Earth-Friendly Update in NE Portland


This NE Portland couple wanted to add curb appeal to their bungalow while focusing on creating a landscape with low water needs. I have many clients that request low-water planting plans, and I’m happy to oblige – with the caveat that all new plants need to be watered during dry periods until they have a solid root foundation. A good rule is to plan to add supplemental water through at least the first two summers for most plants. These photos were taken just a few weeks after installation, so the plants are quite small. I need to get back out there to see how things have filled in two years later!

This family often commutes by bike, and with their van occupying most of the driveway when not in use, they needed a path to get their bikes from the garage to the street. Using 1/4″- compacted gravel with metal edging creates a hard, smooth surface that holds up to traffic, looks great, and is easy on the budget.

I carried the 1/4″- gravel theme over to the garden area where we used juniper to create raised beds. Rather than the standard cedar, I frequently recommend juniper because of it’s longevity – and it looks cool. Juniper lasts 30+ years in ground-contact situations. This is much longer than cedar, and I would never advise anyone to use pressure-treated lumber when growing food, so juniper makes a great fit. Their beautiful custom-built compost bin enhances rather than detracting from the garden.

Managing rain water is always an important consideration, and many Portland homes have disconnected downspouts to help keep more water out of our stormwater system. What this often means, however, is a lot of soggy landscapes. This couple is choosing to capture some of the rainfall on site with rain barrels. These are a great way to preserve and add a little supplemental water to gardens during dry months. But guess what? We get so much rain, that unless you have a water storage tank that will hold thousands of gallons, your rain barrel is likely to overflow. Adding a French drain below the rain barrels help effectively manage the water. At one corner of the house I recommended a rain garden to help manage water from the downspout. The City of Portland offers great resources for creating rain gardens and other methods of managing stormwater.

This landscape was installed by Inner City Farm, run by David Woodbury, a former classmate of mine in PCC’s Landscape Technology program.



The rain barrel has not yet been added, but when it overflows, the water will no longer create a soggy mess.



Custom compost bin adds form and function.



Rain garden helps absorb storm water and prevents a soggy mess.