I had the privilege of providing the cover story again for October 2013’s Design-Build magazine. It’s all about “Bold & Balanced,” Rise of the Millennials and Incredible Edibles. What a great year for home and garden in 2014. READ ON:
Colors are vivid, edibles are erupting, men and millennials are influencing designs, and balance is more important than ever.
By Tom Crain
Few landscapers can argue the fact that one of the most important things they can do for their businesses to ensure long-term health is to keep up on trends in their areas of expertise, fields and industries. Only by doing so can they prepare themselves for changes and ensure they have the proper resources and skilled operators in demand in a constantly changing work environment.
“In this current economy in general – and landscaping, in particular – you have to know how to connect the dots, understand your customer, drive consumer sales and build your brand,” says Suzi McCoy, owner of Garden Media Group, Philadelphia. She is also author of the annual Garden Trends Report, one of the most published garden studies in trade and consumer news.
Canete Landscape Design & Construction in northern New Jersey has an essential need to keep up with the trends. “We have large commercial clients who ask us to change the landscape look of their properties every few years,” says owner Tom Canete. To hold onto these accounts, Canete needs to know what the most cutting-edge, contemporary look is during new installation periods.
Turf DesignBuild delves into the major trends that will heavily influence 2014 landscapes.
Location, Location, Location
Current landscaping trends tend to reflect more on regional economic and practical needs, and less on the happy-go-lucky across-the-board whims and desires of the past. Much of it is due to landscaping’s new social and economic-minded demographic taking the helm.
“Landscape design trends tend to be regionally based most of the time,” explains Stacy Zimmerman, communications director of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), Harrisburg, Penn. “What works in the Northeast usually is not the trend in the Southwest.”
In north Texas, Chris Lee, president of Dallas-based Earthworks, says the biggest trend is moving toward more sustainable landscapes and efficient water use. “We are doing a ton of designs and installations based on native plantings and xeriscape concepts, primarily due to the ever-increasing water restrictions and shortages.”
That’s the typical story in the South where landscapers are dealing with rising drought issues while a rapidly increasing population places extreme pressures on local water resources. “While some areas of the South have been dealing with this for years, it’s relatively new to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, believe it or not,” adds Lee.
Lee says his customers are looking for native and sustainable planting options beyond succulents and rocks. “If you can bring native plants into the landscape that extend beyond what people normally consider xeriscape and show them that sustainable can be beautiful, you will have great success in this market.”
In the Northeast, landscape designers are dealing with a completely opposite climate scenario: flooding. Most Northeast-based landscapers agree the recent bout of extreme weather will dictate more sobering trends in the industry for years to come. “The only thing I have to say about trends in the next few years is that it’s all about drainage corrections, garden renovations and tree replacements after Hurricane Sandy,” explains Susan Olinger, Sterling Horticultural Services, Flanders, N.J., and immediate past president of APLD.
Most landscapers agree the trend crossing all regions is the increasing concern for handling stormwater runoff. More and more municipalities are instituting stricter ordinances, and water fees are rising along with the creekbeds after a downpour. As a result, ecological concerns for the pollution of groundwater, rivers, lakes and bays are climbing higher and higher in clients’ consciousness.
“I’m being asked more and more to come up with design approaches that incorporate the handling of stormwater runoff with native plantings and natural stone,” says Terri Long, an Asheville, N.C.-based landscape designer in the Blue Ridge Mountains where many creekbeds wind through high-end properties. “Rather than collecting water in catch basins and piping it away in drains, resulting in a generic, sterile look, the use of the dry creek bed becomes not only a beautifying, natural-looking feature with a functional purpose, but also a green solution.”
It’s not only regional considerations driving current trends, but also the shifting demographics of those who are now purchasing homes and making the landscaping decisions. What used to be the realm of the Baby Boomers and DINKS (dual income earners no kids a.k.a. Yuppies) is now relegated to the Gen Y/Millennial WINKS (single women income earners with no kids) and DACKS (dads at home caring for kids).
“Millennial women are a larger buying demographic than female boomers; they are now 20 percent of all home buyers and representing one-third of the growth in home ownership since 1994,” says McCoy. “In addition, millennial men are taking an equal role as the homemakers in domestic duties and raising the children.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past decade due to the growing numbers of female breadwinners, men out of work, and the shift in men’s lifestyle and career choices.
Now that young women are paying for landscaping projects and young dads are having more say about design, what does this mean for trends moving forward?
Masculinity Reigns Supreme
“It’s a masculine and feminine balancing act in work, home and life,” explains McCoy. And that applies to landscaping installations. Homes, as well as outdoor living environments, are celebrating the masculine influence as the workplace did with women in previous decades. That means strong, bold statements, more simplicity, outdoor barbecue setups and man caves with techno entertainment options.
“Waterproof roof structures over the top of an outdoor patio space work great for this,” says Matt Corrion, president and landscape architect with Denver-based Outdoor Design Group. Corrion lists roofed patios, which blend indoor and outdoor living spaces, as one of the leading trends in home design. “Outdoor amenities can be protected by the weather. Flat-screen televisions, ceiling fans, outdoor kitchens, bar areas, speakers and lighting can all be incorporated into this outdoor space. Overhead roof structures also create a more intimate feeling space, creating an outdoor room at a much lower cost than adding a fully-enclosed indoor room to a dwelling.”
Pastels Are Out; Contemporary Colors Are In
Stay-at-home dads are also influencing plant colors and combinations. Princess pinks, butter-soft yellows and lipstick reds are in retreat. Both Benjamin Paints, which trends paint color interiors, and Pantone, which trends fashion color choices, give a thumbs-up to bold blues, periwinkle purples and celosia oranges. “There has been a push to find new ‘orange’ options for the landscape lately, and I see that continuing,” attests Lee.
It makes perfect sense then that according to Garden Media, blue pansies and purple violas are the rage; and red geraniums and yellow marigolds are passè. Also popular are colorful edibles, including blueberries, grapes, orange peppers and purple eggplant.
Blacks, whites and grays continue to surge. These color trends align with contemporary landscape planting choices. McCoy says mono color and pairings of black and white in the garden will continue their popularity. HGTV selects white as the trendiest color for its bright light influence and enhancement of other colors.
Interesting geometrics are taking a leap, too. McCoy says “umbelliferous” shapes – those plants that carry flowers on the end of spoke-like stems – are popular. Circular plantings are back, and wildly-overgrown amorphous and perfectly-sculpted geometric are being fused together.
The landscaping trend continuing its full-steam boil across all demographics, particularly with millennials, is sustainability. Just ask any landscaper from the mainstream to the highly green circles about how difficult it is to operate a business without sustainable considerations.
“Across the board, it’s all about low-maintenance landscapes, drought-tolerant turfs such as meadows, highly-efficient irrigation systems, perennial planting designs inspired by nature, plant “communities” (as opposed to monoculture) and adding edibles,” says Zimmerman.
Brad Blaeser, president of Milwaukee-based The Green Team is hopping with requests for natives, water retention/bio-filtration/green roof-type projects and edibles since he opened his then “out-of-the-mainstream” deep green landscaping door in 2006. In addition, Blaeser is increasing his services in compost-type pickups, and for the first time he’s seeing a surge in demand for natural playscapes and outdoor learning classrooms in his hardscape side of the business.
Sabrena Schweyer of Salsbury-Schweyer, Akron, Ohio, agrees. “Edibles, not only as vegetable gardening but also edible landscapes and permaculture plantings like food forests, are growing in demand,” she says. Schweyer also sees a new intertwining of resiliency, sustainability and placemaking in urban landscapes, as evidenced in the wildly popular new public spaces including New York’s High Line and Houston’s Discovery Green.
How To: Keeping Up With the Trends
“The majority of gardening information still comes from family and friends (a.k.a. word-of-mouth), but websites, gardening blogs, Twitter and Youtube are gaining considerable ground” as places landscape designers and architects use to keep up with the latest landscape trends, says Suzi McCoy, owner of Garden Media Group, Philadelphia.
To educate his employees about landscaping trends, Tom Canete, owner of Canete Landscape Design & Construction in northern New Jersey, is constantly reading trade magazines and networking with his peers.
Chris Lee, president of Dallas-based Earthworks, finds it easy to keep up with the trends in Dallas. As he explains, “since our market is just a little behind, we can look at the residential trends in other markets to incorporate here later.”
Homesteading Is Here To Stay
Both Zimmerman and McCoy can’t say enough about the current homesteading trend, with 80 percent of Americans concerned about the health of the environment around them. The focus is on zen and happiness in the garden, emulating a mini slice of the hobby farmer. That means heirloom varieties, plants that attract the “B” critters (birds, bees and butterflies), chickens, overgrown and oversized hanging baskets, windowsill herb garden planters, and, of course, sensory, fragrant and community gardens.
And for the “New Age” millennial men seeking their true inner happiness, fermentation gardens for homemade beer and wine are trending high.
On a recent visit to London’s Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Tracy DiSabato-Aust couldn’t help but realize that worldwide, gardeners are salivating for edibles.
“When the Kew’s iconic Palm House has stalks of corn growing in front of it, you know there is some kind of shift going on,” she says. DiSabato-Aust is an Ohio-based Euro-trained landscape designer who is also a well-known author, TV personality and triathlete.
DiSabato-Aust also experienced the “IncrEdibles” fall program at the Kew. “Incorporating decorative vegetables into the garden alongside herbs and cut flowers is really cutting-edge.” Popular for DiSabato-Aust’s clients lately is to mix festive vegetable plants like ornamental kale, heirloom tomatoes and multiple colors of peppers with traditional varieties of sunflowers, dahlias and zinnias for cuttings.
Blaeser agrees with DiSabato-Aust on American gardeners’ appetites for edibles. “We continue to sell existing clients with traditional plantings and the concept of swapping some elements out with edibles, including herbs, hot peppers and salad greens, to accompany some traditional annuals or even nontraditional perennials that can later be repurposed within their landscape or back into our yard production,” he says.
Corrion sees the urban gardening trend for edibles jiving perfectly with the “natural lawn” trend, replacing traditional bluegrass with alternative turfgrasses, xeriscape plantings, monocultures of spreading shrubs or perennials, native plants, natural meadows or a combination of these elements.
“Both can work well together,” Corrion explains. “Placing decorative paths between beds and installing attractive raised planters to keep the space looking a little more organized are both great additions.”