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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.


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.

Project Spotlight

2 May

By Lars Nielsen, Landscape Designer at Dennis’ 7 Dees

This landscape is an example of the finishing touch to a multi-faceted installation. The owners of the property had us install their front yard several years ago and this time it was the back yard that needed help.

With a new deck installed, the owners wanted to connect and extend their new outdoor living space further into the back yard and at the same time connect no less than seven different access points to the house and surrounding pathways. The challenge was to solve several problems with the site including a severe slope making maintenance an issue. Poor drainage causing erosion and runoff problems, and a lack of livable space in the back yard made for an existing landscape that wasn’t functional.

A new plan was drawn up which removed the unwanted lawn areas. A gorgeous view of Mount Hood was to be retained and enhanced. The poor access to the sloping areas was improved by installing several natural stone steps and gravel pathways. This created a stroll garden with large stone boulders as seating along the pathway. These paths snake throughout the back yard and connect the lower access points to the pavers on the upper level and access ways to the residence. As one of the owners is from Southeast Asia, stepping stones were custom engraved with Chinese symbols accompanied by their English translations.

Undoubtedly, the center-point of the back yard is the central circular patio. As the other owner is Irish in origin, she wanted an element with a distinct Irish theme. The design in the photos is not painted or stained into the paving materials but instead hand inlaid and custom cut using 2 different paver types and 2 different colors to achieve the look of the Celtic knot. It took out crew a week’s time to cut and inlay the pavers to create the effect seen here. Overall it is distinct but subdued as it was intended to be. To be sure both parties were equally served there is also a gravel patio on the lower level not immediately visible with the distinct yin-yang pattern.

The owners are also very in tune with nature so the addition of a water feature was essential to give the landscape the sound of a natural setting. The water is understated as was intended and is very low maintenance as the water spills into a pondless pool limiting cleanup from the surrounding large evergreen trees.

It certainly was a challenge trying to integrate aspects from two very different cultures but I think the outcome is very pleasing and seamless. Now my clients can have leisurely strolls through their new landscape which takes much less work to keep up and dramatically improves not only the aesthetics but also the livability of their new found haven.

Award Winning Landscape

5 Apr

This landscape design and installation project was recognized in 2011 by receiving a National Award by PLANET (Professional Landcare Network).   PLANET is an International association with over 3,800 members representing over 100,000 green industry professionals.

Shortly after purchasing their home, the owner of this property sought a professional landscape design/build company to renovate their existing landscape.  Dennis’ 7 Dees Landscaping award winning design team designed the landscape based on the homeowner’s  desires to have a sitting area with room for a BBQ and fire pit, a rose garden, a larger lawn area for their children to play, and a solution to reducing the traffic noise from a busy street.

The project started by installing a 150 foot long, 3 ½’ high, 2000-2500lb boulder rock wall along the backyard property line.  This wall extended their existing lawn surface by an additional 1500 square feet.  While excavating for the walls footing, Dennis’ 7 Dees Landscaping construction foreman discovered over 1/3 of the backyard was 100% fine sand backfill, 6 feet deep.  While all soil types have the possibility to be built on, given all appropriate considerations are accounted for, in this case an evaluation needed to occur to ensure the installation methods would maximize the long term performance/safety of the wall, and extended lawn.  We engaged the homeowner to explain to them the discovery of fine sand beneath the surface and to discuss options.   The solution jointly agreed was to remove the fine sand impacting the walls footing and then mix the remaining sand with imported topsoil.

After the wall was completed, a terraced water feature was installed.  The fall of the water from the three spillways has significantly reduced the street noise and has provided a focal point for the patio area.  The design of the water feature included integrating it into the natural contour of the slope and into the rock retaining walls which were necessary around the west perimeter of the house.   Prior to the installation of the water feature, large boulders needed to be removed and were reused on site.   The final grade for the patio area around the water feature had to be lifted 18”.  The original grade had the entire backyard draining toward the house and collecting where the new patio exists.  A drainage system was installed to channel the water away from the house and safely to a drainage collection pond.

A terraced rose garden was installed following the nature contours of the landscape.  The garden was planted with the homeowner’s favorite hybrid tea roses.  Arbors were installed at each end of the rose garden and a pergola was installed over the newly installed circular paver patio.  In reviewing the before and after pictures, notice the significance of adding vertical elements to this garden (pergola and arbors).

As the construction process continued, everyone involved with project came to realize that the previous owner of the property took short-cuts and installed many creative solutions when it came to irrigation, drainage, soil retention, and backfill material.  While no homeowner desires to have any challenge buried beneath the landscape surface waiting to be unearthed during construction, this homeowner  was grateful to have an experienced, knowledgeable team of professionals working with them to resolve the challenges while not taking their eye off the end result of delivering a beautiful landscape. 

Darla McGary

I have been a landscape designer my entire life. My first attempt at landscape design and installation was when I was 9 years old on my family’s farm in Eastern Oregon. Outside my parents’ dining room window were these two smelly, over-grown junipers. I persuaded my Dad to remove the junipers and allow me to install a small rock garden with plants. It was my first success! I continued to dabble in design while attending high school and college.  In college, I received my degree in finance and economics from the University of Oregon, which led me to a career in finance and accounting in Hi-tech. Having international aspects to my job enabled me to travel to Europe and Asia. This experience exposed me to cultural and environmental diversity and enabled me to visit both public and private gardens. The travel was enriching and fueled my desire for a change from the corporate life style. Consequently, I took the plunge, turned in my resignation, and bravely went back to college where I obtained both an associate’s degree in Landscape Technology and a degree in Landscape Design.  While attending college, I pursued and obtained an internship with Dennis’ 7 Dees Landscaping and served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers-Oregon.   Following graduation I become a designer at Dennis’ 7 Dees and was proud to serve as APLD-Oregon’s president.  Most recently, I have been recognized by PLANET and received a national environmental improvement award. Throughout this incredible journey, I have had the unwavering support of my husband, family, and friends.  I am truly grateful to be able to do what I love: Landscape Design.

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