May 17, 2016

How to landscape a small Portland backyard. Creating your outdoor oasis!

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We know space can be limited in Portland backyards, but that does not mean you need to sacrifice having a outdoor sanctuary. Over the years we have learned what works best for folks and their small backyards. Two important considerations in the design phase, is maximizing usability and privacy. Keeping these two objectives in mind will help guide your project. Below are 6 essentials steps in giving you an oasis out of your back door.

How to landscape a small Portland backyard? 6 Essential steps to creating your outdoor oasis.

1. Hardscapes Are Important

Having a hardscape off the back door will give your landscape a utilitarian feel, in a good way. Customers with small backyards often communicate that the most frustrating part of having a small back yard is its functionality. An all lawn backyard does not offer diverse function of your space. Having a patio or deck just large enough to comfortably walk and fit two chairs will give your space a much larger feel. Imagine having coffee on a warm summer morning on your patio under the shade of a pergola or tree. An all grass landscape cannot offer this. You don't need to sacrifice function. Most small backyards can accommodate a hardscape if designed properly.Expert Tip: In your design phase think about your landscape from the outside in.

2. Perimeter Hedge

Typically, privacy is a concern in the tightly nestled homes of Portland, Oregon. Although you may love your neighbors, you don't necessarily want them getting the details of your outdoor life. Most privacy screens come in bulky hedges that grow very fast and need regular trimming. We recommend planting Emerald Green Arbor Vitae as a hedge because they are slender and grow in height quickly (but too much as a Laurel hedge would). Expert Tip: Spacing should be a 2 feet on center when planing a privacy screen.

3. Structural Landscape Art

Using structural landscape art will anchor your landscape by adding dimension, with varying focal points and areas of interest. This will give the feel of a larger backyard. We always prefer to add a water features as our structural landscape art. This adds an element of organic tranquility, after all you are trying to make an outdoor oasis. Columnar water features work wonderfully in small spaces or a bubbling pot. If water features are not in the budget just yet, adding a bird bath, large pots with plantings in them or statues are great alternatives.

5. Lawn Alternatives

If the thought of lugging a heavy lawn mower around a tiny backyard doesn't appeal to you, you are in good company. Many of our small backyard customers choose alternatives to turf. Not only is this very low maintenance, lawn alternatives are eco-friendly. We recommend Irish moss, creeping thyme and corsican mint. These types of lawns are truly breathtaking and require no mowing.Expert Tip: Artificial turf is also a great alternative to turf. Low maintenance and eco-friendly!

6. Specimen Focal Point

Choosing a specimen focal tree will give your landscape another area of interest. It also provides shade and privacy to your landscape. In addition, you can create year-round interest by adding shrubs and ground covers which bloom at different times. Doing so will highlight the depth, layers of colors and texture to your landscape.Expert Tip: Seriyu Maple. Bloodgood Maple, Bay Magnolia and Crape Myrtle are great trees for this application. They will not get too big for most spaces.

7. Nestled Flagstone Patio

Our final and possibly most important suggestion, is having a space in which you look out onto your landscape and home. Creating a step path to a small flagstone patio nestled in the outer edge or corner of your landscape will give your yard a much larger feel. This creates a usable space in the heart of your landscape. Having a few different gathering spots is great for entertaining. This will attract guests to varying areas of your yard, rather than everyone huddled on your deck or patio.

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Erica Mooney
Email Erica Mooney

Erica is an avid lover of the outdoors, and transformed that love into a partnership running Valley West with Ryan 2012.

Portland, landscape tips, Landscape Design

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