Gardens are living breathing objects of beauty and reflect trends through the years, just as other parts of our homes do.
In the past we’ve noted an increase in outdoor living space since home owners realize it’s a way to connect with nature, expand their residence, or to get some exercise through planting, swimming, or just walking their grounds and savoring views. It’s also a way to heighten all our sensory pleasures through texture and touch, fragrances and smells, auditory sounds and hearing, and so on.
We asked four landscape designers and architects to share a favorite trend that can help you make the most of your site, whether it’s a tiny urban deck, a yard or several acres out in the country. And though we don’t make changes just for resale, a better looking, more functional garden is an asset to enhance resale when it’s time to market a property.
Plants that Give Back. Jim Bertrand, Bertrand Landscape Design, Chicago, Ill. More home owners want plants that give back, so they plant materials that can be clipped later to bring into their house. These include ornamental grasses, hydrangeas, lilacs, roses and bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. Home owners also want to interact with their landscape by having plants that they can eat—not necessarily vegetables that require work, but berries or fruits from trees. They may want a small vegetable and herb garden in containers so they’re easy to manage, maybe with onions and chives that also are nice to look at and offer a distinct smell. For the garden hardscape, they’re interested in materials that require less care and don’t face or scratch such as porcelain tiles; they come in many colors, shapes, sizes and textures. People can walk on them and they won’t need to be replaced.
Sustainable materials. Michael Glassman, Michael Glassman & Associates, Sacramento, Calif. In the past we were not as concerned with using sustainable materials. Wood was very popular and still is to construct overhead structures such as pergolas. The upkeep and maintenance of a wood structure was enormous, however. The wood would have to be painted or stained. The wood would rot, warp or crack. Plus, wood is more apt to burn in a fire. With the use of sustainable materials such as steel and brick, the upkeep is minimal, and the longevity is amazing. These materials are also fire resistant. In California, with areas that are susceptible to fires, there are new requirements being initiated that require building materials to be fire resistant. In one garden, we used brick in a lattice pattern mixed with painted gray steel and designed in a more traditional looking layout. Planting is more formal with boxwood hedges and drought-tolerant perennials that are more sustainable but reflect the right design look.
Contemporary styling. Marc Nissim, Harmony Design Group, Westfield, N.J. We’re still doing a lot of outdoor living areas with living "rooms," fire features and kitchens. Even though many of the houses are Colonial style, these spaces have a more modern aesthetic than in the past. This often reflects the modern interiors. To capture this feeling, we’re using more linear materials—stones, walls, fire pits that have a more linear feeling. We are also using stones such as bluestone without ridges and which are smoother and more uniform. Then we add plantings that complement them, perhaps, linear hedges and grids of trees. We’ve also done some yoga platforms for yoga or meditation. One was a raised ipe wood platform one foot off the ground that seems to float because the supports are in the center and it’s surrounded by undulating mounds.
Children’s gardens. Laurie Van Zandt, The Ardent Gardener Landscape Design and Project Coordination, East Huntsville, Utah. In the last year or so, I have had numerous clients who want to create special areas for their children, not just a swing set/sandbox/lawn area but more interesting areas that allow for creativity, learning and fun. One of the first gardens I worked on with this theme was very narrow with a swing set/playhouse/slide that barely fit—behind a garage. The home owners asked for some other child friendly areas that would encourage her two young daughters to WANT to be outside. Near the swing set, we carved out a small stone patio with child-size tables, chairs and umbrella. We surrounded this with a children’s garden, with all plants specifically selected for their fun names such as Lamb’s Ear, Basket-of-Gold, Fairy Tale Pink Daylily or for their fun scents such as Chocolate Flower – Berlandiera, Hyssop (smells like root beer) and Iris Albo Variegata (smells like grapes). Little plant makers in the shape of animals completed the look. Also, we designed and attached chalk boards to the back of the garage. In addition, we designed the area to be integral to the entire garden’s design. Since then, I have worked with clients to design children’s gardens that include a huge dirt mound with tunnel, tube slide that allowed kids to get to the bottom of the property in a jiffy, Tom Sawyer-themed-yard complete with pond and road swing, teepee, maze, dirt bike trails, and one with a rill type water feature that meanders through a meadow. The owners wanted their grandchildren to be able to float boats and leaves down the rill and run alongside to watch. Splash pads have also become popular and can double as a water feature if installed in an aesthetic manner.
Top Left: Photography by Linda Oyama Bryan for Jim Bertrand
Top Right: Photography by Jim Bertrand
Bottom Left: Photography by Linda Oyama Bryan for Jim Bertrand
Bottom Right: Photography by Nancy Ori Fine Art for Marc Nissim