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
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
"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
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.
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,"
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
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
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
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.