How To Choose the Right Privacy Plants

How To Choose the Right Privacy Plants

Questions landscape designers ask to find the perfect privacy plants

Your ideal backyard oasis is not complete without careful consideration given to privacy and using plants to create that privacy is often the best solution, but how to choose the right plant or plants?

Let’s look at some of the key factors that will drive the design process and lead to the right plants for privacy

Growing plants

What are my site conditions?

The first step in any planting design project is analyzing the site conditions to understand what plant groups will thrive.

This becomes especially important in choosing privacy plants since they’ll need to thrive in order to create the privacy you and your family desire.

You’ll need to ask yourself:

  • What plant hardiness zone do I live in?
  • What are the sun/shade patterns for this area of the yard?
  • How is the soil? (pH, texture, nutrient levels, moisture levels)
  • Are there any issues with a prevailing wind?
  • Does the existing topography create erosion or moisture retention concerns?

Your options for the best screening shrubs will be dictated by the answers to these questions, do not skip this step! Note that some things can be changed, you could amend the soils or change the topography, for instance, but you’ll want to plan for this before making your privacy plant selections.

Image of private garden thanks to privacy plants

How much space do I have?

Arguably the most important question to answer after site conditions is going to be this, what kind space can I allocate to privacy plantings?

The more space, the more options, but don’t count your narrow yard out either. There are plenty of plants that have columnar or upright habits.

Take into account the length, width, and height that the plants will be occupying. If you have the space, don’t be afraid of trees, it is well documented that mature trees in the landscape increase a home’s value anywhere from 3%-15%. Also large-medium shrubs alongside well placed trees can offer a layering of textures and greenery that not only increases home value, but privacy and aesthetics as well.

So, what kind of plants fit into what kind of backyard space? Generally consider:

  • Narrow Space – 1’-3’ wide – upright/columnar shrubs, some hedges, vines if a structure can be utilized, some bamboos.
  • Average Space – 4’-12’ wide – above plus: larger shrubs, some columnar trees, most hedges, more options for layering, more bamboo choices.
  • Large Space – 15’+ wide – above plus: some full form trees, large shrubs, more layering.

The key difference maker between an impressive and private backyard, and a ho-hum yard is the effective layering of plant material.

Deciduous trees

Should I Use Any Deciduous Plants?

The short answer here is, it depends.

Since broadleaf evergreens are rare in many parts of the country, you may want to use deciduous plants to help create varied texture.

If you have enough space, yes you could sneak some into the scene to add color, change, and interest throughout the year without sacrificing too much privacy. However, if space is limited and privacy is a top priority, stick with evergreens whether broadleaf or coniferous.

If you simply must have some escape from the evergreen, some specific considerations will be helpful:

  • Choose tree and shrub varieties whose leaves fall late in the season and regrow early.
  • Use in areas where winter privacy is not required.
  • Use species that have a dense branching structure, prune to promote this.
  • If possible, plant in front of other evergreen screening plants.
  • Plant in clumps or groves so trunks, stems, and branches provide screening.
Pool surrounded by excellent privacy plants

Do The Plants ‘Fit-In’?

Finally, you should consider your neighborhood and the style of your home.

While plants don’t go in and out of style to the extent that clothes do, they will still adhere to some basic stylistic tendencies that the best backyards will have picked up on.

Think about it, you wouldn’t want to plant bamboo in front of the Neoclassical architecture of the White House (even if it were a variety hardy enough to live there) nor would you plan the ornament of a cottage garden to accent the minimalism of a modern home.

In the same way a neighborhood can have a particular vernacular that you’ll want to consider when choosing your privacy plants. This is a more subtle and nuanced detail, and could be debated from person to person and place to place, however you know it when you see it, whether done right or done wrong.


Take the time to carefully consider your conditions, space, needs, and overall aesthetic before making your final choices about privacy plants.

Once you have completed this pre-planning, you can next find the genus and species of plant that will fit the bill, and give you and your family a private sanctuary in the comfort of your backyard.

For more help, contact us

How to Build an Outdoor Fireplace to Fit Your Personality

How to Build an Outdoor Fireplace to Fit Your Personality

What is YOUR Outdoor Fire Pit Personality Profile?

2020. What a year, eh? If anything, we have learned the definition of such words as: faith, patience, and resolve. With so much out of our control, our only safe havens have been our very own homes. In a sense, it has always been that way… but we have learned to live at wifi’d coffee shops, as a fixture in the office and traveling from destination to money-making destination. As the collective ‘we’ has been stuck at home, those honey-do lists loom, looking us square in the face. New flooring in the kitchen, check. Paint the hallway, check. Remodel the downstairs bathroom, check. Now what? Many folks have turned their focus to their outdoor living rooms – their backyards.

The Draw of a Fire Pit

‘Tis the season for many to stay inside – avoiding the cold, wet weather. But for those brave souls still clinging to outdoor sanity, the fire pit has proven a welcomed companion. Whether it is just you and your partner, or a booming family of six [plus fur babies], fire pits can draw us outside with their flickering flames. Wood burning, propane or natural gas alike… fire pits allow us to relax outside with a bit of warmth and can emotionally draw us together. Extend summertime s’mores into the inclimate wintertime months with hot chocolate cuddle sessions around the glow of your very own outdoor fire.

Fire Pit Restrictions

Fire pits are not for everybody… sometimes an HOA will restrict any sort of flame on your property. Another limiting factor is that there just is not enough room on your condo porch. For everyone else though, let Drake’s 7 Dees fire pit design and build help you make an educated decision on how to build an outdoor fireplace. Fire pits can be a very affordable upgrade to any outdoor living space.

Fire pits come in one of three fuel varieties: wood burning, propane or natural gas [oh my!]

Wood Burning Fire Pits

These are the most popular choice from the outset. There is something whimsical and romantic about striking a match and igniting a flame. Wood burning fire pits are also one of the most affordable options. As with any of the three fuel varieties, there are both prefabricated models and the custom built, ‘sky’s-the-limit’ options. Though firewood can be easily attained, it is important to remember that keeping it dry can be an obstacle. Also, the smoke generated from the spent lumber can sometimes make for unhappy neighbors.

Prefabricated, wood burning fire pits can be found anywhere from your local hardware store to the closest supermarket. Since these kits are all-inclusive, there’s little assembly required and are simple to construct. For your weekend festivities consider the BYOB variety, “bring your own birch”!

A prefabricated wood burning firepit

Custom built, wood burning fire pits can be just as easy to insert into your dream landscape… but there are regulations as to how close to a dwelling they can reside, as well as near property lines. A custom built fire feature of any kind is usually a permanent fixture in your outdoor space; thus location, size, and fuel type must be considered prior to construction. A fire pit ‘done right’ can add an immense amount of enjoyment to your back yard. Both wood burning fire pit options can be considered doable by ‘weekend warriors’ but are a specialty at Drake’s 7 Dees.

Some of Our Favorite Wood Burning Fire Pit Kits

Propane Fueled Fire Pits

Propane fueled fire pits come in both mobile, prefabricated models… as well as kits to convert a wood burning, custom kit into a more manageable – cleaner burning fixture. That spare BBQ propane tank you have sitting around is now to be gainfully employed! Propane fire pits allow for control of a small, subdued burn or a ‘volume-up-to-11’ bonfire. This control allows for these fire pits to be placed closer to homes, especially when backyard space is at a premium. This variety of fire pit fuel also makes for happier neighbors, as there is zero smoke of which to complain. What seems to be missing from this option of fire pit fuel is the snap, crackle and pop of a cedar log; but if the conversation is good… and everyone has a full cup, we’d venture a guess you won’t notice the lack of ambiance.

Prefabricated Propane Fire Pits

Prefabricated, propane-fueled fire pits are compact, easy to maneuver, and generally about the same cost as a high quality mobile wood burning fire pit. One of the biggest advantages to propane over wood, is the ease of use. Firewood does not need to be stored, seasoned, mobilized, and tended-to for a good time. Propane starts with a snap, burns evenly, and shuts off with the twist of a dial.

A prefabricated propane fire pit

Fire Tables

Recently trending, fire tables are an in-between option for those desiring a custom look but wanting to remain budget conscious. Due to their size, they generally require a more skilled hand than most homeowners possess. They are sleek, elegant, and contemporary – on the average. Some fire tables even have a built-in ‘heavy edge’ that are wide enough for a paper plate and a glass of your favorite Pinot.

Some of Our Favorite Fire Tables

Custom Propane Fire Pits

Custom built, propane fueled fire pits combine the high-end finishes of the custom, wood burning variety with the ease of use of a gas fuel. What can get tricky in this mixture of features is concealing the hose from the propane tank and the burner. Though not impossible, propane tanks need to be disguised… hoses need to be properly hidden… and most homes do not have a direct line to a propane fuel source. Which ushers in our last fuel-source option, Natural Gas.

Natural Gas Fueled Fire Pits

At the costliest end of the spectrum are natural gas fire pits. Believe it or not, there really are not many prefabricated options. Even in homes with existing LP natural gas available, special connections, permits and sometimes even meter upgrades can be required to ‘fan the flame’. When going all out for your natural gas fire pit, Drake’s 7 Dees’ favorite local gas connection team is All Fuel Installation + Service out of Troutdale, Oregon. We have worked with them on countless fire pit installs over the years. In tandem with your design style, we handle the material choice selection… layout… location… burner options… and lighting preferences, then All Fuel makes sure the connections are done to code. We have yet been made privy to any buyers’ remorse for these natural gas fire pit investments, quite to the contrary. These clients’ homes are now ‘thee’ hangout spot in the neighborhood. Dinner parties are a cinch with accommodating outdoor environments.

An outdoor entertainment area centered around a fire pit

Get started with your fire pit!

Our talented team of landscape designers would be happy to talk with you more about how best to infuse a fire pit into your current outdoor living arrangements. One of our favorite projects of 2020 started with a new fire pit and blossomed into an entire backyard renovation! We would love to pair up with you to help figure out how to build an outdoor fireplace to fit your personality – drop us a line and let’s visit!

Ideas for Updating Your Landscape

Ideas for Updating Your Landscape

Landscape design has a tremendous impact on the curb appeal and value of your home. If your landscape feels outdated it is not always necessary to start from scratch. Updating an existing landscape can be a faster, easier, and more cost-effective approach to giving your property a fresh appearance, and can greatly increase the value of your home. 

When to Update Your Landscape

Even without starting from a blank slate, updating your landscape design can be an overwhelming project. The following situations are examples of where landscape redesign is worth considering, and may even make you money in the long run.


  • The Overgrown Landscape

    Overgrown landscaping may be causing problems you aren’t aware of, such as damaging underground water or septic pipes, gas lines, or electrical cables. Elevated utility lines could also be damaged by falling branches. An overgrown landscape will block views and could scratch your home’s siding, cause roof damage, and even crack concrete in the sidewalk, driveway or patio areas. All of these problems can lead to very costly repairs that a thoughtfully-designed landscape can avoid.


  • The “For Sale” Landscape

    If you plan on selling your home, the landscaping is one of the first things potential buyers will notice. Poorly maintained landscaping gives a bad first impression that could discourage buyers, while an updated landscape adds significant value and may increase the final sale price. A complicated landscape might put off buyers who aren’t interested in outdoor maintenance. A simple, fresh landscape design welcomes new owners to your home, and is a great choice for when you’re about to sell.



  • The Unused Landscape

    A lush lawn and ornamental plantings may be pretty, but they don’t necessarily add value to your home. Updating your landscape to include gardening space and edibles such as fruit trees, berry bushes, and fresh herbs, however, adds utility to your property and can even cut grocery bills. Similarly, a wide swath of lawn does no good to your quality of life if you don’t enjoy it – adding a recreation area, entertainment space, or other outdoor living space can be a fantastic value.


  • The High Maintenance Landscape

    Complicated gardens, plants that require extensive care, and lawns that need frequent fertilizing, weeding, and watering can be a significant financial drain on homeowners. Your landscape is primarily for enjoyment, not to create a second job. Updating your landscape to opt for lower-care options can be a way to modernize your property and reduce the time and money needed to keep it looking its best.

By updating your landscape, you can save both time and money, and you’ll find yourself enjoying your new landscape much more than any outdated design will allow for.


Ways to Update Your Landscape for the Most Value

Depending on your reasons for updating your landscape, there are many options that will add value to your property – both monetary and otherwise. Popular choices include…


  • Widening Pathways

    Wider pathways give your home a more welcoming, open feel that is ideal for entertaining. Existing paths can be expanded with pavers, bricks, gravel or mulch to make them broader. This is also a good time to be sure walkways are level and easy to navigate.

  • Lighting Up

    The right lighting can give your landscape a whole new look. Add lights to pathways, specimen plants, architectural features, or outdoor living areas to update your landscape and create a brighter, safer, more enjoyable space.


  • Deepening Beds

    Deep flowerbeds create a luxurious buffer around your home and provide space for additional plantings, such as a row of colorful annuals along the front edge of the bed. When deepening beds, you can also change their shape for a fresh, new look.



  • Protecting Privacy

    Landscaping that protects privacy is always desirable. Tall ornamental grasses, large containers, or fencing can create a more private space for you to enjoy. Consider enclosing a patio, blocking unwanted views, or otherwise sheltering your space for greater privacy.


  • Casting Shade

    Plants or structures that shade your home or outdoor spaces can help control temperature to make your outdoor area more comfortable and save on heating and cooling bills indoors. Planting trees or installing awnings, pergolas or other shade structures are the most popular options.





  • New Niches

    Creating a cozy niche in your landscape is a great way to encourage you to enjoy being outdoors. A comfortable hammock, swing or bench can lead to more time outdoors, a fire pit welcomes gatherings, or a meditation feature such as a fountain can be a peaceful addition to any property.




  • Outdoor Rooms

    For more formal entertaining, a complete outdoor room can add tremendous value to your property. An outdoor kitchen, grill, or bar is a great choice, or you might opt for an entertainment area complete with a television, fire pit, and extra seating. Looking for some inspiration? Be sure to check out our guide to outdoor patio ideas today! 


  • Trees

    Trees are long-term investments that add wonderful value to your property. A small tree may not seem significant, but over the years it will grow into a luxurious specimen that provides shade and distinction, even fruit, depending on the type of tree.




  • Sod

    If it’s your lawn that needs updating, consider new sod for instant results. Replacing your grass with new sod will smooth out your lawn, remove weeds, repair bare or thin patches, and provide a luxurious footing all in one step.


No matter how you choose to update your existing landscape, our experts can help you find just the right options to refresh your property based on your needs and budget. Contact us today to see how we can bring new life to your old landscape! 

10 Outdoor Patio Ideas to Inspire Your Next Project

10 Outdoor Patio Ideas to Inspire Your Next Project

Patios are the hub of a functional backyard. Maximizing square footage while combining utility, serenity, and grace is essential for a successful build. Regardless of direction you decide to go, pre-planning your outdoor patio ideas is key.

It’s easy to let your imagination run wild when planning for your dream outdoor space. This guide aims to help you both get your creative ideas flowing and also give insight into practicalities to make your patio project a smashing success.

If you’re ready to focus on the sunny weather ahead, there are a range of tasks you can undertake to get your patio ready for lounging, entertaining, or whatever it is that you like to do outside.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering outdoor patio ideas

What Do I Want From My Patio Design?

Your outdoor lifestyle will change as new friends and neighbors come and go, your family grows, and your hobbies shift to new interests.

Perhaps you’ve discovered a passion for the culinary arts and want to expand your outdoor meal prep options with a brick pizza oven, built-in grill, outdoor refrigeration, or space for growing organic herbs and produce.

Perhaps you’d enjoy your fire pit or hot tub through the rainy winter months if they were more sheltered.

Before you make any changes to your outdoor patio, it is important to assess your needs. Be sure to keep in mind how your outdoor needs may change so you can make adjustments that will allow you to enjoy it for many years.

What Does My Current Patio Offer, and What Do I Need to Change?

When you’re considering outdoor patio ideas, first take a good look at what your space already offers. How large is the existing patio.

Does it need to be larger or smaller? Is it oriented toward the best views of your yard? Do you need more privacy? What condition is it in? If any repairs are needed, now is the time to do basic maintenance. Repair settling, reseal the concrete, stone or pavers, and replace any cracked stones or broken railings to be sure your space is safe and usable.

patio flooring stamped pavement
Concrete Pavers, stamped concrete, or minimalistic crushed rock can be perfectly paired to your desired lifestyle. Disconnecting downspouts? Drainage an issue? Permeable options allow storm water run-off to percolate naturally into the soil.

10 Patio Improvement Ideas

1. Cleaning Your patio

It is amazing how much difference a thorough cleaning can make to your patio. Power wash the area, using appropriate treatments to remove mold or rust stains. Re-sand joints between pavers and repaint or stain railings or wood accents. If you already love your patio space, a good cleaning may be all the refreshing you need.

2. Pruning Plants Around Your Patio

Overgrown plants near your patio can encroach on the outdoor living space. Shape plants attractively and consider removing or replacing any damaged or unsalvageable plants. Add new mulch around the patio for a fresh look and to discourage weeds.

3. Lighting Makes a Huge Difference

Without proper lighting, you won’t enjoy your patio after dark. Overhead illumination can be improved by adding recessed lighting to covered patios or string lights to pergolas. Up-lights can add depth and drama to your outdoor space by highlighting the beautiful shapes of surrounding plants and trees. Illuminating stairs and pathways will ensure a safe journey from house to patio in the evening.

outdoor patio idea 2

4. Define Edges To Create Space

Redefining the edge of your patio with deeper beds, retaining walls, poured concrete planters, or a privacy screen can completely change the feel of the space.

5. Seating

Seating can be incorporated into many areas in your patio. Whether it’s a retaining wall, a semi-circular bench accenting a fire pit, or benches that serve double-duty as railings on an elevated patio. If you’re not considering any additional structures, a fresh lounging or dining set can give your patio a whole new vibe. With so many styles of outdoor furniture available these days, you’re sure to find one that suits your home, be it mid-century modern or Mediterranean.  Even replacing old covers, cushions or accent pillows can give existing furniture a fresh look.

outdoor patio idea 3

6. Concrete Patios With Fire Pits

Add elemental life to your patio by incorporating fire or water into the space. Heat it up with a gas or wood-burning fire pit, fireplace, or even fun torches or lanterns. If liquid refreshment is more your style, options are plenty: koi ponds, fountains, or streams surround you in the sounds of nature. For a more immersive experience, consider a pool or spa.

home pond garden fountain

7. Contain Your Enthusiasm

Adding containers is a great way to instantly update your patio with natural elements. Large containers of tall grasses or shrubs can create privacy, whether they’re oversized pots or built-in beds.

8. Covered Patio Ideas

Providing shade over your patio will make your outdoor living space more comfortable in all weather by reducing glare, blocking harmful UV rays and controlling the temperature. Shelter options include pergolas, gazebos, and pavilions. In a small space, even a patio umbrella will do the trick. Don’t underestimate the natural sunscreen of a beautiful shade tree!

outdoor patio idea 5

9. Fun With Flooring

Most of us think of a concrete slab when it comes to patios, and though there are some beautiful options of slab available whether stamped, stained, or textured, there is also a range of other materials to consider. Depending on the style of your house, wood tiles or decomposed granite might be stylish options. Even a mix of materials, when done right, can add interest to your overall design. And don’t forget about personal touches—adding your initials or children’s handprints will give you something to smile at for years to come.

outdoor patio idea 6

10. Small Patio Ideas

Speaking of personal touches, you may have a treasured item such as an outdoor clock, thermometer, barometer, or sculpture that would provide the perfect centerpiece for your patio area, or even serve as inspiration for the entire outdoor space. A functional chalkboard wall provides instant art whether it’s a drawing surface for kids or a menu board for dinner guests!

Bring the outdoors in – the magic of an outdoor room!

Not that you don’t already have enough outdoor patio ideas to keep you occupied – but here’s one more.

One of the hottest trends in how we are enjoying our gardens these days is adding outdoor rooms to our homes. And no wonder – exposure to the outdoors is cheap health insurance. Just check out what Dr. Roger S. Ulrich from the Texas A&M University has to say on the matter:

“In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension.”

An outdoor room surely makes getting that exposure easy. It can take the form of a private sanctuary, or it can become the perfect party space. The possibilities are endless.

The protection of an outdoor room can also do double duty as a haven for potted plants during our winters. So, for an unabashed “hort-head”, a built-in patio also offers much-needed protection for a treasured plant.

What Next?

Drake’s 7 Dees leverages decades of construction experience with a seasoned design influence to assure a patio space that resonates with your passions, budget and personality. If you’re ready to add new life to your patio, our team of landscape architects and designers can help you find great ways to freshen up your space so you can spend more time outdoors enjoying it.

Whether you want an out-of-the box, modern flair or an aesthetic that harkens back to an early urban nostalgia. Our family of experts is excited to talk to you about your new patio! Contact us at our Portland garden center in Portland today. We’d love to help you on your next outdoor project.

Smart Rain Garden Design

Smart Rain Garden Design

Rain Gardens Are Design Elements that Work with Excess Rainwater

In the Pacific Northwest, it rains. In the times when it is sunny, it pays to consider what we can do to better prepare our landscapes for the excess rainwater that is bound to plague the Northwest again in the fall.

The winter should give your landscape a chance to rest and prepare for spring. But in the torrential downpours that often describe February and March in our area, you may have found rainwater puddling in places you’ve never seen it before, uneven drainage, and waterlogged planting beds. Don’t put all these problems aside until next year when they arise again. There are many different solutions for rainwater management. In addition to using the traditional drainage techniques such as trench drains, flo-wells, and catch basins, we can help remedy these issues with rain gardens, which also add some pizzazz to your landscape whether wet or dry.

What is a Rain Garden?

Rain gardens are a great way to dress up part of the landscape as well as add functionality to it. It often involves a grouping of stones and water-loving plants. The plants may be bright and colorful during much of the year, with lots of different textures and varied bloom times, adding to the beauty of the overall landscape.

There are many different ways to build a rain garden, but the overall concept is the same: make a depression where you have a low spot/water pooling already, put in some fresh soil and/or drain rock, move in some water-loving plants, and watch the area collect rainwater and thrive. There’s more that goes into it, but that’s the basic idea. A good online resource for the DIYer is Portland Metro.

The following images show how lovely and useful a rain garden can be.

rain garden

A rain garden in action! Source: SailorsTales

Related image

See? Don’t they look great? A whole lot better than a mud puddle.

Dry Stream Bed

dry stream bed

Dry stream beds go by other names such as dry river bed or dry creek bed, but it’s all the same. A dry stream is a shallow swale lined with stone substantial enough to withstand a serious downpour while securing the soil and directing rainwater runoff. They look their best when they emulate a natural waterway. Creating a gentle curve in a stream bed results in a more natural appearance, serves to reduce the velocity of the water, and creates areas for major plant groupings.

In general, a dry stream bed should be located an area of your landscape that is naturally low, or where water drains poorly. A dry stream can “flow” across an open expanse, or it can be located at the base of a slope or raised flower bed.

Rain Garden Examples

For an example, take a look at some of our finished products.

dry stream bed
dry stream bed
dry stream bed

Permeable Paving for Functional Rain Gardens

Pavers appropriate for a rain garden are themselves made up of of concrete bricks separated by joints filled with small stones or sand which are laid over a bed of aggregate rock. Water is able to infiltrate through the joints in the pavers and is then stored in the void space underneath the paver surface where it is slowly filtered back into the soil.

Patios and walkways are essential to using your outdoor space. Using permeable pavers on these elements is an easy way to make your hardscape more environmentally friendly by reducing the amount of rainwater that is put elsewhere – meaning they can cut down on flooding.

While the long-term benefits are greater, the initial cost of installation for permeable pavers exceeds that of impervious concrete or pavement. In other words, it’s worth it if you have flooding/drainage problems and a lot of concrete or other impervious surfaces, or you care about the quality of water going back into the ground.

There are a lot of different types of design aesthetic with this product. Depending on the end result you’re looking for, there are numerous variations to choose from. See below for some examples:

pervious pavers, permeable pavers

Source: ReadingRock Building Materials and Services

permeable pavers

Source: Mutual Materials

Rather than grass, you can put gravel in the voids to keep a cleaner, more traditional aesthetic for the paver area.

permeable pavers

Source: Krienbrook Permeable Pavers

Rain gardens are a way to deal with all the water that we experience in the Pacific Northwest in a creative manner that is both functional and beautiful at the same time. Don’t you love seeing form and function working together? 

We would love to collaborate with you! If you’re interested in starting a project, give us a call. We would love to help with the design, planning, and installation of a rain garden or other rain water solution. If you have questions about your rain garden, be sure to reach us at our Portland garden center!

Affordable Landscaping: The 11 Phases

Affordable Landscaping: The 11 Phases

Whether you are starting from scratch, updating parts of an existing landscape or completely renovating your current landscaping, redoing your outdoor areas can be a lengthy and expensive process. Phased landscape design and installation can help you adjust your time, labor, and budget to create your dream landscaping project in easy-to-manage steps.

The Answer to Affordable Landscaping? Building in Phases

Instead of doing an entire large project at one time from start to finish, phased landscape installation breaks the project into more manageable pieces. It may take several weeks, months, or years to complete the installation in phases, depending on the size of the project and what resources are available to complete it.

Phased landscape installation can be beneficial in several ways. Not only does it make a large project more manageable, but it also allows for tweaks and refinements throughout the process as needs, preferences, and living styles may change over time. Installing a landscape in phases can also better accommodate a limited budget or limited time with shorter seasons, while still allowing for the yard and garden to be used and enjoyed before the full project is complete.

a beautiful landscape design project doesn’t have to be done all at once

Designing an Affordable Master Landscaping Plan

Creating a master plan is a critical first step in phased affordable landscaping installation. A master plan is necessary to keep the end result in mind, and that plan can be adjusted as needed throughout the different phases. When the full project can be envisioned, it is also easier to plan the order of phases to be installed with the greatest efficiency so there is less disruption to established parts of the yard or garden when a new phase is begun.

The first part of a master plan should involve a comprehensive evaluation of the site and its landscaping needs. This should include soil condition and quality, drainage concerns, sunlight levels, potential erosion problems and more. This evaluation can help direct the installation to correct difficulties with each step. After the overall evaluation, the first phases of landscape installation need to be sufficiently detailed for the project to get underway. Later phases and finishing touches may change by the time the final phase of installation is ready to begin, so those phases may not necessarily be as firm when the plan is first developed.

It is important to keep the master plan accessible, especially when it may take several years to fully install a larger, more elaborate landscape. Keeping notes, changes, suggestions, and updates documented will help ensure that future phases of the installation run smoothly.

The 11 Phases Of A Dream Landscaping Project 

The order of projects in phased installation will vary depending on the overall master plan for the landscape, as well as how each phase is integrated into the overall process. Needs and preferences can also influence which phases are implemented first to ensure the space is usable and enjoyable from the very first. Typical phases may include…

1. Affordable Landscaping Surfaces

Sod, seeding, groundcovers, or mulching. Why? For erosion control and visual appeal.

sod and seeds for landscaping surfaces
Image courtesy of Laying Sod or Planting Seeds.

2. Hardscapes

Borders and edging, terraces, retaining walls, etc.

Retaining Wall Example. Image courtesy of

3. Planning for Gas and Electrical Lines

Think ahead, and create support for water feature pumps, lighting, outdoor kitchens, and other things that might require energy. If you don’t think this through in the beginning and plan accordingly, you may set yourself up for a big headache later.

Tip: read this article on How to Avoid Utility Lines When Digging in Your Yard

4. Irrigation

Sprinkler systems and drip plans as well as drainage adjustments.

irrigation planning landscape design
Drip Irrigation example courtesy of

5. Shade

Large trees and plants to provide shade for outdoor living spaces as well as structures.

6. Entertaining Space

Patios, decks, spa, or pool surrounds and similar high use spaces.

entertaining space backyard design
We designed this backyard entertaining space in Portland. Check out the project here.

7. Structures

Pergolas, trellises, arbors, sheds, play structures, etc.

8. Waterscapes

Ponds or pondless waterfalls, creeks, streams, fountains, pools, and hot tubs.

planning an affordable landscaping project? be sure to do it in phases, and leave space for your hot tub!
hot tubs, pools, waterfalls, etc. Be sure you keep these in mind as you plan your phased affordable landscaping project

9. Garden Spaces

Raised beds or dedicated growing areas for practical harvests, fruit trees, etc.

10. Landscaping Pathways

affordable landscaping walkway design

Connections between parts of the landscape or around the entire home.

11. Flora and Fauna Landscape Design

Shrubbery and flowerbeds, specimen plants, etc.

yellow and purple planting flowers in a landscape design project
Planted landscape from our project, Contemporary Colonial Revival

While the order of phased installation can vary greatly, many plans prioritize surfaces, hardscapes, and shade in the early phases of the master plan. Surfaces are often used right away and help a landscape look attractive even as the plan is being implemented, while hardscapes establish the borders that will gradually frame the entire landscape. Shade is also important to implement early, as larger trees have slower growth cycles and will take longer to mature and provide their full benefits, so the sooner they are planted the sooner they will be providing that shade. Of course, depending on the exact budget and master landscaping plan, several phases may be implemented at once, or smaller phases may be spread out over a greater period.

In addition to these potential phases, it is important to consider the final step of installation – care and maintenance. Particularly when plants are young and the ground may still be settling, extra care may be needed to nurture plants and ensure they adjust to their new environment. Proper care, including pruning, fertilization, and pest control, will help keep the landscape looking just as attractive and inviting as it is from the first moment of installation.

It’s hard to believe this sea of underused grass became the multi-level masterpiece shown at the top of this post!

Are you considering phased landscape installation? The team of experts at Drake’s 7 Dees can help develop your master landscaping plan and recommend the best steps to take to create your dream landscape. Contact us at our Portland garden center to get started!