No one likes to renovate or dig up his or her back yard knowing that the ideas being put into play at this very moment will be outdated in a year or two. We have seen this time and again with appliances, furnishings and bathrooms where $20,000 worth of renovations stays around about as long as a chestnut-brown colored fridge did in the 1970's.
Many people don't think that their outside can also be outdated. Well, it can. For example, in just five years many large cities in the country have banned pesticides and chemical fertilizers. As well, water, once cheaply available in large quantities in many areas, is becoming unavailable for the nurturing of large lawns. These two large considerations are enough to make any homeowner stop and reconsider their large landscaping project. Landscape architects are increasingly using hardscape as focal points the yard: stone patios and rock pathways, water fountains, multi-level decks.
The Indoors, Outdoors
The quest for an outdoor variety of indoor living has led to the growth in patios which are a living room without the roof. Outdoor fireplaces extend the length of the patio season in our cool Canadian climate and plush, waterproof furniture mimics the indoor variety. The addition of the large southwest American-style grill has made the patio the “summer kitchen,” leaving the inside food preparation area redundant until the first flakes of snow.
The Incredible Shrinking Lawn
Once the dream of a huge golf-green lawn was the goal of almost every homeowner. With restrictive water measures and the banning of weed killers now prevalent in many cities the flawless Kentucky bluegrass lawn is becoming less noticeable. Lawns are still fine but getting smaller and homeowners are looking to natural fertilizer and pest controllers in addition to “elbow grease” to eliminate weeds. In addition, the thrum of the lawnmower is being replaced by a sound not heard in 50 years – the clicking of the push mower.
Low Maintenance Gardens
People love gardens but do not want to spend the time on maintenance. Because of their busy lives homeowners want shrubs, trees and plants that take care of themselves or are springing for landscape maintenance. So when a landscape contractor evaluates the needs of this homeowner an important consideration will be the lifestyle of the client. If you want to do the work or have some one do the work for you then, by all means, get the lush Italian garden with rows of beans on the vine, tomatoes and peppers. But if you want a small manageable backyard you can still have the Italian flavor in small doses interspersed with hardscape. Many of the plants can be rooted in large terra cotta pots and placed on a patio of decorative pavers.
Before the earthmover scraped them off the landscape in order to build your home there were shrubs, plants and grasses native to the area. These plants have had eons of experience getting used to the climate and have their own built-in defenses against pests. In fact, landscape solutions are filled with natural flora and fauna such as saskatoon bushes, ladyslippers, blueberry bushes, wild onions, buffalo grass and honeysuckle. Besides not needing the care of domestic plants they add a different color and texture to the landscape. As they are acclimatized they get their water from the rain but adding composting material from a compost bin is welcome.
Just because it gets dark many this does not mean that homeowners do not want to enjoy their gardens. In many old movies outdoor parties were lit with strings of patio lanterns, colored paper over small light bulbs. Today's gardens are lit to create a magical landscape right out of a Disney scene. With new solar powered LED's and small, colored spotlights placed in strategic places landscape designers are turning the backyard into a personal gallery. And if that's not enough the scenes and colors can be changed manually or pre-programmed for veritable light-show in the evening. Add a fountain and you have a water show.
For a few people, having birds and animals in the backyard is a nuisance. For the vast majority, however, animals and birds mean a constantly changing vista of life. But animals in the backyard (preferably small ones!) do more than just look good. Birds, toads, bats, ladybugs and others destroy insects harmful to garden plants and a nuisance to the homeowner. For example, swallows catch and eat their weight in insects every day. That's a lot of mosquitoes not feasting on us!
Landscape designers take into account the balance between what is natural and what the homeowners want. Consulting with a landscaping expert will give you a better idea of what is happening in backyard design and where the trend is heading.