great outdoors is getting better as more and more people find that
getting away from it all can be as close as their own back yard.
And they are finding new ways to spruce up their backyard digs and
make them even inviting to family and friends alike.
Following are what outdoor pros say will be the hottest trends in
2006 for those looking for a piece of paradise right here on Earth:
Cliff White, owner of On the Deck in Oconomowoc, says outdoor
fireplaces and fire pits remain backyard must-haves, keeping the chill
— and bugs — out of the air. Starting at about $300 and running as
high as $6,000, there are more than 100 manufacturers of both
gas-fired and wood-burning units.
Unlike traditional patio furniture, these sets have lower tables
— 42 inches — and are more like a coffee table, White says. They
come with chairs that are a little bit shorter than the standard too,
making them ideal for drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
Tables of alternative materials
"No one’s buying glass anymore at all," White says of
outdoor tables. Outdoor enthusiasts are opting for more durable
materials — like wrought iron — that won’t break if tossed about
by strong winds. And they’re often more stylish, with a wide variety
of frame finishes and chair pad fabrics and prints.
Rodger Northouse, owner of Northouse Landscape, Milwaukee, says
backyard dining goes beyond the basic grill. "In the ’50s and
’60s, there were elaborate grills with grilling areas," he
says. "There’s a bit of a resurgence." Prefabricated
concrete block partially walls off the grill and creates a frame, he
says, which "cleans up the appearance."
Ecologically friendly back yards
Northhouse says more municipalities are reinforcing the need for
environmentally friendly design. "There’s a push to eradicate
yards of buckthorn and other noxious plants," he says.
Additionally, as water runoff has become an issue, rain gardens and
rooftop gardens, where water is reused, treated as a resource, are
becoming more popular. "I think we’re at the very, very
beginning of a much bigger trend toward environmentally friendly
design," he says.
6 Planning ahead
Christopher R. Miracle, senior landscape architect at Bret
Achtenhagen’s Seasonal Services in Mukwonago, says more people are
scheduling landscaping services well in advance. "People are
scheduled in August and September for spring work," he says.
"We’re involved before the ground is even broken."
The work may be elaborate and, hence, time-consuming, and with more
people creating backyard havens, scheduling well in advance means the
work will be done when you need it to be. "It’s especially true
of people doing renovation work," he says.
Miracle says shade structures are "pretty hot" right now.
They are usually a bit farther out in the back yard and may have a
flagstone surface and some chairs. "They can take in the grounds
from a different perspective," he says. The area is a bit more
secluded, and it "may be a bit of a journey to get there."
Any material can be used, he says, but usually the structures are
tied into the style of the house.
8 No-mow lawn
Miracle says a new product — a seed mix that has a stable look
— requires mowing only every four to six weeks. And it’s becoming
very popular among those with lots of land. "I would say we tend
to use it more as a perimeter thing," he says. "It’s a
pretty transition to a wooded area. Doing these transition zones is
really quite popular."
Some don’t mow it at all, he says, as it just doesn’t’ grow
very high. "You may have to spot treat for weeds, but it’s
thick, so they are hidden."
9 3-D design
Jim Drzewiecki, architect and CAD manager at David J. Frank
Landscaping, Germantown, calls it "one of the most amazing
advances in landscape architecture."
It involves a "before" photo of the property that’s
digitally enhanced to show the additions of new features, from
retaining walls to new flower beds and trees.
"And unlike traditional blueprints, our computer program takes
you into the design," he says. "You can walk through or fly
over your new yard and know you will love the results long before we
High-end sound and lighting systems
High-quality satellite systems and weatherproof speakers blend into
today’s yards more and more often, Drzewiecki says. Lighting is
subtle but attractive, with artistic detailing and stained-glass
housings. Flexible rubber mounting systems mean lights can take a few
hits from lawn mowers, hoses, pets or kids and easily return to their