Archive for small back yard

Coming Back to See Fully Grown Privacy Landscape of North Portland Back Yard

Lush plantings create back yard privacy in Concordia neighborhood of N Portland

Privacy Landscape Design includes finishing touches applied by design collaborators Ryan and Michael

North Portland Back Yard Gets Private, Colorful Plantings

My new clients, Michael and Ryan, moved to N Portland’s Concordia neighborhood from a farm in Pennsylvania.   They knew some horticulture science and had a lot of confidence coming into the project from both a design point of view and working with plants.

Their new home in the Concordia neighborhood was a 1910 bungalow.     My clients hired me because they had no privacy and have a difficult landscape to work with. They believe in working with a designer and were sure I would amaze them with my solutions.  It’s great when clients have high expectations.

My clients wish for a landscape design also included:

  • Privacy for the patio to include dining and using the new hot tub
  • Dog friendly areas and grass for their two dogs to play and poop on
  • Interesting and colorful plants with lots of texture
  • Integrate the existing patio into the new design
  • Work with the existing aspen trees and magnolia

Privacy Landscaping

North Portland planting day shows wisps of the clumping bamboo for privacy screening.

Planting day shows only wisps of clumping bamboo.

Privacy was a very big concern.  Behind the house we had 3 homes with second story windows that had a good view into the patio and kitchen.  The properties to each side also had views not advantageous to our private hot tub plans.  Living in the city does mean getting to know your neighbors but not that intimately. And while in the hot tub we want to see natural beauty not someone doing their dishes.

The back porch was very attractive and had room for two people to sit and lounge but was too narrow for four. We tried a design that expanded the deck to fit a 4 top table but it was right on top of where we wanted the hot tub to go so it and a few other concepts went into the round file.

The former owners had installed a concrete patio and while I am sure it made sense to them, these odd concrete pedestals made no sense to us.  They were 4′ long and about a foot tall and wasted so much valuable space for outdoor living.  Huh? I’d love to know what they had on these pedestals. Big concrete lions?

Like most new homeowners they had already spent plenty of time and money getting the interior just right so I would consider carefully how to use the assets we had.

Lush plantings create back yard privacy for hot tub in Concordia neighborhood of N Portland

Our privacy planting solution for the patio is already thick in just 2 years.

The Privacy Solution for the Patio and Hot Tub Room

We measured the sight angles together and discovered that 10’ tall evergreen plantings would block the views into the hot tub area and the proposed dining table corner of the patio. My design solution put our privacy plantings in right next to the patio not out at the back fence line.

Kitchen view and privacy – We also had Ryan stand in the kitchen while we mocked up the height at various locations for privacy plantings.  It’s lovely to work on site and get the facts of exactly how high our privacy solutions needed to be.  Virtual design has it’s merits but there is nothing like being on site to create the best fitting design.

My favorite clumping bamboo worked beautifully for the patio privacy solution.  Ryan and Michael loved the texture and lush greenery of the Fargesia robusta ‘Campbell’ which grows 10′ in full sun (in Portland) and 12′ to 15’ tall in shadier settings.

I use this plant often for privacy solutions in city back yards because it’s tall enough to give us privacy, but doesn’t turn the whole yard into a shade setting.  It is evergreen and so is ideal for hot tub privacy even in winter and my clients love the drama and tropical effect of the leaves and form in the garden.  My only caveat on clumping bamboo is the amount of water it takes for it to thrive.  I prefer it to be on its own irrigation zone for this reason.  It needs more water than your other plants do and it will not become drought tolerant.  To put it on the same zone with other plants means you will waste water by over watering your other plants.

North Portland backyard shows privacy problems before privacy landscaping.

Planting day photo shows privacy problems.

Existing Tree in the Perfect Spot

We  had an evergreen Magnolia virginiana tree but  because it looked wimpy my clients wanted it gone.  Here is the cool thing.  This is the only magnolia tree I know about that will be happy as a companion to the frequently watered bamboo.  Both plants want evenly moist soils and once this magnolia recovers from two years without proper watering it will get taller than the bamboo and screen out the rest of those windows….oh did I mention it grows really fast and has a very fragrant flower.  I was and am very excited about having this existing tree to work with. It was planted in the perfect place to provide year round privacy from a corner neighbors windows. All it needed was a few years of proper watering.  And the bamboo is fine with some shade so the Magnolia can grow up to be itself without goofing up our lovely scheme. This is a rare moment in my design life but one I am always looking for.

Evergreen Privacy Selection Issues

Stepping aside for a moment:  I have limited plant choices when a privacy solution calls for evergreen plant material. Most clients don’t want to give up the space that a hedge takes but more important….they don’t want to prune a hedge regularly which is what they need.  I had already placed one evergreen hedge plant, Rhamnus Alata Varigata Variegated Buckthorn, between the hot tub and the side yard neighbor and it will have to be sheared a few times a year to keep it nice and thick.  That is a lot of work so adding another hedge was out. Trees are too big and just the wrong solution for the center of a small city back yard.

Lush plantings with custom planter and moon gate add drama to back yard landscape design in N Portland

Moon gate with lights and planter designed and built by clients.

Working with the Existing Aspen Trees

Aspen Trees in small city yards is a bad idea and yet we had 4 existing mature aspen trees to work with. And hey there, Aspen are beautiful trees with white trunks, fluttering leaves and gold fall color.  Since some butterflies and native insects lay their eggs in the leaves they are desirable for that reason alone.   Too bad they can be evil and sucker over an entire landscape and then head over to your neighbors.  I never put them in a design ever.

Second Opinion-Can I trust these Aspen trees to behave?

We removed one of the four existing mature Aspen trees as it was not growing well.  The remaining trees were so beautiful, well placed and were providing summer privacy and habitat for pollinators and birds. There were no evil suckers, not even one and my clients loved them.  I was so torn about them so I sought professional advice from the head grower at Heritage Seeds who said since the aspen had not suckered yet there was a very good chance they would not ever.  He grows and sells a type of aspen that is now (last 15 years or so) being used in the Willamette Valley by braver(?) or more fool hardy designers than I am. It is a different Aspen than the ones I have avoided but he says no guarantees about suckering even with the new ones. And if I had 20 years experience with using Aspen that was positive I would feel differently.

Colorful back porch adds to privacy landscape design in n Portland backyard

Check out the fun vine grid made by my clients that dresses the down spout.

Careful Plant Selection Starts with Experienced Designer

You are hiring me to recommend plants that I know and trust.  As a landscape designer it’s easy to want to use an in vogue plant (that you have no experience with) in designs.  This is wrong for me and my practice and I don’t do it.    OK yes occasionally I will use a sort of new perennial or even a shrub if my clients want a more adventurous planting palette.  Even then I have seen it in other designers gardens or it comes from a grower I trust.  If a plant has a well deserved reputation as being destructive, it won’t be in any of my designs.

Experience counts and I have been around long enough to see what harm aspen can do especially for small city properties.  I would not hesitate to use the new ones from Heritage seedlings on large properties where we are doing nature reclamation.  In these settings they are not typically irrigated so grow slowly and are planted as a community with other native plantings that are a benefit to wildlife.

Portland residential landscape designer Carol Lindsay stands in back yard privacy design of North Portland

Carol Lindsay stands in Concordia neighborhood privacy landscape design going on year 2.

Finishing the Privacy Design for Concordia Back Yard

The Aspen do a good job of making summer privacy from the houses behind us but we still had holes.  We used evergreen magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’ to finalize our privacy plan.  Teddy Bear Magnolia has a cute name due to very fuzzy gold brown felted backsides to the dark green leaves.  This tree has a narrow silhouette, is evergreen with large white summer flowers.

Plantings to go with the Aspen Trees

We added some native plants including flashy Echinacea to provide for the Aspens visitors, Western Tiger Swallow Tail and Loquinns Admiral butterflies.  A native blue fescue grass is part of the planting plan here and it hosts a variety of butterflies and insects.  Ryan is experimenting with different native flower seeds to include Gillia capitata, California poppy and Lupine to expand the diversity of visiting pollinators.

The north facing Aspen got a very different planting mix.  It already had a large group of autumn fern around it which we kept.  I added 3 white flowering clethra shrubs, Summersweet or Clethra alnifolia   The clethra, has a strong enough root system to compete with the Aspen and attracts hummingbirds, and bees including bumble bees.  The fragrant white flowers in spring with the white bark of the aspen create a beautiful vignette. I also use it around the edges of rain gardens in Portland.  We used Japanese forest grass ‘All Gold’ to add color.  This soft grass is also very popular with their dogs who love to munch on the blades.

Path and Surface Materials for Back Yard Design

Colorful coralbells collection enhances the privacy landscape of this North Portland backyard.

Ryan’s collection of colorful coralbells.

Materials used:  New concrete was added to mask where the odd concrete pedestals were.  Path materials used were both crushed rock with steel edger, and cedar chips for paths without edger.  The lawn was replaced with a tall type fescue which takes less water than a traditional lawn.

Clients Add Their Design Expertise

I mentioned they brought a lot of confidence into the project and were strong collaborators.  After the contractors installed our design, a great looking landscape I will brag on us all……. Ryan and Michael went to work adding the curved arbor pergola called a moon gate that became the heart of the design, and a custom wood vine trellis to the back porch exterior.

Look at the way they added both the lighting and the fern baskets to the arch.  The two planters under the curved arch were designed and built by Michael from wood and he used fiberglass for the top frame of the planter. They continue to experiment with plantings.

Dog friendly landscaping was required of this North Portland backyard. Hakonechloa macra pictured here.

Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ being nibbled on by a 4 legged client Concordia neighborhood N. Portland

 

Planting Day

My clients found their own contractors and I worked with them to order the plants from my plant broker and again to physically place the plants and coach on planting some of the plants that needed special techniques.  They did a great job.

I was able to work with Brian to make any necessary plant substitutions.  Since Covid many plants are scarce so we had to swap a few out but mostly we found the plants we wanted. The design was installed in fall of 2020 and these photos are from summer of 2022.

Coneflowers bring color in client made planters in North Portland backyard.

Vibrant coneflower (Echinacea) sizzles with color in privacy landscape design for small city back yard

Testimonial

Ryan gave me this comment to use from our design process, “We loved our experience and would recommended you to all our friends! We are very excited to see our finished project, and will surely enjoy it for years to come.”
~Ryan N. of Portland

If you are looking for residential privacy landscaping in Portland, contact us for more information.

Modern Landscape Design Seen in NE Portland Back Yards

Hardscape Solutions for Portland Back Yards With A Modern Twist

We enjoy visiting our past back yard designs and today we are in NE and SE Portland.  We will see installed back yard hardscape landscape designs and modern gardens in Portland neighborhoods Grant Park, South Tabor, Richmond, Reed and Eastmoreland.

Eastmoreland Neighborhood Outdoor Living Patio

Modern landscape design in Richmond neighborhood

Covered Outdoor Living in Richmond Neighborhood gets minimalist modern landscape design treatment.

 

 

 

 

Eastmore neighborhood landscape design

Alana Chau sits in the new patio garden she designed in Eastmoreland neighborhood of Portland.

Richmond neighborhood with minimalist modern landscaping

Our clients installed almost everything in their new landscape including this echo chamber water feature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We start near the Sellwood Bridge to see a very small back yard ‘Remodel’ design.  With a landscape that already has mature trees and fairly good privacy our job is to keep what works, remove what doesn’t and create the missing elements.  We (designer: Alana Chau), added a perfect fit lounging patio to the existing concrete area, a water feature, and fresh new plantings.  Our client Eva Barnes loves the new design.  She and David had so much fun with friends and family installing most of the design including an electrician friend who came and installed the GIF (ground fault interrupter) for the water feature.  Eva says about her new backyard, ‘It’s just perfect’.

Design Incorporates New ADU/Studio for a Family Friendly Landscape

Reed neighborhood incorporate existing gate into landscape designAn important factor for this Reed neighborhood home was working the new Adu/studio into the overall back yard landscape design.  An important decision was whether to keep the existing fence and gate that separated the small intimate family covered dining area from the larger back yard.  After much deliberations, we kept the gate and fencing because it made more usable space for the covered dining area, created a separate (and sunny) sit spot near the studio door and kept the existing fence and gate which has whimsical and delightful carvings of crows that are incorporated into the wood.  These corvine illustrations are both carvings and wood work.  They are all through the fencing and there are illustrations also in the brick patio from the previous owner.  It felt good to honor those.

Privacy for Tiny Patio Garden in Creston Kenilworth Neighborhood

Portland landscape design

Alana Chau and client Bill Sims with dog Juniper.  Note: Bill built the planter himself.

Portland Oregon simple modern landscape pavers

Hardscape landscaping design results in simple but very attractive path for side yard.

This family needed a planting plan re-do for the front, back and side yard and a designer who could understand the balance of privacy needs and community connection for the sidewalk patio. Taller plants in the new planter create privacy from eye contact with passersby without cutting folks off from community. The large planter with wide wall cap doubles as a wonderful sit spot. It’s a very friendly neighborhood.  The new hardscape path for the side yard is such an asset to the patio views, sets the stage for dramatic foliage plants and also makes a way to the garbage cans with dry feet during the winter.

Hosford Abernathy Neighborhood Back Yard Privacy Design

Our clients did not have a good view from their back yard before hiring Landscape Design in a Day.

See our previous blog about privacy.  It’s still a young garden so we are waiting for the privacy plants to get going growing on the new screen. (Japanese Climbing Hydrangea) and other colorful maturing plantings are filling in and starting to diminish the power of the purple violet house nicely. The landscape also needed a lot of careful attention to water from downspouts and had other drainage issues.  These issues were solved collaboratively with the landscape contractor, D & J Landscape Contractors, Donna Burdick and Landscape Design in a Day designer Alana Chau.

Carol Lindsay Portland landscape designer hugs young oak tree in Portland back yard.

Portland landscape designer hugs young oak tree, (Oregon White Oak, Quercus garryana) in clients back yard.

There are 2 rain gardens, a small one in the back yard and a larger more dramatic rain garden in the front.  Our client wanted to protect the river by keeping his drain water on site and returning it to groundwater, a high priority for our client.  He also planted a native Oregon White Oak.

Richmond Neighborhood Back Yard Has Uber Modern Back Yard Landscape Design

Richmond neighborhood modern landscape design

Chartreuse flowers of Euphorbia contrast with black patio table in uber modern backyard landscape design.

We started our blog with a photo of this dramatic minimalist modern landscape design.  The best news is that the clients use this covered outdoor living area patio year-round.  They live out here whenever they can. There is no better complement for a designer.  In the winter they use a standing heater as well as a ceiling heater.  For summer entertaining they will put the standing heater away to make more room for guests. Meadow style grasses and other dramatic plants give the overall design a modern minimalist style.  There is even a Tetrapanax papifera ‘Steroidal Giant’ in the back corner which will add a tropical flair (with very large leaves) once it matures.  We will have a blog that shows photos and more details on this fun garden soon.

South Tabor Home Back Yard Landscape Design

This home is getting the full treatment being remodeled inside and out to include adding an ADU now that the back yard transformation is well on its way.  Alana’s landscape design is planned around the future ADU.

Tabor neighborhood modern patio landscape design

Modern hardscape landscaping back yard patio garden replaces previous backyard wasteland in South Tabor neighborhood.

Alana collaborated with our client to create a new modern landscape style patio area with plantings.  She kept it low maintenance and low water.  He loves the new plantings and especially the colorful carpet of hens and chicks.  The back yard was previously a bit of wasteland when the house was purchased in 2019.

Contact Us

We love driving around and seeing our clients in their new back yards.  Contact us for a collaborative landscape design process that takes your needs, likes and dislikes into account while we lead the way to a perfect fit back yard.

Create Shaded Outdoor Living in University Park Backyard

New University Park Landscape Design Clients Need Shade

Borcon Steel Art Panel provides backdrop to Stahl Gas Firepit in University Park backyard

Borcon Steel Art Panel provides backdrop to Stahl Gas Firepit

In my first conversation with Jay, the words he used to describe what he wanted for his back yard were oasis, outdoor sanctuary, shady and cool, privacy, colorful lush plantings, and low maintenance. Then he laughed and asked me if that was even possible. His wife was the gardener and she had passed away several years ago. He was learning and keeping up but it wasn’t his favorite thing like it was hers. He and his kiddos wanted to finish making the back yard an oasis for their family but to me it also seemed like the back yard re-design would be an element of her family connecting with her because she loved plants and loved being outdoors.

Cool Outdoor Living in University Park

Jay and the kids love the University Park neighborhood and want to live here for many years.   They want to keep some of their moms plants in the new garden; especially hardy fuchsia and hydrangeas which are her favorites.  They want plants that will feed pollinators and provide for birds. They enjoy the magic of hummingbird visits.  These kids will grow up living outdoors in this yard, have encounters with nature and times spent with friends and family that they will remember all their lives. I love that part of my job.

Landscape Assets and Issues to Solve

In need of shaded outdoor living in university park.

Covered patio is cramped for space and back yard has no shade from the SW sun. (Before landscape design process)

We have two significant assets to help us toward our goals of shade, oasis and outdoor sanctuary. A covered patio area and a neighbors big tree. The house roof extends to cover a patio and although it is pretty tight for space, they can use it for eating and cooking outside, play area and for making crafts.  However, once the sun crosses to the west the afternoon sun comes in under the cover and bakes everything and everyone.

Maybe there is a break in the earth’s crust because I swear that is the hottest little Portland summer yard I’ve ever been in.  The neighbor to the NW has a large cherry tree whose branches reach across nearly to the roof line.  It only provides shade to the north corner of the narrow yard.  Happily the neighbor has a long term commitment to the tree so we can expect it will continue to provide some shade to our new outdoor living patio and firepit area on the north end.

Solving the Too Small Covered Patio

So the covered dining area is too small for a decent sized table and room it takes to walk through this area to the back door or side yard.  At a previous clients design we expanded the roof line to gain more covered area. It was a fantastic solution for them but was a major expense.  Jay and I liked the idea of adding to the covered area’s roof but this was expensive and would tip the balance away from a garden toward a large covered outdoor area with a few plants.  Not an oasis.  So we focused on expanding the patio surface space.

Solving for Long and Narrow Back Yard

Shade tree for University Park backyard living space.

Tree will provide both shade and a sense of privacy for this hot south facing back yard in N Portland.

Often I divide and conquer by creating multiple outdoor rooms instead of one long narrow space. Lets see how that works with this back yard.

In the shady north corner we create a cozy sitting and lounging patio of crushed rock and flagstone patio area. We will add very comfy furniture to relax into. The focal point of this room is a modern Stahl gas firepit with a steel art screen as a backdrop. The screen made from recycled steel will visually soften the house corner. The art screen is designed to be attractive from both the existing center garden room and the new shade corner sitting area.

The center garden room (the covered patio)  becomes the heart of the new garden.   Here we added 40 square feet to the existing patio surface to make room for the large table and chairs. This allows us space for additional diners. Jay and I preferred to use natural shaped flagstone (instead of modern square pavers) because we wanted to visually soften the existing concrete patio. The natural lines of the flagstone help diminish the power of the straight lines of the concrete, house and fence.

The Water Feature Has a Modern but Neutral Style

Our focal point for the center garden is the new water feature fountain.  It is placed to enjoy from the dining table area and to see year round from inside the house.

The fountain is backed by an evergreen winter flowering espaliered camellia and this is what we will see instead of just fence. This plant will look good year round and flower in winter. The espaliered form means it will be 8” deep and about 6’ wide and tall. It fits nicely with our narrow planting bed. The water feature is centered on this planting.

Making this center room dramatic gives it more power and so diminishes the long narrow aspect of the back yard.

Stand Against the Sun-Creating Afternoon Shade

Dwarf elm tree to increase shade and outdoor living space in North Portland.

Our shade tree Zelkova serrata ‘City Sprite’ (dwarf elm tree) was delivered via the N Portland alley and through a temporary opening in the fence.

The west end of the back yard is where we will make our stand against the baking afternoon sun. It will take some time but we have a perfect long term shade tree for this small back yard. The photos with the kids under the tree shows the promise of significant afternoon shade right where we need it.
We added boulders to create a raised bed for our shade tree. First it makes the tree taller by 18″ so more shade under the tree sooner, it makes fun run around room for Haley who likes to play outside and there is room for imagining her own world or even setting up fairy gardens if she wants. Some of the boulders were selected so they could be sitters.

Placing the tree in a raised bed is also a way to provide better drainage so the tree is healthier and typically will therefore grow faster.

Contractor and Designer and Client

 

I introduced Jay to Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors for the install. Typically we talk over the design a few times and then meet on site mid way through the installation to tweak the design which we did for this landscape design. Donna found the cool steel art screen and did the construction design of the art screen.  She also hand selected the boulders and arranged the boulder composition. The client, Donna and I met on site (outside of course-Covid days) to work through a few changes and to celebrate the progress on the new landscape together.

Hardscape Materials List 

Flagstone-Dry laid variegated lavender bluestone is tight set (very close together) to extend the patio. An additional flagstone grouping is added to the north shade garden to tie the rooms together.

A hot orange foliaged heather sets off the warm tones of the Silver Springs Easy Stack wall rock providing outdoor living in University Park.

A hot orange foliaged heather sets off the warm tones of the Silver Springs Easy Stack wall rock.

The raised bed has a blend of two rock materials.  The boulders were handpicked and they are called Columbia River Boulders and came from Portland Rock.  We also used Silver Springs Easy Stack Wall Rock for the horizontal rock in the raised bed.

The Girona water fountain is from Terra Casa , (a garden furnishings store near Clackamas Oregon) and is made by Campania International. It is a modern styled self contained fountain and does not need an additional reservoir. I especially like the neutral style which can go modern or meditative, and fit into a naturalistic native plants garden.

Steel firepit is from Portland’s own Stahl Firepit LLC and was plumbed for natural gas. The wood cover makes for a useful surface when not being used for warmth.

The steel art screen is made with Borcon Decorative Panels (60% recycled steel) and was designed and built by D & J Landscape Contractors.

Plants for Outdoor Living Backyard

Existing Fuscia kept in outdoor living landscape design North Portland.We were able to transplant several of his wife’s hardy fuchsias, hydrangeas and a few blueberry plants into the final design. Here are some new plants we used: native plants were Huckleberry, Sword Fern, Maidenhair fern, and Coneflower.

Pollinator plants that were not native included Crocosmia, Rosemary, hardy fuchsia, winter flowering heather, Solomon’s Seal, Black-eyed Susan, and Salvia. Most of these plants are also very attractive to hummingbirds. We added an evergreen Pineapple Guava shrub and more berry plants to the front yard.

The Shade Tree Selection

After lots of deliberation, we settled on a City Sprite semi dwarf elm tree. Zelkova serrata ‘City Sprite’. I wanted a cork oak but they were only available as 6” tall plants and City Sprite was a better fit long term.  Here is another small city garden where we used this same variety of elm tree.

Donna Burdick selected our tree from Treephoria, a plant nursery out in Boring Oregon.  The tree was already limbed up and so was perfect since we needed to be able to walk or sit or play directly under the tree. This landscape is too small to have low branches eating up usable square footage.

Client Testimonial

“My project included drought resistant plants, native plants, edible plants and low maintenance landscaping. The Landscape Design in a Day Kit was excellent and I was very satisfied with my overall experience.

Carol’s process worked really well for me. I appreciated the thorough definition of and thoughtful review of requirements before the final drawings were produced. I also appreciated Carol’s engagement when the project was in flight, her visit mid-way produced beneficial adjustments. And, her referrals for people to work with (contractor, gardener) were outstanding. Thanks Carol! I never would have created this backyard oasis on my own.”

Creating outdoor living with modern elements in University Park back yard.Contact us 

Are you seeking respite and shade in your backyard from summer heat?  Do you want an expert designer to give you a cool oasis in the city?  Contact us, we would love to make it so.

Tips for Privacy Landscape Design In NE Portland

Happy Landscape Creating Privacy 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.

Small City Backyard Needs More than Privacy

Designed landscaping that includes existing patio and creates privacy in Kerns neighborhood.

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.

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.

Hiding an Apartment BuildingKerns property needing privacy and wanting landscaping designed for birds.

BEFORE: apartment building looms.The apartment building near the back property line creates both privacy issues (people looking down into the 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 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?

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.

Working with Existing Concrete Patio

Finding where in the Kerns property privacy was needed with landscape design.

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.  It 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 in Kerns Landscape Design

Finding the perfect tree for privacy and gardening in Kerns project.

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.

Including privacy for backyard patio in Kerns neighborhood landscape design.

Carol 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.

Existing Japanese Snowbell Tree Helps with Privacy Landscape Design

Kerns property in need of privacy landscape design from next door apartment building.

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.

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.

Vine Structure Visually Softens Wall

New and existing plantings used for privacy and to cover up large next door building in Kerns.

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.

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.

A year after the landscape design and the clients love the privacy and outdoor living in Kerns.

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

For more information on how you can include privacy in your yard, contact us with your landscaping needs.

 

 

 

 

 

Creating Privacy with Plants for Small N.E. Portland City Landscapes

Privacy landscape design for NE Portland city home makes front yard dining work beautifully

The lush beauty of clumping bamboo creates privacy for a front yard dining patio in SE Portland.

Privacy Designs for Small City Landscapes

I like to use clumping bamboo for my small city properties to achieve privacy and to screen out unattractive views.  Here are 3 small city landscapes that make good use of clumping bamboo.

Private Entry Garden in Busy Hawthorne Neighborhood

These clients created a private entry garden on a very busy street. They used a clumping bamboo with a strongly arching, almost weeping structure called Fargesia sp.’ Rufa’.  The need for a feeling of an oasis around the home in their friendly neighborhood outweighed the need for security. The front gate discourages uninvited visitors. Neighbors cannot see into the front yard and the clients cannot see the sidewalk or the cars.

From inside the home they look out their windows to see curtains of green and it is very restful.  The back yard is so small that they tend to do most of their outdoor dining and entertaining in the front yard where the privacy is perfect for intimate gatherings.

NE Portland Home gets Kitchen Window Privacy

backyard privacy landscape design in NE Portland with clumping bambooEveryone spends lots of time at the kitchen sink.  My NE Portland clients had their kitchen window lined up perfectly with the neighbor’s kitchen window.  The lots in this neighborhood are small, 5,00 square feet and less.  This tiny city back yard needed privacy and needed it fast.

We wanted our privacy screen to be at most 10’ tall with a very upright growth habit to preserve space.  In a yard this small we needed every useable inch!  We used the clumping bamboo named Fargesia robusta ‘Campbell’ again and if we had used a weeping form like the ‘Rufa’ that would have been a mistake for obvious reasons. The client and her brother are very talented and installed everything including the new concrete patio.

Privacy for Irvington Back Yard with Clumping Bamboo

These clients in Irvington neighborhood wanted privacy and also wanted to screen out the house and roof of the large house next door.  The home office also had a large window looking out onto the 10’ wide side yard and into a view dominated by the neighbors overly large roof.

Clumping Bamboo in tall wood planters creates privacy landscape fast for NE Portland home.I want solutions that work, not solutions that make work.

They specified screening that was going to be 15’ tall and evergreen.  They also wanted low maintenance.  It was on the north side and even if we wanted arborvitae, I was concerned we would not have enough light for them to thrive and maintaining them at 15’ was going to take a long time and then require professional pruning as well.  There were lots of plants people typically use for this situation and they are all going to be high maintenance and potentially trespass onto their neighbors air space and light.

Backyard landscape gets a privacy boost with planters and clumping bamboo in N.E. Portland

Fargesia ‘Campbell’ clumping bamboo in Irvington neighborhood creates privacy.

This was a perfect place for clumping bamboo.  To get the plants at the 15’ mark we had custom planters that were 30” above the grade built.  This would give our plants a boost so they won’t have to wait as long for the screening.

Caveats:  The plants will make some leaf debris year-round but especially in the spring. The plants will require regular irrigation forever.  They are not drought tolerant.  And even with a few minuses, let me tell you, this is a lot less work than other options for a 15′ screen.

Clumping bamboo, in particular Campbell’s Variety, is an excellent choice for small city back yard and privacy solutions. For an even taller clumping variety consider Fargesia robusta ‘Green Screen’.  It is more likely to top out above 15’ tall.  Clumping bamboo do not need to be contained in a planter.  In this case, the planter is there to boost height and to have other plants in it to complement the clumping bamboo.

For more information about clumping bamboo see Bamboo Garden web site.

Looking for attractive and thoughtful solutions for privacy in your small city property?  We love tricky city backyards! Contact us.