Summer is an exciting time, full of possibility, and DIY projects. Your yard is a blank slate, just waiting to be crafted into a welcoming outdoor living space. For your summer yard projects, consider tackling a wide range of ideas ranging from bringing back traditional materials and indigenous plants to high-tech water and climate control and electric tools.
No matter your taste and style, there is a sustainable, pollinator-friendly landscaping idea that will make your yard an oasis this summer. Pergolas and water or fire features can add the much-needed finishing touch, while food or dye gardens can provide fuel for additional summer hobbies. Read on for 40 hot trends in 2019 landscaping.
1. Natural Materials
For quite a while, blingy artificial materials were all the rage for lavish outdoor spaces. With continually growing awareness of climate change and its impacts, more renewable natural resources are seeing a massive surge in popularity. Once eschewed “plain” materials like gravel, river rock, stone, wood mulch, reclaimed wood, and more are all being widely used in dramatic and beautiful new ways in modern landscaping projects.
To introduce this concept to your space, try some natural stone pavers leading to a deck or secluded seating area. A reclaimed wood greenhouse, planting station, or pergola would be another beautiful way to incorporate natural materials.
While a white picket fence may be the iconic image of American suburbia, it’s also a bit of a passé trend. White and natural wood finish fences have been dominant for decades, so thankfully we’re finally getting a breath of fresh air with the new trend of boldly painted fences.
Bright yellow, orange, turquoise, and other shades all have a moment by lighting up the landscape on wooden fences. Try out this trend on your fence by choosing a high-quality, outdoor grade paint. Also, make sure you check with your Home Owner’s Association and neighbors before painting your fence a bold color!
Thick, even green grass is about as iconic as the white picket fence as a status symbol of wealth and comfort in suburban America. However, our climate has paid the price through the overuse of lawn chemicals and excessive water use. With many states struggling with water use restrictions, many homeowners are turning to more sustainable and environmentally-friendly options for their lawns.
Look to native prairie grasses that set deeper roots and are drought resistant, or even some ornamental grasses that don’t require mowing. If your city allows it, consider turning your entire front lawn into edible garden beds or pollinator gardens.
Towering Arbor Vitae, giant Boxwoods, and massive Junipers — oh my! Size used to be king when it came to planting shrubs in your landscaping. However, with many homeowners sizing down, or even adopting tiny housing, manageable dwarf shrubs are becoming much more popular for many modern gardeners.
Many of your favorite shrubs can still be used, just in smaller sizes that can be pruned to maintain a beautiful shape at a lower height and smaller width. A row of small shrubs can be just as dramatic and appealing as one large shrub and is much easier on you and your foundation.
If the high-maintenance required for lawns is getting old, consider putting edible gardens in grass’ place. Whether you plant them in raised beds or only as one huge front yard garden, edible gardens can become a treat for the whole neighborhood.
Much like a lending library, some edible gardeners choose to place signage offering their delectable produce for anyone walking by to enjoy. If you want to keep some fruits and veggies for yourself, make sure you invest in some fencing to keep our deer, rabbits, and other foragers.
There’s no reason our furry friends should be left out of all the landscaping fun! Thanks to the growing interest in dog agility, there are now widely available and reasonably priced agility and play equipment sets for dogs that can easily fit inside any fenced backyard.
If agility courses would take up too much space, consider a simple sandbox. Dog bones, treats, and other items can be buried inside for your dog to find and thereby satisfy their instinct to dig without uncovering any of your plants!
A beautiful, exciting alternative to edible gardens are dye gardens. These lovely flower beds focus on growing plants that have roots, leaves, or flowers that can be turned into dyes for fabrics. Many common plants, including onions, sunflowers, and Black-Eyed Susans create beautiful stains when boiled and fixed with a mordant to set the color.
These beautiful, botanical dyes can be used on any natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and wool. Dyes can also be sold or traded to crafters for various projects. Dye gardens are a fantastic way to learn about both chemistry and art!
Many of our modern medicines come from compounds extracted from plants. Digitalis, the potent cardiac medication, is a pure form of a cardiac glycoside found in the lovely perennial flower Foxglove, for example. Many herbs and flowers have valuable medicinal properties that can complement traditional medicine when used carefully and with full knowledge of the effects and interactions.
Only use herbal medicine under the supervision of your doctor or a trained herbalist, as plants contain many extremely potent compounds. Also, keep medically active plants away from children and pets.
A popular landscaping trend for 2019 is the concept of bringing the indoors out, including aesthetics and decor trends that we traditionally associate with the inside of the home. One of the biggest trends making its way outdoors is color blocking, in which opposing color wheel colors are paired in chunky, bold configurations for the maximum wow factor.
For outdoor color blocking, attempt pairing a large, solid green landscaping bush with beautiful, lush red flowers. Or, try a yellow front door with purple hanging baskets of petunias. Pair a blue patio umbrella with urns of bright yellow sunflowers. The options are limitless!
With droughts at an all-time worst in some parts of the country, rain gardens are a wonderful and useful tool to capture precious water. In flood-prone areas, they’re a great way to capture run-off instead of allowing it to escape into municipal water systems. Rain gardens are slightly sunken gardens planted with deep-rooted perennials that that traps and absorbs run-off.
Many cities are actually offering rebates and incentives for residents to plant rain gardens, as they help keep city water supplies cleaner through the reduction of run-off. In drought-prone areas, these rain gardens are the most efficient way to plant perennials without requiring additional water use. No matter your climate, rain gardens are a win for the environment and the beauty of your yard.
Many of the beautiful, favorite landscaping plants in the US are non-native, and some are even invasive. Imported initially as decorative plants, some flowers like Purple Loosestrife, Kudzu, and Japanese Honeysuckle are now doing real damage to native plants and agriculture. Non-native plants and plant products can also introduce harmful pests like the Emerald Ash Borer.
With this risk in mind, many gardeners and landscapers are turning back to indigenous North American plants to fill gardens. With our large landmass and a wide variety of climate biomes, the North American native plant catalog is full of absolutely beautiful and hardy plants that are tailor-made to survive in our yards.
Yard after yard with broadly rotating sprinklers watering their yard, the neighbor’s yard, and part of the street is thankfully quickly becoming a thing of the past. Thanks to increasing water use restrictions and growing awareness of the impact of wasting water, people are turning to more efficient and sustainable means of watering their yards and gardens.
There are several ways to more sustainably water your yard and garden, with the first being a rain barrel. These simple set-ups collect rainwater from your home’s gutters and store it in a barrel attached to a garden hose for later use. They can be made cheaply and easily. Other, more advanced, methods include greywater recapturing and automated in-ground sprinkler systems that detect soil moisture levels.
One of 2019’s biggest trends is the idea of making outdoor spaces just as livable as indoor rooms. With the amount of time that Americans spend outside and the amount of money spent on landscaping and yard maintenance, why shouldn’t outdoor spaces be just as comfortable for relaxation, hosting, and more?
Some of the best ways to make your outdoor space truly livable are to add comfortable, weather-proof furniture, and necessary amenities like outdoor refrigeration and cooking spaces. Being able to grab a cold drink or quickly fry up a bit of food makes you much more likely to spend time outdoors. Some landscapers are even adding outdoor bathing options to make the space complete!
It’s a hot day, you’ve grilled some burgers and played with your dogs, and you are worn out, covered in dirt, and sweaty. For many of us, that would mark the time to reluctantly go inside and put an end to the fun of outdoor activities. However, thanks to one modern landscaping trend, you wouldn’t have to!
One of 2019’s hottest trends is adding outdoor shower and bathing options to allow homeowners to freshen up without ever having to end the outdoor fun or track dirt and allergens inside. Just imagine how refreshing a cool outdoor shower would be, surrounded by the beauty of a landscaped garden.
Is it really even summer without a friendly crackling fire and some s’ mores? Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and more all tend to feature a nice, relaxing evening spent around a fire roasting marshmallow and enjoying friend’s and family’s company. To get the most of this element of the summer, a beautiful fire pit is a must.
Custom fire pits are a significant trend for 2019 landscaping. While a simple round stone pit is all that’s necessary, a customized iron or stone pit with personalized decoration can make a space truly special. Other custom fire pieces include glass firewalls for a truly dramatic effect.
There are few better ways to attract birds to your yard than with a moving water feature, thanks to the ability of birds to hear running water from a great distance. A running water feature will not only provide much-needed hydration to birds but also a chance to socialize and bath for birds that prefer water baths.
To provide an optimum bird-friendly water feature, look for something that will offer both shallow and deeper safe perches for birds of varying sizes and preferences for bathing. Make sure it’s a running water feature so the water doesn’t become stagnant, which can be unsafe for birds to drink.
In addition to running water features, ponds are another excellent way to incorporate the beauty and sound of water into your landscaping. Ponds require quite a bit more investment and engineering than a simple pumped water fountain, but they can become their own incredible, thriving ecosystem with aquatic plants or even fish!
Make sure you involve a professional when installing a pond to ensure you won’t compromise your home’s draining or foundation with your chosen location. Also, ensure you won’t have leakage into your soil. Once set up, ponds can be home to a variety of fish including stunning Koi, and lush plants like water lilies.
Pink has been overlooked as a fussy or too-traditional garden color for quite some time, but thankfully that is changing as pink comes charging back in as a hot trend for 2019 landscaping! Pink is a versatile color that is easy to find in flowers in a wide variety of shades from barely-there pastel to vibrant, vivid neons.
If you want to add some unique splashes of pink to your yard, look to perennial grasses that feature pink stripes or even pink seeds, like pink pampas. Annuals like Cosmos and Zinnias can provide beautiful, vivid pinks, while Carnations and Dianthus can offer a wide range of shades in easy to care for perennials.
Who has time to replant a flower bed every single year with flowers that will, at best, seed themselves and only regrow sporadically? If that doesn’t fit on your calendar, perennials are the ideal plants for you. Perennials are hardy, easy to care for plants that naturally overwinter, and will regrow year after year with proper care.
Perennials run the gamut of plants from roses, to exotic-looking hardy Hibiscus, to uniquely shaped grasses, and lushly blooming flowers. There is a perennial for every light level from the full-shade Hosta to the full-sun Sedum. Every hue of the rainbow is available in perennials as well, so fill your beds with these beautiful plants.
Many urban backyards are quite open to the neighbors, their dogs, and their kids so that a secluded backyard space can be a truly prized retreat from the hustle and bustle of city or suburban life. Planning out a landscaping set-up that includes a secluded seating area behind thick shrubbery or vines is a popular 2019 trend that could perfect your backyard getaway.
Look to dense, quick growing shrubs like Arbor Vitae, Lilac, Forsythia, and Butterfly Bush to ensure your secret space will be contained within only a few years. A pergola or series of trellises with quickly growing vining plants like Trumpet Blossom is another great way to enclose a space.
While annuals can be a bit more of a pain, with having to re-purchase and replant them every year, or start them from seed and transplant them, many of them do bring a unique beauty that perennials can’t quite capture, like with Cosmos and Zinnias. To keep the maximum ease for your yard, try keeping annuals only within containers.
When kept in containers, annuals are easier on the back, as you can easily plant them seated at a table or another comfortable height. Container planters are also much easier to weed and quicker and easier to water. Containers also free up your landscape gardens for easier to maintain perennials.
A lushly bordered walkway with trailing or bushy plants is an absolute delight to the eye. However, when planted carefully, they can delight even more senses by providing a lovely botanical scent like mint, thyme, or a floral fragrance. This summer landscaping idea can transform a walkway into absolute heaven.
Creeping thyme is a hardy, fast-growing groundcover that can even fill in cracks between pavers, and is a great choice for rustic gardens. Lavender is slightly fussier, but it’s silver-grey foliage and spikes of beautiful purple flowers make an absolutely stunning border for full-sun walkways, and the scent is relaxing and inviting.
If color-blocking isn’t quite your style, but you want to make your colorful front door pop, try matching your entryway plants to your front door! This decor trick will make the front of your house look incredibly welcoming, clean, and organized.
Petunias come in a wide range of shades and are easy to grow in containers, so they are an ideal first-choice for hanging planters or front step urns to match your door. Impatiens and geraniums have a more limited range of shades but are vivid and easy to grow. Dracaenas come in a wide variety of green hues to match green doors.
An important part of the philosophy of bringing the indoors out is also to bring enough lighting outside to make your outdoor spaces accessible and useful throughout the evening and into the night. Whether you want to cook dinner, relax, or play cards, you will need at least some amount of artificial light to keep the party going as the sun goes down.
One easy way to incorporate lighting outdoors is to get a solar powered LED umbrella. This environmentally friendly choice charges while you enjoy its shade, and then can be turned on at night to provide excellent light through multiple strips of LEDs.
Bees are continuing to struggle, which puts our entire food supply at risk. Imagine a supermarket with no cherries, apples, or almonds. It boggles the mind how much of a role these little insects play. Let’s make their lives a bit easier by putting in some healthy, chemical-free landscaping for our buzzy little friends.
One proposed factor for bee colony collapse is Nicotinoid pesticides, so make sure the plants you buy aren’t treated with such pesticides and avoid them yourself. Snapdragons, Hostas, Coneflowers, Bee Balm, and Marigolds all make tasty food sources for bees.
As debates and lawsuits continue to rage over the safety of various weed control chemicals, including Glyphosate, commonly sold as Roundup, many gardeners are looking for more natural methods of weed control. These methods largely fall into organical, chemical, or barrier prevention.
In natural barrier prevention, lawn fabric or thick mulch is used to physically prevent the weed seeds from getting the sunlight necessary to sprout or weighing down the sprouts as they emerge. Organic chemical prevention involves using things like vinegar to spray cut weeds to more safely kill unwanted plants.
With the growing popularity of edible gardens, it’s a great time to share the wealth. More and more food banks are accepting freshly picked produce, even from home growers. If you have a more substantial amount of land, there are programs to help small farmers grow valuable crops for food pantries.
In your own yard, try posting signs like “taste me” or “smell me” on food plants and herbs to encourage your neighbors to share in the wealth of your garden and use it as an educational opportunity for their children. Sharing the bounty is one of the most enjoyable parts of growing food!
Planting perennials indigenous to your specific climate and region is one of the best ways to ensure you are getting drought-resistant plants in a dry area. However, there are also non-native plants that are desert-dwellers and drought resistant. If you live in a dry area or want to avoid ever having to water, try drought-tolerant plants.
Hardy Prickly Pear Cacti can grow as far north as western North Dakota and thrive in dry soils. However, they can tolerate water in well-draining soils. Many prairie kinds of grass are extremely drought tolerant, as are semi-succulent flowering plants like Sedums and Sempervivums.
Chickens are truly delightful creatures. They are a joy to watch foraging for bugs, and their clucking is a nice accompaniment to time spent outside gardening. Fresh eggs also just cannot be beaten for flavor, and even a handful of chickens will produce enough to feed a small family.
To keep chickens in an urban environment, a securely fenced yard and clipped wings are both vitally important for the safety of your flock. Chickens must always have access to fresh water and grit, which aids in digestion. Many US cities are now allowing chickens as long as they have adequate housing and access to veterinary care.
Whether it’s a little garden gnome, wind chime, or kinetic sculpture, art installations add a great deal of movement and beauty to any piece of landscaping. Many botanical gardens feature art installations among the plants, and for good reason: gardening itself is an art.
An art piece doesn’t have to be fancy to draw the eye to your garden and mirror any element you want to enhance, whether it’s the structure, color, or flow of your plants. Kinetic sculptures are an excellent choice for wispier, whimsical gardens, while a gargoyle peeking out of a shade garden is classic and fun.
Wabi-Sabi is the Japanese cultural practice of finding beauty and art in imperfection and transience. Put simply; it’s accepting and loving something for being flawed. What could be a more perfect philosophy for the chaotic, unruly world of outdoor plants and landscaping?
Put salvaged pieces of outdoor furniture to use with Wabi-Sabi in mind by not getting hung up on imperfections in the paint or finish. In fact, highlight them in Wabi-Sabi fashion by painting the defects in a contrasting color to highlight their beauty. Reclaimed wood, with its irregularities, is an ideal material to use in Wabi-Sabi themed constructions.
For small gardening tasks, it’s hard to beat electric and battery powered lawn tools. Often much cheaper than their heavy-duty gas counterparts, electrical machines are lighter and easier to use. They’re also easier on the environment by not releasing exhaust without a catalytic converter, which neutralizes a great deal of the harm in vehicle exhaust.
Chainsaws, trimmers, and even lawnmowers are all now widely available in electric versions. As long as your home has an outdoor plug-in and you’re comfortable managing the cords, electric tools are perfect for the casual home landscaper.
While many single elements in nature, like a succulent’s leaf shape, are symmetrical, nature itself is far from it and is often quite beautifully chaotic. A famous 2019 landscaping trend is honoring the chaotic nature of nature itself by working asymmetrical design into a landscape.
While it may feel natural to put matching plants outside of the front door or on both sides of a pergola, try working some asymmetry of height, color, and texture into all elements of your landscape design to bring the raw, natural beauty of a forest or meadow to your outdoor living space.
While patios, decks, and gazebos are all quite common in American landscaping, the pergola has yet to really have its moment in landscaping culture. That may change in 2019, with Pergolas being a major trend for their beauty and simplicity.
A pergola is, in essence, a large piece of latticework suspended horizontally over base timbers. Vines are often trained up and over the lattice, making a shady living space. To make an amazing canopy, try training grapes or apple tree branches over a pergola to make a shaded space for snacking.
While it may sound silly, goat mowing is actually a burgeoning industry. Many cities are now using goat mowing services to keep their green spaces nice and trim without having to use gas or electricity. If you have a large lawn that you hate mowing, see if there is a goat rental or mowing service in your area.
A hungry little ruminant, goats have a four-chambered stomach akin to cows and the ability to eat a considerable amount of grass in a day. Their waste is also a very beneficial fertilizer, once processed. The only drawback to goat mowing is that your yard must be free of weeds that are toxic to goats, as they are opportunistic eaters that will make themselves sick.
AstroTurf has come a long way since the days of unpopular baseball stadiums. Not only does artificial grass look much more real these days, but it is also much sturdier while being more pleasing to the touch. While it is a substantial up-front cost, artificial grass is mostly maintenance free and can save a great deal of watering, time, and energy.
If you live in an extremely arid climate, especially if you only have a small green space anyway, consider converting to artificial to enjoy a lush, green space without having to use any precious water. This grass will also look consistently better than the burned up grass often seen in arid areas.
If you have a Pergola, Arbor, or some regular garden arches around your property, consider training edible plants over them to create stunning, fairy-tale like tunnels full of delicious treats. Few walkways look more stunning than a shady path covered in shining pink or yellow apples, or hanging clusters of burgundy grapes.
Talk to a horticulturalists about the best ways to train plants onto an arbor and which varieties grow best when trained onto structures. Most any grape should happily grow on an arbor, but more giant fruit trees will require a bit more planning and work, but for a genuinely stunning payoff.
While many Americans are probably familiar with lawn darts, corn hole, and other standard summer backyard party games, many games can be made into beautiful, usable pieces of backyard art.
You can plant contrasting colors of groundcover plants into squares to create a living checker or chessboard. Create pieces out of stone, reclaimed wood, or another natural material to stay on-trend and renewable. Similarly, various ground covers can be used to grow out living tic-tac-toe or hopscotch play areas, which are sure to be a hit with children and adult guests alike.
In addition to kinetic art and living game spaces, living pieces of art are a beautiful possibility with landscaping. Whether the plants are showcases themselves, as in the case of topiary sculpted gardens, or used to create a form, as with living statues, there are countless opportunities to use plants to create living art in your landscaping.
Outdoor bonsai is a beautiful, historical option for the very patient gardener or landscaper. Faster growing shrubs like Arbor Vitae are great candidates for being shaped into interesting topiary pieces. Vining plants can be trained over sculpted wireframes to make unique sculptures.
If a smart thermostat controls your home, why not bring the indoors out yet again and get your yard set up with a high-tech control system? This home upgrade isn’t a cheap investment up front but can lead to significantly reduced water use, which will save money in the long run and benefit our natural water sources.
Some modern smart sprinkler systems allow yards to be divided up into as many as 16 zones that can be monitored and watered separately for maximum efficiency. Some systems also monitor the soil and weather patterns to avoid watering when rain is imminent.