Design · Installation · Maintenance
Residential & Commercial
Portland Metro Areas
Trellises, Arbors, and Hardscapes
We use repurposed or up-cycled materials for positive environmental impact and a back-to-nature look. See our relevant projects.
What is a Food Forest?
More Harvest · Less Work
On a conventional farm, whether it is in an apple orchard or a lettuce farm, you often see rows of evenly spaced plants of the same height. Yet in nature, plants grow all different sizes with many varieties of species. You often see short trees under tall trees, tall shrubs under short trees, short shrubs under tall shrubs, etc.
A food forest mimics a natural forest to create an ecosystem for effective food production. One arrangement of a food forest can be tall nut trees, dwarf fruit trees, berry shrubs, supportive herbs, vegetables, edible ground covers, mushrooms.
This compact layering of plants maximizes sunlight and nutrient utilization to create higher yield with less land. It also creates a habitat where the plants, insects, fungi, and bacteria interact and benefit from each other. Such a balanced system leaves no room for weeds, attracts beneficial organisms that minimize pests, increases water retention, and restores soil nutrients.
We offer many varieties of food systems, including perennial vegetable gardens, medicine gardens, herb gardens, fruit tree guilds, or a combination of the above.
What is a Native Ecoscape?
Restore Habitats · Minimal Maintenance
Native plants take the least amount of time and money to maintain, simply because they are already adapted to the climate and soil conditions of their region. They also don’t need fertilizers or pesticides.
Native plants attract butterflies, birds, pollinators, and beneficial insects by providing food and habitat for them. They help restore plant and animal habitats in your local ecosystems. Some native plants can also be used as food and medicines for humans.
We carefully select and install plants that thrive in the particular microclimate of your yard. We pair plants together that have beneficial relationship to each other. This creates a resilient ecosystem, an ecoscape, that requires little to no maintenance once established.
We offer many varieties of native ecoscapes, including butterfly gardens, bird gardens, meadowscapes, woodlands, rain gardens etc. You can also combine native ecoscapes with food forests to create your ultimate low maintenance homestead.
Regenerative Ecological Practice
Our landscaping philosophy and practice
The term “regenerative” describes systems that replenish and reproduce their own sources of energy and materials. For example, in a forest, plants are eaten (repurposed) by animals. The “waste” from animals gets further repurposed by worms, fungi and bacteria into nutrient dense soil, which is then repurposed by plants again.
Hardly anything is “wasted” in this regenerative system. The energy and materials are instead moved and transformed from one part of the system to the next, and eventually spiral back to the originator.
This spiraling regeneration is in direct contrast to many conventional / industrial processes. Even ones labeled “green”, “sustainable”, “eco-friendly”, “organic” still operate in one direction – consume then dispose. At best, these processes produce zero negative impact – zero carbon – doing no harm.
However, zero negative impact is not enough. We need positive impact. We need to recapture carbon, reverse climate change, and restore our crippled planetary system. Regenerative Ecological Practice can do just that.
Regenerative Ecological Practice (REP) is the process of learning, designing, creating, and facilitating resilient systems using the patterns that already work well in nature – systems that replenish and reproduce renewable resources, systems that persist and evolve without much external intervention, systems that nurture all of their inhabitants, etc.
We know REP works, because many natural systems of our planet have persisted for tens of millions of years with the same principles. For example, the Amazon rainforest persisted for 50 million years.
Humans (especially indigenous people) have also been using REP for landscaping and farming for tens of thousands of years. Only in modern times, had it been replaced by degenerative practices that deplete soil nutrients, waste water, pollute the environment, destroy wildlife, and exacerbate climate change with constant application of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides.
REP, on the other hand, regenerates soil and water, recaptures carbon, and revitalizes the planet again. Fortunately, REP is having a come back recently. You may have heard it as different terms – permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry, system thinking, holistic design, resilience design, etc. A big part of SymbiOp’s mission is to fully utilize REP in our landscaping services and spread its knowledge further.
Consultation, Design, Installation Process
Professional Standard Customized to Individual Needs
Most of our projects take place in 3 stages: Consultation, Design, Installation.
At the consultation, our lead designer will walk through your property with you, assess the conditions of the land, understand your needs/goals, and help you visualize what’s possible. We can often give you an exact quote for the design right there and then. If you decide to hire us, your consultation fee will be credited to your later invoice.
During the design, our team of designers will develop your vision further, engineer the details of your backyard ecosystem, and finalize the exact cost and timeline for the installation. We will work with you to find the best materials and methods within your budget constraints. Depending on the project, your final design document can include architectural drawings/plans, plants attributes/benefits, ecosystem functions and how you can interact with them, and more.
The installation will be conducted by our team of experienced installers, lead by one of our installation leads. This team will finish your project in a professional, timely, tidy, and safe manner.
Throughout the installation, our lead designer will also come on-site to assure everything is done correctly. Whenever you have any concerns, you can talk to the installation lead or the designer directly, or just call our office during our business hours.
If you also decide to hire us to do regular maintenance, we will assign workers that already worked on your project, so as to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.
Who We Are
Value-led · Mission-driven
SymbiOp started off as one-person shop. Over the years we have grown significantly. Our designers and gardeners have 10+ years of experience cultivating ecological landscapes, and even more years of experience with plant care in general.
The name SymbiOp stands for Symbiosis Cooperative. We picked that because we value the idea of symbiosis – a mutually beneficial relationship for all participants.
We apply this value not only in the work we do, by creating landscapes that are beneficial to our customers, our communities, and our planet, but also in how we govern our company, as a worker cooperative, an employee-owned company.
Having equal voice and stake in the company enables us to work symbiotically. Our wages are fair. Our work environment is healthy. We take care of each other. We strive to be compassionate, inclusive, and equitable.
Symbiosis is not just a product that we sell. It is a value that we believe in. We value it so much, we put it in our bylaws, so that we legally have to consider our social / environmental impacts before our financial gains.
Meet the Team
Experts · Artists · Planet Stewards