High Desert Landscapes in Portland?

by Ben Bowen

Portland Xeriscape Landscape Design

I hope you are sitting down. Portland is not a desert. Ferns, azaleas, rhododendrons, and moss all thrive here. Those are not desert plants.

high desert front yard

But what if you are tired of that plant selection? And want something different? Something water wise and low maintenance? Then perhaps a high desert landscape design would be perfect.

What does a high desert landscape design look like in Portland? It looks like eastern Oregon, just tailored to our weather and soil. Picture in your mind a "native landscape". Imagine xeriscaping in Portland. (See the slide below for some great plant choices.) You probably just saw a high desert style garden.

When I design a "high desert" landscape, I am try to create a specific feel. These landscapes are a little sharper than the typical PNW landscape (more lush). Hues are more blue and gray, with less of the deep greens we usually see. Hardscapes lean towards browns and rust, not the gray of Columbia River basalt.

Lawns take a back seat in the high desert garden. Dry creeks and other stone features provide focal points. Water features are just fine, with plantings being a little more lush along the edges.

Trees are often conifers, pines especially are at home in the high desert. I like to see a lot of bark in a high desert landscape. Structure really matters here.  Shrubs like manzanitas and ceanothus replace the typical azaleas and rhodies. Juniper returns from the 1970's and seem ok again. Perennials like astilbe and wild strawberry bring color and texture.

Does this rambling explanation make you want a high desert of your own? Let's meet and discuss the possibilities!

High Desert (Xeriscape) Plants For Portland: