Revitalization and renewal are the hallmarks of spring, and nothing represents these qualities quite like bringing a new look to a garden or backyard. From revamped and accented patios to the soft babble of a pond or water feature, nothing embodies the spring spirit quite like a landscaping revamp. For new homeowners and seasoned home improvement experts alike, there are many appealing options for adding new life to a backyard.
To help you get started, we’ve taken a look at some of the most popular landscaping trends and garden ideas taking root this year and compiled a quick list.
Ponds and Water Plants
Calming, versatile, and undoubtedly appealing to the eye, ponds, water plants, and general water features are among the most popular outdoor living additions this year. We’ve seen interest growing in everything from simple water fountains, especially the DIY variety, to full-blown waterfall installations. Water features are a broad category filled with variety, but in general, these are the most popular options:
- Living ponds: Water features designed to host plant and animal life are making a splash this year. From small-scale rain gardens to massive pond centerpieces, living ponds are all the rage on social media sites and in gardening magazines.
- Contemporary & DIY: DIY and contemporary don’t often go hand in hand, but water features have married them this year. Most homeowners prefer fountains that produce audible, meditative sounds and hold sleek or modern designs. These preferences have manifested in “ball” water fountains, pot water fountains, and geyser-style water fountains becoming popular. Simultaneously, the DIY movement has seen a recent boom in popularity. Combine these two trends, and you have countless online guide videos detailing how to make DIY ball water fountains.
- Harness solar power: The push towards an environmentally friendly backyard space as a response to climate change is a welcomed trend. Many are applying this mindset to their ponds and water fountains. Homeowners have taken this to the next level by utilizing solar-powered water pumps combined with perennial water plants. The most popular choices are broadleaf arrowhead, creeping jenny, and water lilies (if your pond is big enough.) By combining these water-dwelling plants with a solar-powered fountain, you can create a green, eco-friendly feature.
Rewilding and Bird-watching
It makes sense that the recent turmoils brought about by COVID-19 would significantly impact this year’s landscaping and garden design trends. During quarantine, as people were unable to go out into the natural world, they began to bring the natural world to them. The most significant way this manifested in the landscaping world was a massive resurgence of hobbies like bird-watching. Now that restrictions are loosening, the bird-watching resurgence has bloomed into a movement that is dominating the landscaping scene. Dubbed “rewilding” or “nature spacing,” these encourage designs that promote and invite wildlife into your space. Rewilding-styled gardens have a free-flowing and open layout with soft elements that evoke the natural world. Perennials see the most use, but annuals like celosia argentea, zinnias, and begonias are also welcome. Since the movement is new, hardline rules can be hard to pin down, but here are some essential aspects of rewilding:
- Add plants and structures that invite wildlife: Any natural-looking plant or feature that encourages wildlife to stop by is a welcome addition to rewilding spaces, specifically large canopied plants and birdhouses. Living walls of ivy or foliage-covered pergolas are the most popular addition to this aspect.
- Birdbaths: These are the easiest to install and often a homeowner’s first rewilding feature. While all birdbaths can fall into this category, those with a rustic, reclaimed, or natural look fit exceptionally well. Furthermore, birdbaths with small fountain features, like a spitting frog side section, are a plus.
- Watering holes: Any water feature can fit into this, but prominent, low-to-the-ground pond features have seen the most success. These kinds of water features tend to attract all manner of harmless critters, like frogs, lizards, birds, squirrels, and even deer. Combine these ponds with water plants like taro, water lettuce, or creeping jennys, and you can have a stunning backyard centerpiece that the local wildlife will love.
- Open design: Rewilding employs a design that intends to evoke the natural world as much as possible. Specifically, winding pathways, large sweeping decorative grasses, and less intrusive furniture lend themselves to this style.
- Bird feeders and critter feeders: While not as common due to the mess they can create, some rewilding enthusiasts have embraced bird feeders. These are typically placed directly into trees or upon shepherd hooks and hidden within tall grass or ivy.
- Encourage pollinators: One of the most prevalent elements in rewilding is flowers that encourage pollinators. With the recent awareness of the importance of bees, and the major ecological threats posed to them, rewilding supports adding plants that will attract them. Plants like coneflowers, lavender, daisies, and marigolds are particular favorites.
- Practice xeriscaping: Xeriscaping, sometimes called water-conserving landscaping, is a landscaping style meant to eliminate the need for irrigation. This drought-tolerant gardening style is popular in Utah and Arizona, where water supplies are minimal. It has now spread to rewilding for its emphasis on conservation and maintaining a low carbon footprint.
Food Growing Gardens
Homegrown food and vibrant garden spaces have seen a boom in popularity. Referred to as “kitchen gardens” or “victory gardens,” these food-producing placements combine functional, utility, a rewarding hobby, and beautiful backyard arrangements. Like bird-watching, many attribute COVID-19-related conditions to this trend’s recent rise. As food shortages swept through many states, with food hoarding following close behind, many homeowners and gardeners began to grow their own food. Combine this with the growth of similar movements like “cabincore,” and most homeowners stuck inside with nothing to do, it’s no surprise that backyard gardens began to sprout across the nation. Today this trend has caught on with Instagram, resulting in feeds filled with countless produce-picked posts.
To pick up on this trend, you’ll have to add a garden bed to your backyard. While all produce is welcome, those that produce vibrant flowers like squash, okra, peas, lavender, radishes, and sunflowers are most favored. Beyond the garden’s contents, other popular elements are:
- Small picket fences
- Large clay pots
- Raised beds
- Vertical gardens
- Large box planters
If you’re hesitant about dedicating an entire portion of your backyard to this, many homeowners instead create small balcony gardens or window boxes filled with spices or succulents.
A Move Toward Native Plants
By utilizing native plants in your garden and backyard ensemble, you can promote local wildlife while creating a beautiful living tapestry. According to North Carolina State University, over 25% of all plants grown in the U.S. are non-native plants, many of which are invasive. These non-native plants can expand and overtake habitats where local plants would otherwise thrive, causing severe damage to the ecosystem. To help curb invasive species, landscaping enthusiasts have begun incorporating native plants into their beds. Using local plants supports pollinators, reduces erosion, requires less fertilizer, and supports the growth of local wildlife habitats.
To begin to pick up on this trend, all you have to do is incorporate native plant species into your landscaping. Finding a comprehensive list of native plants can be tricky, especially in more arid or frigid climates. However, this tool by the National Wildlife Federation is extremely helpful.
Dahlias, Dahlias, Dahlias
If you use Instagram, Facebook, or any other social media site to follow gardening and landscaping trends, it won’t be five minutes before you encounter this perky posy. Dahlias have been on the rise for a while, starting around 2019 with millions of posts on social media. Since then, they have exploded online, with Instagram clocking just under 2 million posts in 2022 alone.
Dahlias are members of the Compositae family and are cousins of the sunflower, chrysanthemum, daisy, and aster. These flowers, named after Anders Dahl, come in a myriad of colors, from soft subtle pinks to bright, vibrant purples and oranges. They also vary wildly in size, growing to an average height of 4-5 feet, with bulbs ranging from 2 inches to a whopping 15 inches. These tubers will come back year after year as perennials, providing beautiful scenery each summer and fall when they bloom. They also make excellent cut flowers, having a long vase life. However, their most impressive feature is their hydra-like ability to regrow blooms. Dahlias will grow more buds in response to being cut and pruned, meaning the more you harvest, the more you’ll have.
If you want to incorporate dahlias into your landscaping designs, it’s best to pick a location to allow the dahlia to take center stage. Dahlias are one of the longest growing plants in cultivation, blooming for up to four months with proper care. Even more so, they will gain more and more buds as you prune them, becoming fuller as time goes on. These qualities make dahlias excellent as centerpieces, ornamental pot plants, cut plants, and border plants. One growing trend is creating a “cut garden” with dahlias as the core alongside roses, tulips, sweet peas, lilies, and gladiolus.
Versatile and Functional Spaces
As people have begun to think critically about their backyard spaces, it only makes sense that functionality and versatility become priorities. Patios, in particular, have seen the most tinkering and utilization lately, with many homeowners turning them into veritable outdoor living spaces. Everything from backyard bars to comfy lounging areas and everything in between has seen experimentation lately. We have seen the general emphasis on functionality, livability, and privacy. By combining pergolas, outdoor kitchens, hedge fences, and outdoor patio furniture, homeowners have begun to make the most out of their backyards. Combine these elements with pools, gardens, and other placements, and you have a multipurpose, secure outdoor “room” that functions as an extension of your home.
A Return to Rustic
Rustic is back, and thanks to several online movements, it’s more popular than ever. The return to this old, worn, and weather-beaten aesthetic springs from several other growing online styles, notably “cabincore,” “rewilding,” and “farmhouse.” These online trends have exploded throughout social media in recent years, prompting countless design boards, photo galleries, and aesthetic posts on sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram. While they were more prevalent in interior design throughout last year and are on the decline in those spaces, they have since moved from the living room to the patio. This joining comes as no surprise, as the naturally run-down look of old farm equipment, brick and mortar walls, and cast iron furniture goes strikingly well alongside the “return to nature” styles popular right now. The color palettes also match; the toned-down browns and auburn complement the muted oranges of decorative grasses and vibrant yellow flowers popular in rewilding. Furthermore, since many of the furniture pieces from the rustic look already appear weathered and “run down,” it furthers the overall theme of natural reclamation, reuse, and recycling that comes along with other popular outdoor trends.
You have to utilize accent and furniture pieces to make the most out of the rustic look. Old, worn benches, rocking chairs, wooden picnic tables, brick and mortar walls, cracked ceramics, faded wood, planter boxes, small gardens, cast iron, and anything low-maintenance all fit the bill. We also recommend using these pieces sparingly. They should accent the powerful natural composition of the landscaping and not take center stage.
Fire Pits, Space Heaters, and Canvas Tents
In an attempt to increase the longevity of our outdoor areas, fireplaces and patio coverings are on the rise. The former of the list is more popular than the latter, with every kind of outdoor fire feature skyrocketing in popularity over the pandemic. This resounding popularity hasn’t slowed and has extended to large chrome space heaters and canvas patio coverings. This trend brings as much form as it does function. Fire features act as fantastic centerpieces alongside outdoor furniture, creating cozy and soothing moods while at the same time increasing the comfort and longevity of the space. Fire features, much like water features, come in many different varieties, making them applicable to almost any design or theme.
It’s difficult not to view our current landscaping trends through the lens of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the pandemic influenced our lives and society on almost every level. As it stands, most of the movements on the rise are either a direct response to the pandemic or are at least heavily influenced by it. Overall, current gardening trends aim toward getting the most out of your outdoor spaces, with the prevailing theme of embracing nature and sustainability. Reuse, recycle, and reclaim are the name of the game right now, and it’s making for some cozy, functional, and critter-inclusive spaces.