Connecting with the Landscape By Tim Hodson

The top landscape and garden elements that consumers are asking for this year are native plants, low-maintenance landscapes and food/vegetable gardens.

As the spring season kicks off and consumers look to buy their plants and enhance their outdoor living areas this year, it appears they will be looking for native plants that are easy to care for and have minimal watering requirements. And many of them are still looking to grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Those are the findings of a recently released survey from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). The organization polled landscape architects and asked them to rate the expected popularity of a variety of residential outdoor design elements in 2017.

According to the ASLA survey, the top landscape and garden elements that consumers are asking for this year are native plants (82 percent), low-maintenance landscapes (79 percent) and food/vegetable gardens (77 percent).

The next most requested items are rain gardens (69 percent) followed by organic gardens and water-saving xeriscape/dry gardens at 66 percent. Plant walls/vertical gardens (56 percent) and rooftop gardens (52 percent) round out the list.

When it comes to the most popular outdoor structures, pergolas (50 percent) top the list, followed by decks (41 percent), fencing (40 percent) and arbors (39 percent).

“Well-designed residential landscapes provide social interaction, enjoyment of nature and physical activity, while also reducing water use and stormwater runoff,” said Nancy C. Somerville, ASLA’s executive vice president and CEO.

Today’s consumers are looking outdoors to reduce stress, unwind and escape the craziness in their lives. They are looking for a place of restoration, relaxation and reconnection. Our sister publication, Lawn & Garden Retailer, took a look at this topic in February. Check out the article “The Benefits of the Garden” ( article/the-benefits-of-the-garden) to learn how people are making new connections with nature and gardening in their own landscapes.

A Disconnect?

Even though consumers are escaping to the outdoors, they still don’t want to be totally disconnected. According to the ASLA survey, 71 percent of the respondents said wireless/internet connectivity was a critical component of their outdoor living plans.

“The fact that more consumers want outdoor wireless access shows that they want expanded options for remaining connected to their devices,” Somerville said.

But Wi-Fi access in the garden isn’t just for checking your email, Facebook or Twitter accounts. Visit any home gardening show or garden center and you are sure to find a plethora of “smart” products that are Wi-Fi enabled — products for controlling the plant irrigation system, turning on the garden lights, adjusting the volume on the outdoor sound system or turning up the heat on the internet-connected barbecue just to name a few.

Today’s consumers are looking to connect with their landscape — now they just need to find the right balance of nature and technology.