Archive for low maintenance landscape

Adding Curb Appeal With No Lawn Landscaping to Portland 1960s Home: Part One

Portland 1960s Ranch House Transformed With No Lawn Landscape

Portland no lawn landscaping helps this 1960s home curb appeal!

This Reed Neighborhood house has a welcoming landscape and entry after working with Landscape Design in a Day

Updating Curb Appeal for Windowless 1960s Ranch Home

As a landscape designer, I recently had the opportunity to transform the front of a windowless ranch house in the Reed neighborhood of SE Portland. The homeowners, Jeff and Lyn fell in love with the house for its great floor plan and proximity to their grandkids.  They did not love the front of the house.   The front entry courtyard was dark, windowless, and in need of updating. The old front walkway, likely installed in the 50s or 60s, was too narrow, and was damaged.

Portland 1960s home in need of a landscaping update to enhance curb appeal.

The front entry courtyard was dark, windowless and in need of updating. The old front walkway, likely installed in the 50s or 60s was too narrow and was damaged.

They needed solutions to make their front yard more welcoming and aesthetically pleasing. They needed a complete re-haul with creative solutions for a tough situation.

I have used a landscape design process to fix a house before but I was looking forward to this design in particular since the difference in the before and after would be so dramatic and  satisfying.

Using my Landscape Design in a Day kit they supplied me with the information I needed to create a customized solution.  Happily they were open to removing everything; the front steps, old concrete walk and the lawn.  Armed with their preferences, I worked with them to design a landscape that would greatly enhance the curb appeal of their home, create a warm and inviting entry, add functional walkways and good flow to the front door of their home.

A new porch helped with curb appeal of this Portland 1960s ranch home.

New porch and planters soften tunnel effect of narrow courtyard entry.

Creating a Welcoming Entry

The front entry of the house was dark and windowless, which made it feel unfriendly. To address this issue, we implemented four key solutions. First, we designed and built a real porch (not a deck) and incorporated different shapes and sizes of planters and steps to break up the tunnel effect and add interest to the entry.

Additionally, we designed a large well-planted berm, which served as an attractive focal point and helped diminish the tunnel effect of the entry. We added a multi-stemmed, vase-shaped tree to the berm to integrate the house with the land.  Lastly, we created a curved path from the street to a center landing point, which complemented the Northwest natural landscape style that Jeff and Lyn desired.  Landscape installer was D and J Landscape Contractors, Donna Burdick.

Look for our upcoming Part Two article!

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Transforming the front of the windowless ranch house in SE Portland was a rewarding project. I loved the challenge of transforming this difficult front yard and entry without the need for a remodel.  We enjoy taking our 30 years of experience and applying it to your existing landscape no matter the level of difficulty.  We can look at your landscape and see what is possible.  Difficult sites are fun but not required.  Contact me today, and let’s create a front yard you love to come home to.

 

 

Privacy Screening Landscape Design for Kerns Neighborhood Portland: Part 1

Japanese Elm Update for Portland Privacy Landscape Design

Kern neighborhood backyard privacy landscape design.

Our Privacy Tree right after we planted it in 2020.  (Zelkova serrata ‘City Sprite’ Japanese Elm)

I dropped by my clients Chris and Veronica’s Kern neighborhood back yard to get my eyes on their privacy tree, a Japanese elm called City Sprite planted 3 years ago by Landscape Design in a Day.

Japanese Elm chosen for privacy in Kern Neighborhood landscape design.

Privacy Tree Hard at Work 3 Years After Planting in Kern Neighborhood

It is lush and filling in beautifully to minimize the impact of the 3-story apartment building that looms over their small city back yard.  We had a great time designing their new back yard and I love seeing the results.

Kern Neighborhood backyard in need of privacy landscape design.

Before Privacy Tree

We placed the City Sprite Elm to provide privacy for the dining area and it’s doing a great job for us.  However, it has not been without some worry for my clients.

Beetle Damage on Privacy Screen Tree

Japanese elm is resistant to Dutch Elm Disease so we can use this tree as a long-term solution without worrying it might succumb to the disease that has caused City of Portland to remove so many mature and ginormous elm trees.  Veronica noticed a beetle eating the leaves and making lots of holes in the leaves in June.  She contacted me to enquire about whether this was a serious problem and if so, should she replace the elm?

Beetle damage to leaves of Japanese Elm, privacy tree chosen in Kern Neighborhood landscape design

Japanese Elm leaves with beetle damage.

As I am not an arborist, I make sure I know some great ones.  I talked to Honl Tree Care and sent them photos.  They agreed that the defoliation shown in the photo was not serious, were somewhat surprised that the elm beetle was feeding on the Japanese elm as this is not typical.  They are confident that her elm tree will not get Dutch elm disease.

The best course of action was to take good care of her tree with proper watering and put up with the beetle’s minor damage.  Mind you it doesn’t feel like minor damage especially in June when the beetle is munching away but by July the beetles are done and the tree is looking vigorous and downright robust in spite of the holes in the leaves.

Privacy Landscape Design in N.E. Portland

We love working with tricky city back yards and want to help you enjoy your back yard.  Most of us want some privacy to entertain friends and family, and  to use your back yard for fun activities or relaxing.  Our back yards can also help our community by providing for pollinators and creating shade and cooling.  What’s on your wish list?

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Let’s work together and transform your back yard into your private and perfect place to be.

Pot with Coral Bell in flower adds interest to pathway.

Portland Backyard Needs an Outdoor Living Space Fix Starting With the Front Walk: Part 2

Corner Lot Landscape Transformation in Rose City Park Neighborhood

We return for Part 2 to the challenging Portland corner lot project completed by Landscape Design in a Day’s Alana Chau. Exceeding the expectations of our clients for their corner lot landscape design in Rose City Park neighborhood.

This N.E. Portland home needed a welcoming entry walk and a back yard. The entry was not near convenient parking and the utility pole blocks the view of the old fashioned double gate.

Rain Garden Functional for Drainage and Fun Play Space for Kids

The rain garden location was chosen to handle water from a downspout that was completely in the way of the new walk. We had to take the water under the pathway and that opened up more choices for us.

Fencing for City Lot

Now the corner of the property is the very useable play back yard.

The addition of fencing by Cascade Fence and Deck makes this space private and keeps this city play area puppy-poo free while the rain garden is an additional place for the kids to play.

Installation for this difficult project was handled by D & J Landscape Contractors with Donna Burdick. Alana was on-site from design and through the installation which is something we love to do.

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We enjoy a good challenge.  Landscape Design in a Day was the perfect fit for this active young family.  The clients were thrilled with the design and felt very much a part of the design team.  Making their landscape work functionally and fulfill  the clients dreams was a joy for Alana.  Contact us to talk about your ideal hardscape landscaping and planting dreams.

Portland Backyard Needs an Outdoor Living Space Fix Starting With the Front Walk: Part 1

Rose City Park neighborhood corner lot outdoor living landscape fix.

This N.E. Portland home needed a welcoming entry walk and a back yard. The entry was not near convenient parking and the utility pole blocks the view of the old fashioned double gate.

Rose City Park Has a Unique Outdoor Living Space Landscape Problem

As a landscape designer, I’m always delighted to work on challenging projects — especially when the solution exceeds the clients’ expectations. That’s exactly what happened with the corner lot landscape design in Rose City Park neighborhood that Landscape Design in a Day’s Alana Chau recently completed.

City Corner Lot Needs a Functional Front Walk

Rose City Park outdoor living landscape design with new hardscape.

The entry gate and new hardscape front walk are now located on the side street where it is closer to the front door.

This N.E. Portland property had a large front yard with an old-fashioned walkway that started from the corner of the lot. This walkway didn’t fit the property’s needs as it did not provide direct access to the front door and chopped up all of the usable space. The solution? Move the entry pathway for convenient access to the front door to the side street so that the entire front yard could be used for play, edibles, and community connection. And while we are at it, update the hardscape landscaping materials to match the values of the beautiful old house.

Hardscape Materials for Entry Path

Rose City Park neighborhood hardscape landscape design using Castone path pavers and crushed rock.

Path composition of Castone path pavers, crushed rock, steel edging and a Mutual Materials paver for the front entry walk updates the hardscape landscaping.

When it came to hardscape materials, we chose a mix of Castone faux flagstone pavers, crushed rock, steel edging for the path to the private family dining area, The front walk was a soft cream colored Mutual Materials paver called Victorian that bring this old-fashioned landscape up to modern times. The corner path is more Castone faux flagstone pavers that were carefully spaced to fit the stride of a particular small child.  Yes we have the cute photo of her using the path but nope not sharing that photo with anyone but our clients. Sorry.

Continue reading about the Rose City Park corner lot transformation in our upcoming Part 2.

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We enjoy a good challenge.  Landscape Design in a Day was the perfect fit for this active young family.  The clients were thrilled with the design and felt very much a part of the design team.  Making their landscape work functionally and fulfill  the clients dreams was a joy for Alana.  Contact us to talk about your ideal hardscape landscaping and planting dreams.

Landscaping for Privacy in Portland Small Front Yard

Portland front yard landscape design with Magnolia grandiflora and white flowering dogwood

Small city front yard with new Magnolia grandiflora ‘Teddy Bear’ and existing magnificent Cornus x ‘Venus’, a white flowering dogwood cross between our PNW dogwood and a disease resistant Korean dogwood.

Privacy Landscape Design for Gardener’s Yard

This small city front yard was fun because my clients Sam and Austin love plants and Sam in particular was itching to get his hands in the soil.  They wanted to see year round plants in the front yard from inside the house and sit on the front porch without looking into the neighbor’s windows across the street.  We had good success with our design and a lot of fun and joy….but I acknowledge that as they settled into their new city home, they wanted even more screening.

Before photos for Portland landscape design

Before hardscape landscape design in N Portland.

Flowering dogwood gives front yard privacy in landscape design.

Here is the view from the living room picture window in May. Cornus x ‘Venus’ has 5″ across white flowers and wonderful fall color. We designed around this existing treasure, a dogwood cross between our PNW dogwood and a disease resistant Korean dogwood.

Now most of my clients don’t want experiments with plant selection.  They want my tried and true plants placed to my spacing requirements.  I stick to my spacing requirements especially for trees and the spacing is part of the value of a landscape design that will fit your property.  Most of us don’t want our plants to overwhelm the space and each other or want to referee with lots of pruning. But Sam is a gardener and loves a little trial and error.

Before and after photos of Portland front yard landscape design for privacy.

After photo of this N.E. Portland ‘No Lawn’ Landscape Design on Planting Day.

More Privacy Plantings for Small City Front Yard

He has added  more Magnolia to the parking strip to greatly increase blocking the view of the city street and apartment building.  Me, I look into the future 10 years or less and see the landscape too crowded but Sam unlike most of my clients, is prepared to prune and shape.  He has got that whole no fear gardening thing going for him so I’m excited to see how it works.  City living requires creative and different approaches for privacy, maybe even breaking the rules.

Sam, Austin and I worked closely with Donna Burdick (D & J Landscape Contractors) for the landscape installation.

Plants for this N.E. Portland Front Yard

The most important specification was creating a screen of plants to see from inside the house without burying the charm and curb appeal of the home’s front entry porch. Our plantings need to work with and enhance the existing fabulous Dogwood tree.  The style was a mix of NW Natural and Cottage Garden.  We had other specifications such as low water, pollinator friendly, fragrance.

Clients Favorite Plants in Front Yard

Acer palmatum is a dramatic focal point for Portland yard.

Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’ at a client’s large woodland garden – also used as the dramatic focal point.

The Shaina Japanese Red Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’)  is the favorite plant.  I selected it for it’s dramatic orange red spring color and also the shape.  It’s a little boxy; most Japanese maple are either weeping or have tall upright branching structures .  Shaina’s ‘boxy’ shape fits in my smaller city landscapes and provides more screening than a weeping form.  My clients just love how vibrant the red foliage is both in spring and fall.

We had played around with a pear tree for the entry walk but this was discarded for a narrow evergreen Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’.  This tree was selected by Sam for screening the street and cars as seen from the front porch and the angled view from the living room window.  The back yard has the fruit trees.

Spring Flowering Heather in privacy landscaping design in Portland.

Summer Flowering Heather and Fragrant Summer Flowering Daphne. Calluna vulgaris ‘Mrs Ron Green’ and Daphne t. ‘Summer Ice’

Three fragrant plants, all evergreens starts with Daphne odora,  Mexican Orange (Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’), and semi evergreen Daphne t. ‘Eternal Fragrance’.

These fragrant plants all bloom at different times of the year.  They are planted for my clients to enjoy the fragrances as they come and go from the front door.

Japanese anemone planted in Portland privacy landscaping.

Japanese Anemone

 

Plantings for a Small City Front Yard

Less flashy but excellent lower maintenance plants include spring flowering heather (February, March April), Iris x pacifica Rio Dorada (April and May), an evergreen Iris,  the hardy geranium groundcover Geranium x cantabrigense ‘Karmina’ flowers in May, June and July under the mature dogwood.  Japanese anemone, Anemone huphensis late summer flower add flower power at different times of the year and provide good groundcover and attractive foliage when not in flower.

Smaller Hydrangeas to Fit Small City Front Yard

The clients love mop head flowered hydrangea so we have 3 in the front.  Again size is an important consideration.  There is not enough room for the typical  6′ x 6′ hydrangea so I specified the dwarf Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Pia’ and 2 of the newer semi dwarf varieties called the City Line Series ‘Rio’ .  Rio should be only 4′ x 4′ or less and will give my client the more traditional blue and purple flower heads.  Pia is so reliably smaller than most, (and an excellent plant) at less than 3′ x 3′ but she will stay a pink mop head flower for many years and eventually go to a purple pink.  Many people like the traditional blue flower.

Pacific Northwest Native Plants

We also have a section of pure Pacific Northwest native plants on the far side of the Dogwood tree.  These are Vaccinium ovatum, native huckleberry, great for native bees and birds, Mahonia aqufolium, Tall Oregon grape for pollinators including Anna hummingbirds.  We have used PNW sword fern to good effect and it integrates much of the front yard plantings.  We want to get Oregon phacelia, a ground cover, going with the other natives but so far seeds have not been successful.  Oregon phacelia can leave small burrs in a dogs fur so not best with long furred dogs btw. My seeding efforts at my property has also failed so clearly there is a trick to it I do not have yet.  Sam has a good crop of the Tellima grandiflora (fringe cup) and that pollinator plant is working very well so if the Oregon phacelia doesn’t happen,  we still have great native plants for pollinators.

 

Portland privacy landscaping.

Before Landscape Design in a Day this family had no backyard for kids play area, and no privacy just lawn and a white picket fence.

 

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Do you love city living but want more privacy and charm to your front yard?  Going lawn less?  We love to create landscape designs with our city clients.  Contact us!

My next blog is about a family with 3 kids living in the city with no backyard, no place to play and no privacy for dining and hanging out.  Their new home, (a wonderful Portland Old House) is on a corner which is always challenging.  What to do?  Read on.