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Portland Landscape Design creates privacy for small city backyard in Woodstock neighborhood

Portland Landscape Design creates privacy for small city backyard in Woodstock neighborhood

Colorful small tree for Woodstock neighborhood backyardCase History:   Portland infill home in Woodstock neighborhood needs a professional landscape design.  The biggest problem for new infill homes with tiny yards is privacy.

Roger and Meghan, no dogs and no kids, had recently moved to Portland and purchased a new home in the Woodstock neighborhood.  Roger wanted an interesting and easy care garden to putz in, colorful plantings and no lawn.  Most of all they wanted privacy.

Solving Privacy Issues-It’s about making a beautiful view

There were bad views on all three sides of the backyard. The house behind had a visually obnoxious roof and we could see their neighbors doing their dishes quite clearly in the evening. The house to the west had a shed which was useful for some privacy, but was infested with Norway rats. The owners were elderly and not keeping up with their home. It’s tough to start making demands of your new neighbors so most of my clients don’t. The house on the other side was also a new infill house and there was no privacy between the two properties.

Portland Residential Landscape Design Woodstock neighborhood before back yard landscape designDesigners Viewpoint on Screening Plants

I needed to create beautiful views to see from inside the house and from the back patio that would simultaneously create privacy and block bad views.  The plants needed to grow quickly but not get too big for the tiny yard.  There are not a lot of plants that will slow down once they are mature.  Most will get too big too quickly.

I selected my trusty clumping bamboo-Fargesia ‘Robusta Campbell’ paired with an evergreen narrow semi dwarf Magnolia tree. The contrast between the feathery bamboo and the magnolia’s large dark green leathery leaves would have been exciting and this would have been a fast-growing solution. My clients decided against the bamboo because rats sometimes eat bamboo shoots and they didn’t want to encourage the rats to come into their yard.  I substituted drought tolerant Boxleaf Tree-Azara Microphyla for the privacy screen and they were back on track.  Azara has a tiny leaf and would contrast well with the Magnolia’s large leaf.

Intricate path design in Woodstock neighborhood Portland, ORPath as a design feature for a small yard


The back yard is all planting solution with a flagstone path that circles and dramatically frames a focal point planting.  The path is wide enough to walk or to pull weeds from.  Roger laid the flagstone himself.

Intricate garden path in Portland garden designPlants with vibrant spring color

I dropped by the following spring (I was next door creating a design for their neighbors) and saw the magnificent coral orange leaves of Japanese maple ‘Shaina’ with  lime gold ground cover, (Saxifraga) and peach foliage coral bell. The emerging spring foliage puts on an intense and vibrant show.  The new landscape has many seasons of beauty and the spring view is no exception.

Portland Residential Landscape Design Woodstock neighborhoodRoger and Meghan are enjoying their new home and landscape and Roger enjoyed installing the garden so much he might take it on as a second career in addition to his professional photography.  So far the rats have not caused a lot of problems………How Portland lives with, not against, its rats is a fascinating read.

Plant List

Backyard planting in Woodstock neighborhood Portland, OregonThe spring color vignette included:

Japanese maple ‘Shaina’ – Acer Palmatum ‘Shaina’

Coral Bell ‘Marmalade’-Heuchera x ‘Marmalade’

Saxifraga x urbium ‘Aureopunctata’-Saxifrages ‘London Pride Aureopunctata’

Brunnera macro. ‘Jack Frost’-Bugloss ‘Jack Frost’



Before and After New Construction

Before: Skinny and Tricky Lot      

Last month, we highlighted the ‘Hidden Craftsman Gem‘ redo. One of my customers emailed me saying it looked like it was doctored in Photoshop.  I took it as quite the compliment!  It was indeed a very dramatic before and after photo! We could not have completed the installation so quickly and beautifully without a team effort – designer, clients and contractors working together – are what makes a design sing.

This month, we’re showcasing something different.  Instead of working with an established landscape, I started with a clean slate and clients who preferred to be more hands-on.  We completed our Landscape Design in a Day for the front yard pictured below. The large back landscape was designed and completed the following year.

Osborne Before and After Design

“We planted it exactly as designed and it turned out great!” – John Osborn

After: Calming Entryway

My clients had a funny pie shaped lot. Well over half the front yard needed to be hardscaped. I designed the front walk in large paver squares and ran plants between. This was very successful in visually breaking up the large amount of concrete. Working with their builder, Rick Waters, we selected the paver color and finish in subtle shades of similar colors. This trick makes the hardscape look smaller than it really is.

The water feature was hand built by the homeowners and turned out fabulous! We put a lot of thought into the sound as well as the appearance. The boulder fountain used an echo chamber system we recommended. It sounds great. They have enjoyed many compliments.

We have been plagued by uncooperative deer who have not read nor do they follow along with the list of plants they are not supposed to eat! The specialty dwarf twisty Spaan’s Dwarf pines were fine for three years. This spring the deer severely damaged them. The Tiarella ground cover also proved to be a tasty treat.

June 2013 NW Renovation MagazineI often work some minor miracles with difficult landscapes. The design for the Osborn’s has worked very well to match the beauty of the home. Their home will be featured in an upcoming issue of  NW Renovation Magazine.

What’s happening in your landscape?

Call 503.223.2426 or email today to get your landscape beautification process underway!