From compact flower gardens to extravagant outdoor spaces, function, creativity and sustainability are important elements of today’s landscape design.
David Johnson of The Outsider Landscape Design says homeowners are giving more attention to detail and becoming increasingly involved in the planning stages. “For the most part, people know what they want in a garden or landscape theme,” he says. The layout design is dictated by whether the homeowner prefers a formal or informal setting, but Johnson says that doesn’t mean you have to stick with one look. “I just finished a project where the client initially wanted an Old New Orleans theme for the backyard, then changed to a more Tuscan look, providing better privacy but still allowing her to connect with the neighbors. In the front yard, she opted for a more historical look since the home was built in the 1800s,” he explains, adding that the key is knowing how to make the different plant and nonplant elements work together.
Privacy and shade are among the top considerations when plotting out a landscape, Johnson says. “Homes are becoming bigger and people are seeking more privacy. But many of the upscale communities have ordinances concerning fencing, so some are opting to use upright, low maintenance evergreens like arborvitae.” As for creating shade, pergolas are in demand, he adds. “These are wooden structures that are slatted at the top, allowing filtered sunlight to come through,” Johnson explains. Pergolas can be installed with weatherproof shades, even a ceiling fan, and can be used as a trellis to grow wisteria, grapevines, climbing roses and hydrangea, among others.
When it comes to actual gardening and maintenance, Jennifer Schamber of Greenscape Gardens says sustainable landscaping and gardening methods are generating more interest these days. “Homeowners are moving away from having so much lawn to more naturalized planting areas, reducing the amount of irrigation needed and helping with stormwater control,” she says.
Installing a rain garden is one way to make your green space sustainable. “It’s an area in the yard that collects water runoff, so more of the water is absorbed by the plants and less of it goes into sewers and streams,” Schamber explains. “The old-school thought is to get rid of water, but water is a valuable resource and we should retain it more in our gardens by using rain barrels and other cistern-type containers.”
Sustainability also comes in the form of growing your own food. “With the higher cost of produce and all the recent food scares, more people are setting aside an area of their garden for vegetables,” she says. “People want to know where their food is coming from. Plus, it gives the personal satisfaction of growing your own food.”
In addition to themed and variegated gardens, elaborate outdoor living spaces have caught on in a big way, thanks to increased interest in ‘hardscaping,’ the use of nonplant elements such as pavers, decorative rocks and retaining wall systems to design a landscape. “People are staying home more and utilizing their backyards to entertain and extend the season a little bit longer,” says Ray Sonnenberg of Sonnenberg Landscape Material & Supplies.
That means transforming patios and decks into elaborate outdoor fireplaces and kitchens, and enhancing gardens with ponds and other water features. “Homeowners want a place where they can entertain friends, have a barbecue or just enjoy the outdoors,” Sonnenberg says. He notes that any improvement to the outdoor space only boosts a home’s value. “It will definitely add to your property,” he says. “Especially at the time when ‘stay-cations’ are popular, people should put money into something they’ll enjoy.”