Great Backyards Magazine Showcases Our Landscape Design

Great Backyards Magazine Showcases Our Landscape Design

Ever have a national magazine call and ask to highlight something you’ve been working on?

We have . . . and there’s nothing like it. In fact, it’s rather exhilarating. Imagine having Great Backyards Magazine showcase one of your landscape designs? It’s extremely exciting to be contacted out-of-the-blue from a national magazine who says they’ve been poking around in your portfolio . . . on your website. “What, you like us? Yes, we’d be happy to share our property images with you for your next spread reaching stands in 2  months!”

That particular landscape was the Auerbach  Property. A small backyard in SW Portland with a unique design plan.

Readers . . . we have a “Guided Tours” series in this blog venue where we take you on a tour of our properties. I got to thinking it would be fun to show you this landscape through the eyes of Veronica Fowler of Great Backyards Magazine. Boy, to write like her someday . . . she brings this little backyard to life with useful info & descriptions.

Only problem, for those of you on a cell phone, it’s difficult to see the small print of the article. Easy, the tiny print is highlighted after each page. That means 1-of-2 things . . . one, you can whip through the blog and check it out reading what you can, or two, you can take the time to read the info. Seriously, if you have a small backyard and are thinking transformation, read through it. She makes you think about landscape know-how you’ll appreciate. Also, don’t forget the link to the property above to see all aspects of the backyard.

So, here we go . . . .


Even in a small backyard, dividing the landscape up into multiple “rooms” with different destinations along the way makes a limited space live large.

The owner of this inviting Portland, Oregon, home leads a hectic lifestyle hosting a national television program. He wanted a landscape that was varied and interesting—but would take almost no maintenance. Designer Micah Dennis of Paradise Restored broke it up into “rooms”: patios, pergolas, and paths that The little lot that has it all entice people out the back door and draw them through a series of relaxing areas to dine, lounge, or enjoy a fire during a cool Pacific Northwest evening. The steep upward slope worked to the design’s advantage; it was broken up with a terrace that creates multi-level spaces that naturally feel like separate areas.


To minimize maintenance, Dennis filled this backyard with hardscape elements. So that it didn’t end up feeling like a parking lot, he worked with a number of different materials and included easy-care perennial plantings. Mix It Up A variety of different materials keeps things interesting: slate, flagstone, packed dark Located at the top of a steep slope, this den-like fire pit area is one of several gathering spots in the garden. o No more firewood, smoke, or flying embers. This fire pit is fueled by a gas line. divide to gravel, cedar decking, river rock, basalt stacking stones, and boulders. Yet all are local and of similar colors to achieve a harmonious look. How Dry it Is A dry creekbed adds nomaintenance interest with the addition of native river rocks, boulders, and perennials.


Located at the top of a steep slope, this den-like fire pit area is one of several gathering spots in the garden

The arbor is planted with an evergreen clematis for future privacy

No more firewood, smoke, or flying embers. This fire pit is fueled by a gas line


This landscape does a masterful job of subtly pulling people through the space, giving them cues on where to walk and sit. That’s the kind of landscape that makes you feel most at ease.  “Destinations” such as the fire pit, inviting seating, benches, and a bubbler water feature make sure no one stays just at the bottom of the garden near the entry door. Each element draws people to it. Primary paths give those entering the garden a glimpse of a brief, sweeping route to the back and top, while smaller secondary paths of flagstones encourage off-the-beaten path exploration. Mulch and gravel play supporting roles for the flagstones. They broaden the path so that people don’t feel like they’re hopping from stone to stone.


The upper pergola, shown on this page, is a textbook illustration of what makes an irresistible outdoor spot to relax and enjoy. Key elements: Something Special Lit outdoor candles draw people up to enjoy their soft glow. Something Soft People far prefer sitting on soft, dry surfaces than hard and perhaps cold and damp. Outdoor cushions and pillows make all the difference. (Stash them in the garage or shed when not in use.) Something Social Usually, people want to sit where they can be joined by other people. Group outdoor seating for 4 to 8 people. Seating arrangements much larger than that can feel impersonal.


This covered pergola, above, is at the top of the backyard’s slope. A multi-level cedar path with a bridge leads up from the cooking/dining area: It’s like the living room of the landscape. Opposite, the entire design is done in a style that locals in Oregon and Washington call “Pacific Northwest Japanese.”

A raised platform recalls an Asian-inspired retreat

Place small tables near any outdoor seating to hold drinks

Hanging candles are an easy, inexpensive way to add instant ambience



This backyard contains the exterior versions of a kitchen, a dining room, a living room, and a den.

Directly out the back door is a grill and dining area, above. It’s conveniently located just outside the kitchen to accommodate dashes indoors for ingredients and supplies.


Outdoor dining areas work best when they contain some of the elements found in this landscape: Shelter An umbrella blocks harsh sun and fends off raindrops. A Sturdy Table Nothing rickety or rocking, please. A solid table encourages constant use. Comfy Seating Hard chairs will work, but cushioned dining chairs encourage lingering. A Rug A rug adds color and a sense of occasion to outdoor dining. A Centerpiece Sure, you can do cut flowers for company, but a pot of colorful annuals or a planting dish of succulents serves as a centerpiece that you can use every day. Real Dishes Paper has its place, but permanent plates and serving ware make it feel like a proper meal.


The homeowner wanted to keep lawn maintenance to a minimum, but a backyard without any lawn at all can feel austere. Here’s how to strike a balance: If you are doing a small bit of lawn, splurge for turf rather than starting grass from seed. You’ll want it to be instantly lush and full. Avoid narrow strips of turf. They can look out of place. Also, lawn grasses thrive best when planted in larger masses.

Plan for enough lawn that children can play on it. If you are using the lawn as a walkway, it should be at least 5 or 6 feet across. Turf is a sun-lover. Most grasses need at least 6 hours of full, direct unfiltered light a day. For shadier areas, opt for low-growing ground covers that are shade tolerant. Keep it up. Just because it’s small doesn’t mean it can be neglected. Water, fertilize, control weeds, and mow regularly just as you would with a larger lawn.


What could have been a nothing space becomes a destination point with the addition of a bench, below. The bench is also a focal point, adding visual interest to an otherwise ho-hum corner.

Use lighting to draw people to less-used parts of the yard.

The ceramic tile patio is positioned atop a concrete slab with a slight ledge to create the illusion that it’s floating.

Secondary paths encourage exploration of the landscape



Dry creekbeds are an excellent way to handle long, narrow low areas. When lined with special plastic landscaping liner, a dry creekbed can divert water away from problem drainage areas. In this yard, however, the creekbed is decorative only. Position rock in a dry creekbed the way you might find it in nature. As you see in this garden, they laid a bed of river rock (you can also use gravel) and then positioned larger stones for edging and accents. Whenever possible, use local stone. It looks more natural and at home with the rest of the landscape. This landscape uses Columbia river basalt and iron mountain slate, both from the area.


Water features are all the rage in today’s landscapes, but they don’t have to be large or expensive to make a splash. The little bubbler shown here “fills the whole backyard with that great sound,” Dennis says. Kid Safe Since they have no standing water, it’s almost impossible for children to come to harm with a bubbler. Bubbler Basics Bubblers are usually built by putting a fountain with a tall, narrow header in a bucket of water, then burying it. A strong grate covers the bucket, which is then covered with rock. Build Your Own It’s an easy afternoon project. Look for kits online, at garden centers, or from water garden specialty contractors.


Cedar planking is positioned to serve as a low bridge over the dry creekbed. Even though the bed is decorative only, the bridge makes it feel more authentic and helps integrate it into the landscape.

The cedar path has three levels to lend interest and encourage strolling

Near the dry creek, the existing sidewalk was edged with slate to mimic water

Clever use of hardscaping leaves just a postage-stamp sized yard to maintain

The sloping yard could be a problem, but a well-positioned low wall creates an ideal spot in which to build a dry creek



WHEW! GREAT GUIDED TOUR, HUH?  Many Thanks to Great Backyards and Veronica Fowler for the expressive words & layout in today’s post. Also, for discovering Paradise Restored over here in little old, Portland, OR and identifying our quality landscape designs.  And, especially, for taking our ‘great backyards’ into peoples homes across the Nation. We are eager to highlight additional properties that appeared in other editions. And, tah dah . . . last year we made the cover photo of the magazine, with our Stice Property.

Show-offs, right? Well, kind of, but you can imagine what it’s like for us at Paradise Restored. We get the news it’s on the magazine stands and run out for a bunch of copies. Afterall, we love what we do and it’s nice to receive recognition.

Who knows…. your landscape could be featured on the cover of Great Backyards too! All it takes is turning your landscape dreams into a reality. Contact us for a complimentary consultation @



Okay, it’s a wrap! Guided Tour over-and-out!

Catch you next time, thanks for stopping by,

Kim Thibodeau

Exterior Design Services



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