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Outdoor rehab
10 landscaping trends for 2008


May 2008

Wisconsinites take full advantage of the outdoors during the short summer season by creating cozy conversational areas on larger decks and patios that can also feature other amenities such as outdoor kitchens.

As people spend more time at home, they naturally want to make their surroundings more livable — and that includes the outdoors. In fact, landscaping is now one of the top discretionary projects for today’s homeowners. Millions are spent on gardening and beautifying a home’s outdoor spaces, including gardens, patios and lawns. Here are 10 top landscaping and outdoor design ideas for 2008 from local experts.

1. Preplanning

"Landscaping used to be an afterthought in new home construction, but that is no longer true," says Amee Lapke, landscape designer for LandWorks Landscape Services in Sussex. "Now, we are being brought in by clients much sooner, during the design phase of a new home or redesign of an existing home. People want their landscaping and outdoor entertaining spaces to be a real reflection of their homes. Appropriate landscaping seems to be much more important to people in recent years," she says.

2. More space for entertaining

With the limited amount of time area homeowners are able to spend outdoors each year in southeastern Wisconsin, they want to make the most of it. That means expanding the amount of space they can use for entertaining or simply enjoying the outdoors. "We are being asked to build larger decks and patios, as well as coverings or pergolas. And, gardens are much more well-planned than ever," Lapke says. There might be several different gardens featuring different types of plants.

3. Outdoor kitchens

Ever since people have been using barbecue grills, the outdoor kitchen has been evolving to include built-in grills, fireplaces and stoves. Recently, refrigerators and cabinetry have been added, which means no more schlepping back and forth to the house. "People are asking for more elaborate outdoor kitchens. They want some of the same amenities outdoors as they have indoors," says Lapke. This extends to dining tables and other furniture, even outdoor rugs.

4. Extend the season

One way in which people are able to spend more time outdoors is by adding the element of heat when the nights (and days) are cooler than we’d like, but we still want to be outside. "We are doing more and more to extend the time outdoors," says Dave Guthery, landscape designer, from Lied’s in Sussex. "There are so many products available, like portable heaters. We’re building a lot of fire pits and fireplaces," he says.

5. Light it up

Another way to extend the time spent outdoors is with appropriate lighting. LED lighting is becoming more popular than ever, according to our experts. "LED lights use far less energy and have a much longer lamp life," says Guthery. The LED lights are best for landscape and garden lighting, spot path lights, accent lights, deck lights and outdoor fixtures. You can also use soft lighting to highlight the front of your house or enhance visibility with lighting along the driveway. Unfortunately, solar lighting lags behind LED lighting in terms of the amount of light it provides, Guthery says. "The technology has a way to go, and I would not recommend it to my clients for path lighting at this point. Maybe in five years," he says.

6. Keep it simple

"Clients want landscaping that requires very little maintenance," Guthery says. Homeowners are typically short on time, but they still want their landscaping to be outstanding and different. Of course, there are services that can help with that upkeep. Lapke concurs: "We can choose some things that are drought tolerant and some low-maintenance perennials. You can also designate a part of your lawn to go natural if you have a big lot," she says. "You only mow so far and then let the rest grow."

7. Green gardening

This term may sound redundant, but it really means that the trend toward chemically-dependent gardens is out and the use of environmentally-

sensitive products is in. In fact, sales of so-called "green" products have risen 200 percent in the last five years, according to studies. "Organic gardeners don’t want to use chemicals because they can be toxic to the environment and animals," Lapke says.

8. Rain gardens

In connection with green gardening is the idea of rain gardens. A rain garden is a planted depression that is designed to absorb rainwater runoff from impermeable urban areas like roofs, driveways, walkways and compacted lawn areas. This reduces rain runoff, which can cause erosion and pollution as well as diminished groundwater. Rain gardens can cut down on the amount of pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30 percent. "Quite simply, an extension is put on the downspout from a house, directing the water away from the house toward a garden," Guthery explains. Some grading of the land is also required.

9. Recyclable materials

Environmentally friendly materials are being used in a variety of ways in outdoor spaces. Decks, driveways, pathways and other areas are being made of recycled or reclaimed materials. "We don’t have big sources for this material currently, but it is growing," Guthery says. "If remodeling is being done, we can reclaim some of the concrete and other building materials. And, we can use deck/railing materials made of recycled plastic and composites." All of this helps to keep materials out of landfills.

10. Container gardening

"Container gardening — gardening in pots instead of the earth — is very hot right now," according to Lapke. "This is something that anybody can do and it works well for people living in condos or on small lots. Even the smallest patio or porch can hold a crop of vegetables or flowers. What’s great is you can keep changing the plants with the seasons," she says. The limits are the amount of space and your imagination.


This article was featured in the May 2008 issue of