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Landscaping for People and Planet

Ecological Landscapes

  • Food Forest, Garden Bed
  • Native Ecoscape, Ecolawn
  • Butterfly Garden, Rain Garden
  • Regenerative / Permaculture Design

Beyond Green / Organic

  • Reverse Climate Change
  • Restore Habitats / Wildlife
  • Low Maintenance, Save Water
  • No Pesticide / Herbicide

10+ Years of Experience. Licensed (#9913), Insured, Bonded.

Certified Professional for the Backyard Habitat Program.

See Our Recent Work

Design · Installation · Maintenance

Residential & Commercial
Portland Metro Areas

Food Forests and Garden Beds

We use Regenerative Ecology to create edible ecosystems that are more resilient and productive than conventional methods. See our edible ecoscapes and raised beds.

Native Ecoscapes and Ecolawns

A backyard native ecosystem helps restore habitats and wildlife. It requires minimal maintenance. No need for fertilizers or pesticides. See our native ecoscapes and ecolawns.

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.

Conventional / Traditional / Commercial Landscapes

Our plant expertise can also make traditional landscapes more maintainable and beautiful.
See our traditional landscapes and commercial landscapes.

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.

Conventional vs Green vs Sustainable vs Restorative vs Regenerative

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

JT
System Engineer / Business Developer
(he/him)

As a kid, JT spent many hours learning about the earth and the universe, despite growing up in the concrete jungle of Shanghai, China. After moving to the United States and getting his degree in Physics, he dedicated his life in creating resilient systems, be them ecological systems, social systems, business systems, or computer systems. During his free time, JT likes to write essays and fictions, produce music, and go camping. Checkout his blog post detailing the founding of SymbiOp!

Nutmeg
Lead Landscape Designer
(she/her)

Born and raised on the west coast, Nutmeg has deep connections to the local ecosystems. Her passion drove her to study ecological landscape design and later on create her own landscaping business. She has also developed a line of sustainable herbal products using the plants she cultivated. During her free time, Nutmeg likes to tend her garden, cook, write music, and volunteer for social/environmental justice organizations.

Matt
Lead Landscape Designer
(he/him)

Before calling Portland home, Matt operated an ecological landscaping and nursery business on Vancouver Island, Canada that was featured in local publications. Though he started in traditional landscaping, he soon got tired of the unsustainable practices and toxic culture of that industry. As a member of the Metis Nation of BC, it became more and more important for him to reconnect with the indigenous side of his lineage and restore his relationship with the land. He studied from indigenous elders from all over the world, and has been practicing ecological landscaping ever since. During his free time, Matt enjoys exploring the nooks and crannies of new neighborhoods by bike and getting lost in the woods with his husband.

Lotus
Project Coordinator / Client Support
(she/her)

Lotus's relationship with nature started with teaching outdoor education to kids for many summers, helping them to connect to nature and understand their impact. She is passionate about building communities for the benefit of humans and nature. This is why outside of SymbiOp, she also serves on the boards of two community nonprofits in Portland. During her free time, Lotus likes to practice Buddhist meditation, read, write, and volunteer for animal shelters and social/environmental justice organizations.

Khalila
Project Coordinator / Corporate Administrator
(she/her)

Khalila is a Palestinian American, and is the first generation on her fathers side to be born in the United States. She has been gardening for years, but wasn't familiar with regenerative practices before SymbiOp. Incorporating these new practices into her own garden has been very rewarding. She believes in strengthening her community, whether through crisis counseling or trash cleanup.  During her free time, she enjoys game nights with friends, bouldering, and having outdoor adventures with her daughter.

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