20 Landscaping Trends for 2021

2020 has been a big year in the landscaping world and there are several innovations that grabbed our attention. Many landscaping trends took us back to nature with more low-maintenance, water-smart and eco-friendly designs. Many also involved using our outdoor spaces for more of our typically-indoor activities. 

Here are 20 of the biggest landscaping trends we saw gaining traction in 2020,  all of which will become even more important in 2021. 

1. Going Native

If there’s one thing we’ve noticed over the years, it’s that people are choosing more and more native plants with every year that passes. Native plants provide a range of benefits but most importantly, they’ve already demonstrated that they can tolerate the conditions of your area.

When natives are chosen, you’ll have less to worry about as a gardener. They’ll thrive with the rainfall, wind, drought, and sun conditions that they’re used to. They’ve had hundreds—if not thousand—of years to adapt to stresses from pests or disease. 

Even better, they tend to do better than non-natives when it comes to the extreme weather events brought on by climate change. 

We’ve got a good range of natives in South Shore Massachusetts [1]—including many that come in a splash of color and serve multiple purposes. For example, Eastern Showy Aster (Eurybia spectabilis) and Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora) look great and are perfect in pollinator gardens (trend # 6).

2. Outdoor Living Areas 

If there’s one thing 2020 has instilled in us it’s the urge to do more outside. As we’ve adapted to socially distancing and safe socializing, many of us have turned to our outdoor areas as new living rooms, kitchens, dining rooms, and play areas. 

The trend to take the indoors outside has been a big one this year and we’re seeing a lot of people transform underutilized lawns into a living area with a stained or polished concrete floor. We’re also seeing more gazebos and pergolas that can serve as a covered area perfect for working, meditation, or entertaining.  

If you’re interested in turning this trend into your reality you can start small with an outdoor firepit/fireplace, a set of weather-proof outdoor furniture, or an outdoor pizza oven. Or you can go big and build an entire kitchen outdoors! To make it just like your indoor entertaining areas, you might even consider adding an outdoor TV or audio system. 

3. Eco-Conscious Elements

For many of us, the prim and proper English-style gardens are coming slightly undone as we begin to adopt more naturalistic elements into our landscaping plans, opting for wildly lush cottage gardens instead. This could be seen as the incorporation of native plants but it could also mean doing much less to tame our gardens. 

Many people are beginning to consider wildlife more and are leaving certain elements untouched—like plants and trees that provide food or shelter for local species of birds, animals, and even insects. 

This “less is more” mentality can result in a low-maintenance garden that provides invaluable resources (aesthetic and otherwise) to both humans and wildlife. As a good rule of thumb, the more unattended it looks, the better! 

4. Multi-Season Green

Gone are the days in which spring and summer were the only garden seasons to plan for! Now, there’s a new focus on trees, plants, and shrubs that offer either multi-season interest or tend to display their color, texture, fruit and flowers when we need a splash of color most—during winter! 

Containers work well for any cold-season plants. For more tips for a year-round splash of color, check out our recent blog post.  

5. Getting Creative With Food Plants

The boring beefsteak tomato has some competition—a range of other varieties of food plants that are receiving some new attention. We’re seeing that a lot of food gardeners are trading in some of the more traditional plant choices with heirloom and innovative new varieties. 

Mini watermelons, purple cauliflower, heirloom tomatoes, blue kale, pattypan squash, purple bell peppers, and towering basil—the options are endless! The diversity of these plants not only looks great but can also help with pest control and eating a richer and more nutritious diet! 

If you want to learn how to grow fruits and vegetables in your backyard, our Complete Gardening Guide has all of that and more!

So, if you’re looking for a good winter activity, curl up with your favorite seed catalog and commit to trying at least one (or a few!) new varieties. 

6. Setting Up A Pollinator Garden

Over recent years, we’ve begun realizing just how important our pollinators are and that even a small space designated for pollinator habitat can help us fight climate change and provide for the insects upon which our food system relies!

Depending on the space you’ve got available, you can convert your entire lawn, a small garden bed, or even a few containers into a pollinator-friendly oasis. It’s best to choose a diverse group of native plants that will attract different pollinators, including butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. 

The Massachusetts Audubon [2] put out an excellent guide of plants suitable for a range of different pollinators but it’s important to try to choose something for each season and to not forget about leafy plants for caterpillars! 

7. Growing Up With Vertical Gardens

It seems like we’ve been growing up recently because vertical gardening is a trend everyone appears to be trying! If you’ve got a small space, this is one of the best landscaping trends for you! 

Don’t know where to start? Choose a wall, then build a frame. It’s much easier to do this before hanging it. You’ll want to use plastic sheeting on the back, which will keep water from directly touching the wall. Then a few layers of fabric can be attached to the frame. Next comes the irrigation system and then your plants!

When it comes to growing up, succulents, honeysuckle, Boston ivy (beware, some people are sensitive to this and it can cause a similar reaction to poison ivy), and lemon balm are our top recommendations. 

If this is something you’d like to try but the process sounds daunting, don’t hesitate to get in touch! We’d be happy to answer any questions you have. 

8. Smart Technology

We’ve come a long way over recent years and now technology isn’t something that’s limited to our phones, computers, and at home virtual assistants. 

Well now these are making their way outside and we’re beginning to see the integration of smart technology into landscaping. Especially in areas that are prone to drought, more people are beginning to install subsurface irrigation with smart controllers in order to do flow sensing. This manages the water so that someone can preset a maximum flow for a specific garden zone. 

This takes the hassle out of your daily watering routine and is a more ecologically-sound way to keep your plants hydrated. If you’re able to splurge, you can even get a smart irrigation system that monitors evaporation, plant water use, soil conditions, and weather!

For anyone on a budget, there are several smart sprinkler systems that offer different configurations, easy use, and built in timers. Keep in mind that more efficient watering means a cheaper water bill!

For non-watering needs, we’re also seeing a lot more lighting sensors and wireless connectivity to sensors and outdoor speakers.

9. Keeping Pests Out

There’s no landscaping nightmare quite like waking up to plants and flowers that have been devastated by local rabbits and deer. 

While there’s no tried and tested way to ensure that your garden is safe from hungry deer, there are a few things that can be done.

If you have a large garden, you can actually plant a buffet to satisfy the voracious appetite of wildlife pests. In the spring, daffodils and iris might prevent deer from eating other plants (plus they look beautiful!).

In the summer, aromatic plants like lavender, lilac, and allium might deter deer from going after the tasty vegetation in your garden. Anything with thorns might help to keep deer away, too! While not extremely prickly, a perimeter of American holly looks beautiful and will stay green and attractive throughout winter!

For another type of pest (mosquitos!), some of these same aromatic plants might also help to keep them away. Additionally, citronella, marigolds, lemon balm, basil, and catnip are great to have close to your outdoor living area, deck, or patio.

10. Composting For Healthy Soils

Whether a result of erosion, poor planting, heavy foot traffic, constant annuals, or just poor luck, many gardeners and landscapers struggle with poor soils. 

Fortunately, this problem can be fixed by solving another one of the biggest problems in the world today: food waste. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions [3]. To put things into perspective, the average American family throws away $1,600 worth of produce every year [4]!

We don’t need expensive technology or a huge shift in our practices to find a solution to both of these problems. We just need to start composting!

With a range of different sizes, prices, and functionalities, anyone can compost their food scraps and turn it into rich compost that is great for the garden! If you’re in a small house or apartment, a Bokashi compost bin would work for you. If you’re in a larger home, a cedar compost bin or compost tumbler is a better option. 

The Massachusetts state government even has some compost bins available for residents at a discount [5]. 

11. Intricate Touches

Even with large spaces, there’s been an increased focus on detail this year. Flat and uniform surfaces are being replaced by geometric and ornate touches. Landscape designs are beginning to incorporate more stones, concrete pieces, and detailed patterns. 

If you create an outdoor living area, walkway, or retaining water, consider some intricate designs and patterns!

12. Food Out Front

Before recently, the backyard has always been the chosen area for a raised bed or any food plants. Now, people are turning to their front yards for food production! 

We know, you might have immediate concerns about what your neighbors will think or if it will end up looking messy. However, think of red russian kale or rainbow swiss chard—these vegetables are just as beautiful as decorative plants you may have in the front yard instead!

As an added bonus, growing food in a visible location is a great conversation starter. Not only that, but you may have better sunlight in the front yard.

13. Secluded Spaces

If you’re turned off by the idea of a front yard food forest and constant chats with neighbors, perhaps this idea is more up your alley. Recently, there has been an increased interest in transforming a corner of your backyard into a private, secluded slice of heaven. 

As humans, we tend to have a preference for the cozy feeling we get when nestling. While we typically think of this for an indoor space, there’s no reason it can’t be done in the garden!

Homeowners like to unwind and relax and this is easy to create. We’ve noticed a trend towards smaller Japanese-style gardens with natural hedges for privacy. Incorporating seating for one or two, with some lush plants and a wall of tall and narrow plants as a privacy screen, is the perfect way to escape!  Add a simple water feature and voila, you’re transported to a private paradise! 

14. Low-Maintenance Landscapes

Some of us are natural green thumbs—most of us are not. This means that the majority of people want a garden that does not require them to spend hours and hours each week taking care of it. 

Fortunately, a low-maintenance landscape is possible! Planting a ground cover, applying mulch, or turning a lawn into a cobblestone patio can help to reduce the fuss but still create an outdoor space that looks inviting. 

If you’ve experienced the gardening buzz in spring, but then realize you’re not cut out for the regular upkeep to keep your landscape looking lush and healthy, then let us help. We offer a range of landscaping services, like mulching, turf management, hedge trimming, tree trimming, plantings, and a general spring and fall cleanup. We’re happy to get our hands dirty so that you can keep your weekly garden tasks at a minimum.  

15. Unique Outdoor Lighting

Minimalist lighting has shone bright in 2020. Whether it’s hidden lighting that illuminates a path, a LED light channel underneath a patio or sidewalk, or lights placed under floating structures or trees, we’re beginning to see more lights used in new and improved ways. 

The common trend with outdoor lighting is to enhance textures and curves of your landscape design, while still using lighting to improve visibility and ensure that garden spaces are safe. 

16. Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping comes from the Greek word “xeros” which translates to “dry.” If you’ve heard of xeriscaping before, you likely associate it with the deserts in the Southwestern US. While it is an ideal design system that takes low average rainfall and periods of drought into account, there’s no reason it can’t benefit a landscape here in the Northeast [6]. 

As the name suggests, these xeriscapes are water-wise designs that take into several factors to help save water. Like most other landscape designs, it will require planning and a soil analysis. It will also include a selection of appropriate plants, efficient irrigation, appropriate maintenance, and use of mulch. 

This low-maintenance garden design will require some additional water as the plants are getting established, but after that much less will be required in the way of pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation, and pruning.

What it will require, however, are native plants (trend # 1) and the addition of compost (trend # 10). Now you can see why some of these trends are so… trendy!

17. On-Site Water Collection

As you’ve noticed, many of these trends have some element of sustainability. It’s clear that people have been adopting more environmentally-conscious landscaping ideas over recent years. One of the most common trends is the collection of rainwater. 

Every summer, outdoor garden activities typically require about 40% of a household’s water use [7]. The costs can certainly become noticeable, which is why more people are turning to rain barrels to collect rainwater and minimize stormwater runoff. 

These rain barrels are typically 55-gallon food-grade plastic barrels, although we’ve also seen some made from different materials like glazed ceramic or wood. Placed beneath a gutter or downspout, the collected water can be used in the garden or to water the lawn, but it can also be used to do household chores, wash cars, or even fill a swimming pool. 

18. More Potted Plants

Regardless of how small or large your space is, potted plants are an amazing way to improve any landscape. They’re easy to move, don’t require a lot of weeding, and are the best way to control the size of your plants. 

Another trend we’ve been seeing? Indoor plants. They’re good for our health and they reduce air toxins and prevent indoor dryness—especially in the winter. So, it’s great to have some potted plants that can make the journey indoors when temperatures get low.

19. Front Porch Living

With all of this talk of landscapes, it’s easy to forget about one area of the home that might deserve a little TLC: the front porch. As more of us are spending more time outdoors, this means that the front porch is no longer just a place for our delivery packages and dirty shoes! 

Many of us are beginning to return to the front porch as a functional gathering space. Curb appeal is as important as making the front porch welcoming for friends and family members. This typically means that bright landscaping elements are chosen, comfy seating is added, and low maintenance bushes are incorporated. If you have a small space, hanging baskets are perfect, or some small potted plants. 

20. Blue Gardens 

Pantone, the color expert company, chose Classic Blue as the color of the year in 2020 [8]. For many people, this was the advice behind the decision to transform indoor and outdoor spaces with the addition of blue elements that are thought to instill connection, confidence, and calm. 

They’ve predicted cherier color trends for 2021—like optimistic yellow, warm marigold, and serene cerulean blue [9]. With these in mind, you can start making some of your plant choices for next year. Enjoy the colors that bring uplifted moods, comfort, and relaxation with plans for marigolds, tall bearded iris (Iris ‘Cerulean Blue’), and some happy yellow forsythia. 

What trends have you taken part in this year? Are these trends going to be considered for your landscape designs in 2021? We’d love to know! And, as always, don’t hesitate to contact us with any landscaping questions. 

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