Category Archives: Quality Designs Will Enhance Your Life

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Get it all in your landscape!

Get it all in your landscape!

Landscapes can offer significantly more than just lawn and plants and bark mulch.  When well designed, they offer comfortable outdoor living supporting your family’s life style.  They offer us refuge from the sun, wind, rain, heat, and cold through the year.  A well designed landscape supports the many functions that you want to occur on your property. So how do we get it all? By considering everything that we want to do, store, and produce in our landscape before we start planting.

Now is a great time to think about how you and your family spend time outside.  Consider where you are sitting in the hot afternoon of the summer or its cool mornings. Are you comfortable here or are you squeezing into a small area and shading your eyes? Is there room for your children and pets? Is it dusty? Do you need support items such as a paving? A beautiful plant composition to regard while it shades your porch?  Your responses will be the beginning of determining what you want in your landscape. Repeat this exercise at various times through the year noting where it is comfortable or what is needed to make it a more comfortable space.

Consider also the active areas.  Do your children have a comfortable and safe place to play?  Are your pets provided for? Would you like to c cook, dine, dance, or play games? Make a list of all of the activities you would like to have. Next make a list of all of the support items needed for those activities.  Don’t forget storage for toys, furniture cushions, and tools.

Finally, we can think about plants.  Plants can provide us shade, food, color, texture, sound, flowers, habitat, and stunning winter silhouettes. Our choice of plants will determine how much maintenance will be required.

Now that you have outlined all of the things you want in your landscape start developing a plan.

Make a scale drawing of your property. Locate the elements you want in places most appropriate for them given your criteria.  Then start connecting the elements with pathways.  Notice that as you layout paths, you are creating planting spaces.  Move the paths away from structures to provide adequate planting space for the featured tree or vegetable garden you want.  Adjust path alignments as you select plants for your landscape.  Keep massaging your plans until you get the landscape that works for you.

As an example, one of my clients wanted a patio on the side yard away from her home in a specific location so that she could enjoy the mountain views without being completely visible by her neighbors.  She wanted her guests to arrive at the patio through the front while she would arrive via the kitchen and garage. Additionally, she wanted to entertain, water plants, and hang clothes in bare feet.  Once we established each of her uses, we began to connect them with a variety of paths.  The paths were adjusted to create useful planter spaces.  One section of the path moved further out from the house to provide for her favorite shrubs while another section of the path was swooped out and through a wildflower garden directing view to a series of treasured garden features.  Path surfaces were selected that would be comfortable on bare feet.

So you can see how landscapes are so much more than just plants.  Thoughtful consideration of each of the elements you want in your landscape can result in an enjoyable and beautiful environment. If you would like help designing your landscape, Dappled Earth offers landscape classes, consultation, or full design packages. Contact Eileen@DappledEarth.comfor more details.  Enjoy summer!

First printed in Central Oregon Family News August 2010

Create outdoor lounging areas for your enjoyment through the year!

Create outdoor lounging areas for your enjoyment through the year!

 Last issue I talked about how to create an enjoyable and beautiful environment incorporating the spaces and features that your family wants.  Today, I’d like to discuss ideas to make your patio and deck spaces more comfortable through the year.

Sun angles and wind patterns change seasonally and daily.  We can take advantage of these changes to create very pleasant spaces to enjoy most of the year.  For example, one hot day in August, I spent the day working in my gardens.  Ten a.m. found me in the upstairs west deck hammock which was wonderfully cool with a light breeze.  Noon found me lunching on the north side of our home under the deck patio, a shaded area at least 8 degrees cooler than any sunny location at that time of day and a few degrees cooler than other shady location.   By 4 p.m. I was under the pergola in another hammock swinging in its shade deepened by the adjacent peach trees. It was a hot day.  There was no next place.  We ended up pulling over a table and dining and relaxing until near 9 p.m. It was delightful.

You too can create several spaces on your property that will be very comfortable in all  seasons.  A good location for a spring and fall morning patio would be a sunny area on the east side of the house with a darker paver surface.  The early morning sun will heat the side of the home and the darker pavers will absorb heat creating a pleasant area when it might otherwise be too cold to sit outside. Don’t plant any trees or add a pergola or other shade structure that would shade this area if you want to use this area in the spring and fall when it is still cold out.  This is also a good place to get out of our west winds during most of the year.

The south side of your home is a great place for winter days. Keep full sun access and use darker cement or pavers to collect and hold in the sun’s heat.  Our winter winds vary quite a bit, but it seems that most of the time I want to be outside in the winter, I am looking for protection from the west winds. Locating a wind block to the west would accomplish this.  A wind block will generally protect an area twice the distance away from the block as is the height of the block.  Therefore, a grove of trees 20 feet tall would protect an area 40 feet out from the base of the tree on the downwind or leeward side of the tree.  Sometimes the wind eddy will drop debris on the leeward side of the wind block so it may be useful to plant a shorter row of trees on the windward side of the block, or allow some planter space for dust to settle before it reaches your seating areas.

Our summers can be quite hot and require significant shade.  Light breezes are welcome.  You can develop lounging areas almost anywhere as long as you provide adequate shade.  To enhance the cool feeling, add some moving water.  A small fountain or water feature will make you feel cooler  than an area without one. Inexpensive misters are now available that help lower temperatures in their immediate location without soaking your guests.  Depending on your site, you may or may not need to temper the wind.

These are just a few ideas on how to work with sun and wind to extend the time you enjoy outdoors.  You can see photographs of great landscapes and learn other useful information by visiting Dappled Earth on Facebook.