It feels like landscape design is more important than ever. With a push towards outdoor living, consideration for our immediate environments — no matter how small — and just a general appreciation for nature, contemporary landscape design has become an integral part of how society functions. We decided to ask top-of-the-industry landscape designers and architecture firms to help us define the biggest trends in the industry. From pollinator meadows to outdoor pavilions that are an extension of the home, here are the latest design trends when it comes to transforming the land around our homes.
"Within our client base, there has grown a strong passion for what we would call 'Mindful Ecology' by our clients as part of their designed landscapes," says Stroudwater Design Group, Inc, a professional landscape design studio based in the San Francisco Bay area. "Regardless of the design context of their garden, be it formal or informal, many of our clients are requesting gardens that are healthy for both the environment and healthy for their families. Thus, as part of their design landscape settings are concepts of soil ecology, carbon sequestering, groundwater recharge, and principles of organic gardening, as well as plant associations for pollinators and other wildlife. Aesthetic, staycation settings that are low-maintenance, multi-use, that make a notable first impression and are healthy for both family and the environment."
Pollinator & Wildflower Meadows
“Pollinator meadows offer a bountiful sequence of flowering perennials and grasses that provide year-round interest and benefit the environment," says Chris LaGuardia, FASLA, managing principal of LaGuardia Design Group.
One of the biggest trends in the past year has been the movement toward landscaping decisions that are mutually beneficial for the environment and homeowner/property-owner. Wildflower or pollinator meadows, comprised of indigenous grasses and flowering native perennials, provide a healthy habitat for bee and butterfly populations as well as a beautiful, wild landscape.
"The image below shows a pollinator garden adjacent to the pool," says Edmund Hollander of Hollander Design Landscape Architects. "Pollinator gardens are planted with a variety of plant species that attract bees and butterflies; both butterflies and bees are effective pollinators. In fact, honey bees pollinate 85% of the food humans eat and are capable of flying 3 to 5 miles from their hive to find and pollinate a variety of flower species."
While some keep "mindful ecology" and wellness and for plants, insects, and animals at the forefront of their mind when designing an outdoor space, some view a surrounding landscape as a place to foster a culture of wellness for the residents of the property as well. "The trend we are seeing most is the creation of healthy landscapes, extending the concept of wellness into the garden," says Hollander. Below, is an image of a verdant urban rooftop garden designed by the landscape architecture firm fully equipped with a spa, outdoor yoga space, and an outdoor breakfast nook that completes the terrace.
A Sense of Place
"As a licensed landscape architect who has practiced for over thirty years, I know that creating a sense of place is a vital part of forming a successful landscape," says Dan Gordon, principal of Dan Gordon Landscape Architects. "At the very heart, a sense of place for all of us is intuitive — we perceive the qualities of the land around us — whether an in-town property or a rural setting. I look at the natural context: the solar orientation, the landform, the vegetation, and the views. Not only what exists, but what could be. I look at the cultural context such as the architecture, the history, the vernacular, the local materials, and the assembly of such materials. The essence of our work implores us to be conscious of the details and to contribute to that sense of place."
Educated & Informed Clients
“Over the last year, we have seen our clients become more knowledgeable, more apt to customize and have more clarity about what they want for their homes and gardens," says Janice Parker of Janice Parker Landscape Architects. "Our clients desire a programmatic and stylistic flow that considers their lifestyle and needs while stressing the pragmatic adjacencies of the garden 'rooms.' This is delightful! We have a true collaboration with these thought-provoking and educated clients and can start our designs from a functional yet visionary point of reference. In this garden, we were able to program many uses and keep the natural flow: a fruit orchard, swimming pool, fire pit, flowering borders, a house terrace with dining under a pergola, an herb garden, an outdoor shower, and kitchen – as well as a koi pond!"
“We are finding that people want casual outdoor living areas which are fine-tuned and beautiful at the same time," says Russell Windham of Curtis & Windham Architects. "This project (pictured below) features a garden and sitting area located at the front of the property, under mature oak trees, growing along the street. The ‘reuse’ of the front yard reinforces the streetscape with native and indigenous plants which provide interest in all four seasons. In Houston, we can make gardens that flower all year long.”
An Extension of the Home
Most of these casual outdoor living spaces aim to create a natural bridge to the life that happens indoors, as well as replicating the feel of an interior. This can include everything from architecture, to decor/accessories, to spatial play. “This porch is a thoughtful extension of the home’s living and entertaining space," says Todd Yeager, from Bellwether Landscape Architects of an open-air porch area. "It provides a protected place to sit and view the surrounding gardens. Accent pots and styled furniture bring the comfort of indoor rooms into the exterior environment."
"Pavilions play a significant role in outdoor living," adds Mark Scott of Mark Scott Associates. Pavilions allow for an advanced form of outdoor living and provide a happy medium between fully outdoor and fully indoor living. "The functions can change with the client’s needs, i.e: kitchen/ living room, bar/lounge, restroom/storage, office/retreat." Below, the landscape design firm's creation of an outdoor pavilion functions as a bar and outdoor living room, fully equipped with a television. "There can be many variations and some are partially or totally enclosed. We are getting a favorable response to “bi-fold” glass doors to weatherproof spaces. The pavilion should reflect the main house's architecture and materials. A major consideration is integrating the pavilion into the site as if it were originally built with the main house."
Integral parts of the inclination towards outdoor living is the capacity for entertaining and gathering. "Incorporating conversation and entertainment features such as pizza ovens and fire bowls are becoming a common thread," says Colleen Barkley, design manager of Mariani Landscape. "Pizza ovens bring the fun of cooking outside and another layer to al fresco dining. Fire bowls provide ambiance to a gathering space, and allow for flexibility to surround the feature with comfortable seating and conversation."
Refuge from the Sun
"Outdoor furniture is key to creating a warm and inviting landscape," says Eric Greenblott of Greenblott Design. "A poolside cabana and chaise lounge umbrellas offer refuge from the sun. Landscape elements such as stone walls provide a great seating option for larger gatherings."
Groomed Mature Gardens
"We are doing a tremendous amount of aesthetic design — pruning, preserving and restoring the original design aesthetic of gorgeous gardens that are beginning to mature," says Katherine M. Sadler of Houston-based King Garden. "Listening to the needs of the plants that make up good design as they grow and change over time is an important consideration that often requires specialization beyond weekly lawn and hedge care." On the left is a finished landscape work at Stratford Hall in Virginia; on the right is an image of the landscape design firm's cloud pruning techniques at a property in Sag Harbor, New York.
Landscape As a Tool For Privacy
"A trend that we are finding as old homes are being torn down and new homes are being built, is there is less land for gardens and lawns," says Todd Davis of Miami-based Brown Davis Architecture & Interiors. "New homes are generally built to the maximum size allowed by code. With this in mind, our clients are asking for functional space with privacy whether it is a dry or waterfront lot. Tall and lush hedges provide this privacy, and in South Florida, we have been using plants that are insect and storm resistant such as Clusia and Bay Rum. We are also required by code to incorporate native species of plants. We are asked to create a mix of formal garden spaces and more natural and tropical areas in the garden. Additionally, sliding glass door and wall technology is allowing us to create spaces that feel indoor-outdoor during nice weather. No matter where the home is located, people are asking for an open connection to the terrace and gardens. Covered outdoor kitchens and dining areas have become a must-have in new homes."
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