Landscape Design

Welcome to Resilience Design.

Specializing in urban and rural homesteads, landscape designer and horticulturist Mulysa Melco brings over 25 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 more effectively, lowering your maintenance or beautifying your property, contact me to set up a consultation.

Mulysa Melco

Here are a few examples of my work.

Wildlife Haven, Portland, OR 2021 This family’s goal is to have a Platinum certified Backyard Habitat, so we used almost all locally native plant species, planned in vegetation layers ranging from ground cover to tall canopy layer to provide food, shelter and places to raise young for the broadest range of songbird and pollinator species. The result will also have great seasonal interest, and plenty of space for the family to play.

Color, Fun and Biodiversity, Portland, OR 2020 Here is a project I just finished for a family that wanted to convert their front lawn into a colorful habitat garden and add outdoor living space to their backyard. We also planned two important features for their wide Southside yard – an annual veggie garden with several raised beds and fruiting vines and a mixed hedgerow to offer a bit of privacy for their kitchen windows where they spend a lot of time.


Community Living on 5000 sq. ft., Portland, OR 2019 An inspired young couple restored an older home, and then transformed the garage into a modern ADU for themselves. A series of interconnected living rooms offer outdoor dinning, relaxing and play spaces amid lush edible plantings and medicinal herbs – plus plants that remind them of their heritage. There is space for friends in their handmade tiny house with their own deck, chickens, water catchment and honeybees!


A Backyard Haven, Portland, 2018 Space for both kids and adults was a priority in this small backyard – as was low maintenance. So we create a play area with a gravel pit, a tea corner with a mini-patio, and in between, a place for the family to gather on a covered patio under edible vines. The plantings mix native and edible species and are safe for kids and cat (outdoors with supervision.)


An Urban Retreat, Portland, 2017 A complete yard renovation creates a series of interconnected spaces to relax, dine and play, set within low-water use plantings that provide habitat while keeping a modern look. Major changes to the rain water runoff system capture water for irrigation and preparedness, while helping recharge groundwater.

Falling in Love with your YardHunt_Landscape_Plantings_2017_web, Portland, 2017 Sometimes a yard is not as useable and inviting as you wish. This design creates welcoming spaces for spending time outdoors for the various ages of family members: a patio with a fire pit, a covered area for reading, doggie play space, herbs and berries, plus a front entry garden for chatting with neighbors. The plantings give a sense of enclosure, yet with dappled light that evokes the owner’s hometown.

Dillon-Manolo Base Map - v1A Modern, Multifunctional Family Garden, Portland, 2016 This minimalist take on an urban homestead includes several outdoor living spaces: a terrace with poured concrete pavers, a sunken patio with fire pit and a children’s play nook. Plantings include a mix of NW native and New Zealand species, a parking strip meadow of wildflowers and oaks, and a small eco-lawn for play. A raised bed vegetable garden and perennial edibles throughout ensure plenty of snacking opportunities. The homeowner added elegant planters with mediterranean plants. A drip irrigation system makes for easy maintenance. Another example of much can be done in a small space, this is one of my favorite projects in years.

HopFarm_Plan_ResilienceDesignPollinator Conservation, Oregon, 2015 A large acreage farm prioritized conservation and sought to achieve Salmon Safe Certification. Their first step was to reduce chemical usage on site and create habitat buffers to filter runoff and boost beneficial insect populations. A bigger picture view of farm use resulted in much more: a pollinator meadow, native hedgerows, vegetated swales and an small oak woodland restoration, along with an entrance design to facilitate eco-tourism efforts, a nature trail with owl boxes for educational programs and a community garden for farm workers.

Forsthoefel_Plantings_webFood and Flowers Every Day, North Portland, 2015 An established garden got a make-over to create even more productive space for growing edibles and cut flowers. Fruit trees and vines, native berry bushes and perennial edibles compliment the existing annual vegetable gardens, chicken coop and aquaponics set-up. Habitat areas for beneficial insects filled in all the gaps, to create a more balanced garden eco-system.

Kennedy_Masterplan_Planting_webHabitat for Kids and Birds, Northeast Portland, 2015 Active space for two little boys was a high priority for this small urban garden. A gravel pit, guinea pig hutch, eco-lawn and raised veggie beds provide plenty of opportunities for out door play, while the plantings offer year-round harvest. The yard is designed to Backyard Habitat Certification standards, including native plant species in all vegetation layers, steward ship elements such as habitat logs and hummingbird flowers.

Trout_Lake_2015Habitat Restoration, Trout Lake, WA, 2014
The owners of this unique and scenic 18-acre organic wished to expand the native habitat buffer along its beautiful river. Planning began in conjunction with the careful siting of a new homesite that would integrate with the existing topography. Home to a diversity of birds, butterflies and pollinators plus flying squirrels and other sensitive species, the expansion of the existing high-quality riparian habitat will have immediate benefits for local ecology. The plant palette was chosen mainly from the list created in the plant community assessment phase from over 70 native species on site.

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.

Whimsical 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, asparagus, 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 (24 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 and Instagram.


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.


Cottage Garden Plan
St. Paul, Minnesota, 2002

A very small, plain front yard with a retaining wall became an exuberant flower garden that matched the homeowner’s fun-loving personality. Bold magenta, fuchsia and purple blooms brought in butterflies, songbirds and hummingbirds, and a structural backdrop of evergreens and wrought iron provided interest in the winter.

Suburban Yard Redesign
Roseville, Minnesota, 2000

This ranch house was surrounded by a lot of lawn and not much else. The property was backed by a railway right of way that was home to lots of wildlife and an interesting mix of plants, but the yard was so open it felt stark and exposed. In this working sketch, beds around the house extended to the front and back property lines, making a functional wildlife corridor that brought the scale of the yard in line with the house and created more private places to relax. The final design kept more lawn space, but still allowed for generous beds layered with native and drought tolerant plantings in shades of blue, white and silver. It became a place where the family wanted to be.

All content Copyright Mulysa Melco 2021

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