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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.

 

 

Hummingbird Candy-Gardening for Birds

Gardening for Birds Makes Year-Round Entertainment

12 Portland Plants to feed Hummingbirds

Did you know Hummingbirds stay in Portland over the winter? You can attract these beautiful creatures to your yard, and provide much needed nectar, with a variety of plants. Here is a round up of plants we call “Hummingbird Candy” for every month of the year. If you’d like help integrating these plants into a Garden Design, contact us. Or just add one or two in a pot on the porch!

(Note: plants bloom at different times each year depending on the weather. The plant selection above is typical in Portland.)

Happy Bloomers for Early in the Year

Portland gardening for birds.

January: Oregon Grape

Portland gardening for birds

February: Witch Hazel

Portland gardening for birds.

March: Flowering Currant

January – Oregon Grape, Mahonia sp., blooms winter through spring, depending on the type. I enjoy Xera’s description of Mahonia x media ‘Charity’. Pair this Mahonia with other natives such as Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea, and a dwarf cultivar of our Western Red Cedar, like Thuja plicata ‘Excelsa’.

February – Witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’, is a winter must have. See the blog post Winter Garden Plants the Sizzle for some ideas where to view these beautiful shrubs in full size. This is one of those plants that improves with age.

March – Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum, is a beacon of joy in Portland’s dreary season. The bold pink of this bloom is just so happy! Ribes is one of the easiest Portland native plants to grow. For more easy natives, see Native Plants.

Usher in the Spring with these Reliable Plants

Portland gardening for birds.

April: California Lilac

May: Cape Fuchsia

June: Penstemon

April – California Lilac, Ceanothus sp., is great for Hummingbirds as well as Bees. Pair the small dark-green leaves of Ceanothus impressus ‘Dark Star’ with the strappy light-green foliage of Hakone Grass, Hakonechloa macra. Of course, you’ll need to water that Hakone Grass with drip irrigation until it’s established.

May – Cape Fuchsia, Phygellus sp., is a plant we like so much it has it’s very own blog post: Colorful Cape Fuchsia. 

June – Beard Tongue, Penstemon sp. is a wonderful bloomer for drought-tolerant landscaping. Many Penstemon’s are native to the west coast and all attract hummingbirds.

Enjoy the Lazy Days of Summer with Beautiful Blooms

July: Hosta

Portland gardening for birds

August: Crocosmia

Portland gardening for birds.

September: Salvia

July – Hosta cultivars are an often overlooked hummingbird magnet for shade. See A Pollinator Garden Paradise

August – Crocosmia blooms all summer long, ending around August in my Portland garden. This is often the first plant people think of when they want to attract hummingbirds. Check out some impressive captures in Portland on this instagram account.

September – Anise Sage, Salvia guaranitica, is a favorite of a recent client design and install, see Laurelhurst Neighborhood Backyard.

Keep the Hummingbird Entertainment Going through Fall

Portland gardening for birds.

October: Hardy Fuchsia

Portland gardening for birds.

November: California Fuchsia

December: Yuletide Camellia

October – Hardy Fuchsia, Fuchsia magellanica and hybrids bloom from summer into fall, depending on the type. Portland Nursery always has a nice selection.

November – California Fuchsia, Epilobium sp., is less widely known as others on this list. It blooms the entire fall season, later than most perennials. Pair it with ornamental grasses, which look fabulous at the same time. I might suggest an evergreen sedum or other evergreen groundcover in front of this plant as it gets pretty ugly after the first hard freeze of winter.

December – Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ and other Camellia’s fill a very important season for hummingbird plants. Some hummingbirds leave for the winter but our native Anna’s Hummingbirds stick it out through the cold and wet. Consider planting a winter-blooming Camellia for these pretty creatures. For more fun winter interest, see Cheery Winter Landscape.

If you are a bird lover who wants more wildlife in their garden, contact us to make an appointment.

Colorful Backyard Low Maintenance Garden Design in Portland

Low Maintenance Garden Design for Backyard in Woodstock Neighborhood

Client Wish List:

Low maintenance Landscape Design in Woodstock neighborhood

New Dining Area! Just waiting on the rest of the plants to make this corner complete.

Jill recently moved to Portland from an entirely different climate.  She is a gardener and knows that a different climate means an entirely different set of plants, watering strategies, and soils.  So she wanted Portland native plants to celebrate her new home in the Pacific Northwest. Getting expert advice about plants that would thrive here was her number 1 concern.  She wanted a vibrant garden with some traditional and colorful plants.  She also wanted her grandchildren, who live nearby, to enjoy playing in the backyard.

She already had a covered area for lounging adjacent to the house. She wanted to add an area for family dining, some edibles, and a play structure.

Landscape designer considers location of huge tree trunk for small back yard design in Woodstock neighborhood

Before – Doug Fir Trunk is 6′ wide at the base.

Designing around a large tree

The elephant in this room is that beautiful huge Douglas-fir. It took up a lot of space situated in the center of the backyard but to Jill it was a part of nature and she was happy to accommodate the tree.  Lawn is a poor choice near a Doug-fir and Jill did not want any lawn so we already had a good fit there.

The 6 foot diameter trunk will continue to grow so we needed to remember that as we worked toward the right design.  Many sources maintain that fir tree roots would prefer as little disturbance as possible. And we must be careful with how we water the plants around it so selecting drought tolerant planting companions was a strong consideration.  See Kym Pokorny article on stressed trees and how to care for them.

We had to address the elephant in the room first. In it’s natural habitat, the Doug-fir is surrounded by natural forest mulch and select native plants. More on the plants later. With the smaller size of the lot, the mulch around the trunk does double duty as a pathway. The color of the mulch will fade over time to blend in nicely with needles cast from the tree. It is important to only lay mulch around the tree and not up onto the tree’s trunk like a volcano.

Playground cedar chips are part of low maintenance landscape design in Woodstock neighborhood

During – Wide path designed around Doug-fir

Designing  the Dining Area near large tree roots

One way to create dining space near a large tree is to install a deck – it will have relatively low impact on the root system and allows rainwater through. A deck versus a patio is a better choice for our tree.  However, Jill was not too fond of the upkeep or cost of a deck. So we moved on to another good option – cedar chips and crushed rock. These materials also allow rainwater to soak into the ground and do not require too much excavation to be installed. And it’s easy on the budget.

Edibles in Containers

Jill initially wanted veggie beds in the soil, but due to greedy tree roots and the shade cast by the Doug-fir, we needed to employ some tricks to incorporate edibles into this yard. Three large pots or half wine barrels are designed in the sunniest part of the garden for annual veggies like tomatoes. A raised bed was designed next to the existing patio – and furthest from the Doug-fir – where part-sun veggies could thrive, such as greens and lettuces.

Flagstone path will lead through the plants to the back table with low maintenance plantings around the fir.

Structure of the Garden all ready to be filled in with Plantings

play house for low maintenance landscape design has cedar chip surface

Playhouse for Grandkids

Turn Unused Side Yard into Play House Space

We turned a previously unused side yard into the perfect play area for grandchildren. Kid-approved plants like Fuzzy Lamb’s Ears lead us down the path to a play structure. As the plants grow up, this area will transform into a miniature secret garden. As a bonus, when the grandkids outgrow the space, the structure can be easily replaced with a bistro table for an afternoon tea.

Planting Plans

Jill is a plant person and we especially had fun creating with a broad plant palette for this garden design.

Drought-tolerant plants that are native plants surround the Doug-fir such as Salal, Sword Fern and a vase shaped shrub called Oceanspray are all up to the task. 75% of the plants we selected are very low maintenance plantings.

For flower power we used well known color magnets like peony, cape fuchsia, hydrangea and more. Jill will add annuals to spice up the summer color.

Acer Circinatum "Pacific Fire" photo from Handy Nursery is a low maintenance plant.

Acer Circinatum “Pacific Fire” photo from Handy Nursery is the winter view from living room

For the view from the living room window we selected a native cultivar of Vine Maple (Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’) which has red twigs in winter.

Materials

Cedar chips, crushed rock and also large flagstone for the path to the dining table.

We enjoyed this design process with Jill and helped her create functional hardscape landscaping with paths and a 2nd sitting area that works well.  Now she has plantings that fit our region as well as the color she craves for summer.  And the deck?  If she decides to add the deck, she has the design for future consideration.  With our laid back NW lifestyle and regular visits from grandkids, her simple table and benches sitting on cedar chips will suffice as her second dining area for many years.

Can we help you have the backyard that fits your ideals and lifestyle?    Contact us and let’s create together.

North Portland Residential Landscape Design for Shade

North Portland Residential Landscape Design for Shade

Chris and Jennifer of North Portland contacted me for help with their large shady back yard.

Problems

They were overwhelmed with the high maintenance of lawn under huge trees. They wanted a back yard for entertaining a large family (with lots of adult kids and future grand kids).  They wanted to DIY and had a strict budget, so spending 20 grand on a concrete patio was not realistic.Cedar chip patio makes affordable landscaping for North Portland home. Views over the fence included other neglected yards and they had a large (evil) tree of heaven that had to go. Many plants had died or looked leggy and sun starved.

The back yard was longer than deep and made creating a design on their own more difficult.

Solutions

My best contributions were getting the shapes of the new rooms to work with their long but shallow yard. Introducing them to the concept of using cedar chips as their primary surface for entertaining and paths was a perfect fit also. It looks great with their NW Natural style landscape, it’s affordable and it’s very easy to care for. If you get the right kind of chips you can even use a leaf blower on them and they don’t blow away.

We tucked different outdoor rooms into the perimeter of the landscape and kept the existing small concrete patio as a spacious entry to the house and the BBQ center. No more trying to fit a dining table on it as they had done before the design.

Crushed rock firepit patio makes for affordable landscaping in this N. Portland backyard.Selecting low water plants

Sword fern works well for the woodsy nature of this North Portland garden design.

Sword fern works well for the woodsy nature of this North Portland garden design.

The plant selection was also critical.  Shade plants had to survive on the water the big trees would let them have so our palette needed to be all low water plants. We used a lot of sword ferns and kept native plants wherever possible.

On the south end we used one of my favorite little evergreen trees, Boxleaf Azara – Azara Microphylla. They planted them up on a berm which made them taller and helped do a faster job of screening out the neighbors garage wall.  Planting Azaras up on a berm prevents root rot since these plants do not tolerate poor drainage.

DIY installed

Their DIY install of the landscape turned out fantastic. They loved their back yard. When change came along, and they had to put their house on the market, the yard was another major asset and selling point. These photos, which they took, are from their marketing page.

I especially love the hammock room. The fire pit patio is clearly the largest entertaining area and is used for lounging with or without a fire. Their fire pit patio is a crushed rock surface, not cedar chips.

low maintenance evergreen screens tall wall in Raliegh Hills garden design

Azara Microphylla has fine evergreen leaves that add texture to this wall in SW Portland.

The chips continue around to the side yard gate and match the rest of the now low maintenance landscape.

“Carol understood us and got our style for a NW Natural landscape design for our North Portland yard.  We were very happy that she surpassed our expectations for low maintenance, no lawn, great textured plantings, backyard design.  She understood that we wanted to do some of the work ourselves and helped us make a beautiful-yard-on-a-budget a reality.”