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.
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.
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 ‘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 which is hard for Japanese maple to even do since most are either weeping or have upright but graceful branching structures but Shaina’s “boxy” result fits in smaller landscapes. My clients just love how vibrant the red foliage is.
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 fruit trees.
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.
We thought we might sit on the small front porch but once the back yard design was finished they find this rarely occurs.
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 macrophyla ‘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 had a good crop of the Tellima grandiflora (fringe cup) and that plant is working very well so if the Oregon phacelia doesn’t happen, we still have great native plants for pollinators.
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.
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.
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? Coming soon.