landscape plan!

We did it. After nearly 6 years of rocking a minimalist (err, brutalist?) yard, we finally bit the bullet and hired a landscape architect. But before we show you what he came up with, let’s get everyone up to speed on the traumatic history of our yard. It all started in ’06, when we became the proud new owners of some diseased shrubs and dead grass:

Poor little sad house.

Even though our house has received a major facelift since then, our yard has not:

But those days are numbered because BAM! Look at what’s in store! [Click to enlarge]

True, we had every intention of landscaping at least the front yard last summer, but that whole foundation drainage project took a wee bit longer than expected and we simply ran out of time. Not this year though; we have a baby deadline (apparently it’s a million times harder to get stuff done after that happens) and we’re tired of the constant weedapalooza. So we hired our friend Mark, who is a landscape architect at The Watershed Company, to put together a planting plan that we could use as a template of sorts to make our landscaping dreams come true. Although we had a general design in our heads (you may remember this site plan that we shared with you last summer), we mostly needed help with the actual plant selection and layout. Fortunately, after an on-site consultation a few weeks ago (where we talked about our basic goals and ideas), Mark came up with something that really filled in all of the missing pieces while also making some great modifications and suggestions in the process.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking, “of all the projects you’ve tackled yourself, you decide to hire someone to help with plants??” Although we pride ourselves in our DIY approach, keep in mind that architectural design and construction are our territory. Plants are not. Although we could take the time to do the necessary research on species, proper spacing and location, we knew that just wasn’t going to happen. It’s too big of a project and we firmly believe in hiring talented folks to help out when in over your head (just like you it’s a good idea for people to hire an architect). 

This is a first pass, so we’ll definitely be making a few tweaks here and there before we bust out a shovel. (Remember all of those pavers that we salvaged from our demo project last summer?) We also realize that this project will be a lot of work (and $$), so the plan is to tackle the front yard and backyard planting boxes this year, while saving the remainder for later. Depending on costs, we may also scale back on the quantity of plants, allowing us to fill in over time.

Finally, If you’re like us and don’t have a mental image bank of all plant types, get ready for your mind to be blown with a cornucopia of vegetative goodness! Along with the draft planting plan, Mark also sent us a booklet of all the plants that he’s listed. For your viewing pleasure, I took the liberty of making the montage below. As you’ll see, it’s a combination of mostly drought-tolerant and Pacific Northwest-friendly trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials, groundcover, and herbs. Don’t worry, we won’t be using every species listed, many of them were just presented as different choices for a single area. In fact, we showed the plan to our plant-savvy neighbor tonight and she gave us some great insight into the options she liked best.

Color! Life! Excitement!

So what do you guys think? We have complete trust in our landscape architect, but this is very much new territory for Kyle and I so we’d love to hear your constructive thoughts or suggestions. 

Yay plants!


39 Responses to “landscape plan!”

  1. ravennagirls says:

    we put several of those perennials in our yard last year and they’re doing fabulously (also in Seattle). I haven’t seen that laceleaf sumac before, though, and its really pretty. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  2. MildlyCrafty says:

    We’ve just built a new house and were living in it for about 4 months with no garden, it made SUCH a difference when the plants went in. Now I can’t wait for them to grow 🙂

    Good luck, I’m sure it’ll be fabulous, as everything you turn your hand to seems to be!

    • chezerbey says:

      I hope so…our track record with plants is not so great (but maybe b/c we were too focused on the house?)

  3. casacaudill says:

    We love our spanish lavender and probably couldn’t kill it if we tried. The one plant I’d be leery of though is the bears breech. Our next door neighbor has that planted and it’s so out of control that it’s taken over the entire space, and has even grown out into the street so that it’s difficult for cars to park there.

  4. Isabelle says:

    We are also landscaping this year ;-)))))))))))))) We did all the planning of the layout of the garden and the building work by ourselves (with the help of construction workers) and are currently planning the plants with a gardener. I am so much looking forward to seeing “life” in our yard. And somehow, I wonder if it hadn’t been better to ask the help of a landscape architect from the beginning ……. looking very much forward to seeing the progress in your garden and basement.

  5. aerinmin says:

    Very exciting! As someone who has no idea about what plants to grow where, I totally understand where you are coming from and how very worth it hiring someone is. Looking forward to seeing your plants in action!

  6. Cate says:

    I’m hoping to get a Ninebark for Mother’s Day. After a few years of getting lovely bouquets, I finally told my husband (who acts as our sons’ proxy) that’d I rather he spent the money on a plant for the garden.
    Some of those plants should be available to you for free: for instance, I always have rudbeckia to give away when I divide them in the fall. Maybe ask your gardening neighbor for some divisions? I love looking at my garden and remembering all the friends and neighbors who have contributed plants.

  7. Heather says:

    The large swaths of color you have planned are going to look awesome. That sumac is stunning and it will look beautiful near a ninebark. I say plant both sumac AND mahonia. If I had any suggestions it would be to go with the caryopteris over the lavender (which will self-seed everywhere, grow leggy, and look untidy in a few years) and to avoid liriope. I’m unsure from the plans whether you’re planning to walk on it but there are much prettier native grasses (deschampsia! Juncus!) or even ferns that wouldn’t be so aggressive. But if you’re planning on neglecting it and walking on it, it’s a good choice. 🙂

    You have some really wonderful plants in there–rudbeckia looks great even when it’s dead and that corner with the vine maple and the huckleberries is going to be lovely to look at from your kitchen. I can’t wait to see the final product!

  8. Amanda says:

    yes! hellebores!

  9. jeannette says:

    i am very, very excited. landscape architects are wizards, pull plants out of the sky which solve your every problem and add architecture and texture and color and scent and everything nice! to your yard. true oasis. it’s also nice to see you heroes of PARGING (i still haven’t gotten over that, it’s like summiting everest as far as i’m concerned, and only greg of petch house has bested you at such feats of wonder) hiring an expert. thanks for the plan and the deets, i can’t wait to see what happens.

  10. katrina says:

    Did you say you’re including drought-resistant plants? I’m surprised by that! 🙂 I’m in LA now where drought resistant is about all I can plant, and I miss the generous rainfall from my years in the Pacific Northwest.
    All of the selections are beautiful. Excited to see the final pictures!

  11. Paul says:

    All of these are relatively carefree selections that you should find easy to keep looking good. Wendy makes some good points -liriope isn’t one of my favorites either. It’s always good to go for the drought tolerant plants even in an area without water shortages. A well designed garden shouldn’t need suplemental watering. Good idea also to get this out of the way before the baby comes -garden building takes a huge amount of time and thought! It looks like a nice plan, I’m looking forward to seeing the implemntation.

  12. ilanasmith says:

    One of my favourite sources for PNW natives is the bareroot sale that King Conservation District does every year. Ordering is December/Jan, pickup in March. Prices are crazy – things like 10 vine maples for 10 bucks.

    In past years, of your list, they’ve had vine maples, kinnikinnk, evergreen huckleberry, ninebark, and various mahonias (though I think low and tall Oregon Grape, not the Burmese one). I have an unfortunate tendency just to keep getting more sword ferns every year. I need to Step Away From the Sword Ferns (….Even Though They Look Lovely Paired With Vine Maples).

    I figure if it’s a local native and a Great Plant Pick, even I am going to have trouble killing it. Particularly if I plant it in autumn or winter, so it has time to grow its roots before I neglect to water it throughout summer.

  13. Gaidig says:

    Obviously, your landscape architect is the most knowledgeable source on plant selection, but I will say that I love oakleaf hydrangeas They’re one of my absolute favorites.

    My only recommendation regarding your garden has to do with the fact that you are talking about planting in phases. In that case, start with planting the things that you want to eventually be the largest. That way, you can buy smaller, younger, less expensive plants and by the time you get everything planted in later phases, they should have had the chance to catch up. Also, I suspect that getting the hardest stuff done pre-baby will make it easier overall.

  14. When you’re finished can I just come over and hang out, maybe sip some lemonade? Because this looks like it’s going to be amazing! I honestly don’t know much about plants but I like the looks of these things… especially the bluebeard, huckleberry, blue star creeper and the herb garden. Creeping rosemary! That’s new to me but it looks like such a pretty herb!

  15. Christine says:

    I can’t wait to see the landscaping as it progresses. I might warn against blue star creeper as a ground cover though. My mom has it at her house on the Oregon coast and it has taken over and seems impossible to get rid of. As an alternative, corsican mint does really well in the PNW and smells so wonderful when you step on it.

  16. Kevin says:

    Christine is right about bluestar creeper. It can be a little invasive in the PNDUBS as can Sumacs. I’ve had issues with both in Portland. I love that you are using a mix of endemic species and edibles.

  17. This makes me want a garden, even though I don’t have my mom’s green thumb. Lavendar is beautiful, but as someone said above, it can take over your garden. My mom hacks hers down to the ground every year, and it looks beautiful, although it can get large, depending on how wet the spring is (Eastern WA) She has it at the end of the driveway, so it’s this nice cheerful pop of color when you drive up.

    Growing up, we had cherry trees and a neighbor had a crabapple tree (I think) for the sake of your floors and lawnmower, avoid anything with fruit unless you plan to pick every. last. piece. Because it gets everywhere. And scraping rotten cherry guts off your shoes is akin to scraping off dog poop 🙁

    I wonder if you’re getting a bunch of plants, if you can get a bulk discount?

    • chezerbey says:

      I totally know what you mean…we have a plum tree and our neighbors have two apple trees that drop fruit in our yard. Neither really produces edible fruit (or so it seems) so it’s just a maintenance thing with no reward! =)

  18. Gaidig’s point about planting the big stuff first since you’ll be adding things in phases is a really good one. Put the stuff that will take longer to mature in first, they’re the foundational pieces of the design. Our yard had only one tree when we moved in, and I’m so glad now that my husband and I spent the first few summers pretty much only adding trees: they’re finally starting to fill in, which gives us a much better idea of where to place smaller shrubs and perenials, and we didn’t scorch shade-loving plants while waiting for the trees to fill in!

  19. Dorothy says:

    Bay laurel is a tree that matures at 30 feet by 25 feet. It can be sheared as a hedge, but that’s lots of work every year or so. I’d choose something else for the property line between houses. It’s much less work if you choose plants that don’t need constant maintenance and can grow to their natural stature.

    • chezerbey says:

      Thanks Dorothy, we’ve had similar conversations about the bay laurel and will probably go with something else (the intent was to create a screen though and that’s why our LA recommended it).

  20. Chris says:

    So fun! Your friend may have already given you a source for plants, but if not or if you just want to check these out in person, here’s a link to my list of upcoming plant sales:

    Unrelated, while you WILL be sleep-deprived in the first few months post-baby, I found I was really productive in those months – all they do is sleep and eat! When they start being awake and mobile is when the productivity goes in the crapper. 🙂

  21. Kari says:

    Love those little maroon-colored Japanese maples, they are so pretty. Have you considered succulents in your garden plan? They do very well in Seattle and are very low maintenance. Have you been out to Swanson’s Nursery? I always went there – the people who work there are SO nice and they help clueless folks like me pick out great stuff. Plus, if anything, ahem, “dies” or doesn’t do so well they will replace it. They have a great selection of pottery in the greenhouse (aka indoor plant area). They also give out “Swanson Dollars” that are good for future purchases a few months out of the year.

    Also, a few months back you had mentioned possibly getting some air plants and suspending them from the ceiling. Check out The Palm Room on Ballard Ave. They have all sorts of air plants and funky/cool terrarium-type plants and the folks there are also very helpful and explain just how to take care of your little green friends.

    I miss living in Ballard!

    • chezerbey says:

      Thanks Kari! I’ve been to Swanson’s a few times, I could definitely see spending a lot of money there. =) Good to know about the replacement policy too…

  22. Mar-T says:

    Ditto comments on the Bay Laurel. After watching several friends take forever to hack theirs out because they couldn’t maintain it and it got too high…glad you are saying no. If you are going to have to maintain something, try an edible like a dwarf or mini Honeycrisp apple tree. Something that is fun to check on with a kid in tow, and not really that hard as long as it’s pruned and thinned correctly and kept to a small size.

    Know it may sound like a PNW cliche but Rhododendrons are great screens, and pretty easy to find in large/specimen form. My kids and my neighbors kids had a wonderful “kid camp” under our specially-trimmed-by-dad Rhody for years when they were sprogs. Also easier to maintain and or get rid of if you don’t like it.

    Also please ask your LA to double check that none of these plants have any parts that would be toxic/irritating for your child.

    I seriously cannot say enough great things about vine maples. I think you might want to consider ferns or something though. They do great here, kids like to play with them and they add a lot of texture without a lot of clash to the garden.

    For fill in ground-cover in shady spots, consider alpine strawberry. Not enough fruit to be high maintenance, great under plants like the beloved Vine Maple, and the perfect size for little fingers to pick.

  23. bridget b. says:

    Thanks so much for sharing the plants! Off to do some research for my lawn.


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