Archive for small 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

Ready for more shade in University Park backyard.

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.

 

 

 

Baby Boomers Downsize to NE Portland & Landscape Beautifully

Landscape in Irvington Neighborhood for Downsizing Boomer Clients

This NE Portland backyard was updated for retiring baby boomers

My clients had just moved into a bungalow on a small lot in NE Portland.  They are baby boomers and were downsizing from a larger home and property.  This house was “charm” itself with a gracious front porch and had wonderful bones.  While we created a design for the entire property, this blog is about the back yard transformation.

The back yard had an existing covered dining area. It looked like a portico with the roof attached to their shed to me and was quite attractive but so badly placed. It was blocking access to the back yard. The clients wanted my direction for whether to keep it or have it demolished.

The existing landscape spaces didn’t fit together or make good use of the square footage available.  They wanted good flow.

Privacy Screening for an Urban Backyard was a Priority.

They especially wanted privacy and better views from inside the house.  In a larger property, creating lush green views from every window is easier with plenty of square footage between the windows and the neighbors.  In small urban properties, controlling the views is more tricky to do well with typically only 5′ to 10′ of space to work with.  This space always has paths and other functions to perform and so is not solely available for plantings.  The view of the next door neighbors multistory house and roof was especially obvious from inside the home office.

The rest of their wish list looked like this:

NE Portland back yard landscape design with gas firepit patio and colorful plantingsTwo entertaining areas

A fire pit

A better utility area for garbage cans

A grassy area for their dog

Keep the large shade tree to the north

BEFORE image of NE Portland backyard landscaping.

The existing covered dining area was very badly placed and blocked entry to the back yard.

Poor Access to the Back Yard

 This old Portland house had access from the home’s office to the back yard.  Not ideal.  No one wants friends and family traipsing through their office with BBQ prep and smores. The primary outdoor traffic would come from the kitchen door on the far north side which is a long ways from the activities of the back yard.

I feel when the home does not have access from a primary living room or kitchen directly into the back yard, we need to have a big reward (Carol make it magical!)  when we get to the back yard.  There is a psychological resistance when access doesn’t lead directly to the activity.

Landscape Integration

Repeating hardscape landscaping materials helps to integrate a small city propertyGiven what they wanted, the key to success was integration.  In this case it would involve bringing the walking surface to one grade and repeating hardscape materials.  The shapes of the sitting areas, paths and planting beds needed to be one continuous flowing piece.

I replaced the deck under the Portico (covered area) with a flagstone patio, level with the rest of the yard.  The flagstone is used again in the back yard to pull these previously separated areas into one.  The large fire pit patio also has touches of flagstone.  Using the same materials and making the walking surface the same grade did the trick.  A custom wood cover for the fire pit allows my clients to use it for a low table instead of a heat source when desired.

Blocking View of Roof Next Door

We blocked the view of the house and roof next  door with clumping bamboo.  To get a height boost, custom planters were built at 36″ high so my baby boomer clients would not have to wait for years to enjoy privacy and a lush wall of green to see  while working in their office.

The Kitchen Door

Clumping Bamboo in Custom Wood Planters Creates Privacy for Baby Boomers

Clumping Bamboo (Fargesia Robusta) in Custom Wood Planters will quickly provide privacy for this Irvington neighborhood home.

This little old concrete step was too big of a drop from the threshold and it wasn’t wide enough for a normal sized foot. We took the opportunity to legitimize this important family entry door by rebuilding this step with attractive materials that gave it beauty as well as function.  It sets the feeling for returning home and into the kitchen which is after all the soul of any home.

This step will be used every time anyone heads to the back yard for relaxing, entertaining, and family fun.

Cedar Gate is relocated to add utility space to Irvington Side Yard

Relocated Gate Saves Money and Improves Side Yard Flow and Function

Practicalities of Gates & Garbage Cans

We expanded the utility function of the side yard by relocating the double gate toward the front of the house.  I tend to always set the gate back some from the front corner of the house, (at least a foot or two).  I want all eyes on the front entry (in this case a magnificent front porch) not to the side yard. A gate parallel to the front of a house often waters down the beauty of the entry to the home.

The garbage cans and recycling bins needed to be easy to roll out to the road for pick up. I had some grand ideas about plants on one side that would then switch but the gas meter location and garbage cans had other ideas.

I’m always keeping one eye on the goal.  This area may be “just the side yard” but it must be attractive enough to be the introduction to the magical back yard entertaining area. In this case, the side yard had to do triple duty, block the view of tall house next door, welcome people home via the kitchen side door and make us want to keep going and see the back yard.

Back Yard Privacy

Modern Style Gas Fire Pit Table is perfect for downsized baby boomer back yard

Firepit from PyroMania

We didn’t have enough square footage of our own for back yard privacy. The trick here was to utilize some of the neighbor’s small trees “borrowing” their privacy plants.  Yes it’s true a neighbor could tire of a small tree and remove it and leave a hole in our vignette but it’s worth the risk.  There is nothing worse than a pile of beautiful plants fighting it out in the air space above the fence.  It spoils the view for everyone. We want to see the shapes of our trees and plants, not a muddle.

 Shade will Increase

The shade will increase over the years as the client’s old maple tree gets bigger. At some point the lawn will need to be replaced with synthetic lawn.  However, most of the plantings I selected will make the shift to heavier shade.

Working Together

My usual technique for any design is to take in the client’s desires and after careful site study create multiple layout drawings that all aim toward fulfilling those desires.

Heuchera 'Green Spice' is graced with Autumn LeafMy clients were very helpful as we worked through the different layout drawings.  Due to Covid we also worked over Zoom to finalize our layout.  During that process we discover our priorities and so the wish list was winnowed.

When the contractors estimate comes in sometimes there is another winnowing after the design is completed. We discovered we could not alter a fence because it belonged to the neighbor. We let go of a hidden garden behind the shed and kept the existing small deck off the home office as is rather than flipping it for cost reasons.

Fatsia Japonica Spiders Web is a perfect low maintenance plant for seniorsIt helps to have the design installed by a contractor who is familiar with my work and with whom I collaborate regularly.

My clients liked working with my recommended contractor Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors very much and got the benefit of our many years working together.  Victor Vencill of Vencill Construction designed and built the high end custom planters and the fire pit cover.  He also made corrections on their existing small deck.  The three of us work together regularly and together we make an amazing problem solving team and have fun while doing so.

Boulders create interest for gas fire pit patioCLIENT COMMENTS

NE Portland backyard gets dog friendly landscape update.

NE Portland clients love their new backyard including the family dog.

“We loved working with Carol. She created a beautiful design and final product. She is a great collaborator and listener. She drafted a number of versions of the landscaping design based on many conversations. We were not very experienced with landscaping and gardening, but she spent the time to educate us and listen to our perspective and style. She also understood our budget and provided a design that was beautiful and worked for our family. She continued to provide input during construction, which we very much appreciated. We now spend time every day enjoying the beautiful spaces Carol designed.”
~David, Portland.

Do you have a tricky backyard that needs privacy and thoughtful use of limited square footage?  We love tricky city properties and would be happy to help you downsize your landscape to fit your new senior lifestyle.

Landscape Remodel for Woodlawn Neighborhood Back Yard

Affordable Landscape Remodel for Woodlawn Neighborhood Back Yard

My new clients have a corner lot in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. They were referred by their friend Julia whose Rose City neighborhood landscape I had designed. The flow of this back yard just didn’t work.  They didn’t have anywhere to enjoy sitting outside. They tried to imagine a new design but the house and property would not cooperate. I have felt this sort of surliness from a house in the past. The house crosses its arms and says I will not let you change me. Okay that’s a little weird but this was one of those times.

Woodlawn neighborhood before photo of landscape design project

 

Designers Site Assessment

The yard area between the driveway and kitchen door on the west side is small and well past its maximum uses. It has the back porch, a planting area with a fig tree, a basement door, a garage door and a door to the mud room and kitchen. Each door requires transportation space to access it. They were trying to use the small back porch to BBQ and sit out on but in addition to being way too small, it was hot as Hades in the summer. The sunny south side yard was narrow but had no easy access to the kitchen. The door you see above leads to the basement, not the house, so they did not use the side yard.

Landscape designers know that a great design is all about how you move through a space and this yard needed someone to treat it like the Rubik cube it was and explore what was possible.

Client Want List

split level deck maximizes space in small NE Portland back yardThey wanted a place to BBQ and sit outside in cool shade.  Their small porch radiated heat and baked in the summer. They wanted shade and plantings that would bring birds and life into the landscape, plants for low water and oh did I mention SHADE? They wanted to use their south side yard for something but it had no easy access to the kitchen and had an extensive french drain to work around. They wanted absolutely no lawn and any new plantings to be low maintenance.

Design Solutions

We created many different layouts for the property searching for the best use of space. We all liked the design that replaced the tiny existing porch with a multi-level deck/porch. We  took out the

A year later and the affordable landscaping of this Portland home is filling in nicely.

One year later, plants are filling in so nicely. Japanese Forest Grass in the foreground. Hot Lips Salvia, Geranium, and a Manzanita in the background.

planting bed with the fig tree. This allowed us to add a new lower level “dining” deck all the way to the fence and put the BBQ function on the upper level. Dan could not believe how much wasted space they had in the old layout and how much room they gained in the new one. But how would we provide shade to this baking area?

Getting great shade exactly where my clients wanted it was challenging. Designing overhead cover options for the new expanded 2 level porch was going to add another 8 to 15 grand. Our obvious choices were:

an arbor with canvas shade cloth – expensive

a large retractable awning – expensive

a very large tree (price tag installed at 8 to 10 grand)

After landscape design brings life to narrow side yard

Progress photo from D & J Landscape Contractors shows our two young shade trees and the partially completed new deck

The answer came from an unexpected place.

South Side Yard to the Rescue

After Alana and I flipped several layout drawings every which way, we discovered there was a perfect spot just around the house corner begging to be a small patio. We could plant a tree between this small patio sitting area and the SW sun to provide shade the very first summer. Our clients could use their new dining deck the first year on cooler days and use the new side yard patio for hot days. This small stone patio will have shade quickly. Which left us free to purchase our primary shade tree (to shade the porch) at an affordable size. We planted a 3″ caliper tree at about 12′ feet tall.

It will be 5 years before this tree provides much cooling. They will have to use an umbrella now and in ten years they will have the shade they want.

(Alana Chau was my apprentice for this Landscape Design in a Day and is now my design associate.)

Drainage

Side yard has grown from the starter plantings in this Portland home.

Flagstone patio in the side yard.

The dry well and french drains were a little tricky for us. By law, landscape designers cannot make changes to drainage or make recommendations. We had to create solutions that would not disturb the drains. We knew our favorite licensed landscape contractor, Donna Burdick, would be able to simplify some of the restrictions we were given by our clients regarding the existing drain systems. Happily, our clients decided to hire Donna of D & J Landscape Contractors for the install.  She had installed the design for their friend Julia as well. Donna was able to improve the grade situation and lessen the volume of water to the dry well which gave us more freedom within the design and more room for our plantings.

New side yard patios create faster shade for clientsThe Side Yard Comes to Life

By adding a small stone patio along the side of the house and making a raised garden bed for the plants, we gave our clients a reason to enjoy their side yard which previously had been a dead zone. Dan says, “it’s so much better being back here because it is so much more alive. Now there are birds and bees in the garden.”  This planting area includes pollinator friendly cone flower, lavender and nearby native plants such as vine maple, ocean spray, salal and sword fern. We included a manzanita for hummingbirds and winter flowers.

Trees 

I confess I agonized over the selection. I wanted to use a Kentucky Coffee tree for its fast shade and strong wood but could not find one big enough to start with. I also toyed with an unusual evergreen oak but it grew too slowly. I finally went with a Japanese Elm, Zelkova serrata ‘City Sprite’ because I could find it in the perfect size for planting and it would not get too wide for the space between the garage and the second story of the house. The “surprise patio” tree is a Cornelian Cherry, proper name is Cornus Mas and it is an unusual form of dogwood. It’s a wonderful tree for birds, handles hot sun well or part shade and will be a smaller round headed tree.

The Family Entry

Before driveway leaves little room for entry to the back yard

Before our Landscape Design in a Day process, the driveway space is a little tight.

The driveway didn’t have enough room to get out of the car comfortably because of the location of the fence and gate. I have to comment that my clients were fine with the tight access from the car.

I am the one that felt it was too tight. It was hard for them to believe that giving up 18″ of their precious deck dining area could possibly be smart. However, they were  sure they only needed room for 4 people on the dining deck and that 90% of the time it would be 2. That gave me a stronger reason to gently push my idea about a spacious entry area from the driveway. Christie was the one who parked in the driveway and I think maybe she thought I was nuts at first.

Happily they went for adding the additional space to the driveway area which gave us room to set the new gate at a welcoming 45 degree angle. They still had comfortable access into their new back yard whether carrying groceries or something

After residentail landscape design creates spacious and welcoming entry

Welcome home entry area has room to move an attractive gate and a (white tag) dwarf fig tree.

more complicated. They lost their existing fig tree to the new dining deck –  it was extra sweet to find the perfect spot for a dwarf fig tree in the new driveway entry design.

Materials used in the design

Variegated Lavender Blue stone for the dry set flagstone patio and path

Cedar decking 2 x 6

Deck stain brand is Storm – color is cedar

1/4″ minus compacted crushed rock for the paths

Affordable landscape plants Japanese Forest Grass & geranium in Portland home.

Mossy rock boulders raise this planting bed. Japanese Forest Grass and Geranium pop against the freshly painted garage.

Woodlawn home gets Mossy rock delivery for new landscapeMossy rock for the raised planting bed -It has a rustic feel to it that I like and it will moss up nicely.  It also has the advantage of being lighter than basalt so easier for the contractors to bring in and use.

Check out the beautiful gate!!!

Cable railing for the deck; Dan says the open cable railing makes the whole garden feel like one space including the deck. He loves it.

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