Building

The apartment building near the back property line creates both privacy issues (people looking down into our back yard) and the need for blocking the view of the neglected building’s exterior – it’s very unattractive. I have a more horrible photo below so you can get a better view of very ugly.

We didn’t have enough yard for the more typical ideas on hiding such a large a building.  A three story high evergreen hedge is not practical for a variety of reasons: takes too long to grow, would require expensive professional pruning often and would be rude to the people living in the apartments by cutting off all their light.  Nor did I want to use up all our square footage with a layered planting of trees.  (Which would have been rude to the trees as there isn’t enough room.)  So if we can’t hide it what can we do?

Tips for Creating a Privacy Landscape Design

Reduce the Visual Power of the Building

First I want to decide where we will be and what we are doing when we want privacy the most.  My clients wanted  privacy for dining outdoors with family and friends, and then while puttering about with the edible plantings (Veronica is a gardener). We let blocking the apartment building from our second story window view go – it got an interior window treatment because landscape solutions for the 2nd story would take away too many choices.

Adding interesting paths and plantings will help diminish the visual power of the wall.   Expanding our existing patio into the new garden also adds more weight to the landscape.

Hardscape Landscape Design

Working with Existing Concrete Patio

Hydropressed concrete pavers extend the patio into the garden and the garden into the patio.

There were a lot of assets to work with; for example the existing concrete patio was kept (which saved sooo much money).

We used hydropressed concrete slab pavers to extend the patio into the garden and make it big enough for the end chairs of the large table.   I pulled the patio into the garden and garden into the patio by adding about ten 24″ x 24″ concrete pavers.  Did the trick!  Donna Burdick placed the pavers as designed and then we all added the last three pavers by consensus design.  (Ok the crew placed them, (they weigh about 60lbs each) and we stood around and had them try a few different configurations until we were all happy.)

Free Oversized Teak Table

Usually I don’t design around a specific piece of furniture because it is almost always short sighted but this time it worked well for us. The existing patio had to be bigger to fit their very large teak outdoor table and the new catio took up a chunk of space too.  They got the table for a very good price, (used and free), so they could have ten friends over for dining in the summer and I wanted to be sure the chairs on the end would be comfortable to use.  We moved the table and large chairs into different configurations on our design day to get it just right.

The Right Tree for Privacy Landscape Design

After photo:  The shed is painted to match the new studio and the existing patio is extended into the garden.  Foreground plant is a compact Strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’.

Veronica and Chris wanted a tree that would break up that bad view and also block people in the apartment building from seeing into the kitchen and outdoor dining area.  Sure they wanted some shade too but also enough sun to grow edibles and while this seems contradictory… by using a semi dwarf Japanese elm tree we will get light shade.  Lower light edibles like currents and blueberries will do well

The tree was purchased already limbed up to allow sunlight in under the tree. We also get filtered sunlight through the smaller leaves of this tree.  (and yes I did agonize a bit over the tree selection and the landscape contractor, Donna Burdick spent a lot of time to find me the perfect tree in a big enough size. Our special tree is called Zelkova serratta ‘ City Sprite’, a Japanese elm.

Car Lindsay trying to interest kitty in her car keys. Kitty was unimpressed. Client Veronica to left and in foreground is the salvaged large teak table in NE Portland backyard.

Native Plants Help Integrate the ADU into the Landscape

The adu/studio needed plantings that would connect it with the backyard. I wanted the foundation area above the retaining wall planted with lots of easy care native sword ferns and flowering fringe cup, a native perennial, Tellima grandiflora beloved by bumble bees.  Once the plants are mature we won’t see the block wall.

Catio Creates Safe Haven for Birds and Indoor Cats

The new Catio creates a safe outdoor room for my clients indoor cats. The cats access their new sun bathing room from the basement window and can express how they feel about birds without harm.

BEFORE: this is the ghoulish view of the apartments exterior wall from our 2nd story.  A small lawn and  a few plants were not powerful enough to gain our attention.

Existing Japanese Snowbell Tree Helps with Privacy Landscape Design

The existing Japanese Snowbell on the left was a little damaged but a jewel in the rough that Chris and Veronica loved.  I was excited we had it to work with. With proper pruning, (provided by Anne Taylor of Living Elements), it will become a master piece and help soften more of the wall.  Using an established tree shaves years off the time it will take to soften the view of the apartment building with a new tree.

 

The interesting paths and plantings diminish the power of the apartment wall…..when we are inside the backyard. Note the small rain garden with boulders off the back path. And existing trellis with vine growing on it.

Vine Structure Visually Softens Wall

Here is one more way to diminish the lower view of the apartment building.  We can’t grow anything right against the wall as it is not our property but we can distract the eye. We will add a 2nd vine and a sturdy structure/trellis.  These structures will be placed inside my clients property (so several feet off the apartment wall).  The existing trellis, built by Chris, is planted with an evergreen vine called Akebia.  This vine is an evil scourge in the southern united states but lovely and useful here in the Pacific Northwest. Akebia vine needs a strong growing structure, the tiny sheet of trellis pictured on the right is temporary and would never support our vine properly.

Know What Works from Where

A reminder, from our view out the 2nd story bedroom these two vine covered structures won’t help but while we are down in the garden they make a significant difference.

In our photo the privacy landscape design is freshly installed and already the paths and plantings diminish the power of the apartment wall.

Client Review

“We liked Carol’s approach. She took the time to understand what we each wanted and helped us make good choices.  I was surprised at how much the new garden helps me not notice the apartment building in the summer and fall.  I expected that the design would center on hiding the ginormous wall and could only hope that somehow I could have all the other features I wanted too. 

We all wanted an evergreen tree for our screen tree for a year round block of the apartment building wall but the trees that would work were either going to get so huge it would spoil the light or had to be purchased so small Chris and I just could not face planting a tree that was only 24″ tall.  This in reference to the Manzanita Carol suggested as an evergreen tree option.  The elm ‘City Sprite’ once planted on the berm is already at 15 feet tall one year out from planting day.  It works and should continue to create shade and soften the view of the apartment building better every year.

Carol Lindsay and her client Veronica enjoying the garden about a year after the installation. Erysimum (wallflower), blueberry shrub and daylilly are in the foreground with Zelkova s. ‘City Sprite’, the semi dwarf Japanese elm to the right. Far left is new Catio. Photo by Alana Chau

The design process was perfect for us and we appreciated digging into our property’s assets by measuring and drafting the existing backyard layout and answering the preferences survey.  Also her referral to D & J Landscape Contractors, Donna Burdick was a gift.  She told us she wanted us to have her favorite landscape contractor so she would not have to worry.  No worries, and the installation was mostly fun, although it was pretty dusty since it was installed in summer, but every day we could see our new back yard heaven emerging. 

The contractor was on board to help us save money without being cheap.  There are a lot of little touches in the landscape from Donna Burdick which were not on the drawing but had been discussed with Carol so they were a great team – we even have a small rain garden.

This was a good experience and we are enjoying the results every day.”  Ver0nica and Chris N.E. Portland

 

 

 

 

 

Native Garden Design in Portland

Native Garden Design Gardening for Birds

NW Garden design for birds

Two lounge chairs have the perfect view of the new bird friendly garden and water feature.

Gardening for Birds

Alan and Paula’s home backs to a wildlife haven, a park managed by the city. Before Landscape Design in a Day, they set up many bird feeders and thoroughly enjoyed watching the various species visit.  From day one, we knew this would be a garden for the birds. Our mission is to make better places for the humans to enjoy watching the birds.  They already loved their back yard but spent all their time up on their deck.  They wanted a professional garden designer who would care about their desires and have the skills to pull it all together.   We knew we would create multiple sitting areas that get our clients out into the property and bring more of what birds love to the property to entice them to visit and further enhance bird watching.

Portland backyard designed to attract more birds.

Before Design in a Day the deck was the sit spot.

Portland backyard invites clients to garden to watch birds.

After: Lounge chairs invite us to sit and enjoy watching the birds.

Better views into a native garden design

The homeowners spend a lot of time in an office that looks directly into the barren side garden toward the park. The foreground view was rough lawn and a lot of fence. That window led some of the important design decisions, such as where to put the focal point water feature. Now every outdoor sit spot AND the indoor office chairs can see and hear the cascading water.

Water – Bring the birds in – native garden design

Native plants are important, but the best feature to attract birds and keep them coming back is water. This naturalistic water feature brings so much delight to the homeowners. In our native garden design, a large pre-drilled boulder is placed on a steel box called an echo chamber, which is then covered in smaller stones to hide the chamber. The echo chamber under the boulder amplifies that beautiful bubbling water sound so that it can be heard from the deck and inside the office.

Gardening for birds requires a water source to attract wilidlife.

The homeowners water feature attracts and provides for birds year-round. Photo taken by Alan M.

Shelter and safety for birds

The next item needed for a bird paradise is shelter – usually in the form of trees. All birds need to be able to hide from sky predators like hawks and ground predators like cats.

We kept plants low around the water feature with native plants like Indian plum nearby for fast escape. The  birds also use the top of the fence to survey for ground predators like cats. (Keep birds safe with a catio.)  The adjacent park provides perfect trees for nesting. This park already had an upper canopy of native Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) and Doug Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) as well as a mid canopy of Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) and others. Paula and Alan provide fresh water and food plants plus their multiple feeding stations of seed,  suet and more.

This Portland garden attracts wildlife with bird food and water.

Deer visit this garden from the adjacent park.

Gardening for Birds

Native garden design – plants that provide food for birds

Of course, the last big element to attract birds to the yard is food. For example, the homeowners love the band-tailed pigeon visitors, so we were sure to add native Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa). These birds also love madrone berries but we didn’t have the right spot in our native garden design for madrone but there was a large 50′ tall madrone 500′ away in the park. Perfect for band-tails and also for band-tail pigeons here are other native plants that provide food for birds; Indian Plum (Oemleria ceraciformis), and Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia). Paula and Alan also maintain multiple feeding stations of various seeds, suet and more.

NW native plant for birds

Indian Plum (Oemleria ceraciformis), is one of the first PNW natives to bloom often as early as March.

A nw native plant that provides food for the birds.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) is an important food for birds. The berry is a good backyard snack for people as well, if you can beat the birds to it.

Hardscape Landscaping Construction

The hardscape landscape was completed by Lewis Landscape. Check out the amazing execution of the stairs and wall we designed.

Before the garden was redesigned to attract more birds.

Before: Old wood wall was crumbling, stairs were skinny and uninviting.

Hardscape is part of the garden design in this Portland backyard.

During: Building the new curved wall and more inviting stairs.

Portland backyard gardening for birds.

After: the finished hardscape landscaping results in open, wide stairs in the perfect location to allow easy access to lower garden.

The old wall and stairs were falling apart, which gave me the perfect opportunity to redesign it entirely. The old stairs were too narrow and right up against the underbelly of the deck.  It was fine for a utility work area but not for a sit spot. The new design creates the opportunity to create two comfortable sit spots where the homeowners can enjoy their natural surroundings.  Room for plants and the new wide stairs make movement between the spaces gracious and inviting.

Client Testimonial

“Carol and Alana, I cannot tell you how much we enjoy the yard.  The path we asked you to widen just enough to contain pots (to which you added more width to) became big enough to put two lounge chairs and a little table.  This is now our favorite sitting spot.”

“The water feature was perfectly placed as we can see it from the deck, from the yard, (some from the dining room) and very well from the office.  The birds LOVE it – all from bandtailed pigeons to hummingbirds.  We get the biggest kick out of watching them enjoy it.  Not to mention, the sound is perfect and the natural look goes well with the our new more woodsy landscape.”

“We love the yard, the steps, the new plants, the walkways, the fountain and so do the birds and bees and woodland creatures.  It was a perfect design for us.”

“Creating our own base map of our yard (with the kit) made us better design partners. We felt like we helped create our paradise too.”

Paula M

 

 

Please note our clients provided to us most of the after photos in this blog.

Are you ready to create a garden full of life? Contact us today to learn about our collaborative design process.

Front Yard Landscape Designs in NE Portland

Four Portland Front Yards Get Landscape Makeover

Pathways are an opportunity to connect your house to the land.

Before front yard landscape redesign.

BEFORE: the front yard detracts from the charming Irvington neighborhood bungalow.

Front yard landscape make over.

AFTER: adding a large concrete landing matches the proportions and value of the home.

Front yard landscape design in Portland neighborhoods.

Front yard plants are filling in the new design. (2nd year) See Back Yard Design Story

These clients in the Irvington neighborhood had a pretty dinky underwhelming entry path from the sidewalk that did nothing for their home.  The 2 huge street trees towering over their home meant the lawn under the trees would never be attractive and besides these clients were retired and the mower needed to be banished.

A new stone landing was installed along with a stone veneer on the porch steps and porch floor.   The humpy lawn was removed, gentle grading commenced to include adding boulders and new NW Natural Style plantings.   Now the entry of this Irvington home sparkles.  The back yard is designed for outdoor living and has a large patio, outdoor dining room and play area for grandkids.  Installed by D and J Landscape Contractors.

Before landscape design redid the front yard.

BEFORE:  This Grant Park neighborhood house didn’t have the right path.

Portland landscape design with new entry path and colorful plantings at the front porch.

The new path is all 90 degree angles and much wider. See more of this project

A New Entry Path Leads the Design for this Historic Georgian Home

Pennisetum alocuroides 'Little Bunny' a dwarf fountain grass shows its late summer blooms in a Portland front yard

Colorful plants in Grant Park includes Little Bunny Fountain Grass

This landscape re-design is an example where changing the entry walk made a dramatic difference to the curb appeal of this historic Georgian style home.  This house (in Grant Park of NE Portland) seemed to loom over its land.  My clients wanted the landscape design to complement their home. Now the new entry walk (and driveway) has the right proportions and fits with the strong architectural style of the home.   The landscape design puts the focus back on the marvelous front porch.

Front yard landscape design with water feature.

Rain Garden in St Johns – Ranch House

 

Rain Gardens in St Johns

Before front yard landscape redesign.

Before: No front walk leaves ranch house cut off from the neighborhood.

This modern ranch needed a front walk.  My clients were done with walking up the narrow driveway.  The new front walk from the public sidewalk also improved access from the new wider driveway. Gardeners paths integrate this landscape beautifully instead of lawn.  A rain garden works as an accent to the overall NW Natural Style landscape and handles water from a disconnected downspout.  We carefully kept the old and lovely vine maple for privacy to the living room window, a mature Fatsia japonica, and several tree like rhododendrons.  Some of the new plants in this design are:

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’

Erica Carnea-Spring flowering heather

Brunnera m. ‘Jack Frost’-azure blue flowering groundcover with silver and green leaves

Spirea japonica-low maintenance easy care summer flowering shrub

Pinus mugo ‘Sherwoods Compact’ a specialty dwarf pine

This design was installed by D and J Landscape Contracting 

 

Rain Garden Becomes the Focal Point

Portland front yard landscape design with rain garden

When my client Amy and I work together I take her design ideas and make them work. This is our 3rd project together in St. Johns Portland, Oregon.

Landscape design for Portland front yard.

This modern craftsmen style home in St Johns belongs to a serious DIY client of many years.  She wanted a working rain garden as the focal point of her front landscape and no lawn.

We worked together on a Landscape Design in a Day to refine her front yard design, rain garden design and add paths and plantings.  She acted as her own general contractor and managed the installation.  The crew she hired was inexperienced but she was able to guide them.  While working with them was quite a bit more work than she expected, she prevailed and the installation finished well with attractive boulder and stone placement.  The rain garden handles most of the rain off her front roof.  We also made a wide spot in the path for her neighbors to get out of their car into her path.  Like many city properties there wasn’t much room between houses. The photo shows her freshly installed plantings fall of 2020.

Some of the key plants for the rain garden are Gold Sweet Flag – Acorus gramiense ‘Ogon’,  Inkberry – Ilex glabra ‘Shamrock’ and Juncus ‘ Blue Arrows’ – a cultivated variety of a native rush.

Privacy Landscape Design and Modern Curb Appeal in Kenton Neighborhood

Portland neighborhood front yard landscape design.

Kenton neighborhood small front entry needs to gather guests from the sidewalk, the driveway and provide a small seating area for homeowners.

Portland modern front yard landscape design.

This very modern landscape design provides access to the house from both driveway and sidewalk and creates a semi private spot to sit.

This simple modern landscape design gave this Kenton neighborhood home much more than curb appeal.  There is a hidden seating area in addition to easy access from the driveway and the public sidewalk. Our clients didn’t need a lot of privacy, but enough to avoid accidental eye contact from walkers by.  Clients acted as general contractor and used M and J Landscape from Salem for the install.  Alana Chau designed this landscape and placed plants.  See more of this project.

 

 

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.

North Portland Landscape Design Tips for Modern Ranch Front Yards

Curb Appeal Tips for North Portland Mid Century Modern Ranch Front Yards

Here are three landscapes where we focused on the treatment of the front porch and steps, downspouts, railing, columns and brick planters of mid century ranch homes in Portland.

Let’s make your homes best feature the dominant visual experience.  To me curb appeal is not just for selling your home, it’s what you see every time you return home.  These are some simple ways to increase your home’s curb appeal right at the front door.  (Other LDIAD blogs will share information and examples about front walks as part of curb appeal or plantings, but not this one).

Modern ranch curb appeal starts at the front door.

I especially loved this design process with a creative spirited client in North Portland.

Modern Landscape Style Curb Appeal

After       Mid century modern entry in Kenton now has excellent curb appeal. The dark porch floor makes the brick façade on the house look amazing. The downspout and vertical railing simply disappear instead of distracting.

Kenton neighborhood ranch style curb appeal in North Portland after Landscape Design in a Day

The brick looks rich with the new simple color scheme.  A white downspout and the white original vertical railing was painted black to make them all but invisible.  The only white left is the windows and trim around the door.  Even the porch is stained a dark shade but the face of the steps is a warm shade.  That was my clients idea which I think is genius.  The original brick now looks right at home.  Simplicity and contrast are so helpful.

Pots placed at the base of the downspout and vertical rail interrupt the power of a vertical line.  Everything on this house is about a horizontal line, typical to mid century style.

Here are lessons from this design:

Portland Ranch Style Home wants a change

Before    Vertical railing and downspout match the trim of this mid century modern ranch house in Kenton neighborhood

Tip:  Treat the downspouts as background not trim. Match the body color of the house where possible.

Tip:  Use contrast to bring out the exterior details we want people to see and mute details we don’t want to see.

Brick Accents

If you have brick façade on the house, evaluate its worth to you.  Some of the brick was just cheap where other brick is unusual and well worth working with.  All the builders copied other builders and many put the planters on the ranch houses for visual interest without much thought. It was a thing.  This is especially prevalent in homes built in the early years of ranch style homes.  Ranch houses were mass produced and remain the most predominate style of house in the united states particularly 1945 to 1970.

Options:  Find a color for the body of the house that enhances the brick. It’s easier to paint the house. If the brick is ugly, remove it and replace with a different material that is interesting and adds good looks to your home.  Change it to siding. The siding could even be a group of attractive vertical cedar panels.  Even painting the brick (a last resort) might be worth doing if it’s really unattractive and you don’t want to replace it.  Put rocks in the top of the planter or grow succulents or if in the shade, other incredibly tough plants like our native sword fern.

Mid Century Brick Planters

So what about those mid century homes with brick planters?

Modern design update for Portland ranch home.

Mid-century modern ranch brick planter with river rock instead of plants.  A custom iron screen adds interest.  This was a great solution for this brick centric front entry in N.E. Portland.

I often say these planters are where plants go to die. Let me confess to a deep frustration because my clients rarely ever have plants that thrive in them.  I tried adding new drainage, changing out all the soil with potting soil, (a big job btw) and still never got the plants to look healthy and front yard attractive.  Adding polymers to the soil to increase moisture holding capacity was somewhat successful but only lasted a few years. I question the environmental stewardship of polymers in soil.

Deep Overhang Creates Dry Shade

Mid century modern ranch always has a deep overhang so these planters occupants must be hand watered even in the winter….who is going to do that?  I have successfully grown sword fern in them and clients who want to putter grow annuals in them but with difficulty. The soil is as dry as a stone and usually filled with leftover soil from from when the foundation was dug. They were meant for seasonal annuals at best. We want them to look good year round since they are front and center and they never do.  Aaargh.

Tip:  Don’t be afraid to change some of the original features if they don’t work.

Strong red brick tends to read as colonial instead of modern. There is a style of home called Colonial Ranch and you will see lots of strong red brick accents. Original brick planters or ugly brick façade are not the holy grail of a mid century modern ranch.  Be willing to consider alternatives unless the brick is attractive rather than garish.

Planting Success in Brick Planters?

Please send me a photo if you -happy homeowner- have managed to grow plants in them year round that add to the beauty of your front yard.  I’ll be happy to acknowledge your skills. If you keep the planters, take out the soil, add drain rock at the bottom. Replace the soil  or greatly amend it. Add a drip system to water the plants unless you have concerns about getting water in your basement.  My strong suggestion…..get rid of those plant killing planters or fill them with attractive stone like my clients in NE Portland did.

Tip: Exterior details of your house are more visually powerful than plants for enhanced curb appeal.

Sleek Modern Entry and Planters for Portland Ranch Style House

Ranch Style in Portland gets curb appeal Before Photo

Before: original brick planters disappoint the new home owners who want a sleek modern style for their front landscape and entry.

 

 

Modern update of landscape planter.

Phormium and Hens and Chicks fill this replacement modern concrete planter for the entry of a mid century ranch home in Portland.

 

Modern Landscape Style for Portland Home includes Front Porch and Planters

Curb appeal success after modern entry design is installed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Portland home also had its old brick planters removed and new smart modern concrete planters were installed with drip irrigation.  The new concrete landing of the front porch was greatly enlarged and steps opened on both sides. What a difference it made.

Overlook Neighborhood Home wants a curb appeal landscape design

Columns wrapped in cedar distract from the lines of this home in North Portland

Front Porch Columns needed help to achieve curb appeal for this 1990’s Overlook Neighborhood Bungalow Want to be.

While a mid century ranch typically does not have columns, changing this exterior detail fits right in with simple changes you can make to improve your homes curb appeal.  This client in North Portland’s Overlook neighborhood is a gardener and wanted a new look for her front yard landscape to achieve better curb appeal. She also wanted help with what to do with the columns on the house.  Her thinking had been to match the cedar siding on the second story by wrapping the columns for the porch in cedar.  She didn’t like the effect and wanted help with what to do.

Overlook Neighborhood Home in North Portland with updated columns for curb appeal

Treating the columns to match the body color of the house creates an attractive and elegant effect to this homes entry.

My suggestion, which she implemented right away, was to paint the columns the same color as the body of the house. This treatment put the columns back in their subordinate place as a supporting exterior detail. Then we had fun re-designing the plantings in the front yard…..designing around the obvious keeper plants and removing what didn’t work.  She had a Viburnum tinus that had grown into such an attractive large tree I almost didn’t recognize it.  Typically this common plant is a shrub.

Tip: Columns are a supporting exterior detail not a primary and need to be simple.

The change in the columns made a bigger immediate contribution to curb appeal, where our re-designed planting plan took a few years to make an impact.

My next blog will show dramatic examples of how changing the location, shape or materials of front walkways gives a house loads of curb appeal and increases the welcoming energy of your home.

Alana Chau and I love plants and creating planting plans. We know that making your home feel welcoming and looking great from the curb requires vision that includes your home and its exterior circumstances and details….not just plants.

Contact us for a collaborative and satisfying design process that integrates your home and landscape.