Landscape Design

Resilience Design

Sustainable Landscape Design

Homesteads ~ Habitats

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Specializing in urban and rural homesteads, landscape designer and horticulturist Mulysa Melco brings over 20 years of experience and a life-long passion for nature and ecological living to her practice.

Creating productive, multi-functional spaces that support sustainable living is my goal. I help clients tap into natural abundance right where they are, taking into consideration the unique characteristics of the site, their time and resources and their personal style. 

I design landscapes to enhance habitat for people, plants and wildlife. My approach incorporates Permaculture principles and an awareness of needing to re-envision how we use our land and resources as our society transitions to lower energy consumption. I believe there are myriad powerful, positive and pleasurable changes we can make in our daily lives – starting in our own yards.

To discuss ideas for using your space better, lowering your maintenance or beautifying your property, contact me to set up a consultation.

Mulysa Melco

Here are a few examples of past work. Click on images to view larger size.

Edible Homestead Landscape
Southwest Portland, 2014

This small lot design demonstrates how much diversity of food and habitat can be woven into narrow spaces. The existing lot had several elevation and drainage challenges that were mitigated using mostly on-site resources. The plan calls for greatly reducing paved surfaces in favor of a combination of permeable paving, steppable ground covers and a raised bed vegetable garden with native bee houses. A front yard gathering area is buffered from the street with an edible hedgerow, while the back yard features a outdoors rooms for relaxing and entertaining, screened by native plantings. Living roofs, a living wall with a vertical water feature, espallier fruit trees and many varieties of trellised vines help make the best use of limited space.
Family Backyard
Southeast Portland, 2014
This dreamy backyard offers opportunities for the whole family to play and relax. There is a hot tub, whimsical playhouse with a hobbit tunnel beneath, an eco-lawn, cedar deck, arbor-covered benches, and a fairy waterfall and pool to dip your feet in. And there is space to grow fruits, veggies and herbs with a greenhouse, raised beds and edible plantings. Many Northwest native plants are incorporated into the backdrop to bring in bird visitors and host pollinators.

Woodland Habitat Garden
Northwest Portland, Oregon, 2013

This wooded front yard contained mature plantings and beautiful natives, but lacked cohesion. Special features like a Japanese flowering cherry surrounded by a moss garden and graceful vine maples were retained. The owners had achieved Plantinum Level Backyard Habitat Certification, so all renovations adhered to that criteria. For instance a rose garden was converted to a meadowscape planted with Willamette Valley native flowers and grasses to better serve wildlife and to lower maintenance.

Edible Front Yard
North Portland, 2013

When a large tree had to come down, this front yard turned became a blank-slate ready for a new vision. The plan retains an existing lawn for kids and dogs to play on, bordered by tough, drought tolerant plantings that bloom throughout the seasons. Perennial edible plantings include Chestnut, persimmon, pie cherry, olive, many types of berries and Mediterranean herbs. The layout creates some privacy and a sense of enclosure for the corner lot, while still having a friendly, neighborhood vibe.

Homestead Master Plan
Itasca County, Minnesota, 2012

A 40 acre parcel is undergoing an ecological restoration, preserving a large tract of wetland, converting 19 acres of corn fields into tall grass prairie. A 2-acre permaculture homestead site (shown at left) includes a timber-framed green home with solar power and stuga, a traditional sauna and a pole barn. The land surrounding the new house has honeybees, a fruit and nut orchard, a sugar bush for maple syrup, and extensive gardens focusing on native and multifunctional plants. Planned amenities include a poultry coop, rainwater storage, a contemplation garden and hedgerows. The project, now in its third year, draws on many of the family’s and community’s skill sets and local resources such as reclaimed lumber.  Techniques utilizes in site preparation on a sandy soil include sheet mulching and hugelkulture.


Prairie School Back Yard
Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2010

A kitchen addition necessitated a landscape revision for this compact back yard space. Features include a small patio, increased privacy, herbs, fruiting screens and a bench. The plantings are almost entirely indigenous and strive to complement the arts and crafts architecture as much as the carefully planned addition does.


Permaculture Design Course Concept Project, PSU Art Building, 2010
The public entrance to the building is softened with multi-functional plants: some provide fiber, dye and material for student artists; others filter runoff in rain gardens; many are edible and all have value to beneficial insects and urban wildlife. A low maintenance level, safety and accessibility were taken into consideration throughout the design process.

Garden plan 2011

Michael and Mulysa’s Garden
Portland, Oregon, 2008-present
My own garden is guided by a master plan, but evolves. It is an exercise in taking my own landscaping advice! Each year we learn so much and continue to be informed by the site, inspired by incremental accomplishments and cheered on by the birds (21 species!) and critters who have taken up our offer of habitat.

So far our urban homestead includes a greenhouse made of reclaimed windows, a rain water storage system, micro drip irrigation, a space-efficient structure that incorporates a coop, compost bins, a potting bench, a tool shed and will have a green roof. We have a small ecolawn, permeable paving, a rain garden and over 60 species of edible and medicinal plants.

See photos of the garden on Flickr.




Master Plan – Family Garden
Southeast Portland, Oregon

A corner lot on a busy street was reconfigured to be kid- and pet-friendly, with space for veggies and lots of fruit and berries. A balance between privacy and neighborliness was created while organizing the space at entries and transition zones in the yard.


Illustration of Fenton House
London, England 2004

While studying historic gardens in England during grad school, I came upon Fenton House. It has a 300 year old orchard with honey bees, a green house, a kitchen garden, a formal lawn with topiary, color boarders, tubs planted with Agapanthus, a sunken rose garden, clipped hedges, benches under arbors – all in a relatively small area. It’s delightful. I loved it so I drew this plan of it.


Front Yard Garden
St. Paul, Minnesota, 2003

A mid-century brick ranch house on a large lot gets an update, adding wildlife value, seasonal interest and lower maintenance.


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