Landscaping in Bend, OR in 2015

Fixing up 003

Overgrown landscape in need of renovation.

During the recession in Bend, OR many homes and their landscapes were neglected. The irrigation was turned off for several seasons and plants withered and died. If the water continued, plants and trees were neglected. Pruning did not happen which allowed trees and shrubs to grow too big and become misshaped. With the economy improving in Bend, OR home sales are rising. With the sales of existing home, the trend we are seeing is that people want to renovate their yards for personal enjoyment and to create a better resale value. They want to freshen up the landscape by removing overgrown plants, taking out lawn that has died and creating more curb appeal. They want to expand their outdoor living spaces.

With spring just around the corner, now is the time to complete an assessment of your yard and living space. Examine the existing plants and patios and decks in the yard. Here are some questions to ask:

Do the shrubs and trees obscure your front door?  Has that spruce tree that was planted ten years ago next to the house, prevented the painters from painting the exterior of the house?  Has the lawn grown into the planting beds and it is hard to mow around the shrubs?  Is the concrete slab patio falling apart or the deck splintering?


A new paver patio and trellis were added to enhance the front entryway.

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, than it is probably time to look at renovating your landscape. Will it be a project that you complete on the weekends or will you look for expert help do complete the project and free up time to enjoy your new yard?

A designer and a licensed landscape contractor are good choices when you want professional help. They will work with you to freshen up and reclaim your landscape. With the right design and installation, you will bring added value to your home. Alex X. Niemiera, Extension Horticulturist, Department of Horticulture, Virginia Tech, published an article on the perceived value of landscaping on home values. Based on a number of different scenarios using various different plants a survey was conducted. “Survey results showed that relatively large landscape expenditures significantly increase perceived home value and will result in a higher selling price than homes with a minimal landscape.” 42% of the people responding to the survey indicated design sophistication was most important and 36% said plant size were the landscape factors that most affected value.

A professionally completed design and installation can be very important if you are living in a subdivision where house styles are similar. A new and improved landscape that is different from the neighbors, will attract potential buyers into a home. This advantage is especially important in a competitive housing market.

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Creating Privacy in the Landscape

Privacy Screening 1

Adding raised beds and deciduous and evergreen plants will enhance your privacy screening.

With smaller lot sizes in Bend, OR, many builders are installing fences to divide properties and create the allusion of privacy between houses.  Fences can feel confining and a six foot fence has limitations when the neighbor’s house is two stories tall.  One way to enhance your privacy is to add plants to create a living screen.  With the right plants in the right place, you can enhance your landscape and create privacy at the same time.

The first step in creating your private space is to walk around your yard.  Does the neighbor’s deck overlook your yard and you see their drooling faces when barbecuing hamburgers?  Is there a lot of traffic noise?  Does that fence look bad?  Once you decide the issues to be fixed, than you need a plan to correct the problems.

In the design, resist the urge to plant a single row of the same plants.  Nature does not Privacy Screeningplant in single rows.  To make it look more natural, layer the plants and use a combination of plants.  Consider adding trees, shrubs and perennials to add depth and dimension.  Enhance your landscape by adding plants of different size, colors and textures.  The plan should contain a mixture of evergreens and deciduous plants.  Deciduous plants look softer and their looks will vary throughout the seasons providing variety.

Other reasons not to plant one variety all in a row is that disease can kill one plant or the entire row and take out your screen.  If you have to replace one plant, you may not be able to find a similar size to replace it.  Plants within the same species do not always grow at the same rate and can cause an uneven appearance.

A solid row of plants is not always necessary to create a sense of privacy.  Sometimes, placing a single tree in front of the view from the neighbor’s window may fix the problem.  The best location may not be on the border of the property but in closer to the patio area.

A metal trellis was installed with vines growing on it to screen the dead trees on the property next door

A metal trellis was installed with vines growing on it to screen the dead trees on the property next door

If the area to be screened is narrow, you may want to consider using raised beds to add more height to the plants.  Installing a trellis with vines is another solution for small spaces.


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Flower Combinations for your Garden – Russian Sage and Yarrow

Purple Sage and Achillea

If you are looking for bright color combinations to add to your drought tolerant landscape in Bend, OR plant Russian sage and Yarrow, either red or yellow colored will add spice to the garden. 

There are several varieties of Russian sage (Perovskia striplicifolia”) that grow in Central Oregon. If you are

Russian Sage is heat and drought tolerant.
Russian Sage is heat and drought tolerant.

  looking for a deep color sage that maintains it shape, try ‘BlueSpires’ Russian sage.  This striking plant has scented deeply lobed leaves and deep purple-blue flowers. This plant will grow 4’ tall x 4’ wide and is hardy down to USDA Zone 4.


'Coronation Gold'  Yarrow is a briallian gold.

‘Coronation Gold’ Yarrow is a briallian gold.

 Unlike, the yarrow that comes in many native seed packages that reseed themselves into a nuisance plant, Coronation Gold Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina ‘Coronation Gold’) is a sterile variety that will not become a problem in the garden. This strong reblooming Achillea has larger brighter yellow gold flowers than other yellow cultivars such as ‘Moonshine’ or Anthea. The foliage is delicate, dark green and ferny in appearance. This plant will grow 36” tall x 24” wide and is hardy down to USDA Zone 3.

Yellow Paparika Yarrow

Yellow Paparika Yarrow

If you want to be a little daring with adding another color to your garden, consider planting ‘Paprika’ (Achillea millefolium ‘Paprika’). This plant has fire engine red flowers with yellow centers. The green to silver colored, fernlike foliage has a strong, somewhat spicy aroma which persists when used in dried arrangements. This common yarrow cultivar is spreading and will form mats in the beds. It can be used for naturalizing areas. It will grow 18 – 24” tall by 18 – 24” wide and is hardy to USDA Zone 3.

The great thing about these perennials is that they look good when planted in containers, beds and borders. The flowers are long lasting and will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. At the end of the season, the flowers can be dried for flower arrangements. A plus for these plants in our area is that they are deer and rabbit resistant.

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Aspen Trees – “I Spread”

The Aspen's fall colors contrast with the evergreens.

The Aspen’s fall colors contrast with the evergreens.

While hiking to Tumalo Falls near Bend, OR, Aspens can be seen growing in their native habitat. The light green leaves in the summer sound wonderful when the wind blows. In fall, the bright yellow leaves contrast with the evergreen trees in the landscape. People see these beautiful stands of Aspens and want to incorporate Aspen trees into their own landscape designs.

 When the backyard is 1000 square feet and is surrounded by neighbors, planting Aspen trees can be problematic. Aspen trees in the West reproduce with root sprouts that can grow up to 100 feet away from the parent plant.

Pando Tree in Utah

Pando Tree in Utah

Scientists have estimated that the world’s most massive known organism is a male clone Aspen tree in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. This clone occupies17.2 acres and has more than 47,000 stems. Scientists named it Pandowhich is a Latin word that means “I spread.” If the roots are not contained, Aspen trees spread their roots everywhere in search of water and nutrients. Fences between you and the neighbors will not stop them. They will grow under foundations, driveways and walkways and begin pushing up the concrete or asphalt, creating trip hazards.

 Correctly installed root barriers (a physical underground wall) around the Aspen roots will direct the roots downward, decreasing the potential for roots straying and causing problems with neighbors, house foundations and hardscapes. Tree root barriers come in a variety of forms. Some are the pre-formed container style and others are plastic sheets with glued-on ribs. The standard for long term root management is molded modular panels that lock together to form both linear and surround barriers. There are also root barriers made from non-woven filter fabric.

Aspen trees in the landscape.

Aspen trees in the landscape.

To be effective, root barriers need to be installed correctly and at the right height and depth to deter roots from wandering over and under the barrier. When looking to install a root barrier, the species of the plant, the size of the root ball and the area that needs to be protected, must be taken into consideration. When in doubt, hire a professional to complete the installation.

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Curing the Winter Time Blues

It is that time of year in Central Oregon. The big box stores

A bright spot in spring.

 are bringing in their primroses, pansies, violas, and vegetable starts. Yes, that splash of color invigorates and makes us want to get out the seeds and start planting our gardens. Unfortunately, March in Central Oregon is too early to be planting 4” flowers and vegetables outside in our cold ground. They will not survive our cold nights as we are still getting snow and freezing temperatures.. If you cannot resist the colorful and sweet smelling primroses, buy and display them on the kitchen table.

There are other ways to get your early season garden fix. My daughter loves to visit Pinterest to find ideas for crafts. One of the projects she wanted to try was growing lemon seeds.  We spent Saturday afternoon visiting the thrift shops in Bend in search of colorful pots or other items we could repurpose for planting seeds. Once we had our pots and lemons, we headed home to plant seeds. In addition, to the recycled pots, we used some old gravel we had from an aquarium a previous owner had left behind. We sterilized the pots and gravel prior to putting them to use for our projects.

Since her room has low levels light, she decided she wanted to try making a terrarium. After hours of searching the thrift stores in vain for a glass container that would work, we ended up at World Market. We purchased an oversized mason jar that was big enough for a few plants and one cute plastic panda. She now has some green in her room while she is waiting for her lemon seeds to sprout.

Since we had all of the mess of the planting soil in the house, I decided it was time to refresh my house plants that had been neglected all winter. Winter’s low light left the plants looking leggy. One of the geranium plants was an original plant propagated from my mother’s plant over 12 years ago. Every year I get new starts from it for my summer plantings. I wacked off several stems’ from the plants and removed all but a few leaves from each shoot. I then placed the stems in translucent plastic cups (left over from when the kids were small), and put them in a sunny location. Once the stems have roots sprouting from them, they will be transplanted to containers and kept inside until it is warm enough to grow outside on the porch.

The lemons and geraniums start their new life.

Now that I have my hands good and dirty it is time to clean up the mess and go fix dinner. I will need to find a recipe that needs lots of lemon juice.  Anyone have any good ideas?

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Outdoor Patios

A fireplace is nice for those chilly summer evenings.

With Bend’s sluggish housing market and falling home values, many people are choosing to stay in their homes. Rather than upsizing to a larger house, they are expanding their outdoor living spaces to take advantage of Central Oregon’s outdoor beauty.

Besides enjoying nature, there are many reasons for constructing patios and outdoor living areas. Adding a patio for entertaining is one way to cut down on that thirsty Kentucky blue grass lawn. A new fire pit or fireplace provides warmth when the sun retreats behind the mountains. Perhaps you need more space for the new barbecue so the fumes aren’t blowing into the house.

Natural stone patio with thyme.

Before ripping out the grass in the backyard, think about how the new space will be used and the size that will be needed for the patio to be functional. There is no set blueprint for the size of your patio space. The answer lies with how the space will be used. Do you want a patio that will have enough room for table and chairs for 12 people; maybe a hot tub to use at night for star gazing; a barbecue or pizza oven; or space for the kids to ride trikes? How will you use your patio?

The modern style of the house called for a patio area with linear lines.

After determining how the space will be used and how much space will be needed, the shape of the patio is something to consider. A contemporary home with strong vertical lines should have clean, straight lines to match the architecture. The ever popular Craftsman Bungalow style home works well with pavers with broken edges that look distressed or pavers with a pillow top that evoke images of cobble stones. For a more informal look, the patio can be round or free formed using natural landscape materials.

Once you have a preliminary design, take it into the yard with a measuring device such as upside down paint or the garden hose and measuring tools to determine if the size will fit your needs. Will that 9’ x 9’ patio fit the 12’ long table and still have room for the fire pit or do you need to make changes? If you are having a hard time visualizing the space, put chairs around the space. Is there still room to walk around the chairs or will you walk into the rose bushes?

Now that you have a great design that works for you, the next step is to build it and enjoy your new outdoor patio.

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Customize Your Landscape Design

During the winter in Bend, OR, we do not work on any outside projects, so I find myself with some down time. Recently, I was watching a home improvement reality show. The sales person began the visit by telling the clients what they should buy. He didn’t ask any questions to determine what would be best for the clients. When the scene was over, his clients had a perplexed, almost angry look on their faces as he didn’t listen or ask questions as to what they wanted to do. When the show ended, the clients spent a lot of money and ended up with something that did not meet their needs.

Actually, we wanted grass in the front yard.

When it comes to successfully designing a landscape, you do not want that type of person for the job. Be wary of the designer who introduces themselves and then in the next breath tells you what to install in your landscape. For a successful design, you need to articulate what you want for the landscape and be involved in the process. It is okay if you cannot imagine the final design when you begin the design work. By the end of the multistep process, you should have a design that works just for you. Each design should be specific to the property and be based on solving your needs.

The first step for the designer is to spend time getting to know you. This is done by asking lots of questions about you, your family, your lifestyle, and how you plan to use the space. For example, the designer should ask if you like to play tennis, before she completes a design with a tennis court in the middle of the yard.

Remember, when all is said and done, the designer will go home at the end of the day, and you will be the one living with the new landscape. It should be a reflection of what you want for your landscape and not what someone else wants for you.

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Yellow Pine Needles

In the fall, mature needles wil turn yellow.

When you are out and about in Bend, Oregon in the fall, you will notice some of the ponderosa pine needles turning yellow. If the needles are on the interior branch of the tree, this is normal. Ponderosa pines and other evergreen trees lose some of their needles in the fall. Unlike the trees themselves, evergreen needles have a shorter life span. Pine trees have needles with an average life span of 3 – 4 years and Mugo pine needles will live 5 years or more.

The amount of needles that drop will vary from year to year. Drought, heat, diseases, pests, or herbicides are some of the factors that may affect the amount of needles that fall and the time of year they fall.

The pine tree on the left should be removed. The pines on the right show normal needle drop.

If you see a tree that is turning yellow from the top down, than that is an indication that the tree is in serious trouble. According to the USDA NRCS National Plants Data Center there are approximately 200 insect species that affect ponderosa pine from cone stage to maturity. Pine beetles are a common cause of death for older trees, drought stressed trees or trees that have been damaged by construction or lightning. Several species of adult bark beetles bore into the tree and tunnel to lay eggs in the soft inner bark. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the tissues of the inner bark, restricting the flow of nutrients to the top of the tree and some transmit fungi that stain the bark blue.

For healthier evergreens, water the tree regularly during dry summer months. Do not prune your trees in the summer months. Protect the roots and bark from equipment during construction.

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Fall Planting in Bend, OR


One of the questions I get asked a lot in the fall is whether or not is too late to plant anything. The answer we give is that fall is a great time to plant. Planting in the summer when the temperatures are in the 90’s stresses the plants and can cause them to go into shock and lose their leaves.

In the fall, the air is cooler and the soil temperatures are still warm. The warm soil, along with the use of mycorrhizae, encourages root growth. The roots will continue to grow until the ground freezes. In the spring, the fall planted plants have a head start and their foliage can begin growing. With the arrival of the summer heat, the plants planted in the fall will handle the heat and drought better as the roots are more established.

Spring planting slows the plants from becoming established as the soils are cooler. Plants installed in early spring split their energy into growing new roots and foliage which causes them to have a slower start. As a result, you do not see much growth to the plant in the first year.

Planting in the summer is very stressful for plants. Summer soil temperatures can be high and can cause damage to the roots if it is too hot. Planting new plant material in the summer requires more water usage as you need to water several times a day to keep the roots cool.

Fall color Amur Maples

Fall is also a great time to plant as you have the opportunity to visit nurseries and see the great color changes that occur in the trees and shrubs that grow in Central Oregon.

Fall in Central Oregon is wonderful.  Besides planting, you can go outside and enjoy the scenary and discouver the colo found in nature.

Fall Sparks Lake near Bend, OR

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Color in Landscape Design

Spring Garden Downtown Bend, OR

Bark, flower and foliage color are important considerations when designing a landscape. To get over the winter doldrums, I like to use warm color combinations that are bright and exciting. Combinations of yellow, purple and red make you feel warm even when there is a touch of late spring snowfall on the ground.

Native plants provide contrast to the flowers.

Early spring in the high desert offers interesting color combinations when a mixture of natives and plants that have adapted to Central Oregon are used. Spring flowers such as daffodils, brightly colored tulips, fuzzy pasque flowers, and ground hugging phlox provide color and texture. The flowers contrast nicely with the bark of red twig dogwoods or nootka roses, silvery colored aspens or vine maples. The bright green rounded leaves of snowberries make for a cool contrast to the hot colors of the other plants.

Light reflecting on the snow contrasts with the rocks and flowers.

Everyone’s tastes and styles are different. Some people want monochromatic gardens. They remind me of my son who only wears numbered matching white gym socks. Other people are like my daughter who only wears mismatched socks; the brighter the color, the better she likes them. Just like sock choices, there is no right or wrong combinations when it comes to designing your garden. It is all a matter of personal choice.

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