Landscape trends for 2012

November 18, 2011 -  By

The new year is just around the corner. What can landscape design-build professionals expect?

Issues surrounding water are likely to escalate in 2012. “Whether it’s the use of water or the cleaning of water,” says Sharon Coates, co-owner of Zaretsky and Associates, a landscape design-and-build firm in Rochester, NY.

In light of recent droughts in places like Georgia, Texas and the Carolinas, people are trying to use the water they do have more frugally, Coates explains. “People are making sure they’re watering responsibly, choosing plants that aren’t water hogs and putting rain sensors on their irrigation systems. They’re also making sure the irrigation is monitored so it’s not watering the driveway and sidewalk.”

Water-wise plants will also make the Mediterranean garden style hot in 2012, says Genevieve Schmidt, a northern coastal California landscape designer and author of the North Coast Gardening blog. Mediterranean landscape design, she explains, often features open and airy courtyards, light-colored, textured hardscaping such as mosaic walls, gravel beds or unglazed terra cotta pots and low-growing, drought-tolerant plants, hedges, topiary trees and vines (i.e. olive, bay and lemon trees, succulents, lavender, palms, roses and grasses).

Also, when it comes to cleaning the water, especially storm water carrying pollutants into local waterways, many people are turning to rain gardens. “These shallow depressions are filled with deep-rooted plants and grasses — all of them noninvasive, native or locally adapted — that can handle being inundated with water and also don’t mind being dry,” Zaretsky and Associates’ Coates says.

“Many gardeners are catching their own rainwater in rain barrels and cleaning or recycling grey water (wastewater from domestic activities like laundry, dishwashing and bathing),” adds Anthony Tesselaar, cofounder and president of Tesselaar Plants. “In fact, in many municipalities now, saving water is not only ‘in,’ but mandatory”.

Plant trends
Black and amber shades in plants continue to be a hot color trend, says North Coast Gardening’s Schmidt. “People have already been bewitched by the dark drama of black plants,” she explains, “and as they learn to design with them more effectively, they’ll only become more popular.”

Amber shades, she adds, are also extremely popular.

Mediterranean garden with water-wise carpet roses and Festival Burgundy cordyline.

Mediterranean garden with water-wise carpet roses and Festival Burgundy
cordyline. Image courtesy of Tesselaar Plants.

Just as consumers are being more careful with their water usage, they’re also shopping smarter.

“Plants bred to withstand attacks from pests and diseases that are also tolerant of climate and soil extremes provide a better value,” says Tesselaar. “Gardeners are more aware than ever that choosing the right plant for the right situation is imperative if you want to help save the planet — let alone your bank balance.”

In colder areas, where the blooms are gone and deciduous leaves have fallen, Coates is seeing more people keep their ornamental grasses instead of cutting them back, so they can provide winter interest. For the same reason, they’re looking for plants with winter berries, evergreens, barks of different colors and textures or deciduous trees and shrubs with dramatic forms. But they’re also adding plants that change with the seasons, offering new interest with each.

The number of frontyard gardens is on a slight rise (29% in 2011, compared to 27% in 2010 and 25% in 2009), according to the Garden Trends Research Report’s Early Spring 2011 survey (conducted for the Garden Writers Association Foundation). Meanwhile, the number of backyard gardens has taken a 3% hit, down from 50% in 2009 and 2010.

Vertical landscaping is also on the rise. The practice of growing plants up from the ground instead of out, or of planting them off the ground to start with—on trellises, arbors, balconies and walls—has become especially popular among those with small spaces, landscape eyesores or an awkward “skinny spot” in their landscape.

But Coates also notes the growth of a different kind of vertical growth: green roofs.

“Green roofs have definitely seen more of a commercial application and have been done in mostly urban areas, but they’re still a huge trend,” she says. “Green roofs help save on heating and cooling costs and actually protect the roof underneath from the degrading effects of the elements, so cities have received tax incentives for green roof installations.” Some cities, like Toronto and Chicago, are even starting to require green roofs on some new buildings, based on the square footage.

Fountain pouring into stone, designed by Zaretsky and Associates.

Smaller water features
More and more people are moving away from large ponds and toward smaller water features, says Coates: “Now people prefer a cut piece of stone, a boulder or a beautiful glazed urn with water bubbling out of the top. People either have to be really into ponds and all the maintenance they take, or they have to hire someone to do it for them.”

What’s more, says Schmidt, fountains made with natural stone or metal are hotter sellers than features made of manmade materials. “The ball-shaped fountains made of stone are very big this year,” she says, “and I think that copper and other metals are coming into fashion as accents in fountains and as materials for planting containers.”

This article was contributed by Tesselaar Plants.

LM Staff

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