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A Front Yard Facelift

30 Aug

By John Curtis – Landscape designer at Dennis’ 7 Dees

Have you ever thought about how to modernize a tired looking front yard?  The same one you have been walking past for so many years and wondering what could be done to freshen it up.  Here is an example of a front yard renovation project that gives a new look to an older style home.

The first goal was to create an updated look to the front entry.  Another was to improve the handicap access of the front walkway.  Because the entire front yard lawn sloped towards the house there was also a seasonal drainage issue that needed to be addressed.  Water would accumulate around the front of the garage and entry during periods of heavy rain.

The design plan called for removal of the dated brick planter and entry walkway.  The brick planter was replaced with a simple soil mound and large boulders.  The brick walkway was replaced with a modern concrete paver pathway which was built up on both sides as it approached the front porch.  This eliminated the steps and created a smooth surface and transition to the front porch that is easy to negotiate.

To solve the drainage issue, a decorative ‘dry creek bed’ was constructed with perforated drain pipe underneath to intercept any seasonal water build up and carry it away from the front of the garage and entry.

The owner had previously taken out some large trees and opened up planting areas that had been mostly shady in the past.  Now these areas had a sunny, southwest, exposure and needed new plantings to fit the change in sunlight conditions  The plantings were designed with a mix of evergreens, seasonal perennials and ornamental grasses to give a long lasting display of colors and interest throughout the spring and summer.

By implementing these landscape improvements, the entire look of this 1950’s ranch style home was successfully updated and the handicap access and drainage issues were effectively resolved.


Breathtaking Water Features

20 Aug

By Drew Snodgrass – Landscape Designer at Dennis’ 7 Dees & one of the original Dees                                                                                                                                                                Ready to tackle a most rewarding landscape improvement? Water features are a breathtaking addition to the landscape but please consider avoiding the pitfalls that create high maintenance and a less than attractive final result.

Designed by Drew Snodgrass of Dennis’ 7 Dees

  1. Plan for success, determine the look you want whether simple or small, such as a column spoutingwater or a waterfall as large and elaborate as you want and have room for.
  2. Verify pump and electrical needs and where best to place and draw power.
  3. Locate the feature and orient it for maximum viewing appeal. My very strong recommendation is to make it safe and easy to maintain.
  4. You should not have to empty your water feature for cleaning. A skimmer vault, bottom drain and bio falls will make maintenance as easy as dumping out a collection bag on a regular basis. Water is drawn to the pump through a recessed collection bag and filter plate where surface debris is collected before it has a chance to settle to the bottom of your pond and decompose. The bottom drain circulates the water, also drawing it through the collection and filter plate in the vault. Algae will still grow on rocks but the water will be clear.
  5. For safety, fence out unwanted visitors as necessary or you can have a very shallow water feature with 1-4” of water while kids are small, but dig the pond as deep as you will ultimately like. Fill with river rock and surface the river rock with pea gravel to the desired depth. Later you can remove rock to the new desired depth as time goes on.
  6. If you want fish, (they’ll feed on the algae),you should allow for 3’ of water depth plus 6” of pea gravel covering the floor. Bridge in hiding places above the pond floor.
  7. Vertical sides will deter raccoons and shelving the sides of the pond makes it easier to stack rock to hide the liner. Keep the look as natural as possible and remember you must hide the liner completely.
  8. If you want water plants plan for them as you build your pond. Buy a pot the size of the plants you want. Research the ideal depth of water for the plant. Set the empty pot where you want the plant and hide all but the top as you rock in the liner.
  9. After cleaning the pond thoroughly, fill it, add de-chlorinator and then add the plants when water PH is ready. Cover the roots with the pea gravel.
  10. Once the water feature is complete you should consider adding lighting. Lighting spillways with underwater lights from the base of falls or from the sides, pointing toward spillways and away from views is important, (See the effect, not the fixture or source).

Although this sounds like a fun DIY project it really is lots of work and the easiest way to do any or all I’ve suggested is call Dennis’ 7 Dees Landscaping, (503)777-7777, get a great design, free estimate and have us install a beautiful and low maintenance end result.

The photos included in this article are of some of my water feature installations. . Water features are one of my favorite elements to incorporate into the landscape.

Drew Snodgrass, CLP, Dennis’ 7 Dees Landscaping

Unique Landscape Design Challenge Results in a Beautiful Outdoor Space

31 Jul

By Jonah Bishop – Landscape Designer at Dennis’ 7 Dees

When I first arrived on this property, I was immediately struck by its unique design challenges. First, the primary view of this yard was from the upper story deck, so I knew it needed to have some elements that would create lots of visual interest from above. Second, I had a homeowner who did not currently spend much time outside in the yard, but wanted to. I knew I was going to have to create some functional space to draw them outdoors. What made this second challenge unique was that almost the entire backyard was sloped away from the house. Now how to tie the two challenges together and come up with a beautiful cohesive design?  I was going to have to get creative!

First, the yard needed some level spaces in which to create usable space. To do this, we needed terraces. However, with this much space the linear footage was going to get boring really fast.  Taking into consideration that we needed an interesting view from above as well, I needed to take a look at the walls and start making them interesting! I got rid of all the straight lines and merged curves and corners to break up long runs of stone. Adding in some planting spaces at half height between the main levels, I was able to use the construction of these to further break up the long runs of stone with different shapes and plants. We now had our level spaces!


Now that we had our level spaces, we needed to make them useable. First we needed steps so that it could be accessible. With the idea already in place of the curving walls, I simply tied in the stairs to flow with the curves of the walls. Now we had access, but to where? We needed a space to draw the homeowner to.

We needed a reason to be outdoors in the new landscape. We needed a functional, livable space. A fireplace was a great element to draw people outdoors, but we needed somewhere to put it. With the way the idea for the walls was flowing, it provided the perfect opportunity to add patio space.

With the terraces, steps, and patios in place all that was left was the plants! Being able to bring in some fun flowering plants was truly the ‘icing’ on the cake for this yard! Now we had a yard that was visually interesting from all perspectives, and functional! Best of all, we created a landscape that the homeowner WANTED to be outdoors in and use!

Making Wishes a Reality

30 Jul

By Spencer Anderson – Landscape Designer at Dennis’ 7 Dees

Have you ever been fed up with your soggy, squishy, muddy lawn and wished that it would just go away?  Have you ever wished that your patio was a little bigger?  Have you ever wished you had a fire pit or a water feature?  These are some of the wishes that the owners of this property had in mind as we went through the design process to change their backyard.  Their landscaping needs changed as their children got older.  Instead of a play structure and swing set they were now looking at having a fire pit and water feature.  Through the design-build process this outgrown landscape was soon transformed into a beautiful outdoor living space by the design-build team here at Dennis’ 7 Dees Landscaping.  Please take a walk through the new landscape starting from the back door just off of the dining room…

Step out onto a roomy paver patio underneath a tall airy cover with skylights that allow the natural light to filter through.  Straight ahead there is a rustic stone fire pit nestled into a stone sitting wall flanked by large sitting boulders creating a perfect place to gather and roast marshmallows on a cool evening.   The sitting wall is also the face of a raised planting bed with trees and shrubs to soften the stone wall and wooden fence.  To the right and across the pavers there is easy access to the side yard and utility area with a wooden gate hide the tools and toys when it’s time to sit back and relax.  To the left the patio extends out from under the cover where one can soak up the sun on a bright day.  Extending the length of the patio is the stone sitting wall that defines the curvilinear patio edge and provides a comfortable enclosure and lots of places to sit.  The sitting wall runs into a three column water feature with water bubbling from all three columns and splashing down on boulders and into the shallow water below creating a soothing sound and a refreshing view from the kitchen window.  Directly below the kitchen window are colorful and fragrant plants.  The patio steps down onto a stone walkway that divides the water feature from a cedar chip play area. A block retaining wall was constructed along the property line to level the play area making it a great place for the family trampoline.  The cedar chip play area exits to a meandering crushed gravel path bordered with rubble rock and lined with plantings full of color and texture.  The path conveniently connects to the front yard through a gate with a decorative arbor overhead.

With the finishing touch of LED landscape lighting to illuminate the key features this backyard landscape was transformed into a beautiful and functional outdoor living environment where wishes were made a reality.  A place where Family and friends will gather often and many fond memories will be made.

Meet the designer – Spencer Anderson

I love the outdoors!  Some of my most memorable outdoor experiences came from my childhood as a boy scout in Eastern Oregon.  I recall one such experience where our scout troop hiked 30 miles along the Big Creek Trail near McCall, Idaho.  This was my first long hike so it was a big deal to me.  We camped along the way so I had a pack with all of my provisions that seemed like it was as big and heavy as I was.  The trail was rough and some of the hills were quite steep and challenging, but with every step the beauty of the natural landscape seemed to get more and more breathtaking.  It was this natural beauty and wonder that would push my tired legs to climb the next hill just to catch a glimpse of what was on the other side.  The night we reached our destination I remember sitting around the campfire looking up at the starry night sky wishing that I could always be surrounded by such beauty.  The next morning we were flown out of the forest and back to where we started by a small aviation company.  Looking down from the plane I noticed that the details of the beautiful landscape that I had just seen on my hike were hidden by the tall thick trees.  This experience and many others throughout my life have encouraged me to pursue a career as a landscape designer where I can be an instrument in bringing natural beauty into personal landscapes.  My desire to be a landscape designer combined with a hard work ethic stemming from my experiences working long hours alongside my dedicated father who is a carpenter gave me a great start.  Later I went to school at Brigham Young University-Idaho where I earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture with an emphasis in landscape design.  Shortly after graduating I started a career with Dennis’ 7 Dees landscaping as a project foreman and quickly transitioned into landscape design.  I love the outdoors and I love being a landscape designer.

Ask About Planscaper – Free Landscape Design Program

12 Jul

By Austin Kelly – Planscaper at Dennis’ 7 Dees

Do you have a problem area that you just don’t know what to do with?

A homeowner came into our Lake Oswego location with a “problem area” and needed some advice.  “…this area is shady and damp…it is right outside my dining room window so I want it to be beautiful…I just don’t know what I can plant that will grow…”  Sound familiar?


The Planscaper program here at Dennis’ 7 Dees is geared towards solving the little problems that your property throws at you without breaking the bank!  Let us give you a professional landscape design to solve your problem with no expense other than the plants themselves.  It is really that easy.


Just ask about Planscaper at any of our store locations or go online to view the Planscaper kit.

See you soon!

Landscaping with Northwest Natives

12 Jun


  • Natives are beautiful and provide year-round interest
  • Many are low-maintenance and low-water
  • They help provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife
  • Planting natives preserves our natural and cultural heritage, and gives our neighborhoods a sense of regional identity.

    Arbutus menziesii – bark closeup


  • Match the right plant to the right place
  • Pay attention to the mature size of the plant
  • Choose plants with interest at various times of the year, including bulbs, conifers and winter blooming shrubs.
  • Think in layers: tree canopy, under story plants, ground covers
  • Always be sure to choose nursery grown stock from responsible suppliers.

Need help designing your native plants garden? Planscaper® is landscape design for do-it-yourselfers. Contact your neighborhood Dennis’ 7 Dees garden center for more information.


blechnum spicant – Deer Fern

  • They are ’low-maintenance’ (when planted in an appropriate spot) not ‘no maintenance’.
  • Just like other garden plants, water regularly until established.
  • Mulch to conserve soil moisture and reduce weeds
  • Most natives need no fertilizer
  • Do amend soil with compost
  • Cut back deciduous grasses and perennials in late winter before new growth begins. It’s nice to leave them up over the winter for birds and insects.


Gardening for Wildlife Flashcards by The Berry Botanic Garden

Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and MacKinnon


Some places to see native plants in garden settings:

  • Bishop’s Close at Elk Rock SW Portland
  • Berry Botanic Garden SW Portland
  • Leach Botanic Garden SE Portland
  • Hoyt Arboretum SW Portland


Deciduous Trees

  • Vine Maple/Acer circinatum—multi-trunked, delicate, small, great fall color, sun to shade with moderate water

    Acer circinatum – Vine Maple fall color

  • Pacific Crabapple/Malus fusca—small, light green oblong foliage w/saw tooth edges, clusters of white to pinkish flowers in spring followed by sour fruit beloved by birds, full sun, moist soil
  • Cascaria/Rhamnus purshiana—small, foliage is oval-shaped with deep ribs, dark green above & lighter underneath, flowers are greenish-white, small—although they’re hidden, butterflies will seek them out, purple-black fruit loved by birds, grows in sun to shade and dry to moist soil

Evergreen Trees

Tsuga heterophylla – Western Hemlock-

  • Western Hemlock/Tsuga heterophylla—large, tall, delicate down-sweeping branches hold feathery sprays of foliage resulting in a graceful appearance, grows in part shade, tolerates range of soil: dry to moist
  • Pacific Madrone/Arbutus menziesii—small to medium, oval dark green glossy foliage is held by amazing stems with branches of color-changing bark: young trees sport smooth, chartreusegreen bark, while mature trees are cinnamon-brown and peeling. White, urn-shaped flowers give way to orange-red berries. Grows in dry, sunny locations
  • Western Red Cedar/Thuja plicata—very large at maturity, pyramidal in shape with slender drooping branches of dark green sprays of foliage, part shade to full sun, moderate water (tolerates quite moist soil)


  • Red Elderberry/Sambucus racemosa—small, deciduous, lance-shaped & divided green foliage, white pyramid-shaped flowers followed by red berries, part shade to sun with moist soil
  • Red Flowering Currant/Ribes sanguimeum—medium to large, deciduous, dark green maplelike leaves and drooping clusters of pink flowers in the spring, tolerates clay soil, drought tolerant once established

    Sambucus racemosa – berries

  • Coast Silk Tassel/Garrya elliptica— large (can be trained as small tree), evergreen, elliptical leaves with wavy margins are very dark green on top and woolly grey underneath, long flower tassels (catkins) occur mid-winter into spring followed by purple fruits (on female plants) that persist through the summer if the birds don’t eat them! Grows in part to full sun and can withstand drought once established

    Philadelphus lewisii – Mockorange

  • Wild Mock Orange/Philadelphus lewisii—medium, deciduous, loose habit of upright arching branches, soft green foliage is a stunning backdrop for its large, fragrant white flowers in early summer, part to full sun and moist to dry soil (more vigorous with regular water)
  • Snowberry/Symphoricarpos albus—small, roundish green leaves, flowers in spring and are pink bells borne in clusters which turn into white fruit late summer and persist through winter— great food for birds, tolerates shade and little water but flowers more with sun and regular water


Tellima grandiflora

  • Western Columbine/Aquilegia formosa—32”, low-growing, twice-divided blue-green foliage, late spring into summer striking large nodding, spurred, orange-red and yellow flowers are borne on erect stems up to nearly 3 feet above the foliage—hummingbirds can’t resist them! Full sun to part shade, moist, fertile, well-drained soil
  • Pacific Bleeding Heart/Dicentra formosa—18”, blue-green, feathery, fern-like foliage appears in spring, clusters of pink heart-shaped flowers are prolific, naturalizes readily in mostly shady areas with relatively moist soil

    Dodecatheon poeticum

  • Shooting Star/Dodecatheon—2”-12+”, in spring a short clump of soft green oval foliage appears then gives rise to a bare stalk that hold 1 electric pink-lavender arching flower a few inches to over 1 foot above the leaves, sun to shade, well-drained moist soil

    Dicentra formosa – Western Bleeding Heart

  • Fringecup/Tellima grandiflora—15”, semi-evergreen heart-shaped foliage bears long stalks that are adorned with spikes of numerous tiny white or pink flowers mid-spring through midsummer, part sun to full shade, moist, rich soil
  • Columbia Lily or Tiger Lily/Lilium columbianum—48”, whorls of lance-like foliage below tall stalks that hold flowers of recurved orange petals with brownish speckles in summer, part shade to full sun and relatively moist soil

    Trillium ovatum

  • Pacific Coast Trillium/Trillium ovatum—12”-18”, in spring stout bare stems give rise to whorls of 2 green, spade-shaped leaves and 1 large white flower that ages to rose-purple, dies back and goes dormant in summer, naturalizes if left undisturbed, part to full shade and rich, welldrained, moist soil



Athyrium felix-femina – Lady Fern

  • Deer Fern/Blechnum spicant—18”, evergreen, dark green, leathery fronds—fertile fronds are held above those that are tufted & sterile, moist shade
  • Licorice Fern/Polypodium glycyrrhiza—12”’ evergreen (semi-evergreen if summer air becomes too dry), glossy green fronds thrive in well-drained, moist shade
  • Western Maidenhair Fern/Adiantum alueticum—12”-24”, herbaceous, delicate fan-shaped leaflets of glimmering light to bright green hold onto black stems—glamorous!, moist, welldrained shade
  • Lady Fern/Athyrium filix-femina—3’-6’, herbaceous, erect frond of light to dark green lanceshaped fronds, moist, well-drained shade to part-sun (prefers shade)


  • Vancouveria hexandra – Inside Out Flower

    Bunchberry/Cornus canadensis—6”, semi-evergreen to evergreen, deeply veined, mediumgreen, roundish to oval foliage, white flowers in late spring through summer give way to orangered berries that are a beloved bird treat!

  • Inside Out Flower/Vancouveria hexandra—12”, green foliage resembles duck feet, late spring into early summer nodding stems hold white, shooting star-like flowers that have bent back petals, shade to part sun and fertile, well-drained, moist soil
  • Beach or Coastal Strawberry /Fragaria chiloensis—4”, evergreen, glossy foliage is dark green above and silvery underneath, white flowers in spring, small edible red fruit in summer, sunny site with regular water
  • Mahonia repens – winter color

    Creeping Oregon Grape or Creeping Mahonia/Mahonia repens—to 12”, evergreen, 3-7 toothed leaflets make up a leaf of blue-green color (amazing winter color of bronze to purplishrose), small yellow late spring flowers, blue berries in summer (birds love ‘em!), full sun to part shade, minimal water needed once established

Landscaping for the Do-It-Yourselfers

4 Jun

Enjoy getting your hands dirty? Love to see the results of all the hard work you’ve put into your yard? But need some support designing your next project and picking out the perfect plants? We can help!

With Planscaper® from Dennis’ 7 Dees, we can take some of the work out of your planning process. You can start your project with a plan from our professional landscape designers. And we’ll apply the design fee towards your purchase of plants for the project.

Just download our easy-to-use Planscaper® kit to help you gather information about your space. Download and fill out the questionnaire. Take measurements and photos. Then bring it to us. We’ll create a smart, professional plan that you can use as a guide along the way.

So go ahead. Get dirty. But first, start with a plan from Planscaper®.

Planscaper® Stories

  • These folks wanted a garden that reflected their passion for design, was easy to care for and provided a place to relax with friends. They worked with their Planscaper designer to create an artistic plan that provided space for lounging and a fire pit, as well as practical elements such as compost, storage, and vegetable gardening. Many of the plant choices are perennial edibles and the geometric raised beds provide visual interest as well as fresh produce.

  • This former side yard was bare and unappealing. When they started the Planscaper process, they had just a few trees and shrubs and not much privacy on their corner lot. Today they have a courtyard garden that keeps their twin daughters nearby, while providing space for adults to converse. The column rock water feature delights both – and is a good choice for small children.

“The plants matured faster than I expected. When we planted, everything looked small and so far apart, but after two seasons things are filling in really well. The rock rose that we purchased in 1 gallon pots are now 6 feet wide!

We enjoyed the process. It was hard work, but well worth it. It’s satisfying to complete projects you didn’t know you could do, like installing a sprinkler system and putting in a water feature. Having a plan to follow was so helpful.

“My wife and I didn’t know plants very well, so it was great to have our designer to guide us through the selection process. Overall, it was easy, it looks great and we’ve gotten lots of compliments from neighbors.”

  • This story starts with a former swimming pool that was transformed into a low-maintenance garden bed with a cascading water feature. Layers of plantings gave the terrace a more intimate feel but retained views into the adjacent meadow. As the plantings mature, the space will become more forest-like, with inviting paths leading through it. Pops of color, like the brilliant red blossoms of Crocosmia, add interest through the seasons.

How much does Planscaper® cost?

The price depends on the size of the area you want designed – usually from $500 for a front yard design to $1500 for a full yard plan. Then, you receive a Planscaper® gift card for the whole amount that can be used in the garden center to purchase plants and other materials for your project.

So there’s really no fee for design and consulting?

Since 100% of the fee goes toward your plant and materials purchase, the advice, design and planning are free.

And there’s a discount as well?

You’ll receive a 10% discount good for one year. So if you buy a $500 Planscaper® – you’ll really have $550 to spend.

What if I have just a small area I need designed, or only have a balcony or terrace at my condo?

We can help you with any size space. We often design container plantings and self-contained water features. If there is just a portion of your yard that needs help, our program is flexible.

What if I need help picking out my plants once I have my plan and list?

Just stop in. We’ll help you find the right sizes and varieties. One of the benefits of Planscaper® is having friendly garden center team member ready to give you advice as you do your project, and a designer that is familiar with your yard. We’re here to help as your garden grows.

Do you deliver?

Yes, we do! Call or stop by our garden centers for details. We also offer tree planting services for those larger items.

When can we start?

Call or stop in to make an appointment with a Planscaper® designer. We’re excited to help get your project started!

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