Topic: Outdoor Living Ideas

Date Posted: Thursday, May 01, 2014
Posted by: Judy Walker (Master Admin)

Carol T. Bradford: Outdoor Living Trends for 2014

The American Society of Landscape Architects just released the results of their 2014 Outdoor Design Trends Survey. The survey was conducted by asking landscape architects who do residential work what they thought would be the most popular design elements in gardens this year. The survey was small, only 179 respondents, and no information was provided about their location in the country.

Some of the results were predictable -- the architects believe that 97.7 percent of their potential clients will want a terrace, patio or deck. These would be high on my wish list as well if I were building or remodeling. The desire for fencing is probably universal in deer infested neighborhoods.

Get the "hardscape" right before planting a tree or a shrub border. That includes steps, walkways, arbors, pergolas, outdoor seating, walls and ledges. Plan them on paper first, even if you can't afford to build them any time soon. It will save you some hassle in the future.

I was surprised that the landscape architects thought fewer than 30 percent of people would want accessible designs. Public spaces must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and I would think that any design professional would offer accessibility options to their private clients when possible. Why create obstacles like gates too narrow for wheelchairs? By contrast, the landscape architects think 56 percent of people want wireless internet connectivity in the garden and 49 percent want a television or projection screen.

Low maintenance landscapes continue to be popular, favored by 95 percent of the respondents. Unfortunately, nobody agrees about what is high maintenance and what's not. Gardeners tend to like high maintenance and find pruning, hedge trimming, deadheading, even weeding, relaxing and fun. If draining and cleaning a pond isn't going to be enjoyable, don't build it even if the landscape architects think 60 percent of us want one.

The push for what the ASLA calls "sustainable design elements" has been great the last decade or so. These include native or adapted plants that are drought tolerant in areas where that's a concern, drip or water-efficient irrigation, reduced lawns, rainwater harvesting, compost bins and solar-powered lights. All of these can easily be adapted to most gardens around here.

Some "sustainable" features that might need to be carefully consideredbefore using in home gardens include permeable paving and rain gardens aka bioretention basins. These have some definite downsides because of our climate and soil conditions. The use of recycled materials and graywater harvesting can raise safety concerns.

Carol Bradford gardens in Syracuse. Email your gardening questions to her

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