Deck/Paver Success

23 Jul

What to do with a big piece of grass on a hillside?  Add a deck and a covered spa.  The slope is an advantage because the top of the spa can sit at the deck level, making an easy in and out transition. Steps lead to a paver patio with a fire pit and seat wall.  The fire pit has an automatic lighter.  The seat wall is part retaining wall.

Before Deck/Patio

Before Deck/Patio

 Deck/Patio Combo

Deck/Patio Combo

Deck/patio combo

Deck/patio combo


29 May

KUMQUAT. Cantonese for “golden orange”

Every once in awhile I pass kumquats in the store and they plead with me to buy a few.  I do, hoping they’ll be a little exotic treat.  Most of the time I’m disappointed. The bite is like bittter orange rind.  From time to time one or two have a burst of sweet, sour and bitter all together and that’s the bingo! of kumquats.

A kumquat tree had never nudged the edges of my day dreams, but while in Palm Spring recently I came across a tree loaded with almond sized orange niblets.  I ran to the tree and plucked off a kumquat, and then another and more and more until my tongue was numb.  Bushels of delicious exotic treats.  Due to many days of kumquat overeating they probably won’t be able to talk their way into my grocery cart for a long time
20140509_105033 kumquat tree

Gold Medal Winner

21 Feb

We received a gold medal for this garden at Home and Garden Show this weekend in Portland.  Another metal screen designed by Christine is in the background.  Part of the wall is made of stained cedar connected with leather straps.  The black bowl has rocks that look like they are floating.  Christine glued rocks onto canning jars and setting them in water.  People are so curious they keep picking up the rocks to see how it’s done, somewhat to my chagrin.  Too bad you can’t make out the kangaroo paws in the back.  They are interesting annuals.

Landscape Inspired Art

4 Feb

GnE post_front TEST

We’re installing a garden at the Home and Garden Show Fe 20-23.  As usual, we’re incorporating ideas no clients would allow us to put in their yard.  There will be 2 x 12 wood scraps hinged together with leather alongside old buckets that will be used to build a retaining wall.  We’ll also show how colorful foliage can complement and enhance one another along with flowers, something that is one our strengths.   And Christine has designed a new steel screen for this garden.

We commissioned Jonathan Gregg to create an illustration based on our garden concept.  The screen is in the background.

Patio with fire pit, seat wall and pond

28 Jan

Pull up a chair and roast a marshmallow.  Or perch on the seat wall and listen to the water pouring off the rocks.  This backyard patio has a modern touch with the use of architectural slabs  and thin stack stone used for the wall.  There’s a nod to the farm land that surrounds the secluded patio by using boulders unearthed from the site for the fire pit as well as the water feature.

Front Screen Adds Panache

4 Dec

This screen was just installed in front of a client’s courtyard I designed years ago.  We’ve edited the plant material over the years and this season it was time to remove the old fake stucco wall and add a bit of pizzaz.   The black modern look fits well with the marble stone in the entry, especially when the hose isn’t sprawling over it (why don’t I tidy up for photos?).  Several neighbors have called to compliment the change. The screen design is a “Christine Ellis” original.


.618 The Golden Number: Natures Sense of Proportion

21 Nov

Do you want to know where to stick that new piece of art in your garden?

This afternoon at the Lake Grove Garden Club, some 30 members listened to my talk on placing art in the garden by using the golden number .618.  It brought out great questions from  members and hopefully they have a tool to begin to understand where to place art in their garden.  It can also be used inside with furniture arrangement and wall art placement.  Proportion is the one element that can elude us.  Usually we know when color clashes or styles don’t fit, but is it too big or too small or too close or too far away?


Five handouts are still available so contact

I will snail mail to you a set.


Contemporary Front Yard

17 Oct

I recently designed a yard for a new contemporary house.  You can see two stories from the driveway and the front yard is teeny tiny.  The challenge was to  bring some height to a shady this area that would have no irrigation system.   The owner chose corrugated metal as part of the siding, so I commissioned powdered coated steel planters wrapped with corrugated material.

The following plants were planted with shade and low water in mind.  They are evergreen/semi-everreen so the front always looks good.  I do alot of research when planning areas like this so my clients don’t have to deal with much plant death.   They will need to water for the first year or so (in the PNW) and then only when we have a week of 100 degree days.

Taxus baccata ‘fastigiata’   Columnar Yew

Nandina domestica   Heavenly Bamboo

Sarcoccoca hookerana humilis   Sweet Box

Tsuga canadensis ‘Gentsch White’   Getsch White Candadian Hemlock

Euonymus fortunei ‘Harlequin’   Harlequin Euonymus

Bergenia ‘Winter Glut’   Winter Glut Elephant Ear

Dropteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’*   Brilliance Autumn Fern

Polystichum setiferum*    Soft Shield Fern

*According to Sunset, these ferns will be fine without much summer water after they’re established if they are in the shade.

Mid Century Modern Matching Garden to House

7 Oct

Yipee.  I’m sitting in my studio appreciating the craftsmanship that Cedarscapes, the landscape contractor, put into my backyard.  I designed it to be sleek and clean to match the garden to the mid century house.  A mid century can be designed with a range of looks and still be suited to the house.  But my interior is fairly modern, so I wanted that look to be reflected outside.

When we moved in I knew the yard would be another investment, but to keep the cost down it’s fairly simple. I’d love to have a large piece of metal sculpture sitting in a bed and some tall rusted panels welded together at one end.  But the design works without that.  From the house, diagonal path takes the eye to the lookout patio and on the landscape beyond.  The lookout patio is under 30″ tall thereby not requiring a railing.  However, I planted a Yew below that just reaches the top of the wall and will grow another foot to discourage jumping and cushion a possible fall (which isn’t going to happen).

The pavers are architectural slabs. The retaining walls are made of corten steel.  The water feature is by Portland ceramist Katy McFadden (NO, they are not bubbler rocks) brought from the old house.  It is framed with one inch wide steel to tie it to the walls.  The plants are low care and most are drought tolerant.  If we let the lawn brown out next summer, we’ll reseed with micro clover, a low mow, low water user.







Front Yard Trellis

15 Aug

Christine and her husband enjoy chatting with neighbors in their front yard, but didn’t know anyone in their new neighborhood.  Not intentionally designed as a conversation starter, this trellis has helped them meet more people in their new neighborhood.  People stop and chat about it, wanting more details.  The shadow from Christine’s design adds depth to the installation.  Even though it’s a trellis, she pulled out a clematis that had it’s tentacles ready to climb.  The pattern’s too crisp to  entangle with a plant.