Modern Landscape Design. When and How to Update Your Landscape.

Modern Landscape Design. When and How to Update Your Landscape.

Modern landscape design has a tremendous impact on the value, curb appeal and aesthetic beauty of your home. If your landscaping feels outdated, old or worn, however, it is not necessary to rip out all the plants and start from scratch. Updating an existing landscape can be a faster, easier, and more cost-efficient 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 to a modern landscape design can be an overwhelming project. There are times when updating is a good value, however, and can actually create savings or bring you significant profits.


  • The Overgrown Landscape

    Shaggy, 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 lines could also be damaged by falling branches. An overgrown landscape will block views and could scratch your home’s siding, cause roof damage or stain or crack concrete in the sidewalk, driveway or patio areas. All of these problems can lead to very costly repairs.


  • 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 sales price. A complicated landscape might put off buyers who aren’t interested in outdoor maintenance, but a simple, fresh landscape can welcome new owners to your home.



  • 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, can dramatically cut grocery bills. Similarly, a wide swath of lawn does no good to your quality of life if you don’t enjoy it, but adding a recreation area, entertaining space or other outdoor living areas can be a fantastic value.


  • The High Maintenance Landscape

    Complicated gardens, plants that require extensive care and lawns that need generous fertilizing and watering can be a significant financial drain on homeowners. Updating your landscape to minimize lawn surfaces or opt for lower-care options can be a beautiful way to modernize your property and lower 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.


Ideas to Update Your Landscape for the Most Value

Depending on your reasons for updating your landscape, its existing condition and the budget and timeline you have for the project, there are many options that will add good value to your property. Popular choices include…


  • Widening Pathways for Modern Landscape Design

    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, and it is also a good time to be sure they are level and easy to navigate.

  • Lighting Up

    The right lighting can give your landscape a whole new look, with more security as well. 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 easily change their shape for a fresh, new look.



  • Protecting Privacy

    Landscaping that protects privacy is always desirable, and tall ornamental grasses, a green wall, 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 the area more comfortable and save on heating and cooling bills. 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.




  • 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 ideal 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, as well as fruit trees, nuts or other benefits, depending on the tree.




  • Sod

    If it’s your lawn that needs updating, consider new sod for instant results. Replacing sod will even out your lawn, remove weeds, repair bare or thin patches and provide 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 for your needs and budget. Contact us today and see how we can bring new life to your old landscape! 

7 Outdoor Patio Ideas To Inspire Your Next Project

7 Outdoor Patio Ideas To Inspire Your Next Project

Outdoor patio ideas come in all shapes and sizes. It’s easy to let your imagination run wild when planning for your dream outdoor space. It’s important when combining all of the ideas you come up with, so that you consider these very important variables.

This guide aims to help you both get your creative ideas flowing and also give insight into practicalities and tips to make your patio project a smashing success.

Patios are the hub of a functional backyard. Maximizing their square footages 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.

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, and space for growing organic herbs and produce.

Perhaps you’d enjoy the 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, so that you can 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, and does it need to be larger or smaller?

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

patio flooring stamped pavement
Concrete Pavers, stamped concrete, or a 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 native soils.

What Patio Improvements Can I Do Myself, and What Will I Need Help With?

Patio Ideas on a Budget

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 any 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 that detract from the area.

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 and illuminating stairs and pathways will ensure a safe journey from house to patio in the evening.

outdoor patio idea 2
a properly proportioned outdoor living space can increase quality family time as well as increase property value.

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. Curved Patio Designs

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

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

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.

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 from rain options include pergolas, gazebos, and pavilions. In a small space, even a patio umbrella will do the trick, and don’t underestimate the natural sunscreen of a beautiful shade tree!

outdoor patio idea 5

Fun With Flooring

Most of us think of a concrete slab when it comes to patios, and there are some beautiful options available, whether stamped, stained, or textured, but 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, versus being too busy as one might expect. 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

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 a 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…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. Plus, it dramatically extends the gardening season. 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 if not properly sheltered. So, for an unabashed “hort-head”, a built-in patio also offers much needed protection for my treasured investment.

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, pocket book 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 Nursery and Garden Center in Raleigh Hills today. We’d love to help you on your next outdoor.

The 5 Elements of Smart Rain Garden Design

The 5 Elements of Smart Rain Garden Design

Design elements that work with excess rainwater instead of against it.

In the Pacific Northwest, it rains; everyone knows this. Though those particularly dreary spells, those few peaks of sunlight feel like a lifeline to warmer and brighter times. But before we all move on to flowers, long hikes, and lazy river floats, let’s think for a second and consider what we can do this summer to better prepare our landscapes for the excess rainwater that is bound to plague the Northwest again next fall.

We know what you’re thinking, who wants to think about rain anymore? There’s sun and relaxing hammock days ahead, and it’s so close we can taste it! But more likely than most, your landscapes suffered this winter from the snow and the torrential downpour that has been February and March. Rainwater is puddling in places you’ve never seen it before, your drainage is uneven, and your planting beds are waterlogged. Don’t put all of this aside until next year when the problem arises again.  In addition to using the traditional drainage techniques such as trench drains, flo-wells, catch basins, etc., we can remedy these issues with a few design elements that will also add some pizzazz to your landscape whether its wet or dry.

There are many different types of solutions for rainwater management. Water is a funny element, in that, we can’t always control it. It’s possible that these solutions still couldn’t fix drainage issues, or they could come back.

The following are suggestions that can alleviate excess water, but never a sure-fire solution to any and all problems.

What is a Rain Garden?

Rain gardens are a great way to dress up a part of the landscape, as well as add functionality to it. To the untrained eye, it looks like a grouping of plants, hopefully native, but at least water-loving. Depending on the plant choices, they can be bright and colorful, with lots of different textures and varied bloom times, only 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, put in some fresh soil and/or drain rock, plant water-loving plants thinking about the locations that will be getting the most and least water, and watch it collect rainwater and thrive. This is obviously over-simplified and there’s more that goes into it, and a good online resource is Portland Metro. They have a guide that goes through the technical ways to design and build a rain garden if you’re looking to do the job yourself. If not, give us a call, we can help.

The following images are not rain gardens that we have built. But great images to show how lovely and useful a rain garden can be.

rain garden

A rain garden in action! Source: SailorsTales

Related image

See? aren’t they wonderful and amazing?

Dry Stream Bed

dry stream bed

Dry stream beds go by many names, dry river bed, 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, and the best way to get that result is to hire a genuine craftsman, one who possesses the skill of an engineer and the eye of an artist, such as Drake’s 7 Dees. 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. These are our favorite to design and install of the rainwater design elements called out on this list. They allow for the most creativity and look absolutely stunning when they’re done correctly and look natural.

In general, the 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 Plants

Take a gander at some of our most successful finished products.

dry stream bed
dry stream bed
dry stream bed

 Permeable Paving for Rain Gardens

Permeable Paver Section

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

Patios and walkways are great! And they’re essential to using your outdoor space. Permeable paving is an easy way to make your hardscape a little more environmentally friendly by reducing the amount of rainwater that is put elsewhere. Meaning, they can cut down on flooding in areas you’d prefer it not flood. They’re also best suited for low-traffic areas like driveways, patios, and walkways .

While the long-term benefits are significantly greater, the initial cost of installation for permeable pavers is 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, and you care about the quality of the water going back into the ground.

There are a lot of different types of design aesthetic with these guys. Depending on the end product you’re looking for, there are numerous products to choose from.

You can purposefully let the grass or ground cover grow up in between each paver creating a hybrid paver/garden space to park on.

pervious pavers, permeable pavers

Source: ReadingRock Building Materials and Services

permeable pavers

Source: Mutual Materials

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

permeable pavers

Source: Krienbrook Permeable Pavers

So don’t let all this rain get you down! There are ways to deal with all this water in an incredibly creative manner that is both functional and beautiful at the same time. And don’t we all just love form and function working together? YES!!

Let us help you plan for next Fall! We want to collaborate with you! Check out our Houzz ideabook for contemporary uses of water that actually inspired the design of our Drizzle Garden at the Portland Home & Garden Show last month.

If you’re interested in starting a project, give us a call and we can help with the design, planning, and installation of any rainwater solutions.

If you have any questions about designing your rain garden, be sure to give us a shout at our Portland Nursery and Garden Center!

Affordable Landscaping: The 11 Phases

Affordable Landscaping: The 11 Phases

Redoing your outdoor areas, whether you are starting from scratch, updating parts of an existing landscape or completely renovating your current landscaping, 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 affordable 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 a Master Affordable 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, and 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 phase. Typical phases may include…

1. Affordable Landscaping Surfaces

Sod, seeding, groundcovers, or mulching. Why? For both 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 phase 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 phases to create your dream landscape. Contact us at our Portland Nursery located in the Raleigh Hills neighborhood!

Native to Oregon Low Maintenance Home and Garden Plants

Native to Oregon Low Maintenance Home and Garden Plants

Low-Maintenance Landscape Design for Oregon Native Plants


In our Design Studio, we get a lot of requests for a low-maintenance landscapes using Oregon native plants. While spending time in the garden is important to some, others have different responsibilities that keep them from doing that, or just have a general lack of interest/ability to really nurture their outdoor space.  No judgement here, sometimes it’s just not your thing. Low-maintenance landscapes have become higher in demand as our lives and hobbies change, and Oregon native plants offer a solution in the best way.


While spending a little time weeding and watering new plants is a reality, there are plant palettes that can take a bit of that work off your plate. Having Drake’s 7 Dees design a native landscape can be the remedy for a landscape that doesn’t fit your lifestyle.



This is the Pacific Coast Iris and is ridiculously gorgeous and also native to Oregon!



The Benefits of a Native Landscape


Natives have a lot to offer and sometimes get a bad wrap for being messy or for not being flashy enough. While this can be true for some of them, there are quite a few Oregon native perennials, trees, shrubs, and ground covers that have the ability to really knock your socks off.


Don’t get us wrong, there are non-native plants that are hardy and will thrive without a lot of tending to, but the benefits of using a plant native to this region can definitely persuade some to move more in that direction.


You can in fact have a beautiful landscape that also:


  • Supports wildlife – think of the birds!
  • Controls pests – native plants have developed their own defenses against many pests and diseases (no pesticides needed)
  • Saves time and money by needing little watering or maintenance, when they’re planted in the proper conditions



Just a few examples…


Here are just a few of the Oregon native plants that can add some definite beauty without any duty (see what we did there) to your landscape.



Cornus nuttallii (Pacific Dogwood)




Sedum oreganum (Oregon Stonecrop)



Ribes aureum var. aureum (Golden Currant)


And soooooo many more! These are just a few of the show stoppers that provide a low-maintenance solution while still giving a landscape curb appeal.



Drake’s can design it for you!


This website provides a vast native plant list to really delve into and find some incredible plants you’ll love.


If a native, low-maintenance landscape is on your mind, just contact us and we can design and install your dream landscape that doesn’t take all your free time to keep looking stunning!


Several Portland area projects - Traditional - Landscape - Other - by Drake's 7 Dees Landscaping & Garden Center