Top 10 Outdoor Design Trends

Tap into the best new landscaping trends from the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

Photo By: Chapel Valley Landscape Co, Woodbine, MD/NALP

Photo By: Lawns of Dallas, TX, NALP

Photo By: Design by Sundown, Littleton, CO/NALP

Photo By: Grunder Landscaping Co, Miamisburg, OH/NALP

Photo By: Phil Allen/Brigham Young University/NALP

Photo By: Hunter Industries

Photo By: STIHL Inc

Photo By: Ed Castro Landscape, Inc, Roswell, GA/NALP

Photo By: RP Marzilli and Co, Medway, MA/NALP

Photo By: Ed Castro Landscape, Inc., Roswell, GA/NALP

1: Designing for Experiences

Outdoor living is trending, and this year, the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) is seeing an emphasis on yards that are both fun and functional. More and more of us are adding outdoor lighting and audio/visual systems to create multiuse spaces we can enjoy by day or night.

Instead of wondering what you should do with your backyard, Missy Henriksen, NALP's VP of Public Affairs, suggests thinking about what you want to do with it. "Do you want to be active and entertain adults or kids, or have some ‘wow’ features? There’s no cookie cutter approach to what’s right. I’ve seen life-size chess boards, yoga spaces, bocce ball courts and outdoor kitchens. Fire features are immensely popular.”

You can innovate or renovate on any budget. If yours is limited, make a long-term plan and work toward it in affordable steps.

2: Focusing on First Impressions

Henriksen says she's also seeing more interest in landscapes that make great first impressions. "We want to welcome visitors to our homes with beautiful, healthy lawns and plantings. We used to invest in our backyards, but now we’re giving more attention to the front.” Water features, courtyards, sculptures and ornate paths are popular design choices for homeowners. Office and commercial properties, she says, are creating walking and biking paths, gardens and outdoor dining areas for employees and customers.

3: Weatherproofing Your Landscape

Bomb cyclones, hurricanes and heat waves. Unpredictable weather usually drives us indoors, but NALP reports we're using more outdoor heaters, retractable canopies, sails and pergolas to protect our patios and outdoor living areas from rain, wind, snow and other elements. "We're seeing more roofing structures," Henriksen adds, as well as horizontal and vertical blinds that can deflect sun and heat.

4: Using Hardier Hardscape Materials

Fickle weather has also increased the demand for durable, long-lasting hardscape materials, particularly in northern climates, Henriksen notes. Concrete, granite and flagstone pavers are good choices. If you live in a hot region, NALP often recommends materials in lighter colors that won’t absorb a lot of sun, so you can walk around barefoot in the summer. Investing in quality materials that can handle big temperature swings lets you enjoy your outdoor space for a longer period of time.

5: Planting Natives and Xeriscaping

"Many people are becoming more purposeful in planning and choosing plants,” Henriken says. Flowers, trees, shrubs and vines that are native to your area are typically easy to grow and need less water than other plants, which translates to lower utility bills. Xeriscaping, or landscaping with plants that need little water, is another growing trend that focuses on conserving water.

6: Irrigating With Smart Technology

Like planting with natives and xeriscaping, “smart” irrigation systems or devices are increasingly popular, and help save water while keeping our gardens green and growing. Many of the newer systems can monitor moisture levels in the soil or check your local weather conditions, so they can adjust the timing and output of water in your yard as needed.

7: Using Equipment With Enhanced Technology

Just as self-propelled vacuums make cleaning your floors faster and easier, NALP says landscape tools and equipment with new, enhanced technology make it easier to mow the grass, blow leaves or snow and handle other outdoor chores. Some tools, like edgers, are now designed to stack or fold, Henriksen says, so they’re easier to store in a shed or garage. Other new items are rated for low or no emissions, and battery-operated equipment is quieter--a feature you and your neighbors will appreciate.

8: Adding Violet Vibes

Pantone’s Color of the Year is ultra violet, and Henriksen expects more pops of purple and touches of whimsy will turn up in our landscapes. “The nice thing is that there are so many shades of purple out there in irises, petunias and scented lavenders.” Of course, you don't have to go full-on violet; think containers, window boxes or small plantings with verbenas, violets, clematis and other purple flowers and foliage.

9: Planning With Technology

Professional landscapers have already been using mobile apps to design yards and gardens, Henriksen says, and they're adding 3D modeling programs and drones to their technological tool kits. Drones give customers an overhead view of their properties, while 3D programs reveal how a landscape would look if certain features were added or moved.

10: Growing Playful, Patterned Plants

“You want to bring in different hues and textures to create a rich and vibrant landscape,” Henriksen says, adding that more customers are asking their landscape professionals for playful plants, like rattlesnake plants, prayer plants and succulents. Many plants can be used indoors or outside, where they can be enjoyed for their striped leaves, colorful veins and other interesting, fun details.

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