Courtyard Gardens

Our front courtyard opens to the southeast and gets lots of sunshine. When we started work, it was an unappealing space covered with grass, dandelions and moss – and was almost never used. But there was enormous potential, and it has been a high priority for us to transform this courtyard into a beautiful, active, welcoming community space and productive garden.

In Spring 2004, we held a design charrette to brainstorm how we might transform the courtyard. The main themes that emerged from the charrette have guided our subsequent design work. These themes include:

  • Heavy use of edible and native plantings
  • Providing plenty of space for productive, organic gardens – and composting bins
  • Incorporating original artwork
  • Creating pleasant outdoor spaces for parties, pot-lucks, or just lounging around with a book, lawn chair and glass of water
  • Allowing each resident to customize the area in front of their home with plantings and artwork of their choice
  • Doing as much of the work ourselves as possible, through fun work parties (and good food, of course!)
  • Using a rainwater catchment system to help meet watering needs
  • Creating a grade change and low buffer to provide some privacy from traffic on Albina Ave., while preserving a visual connection between the courtyard and pedestrians who walk by
  • Providing lots of short and long term options for secure bicycle parking

In just our first summer (2004), we made a lot of progress towards these goals. Courtyard installations so far include:

  • New native street trees along Albina Ave. and Holman St.
  • An artistically hand-set retaining wall of local stone provides seating for people waiting for the bus, planting niches for herbs and spices, and a small grade change to lift the courtyard above the level of adjacent streets.
  • A small fruit tree grove containing two apple trees, a plum tree and a pear tree
  • A mix of deciduous and evergreen blueberry and huckleberry bushes
  • Native ….
  • Strawberries and various fresh herbs and spices scattered along the top of the retaining wall
  • 6 raised garden beds surrounding a central, circular patio lawn
  • Two compost bins from Metro
  • Bike racks in the planting strip with ‘bike haiku’ tiles set into the concrete slab

But we’re not done yet! With full occupancy, a warm spring and the gardening bug, we have plunged into 2005 with more gardening and landscaping installations:

  • Two new courtyard garden beds exclusively for strawberries
  • Flower gardens fronting on Holman St.
  • Two new raised beds in the Holman St. planting strip
  • More flowers, berries, peas, and other plantings right outside our front and back doors
  • And a new “Peninsula Park Commons” entrance sign on the corner!

Over time, this courtyard will inevitably evolve depending on the dreams (and sweat) of the folks who live here. Ideas for the future include:

  • A more durable central patio area with artistic seat wall(s)
  • Arched gateways and/or arbors at the pathways leading into the courtyard
  • A more private courtyard and possible deck on the ‘north lot’, to accompany the addition of 3-4 units
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