Dubbed the slowest of the performing arts, gardening can seem trend proof. After all, you can’t hurry an oak’s progress from acorn to shade tree, and making a garden isn’t like buying a new throw rug for your home but rather stitching a few glimmering threads of your own into nature’s rich tapestry. And yet tastes do change in gardening, as your once-obsessed African violet-growing parents or grandparents could tell you. Those who work with the buying public are especially attuned to what’s hot and what’s not. With that in mind, we asked designers and retailers across the country to share the biggest trends they anticipate for 2018.
After years of minimalist dominance in hardscaping materials, furniture, and decor, designers are noticing renewed interest in natural materials and a less geometric style. Designer Julie Blakeslee at Big Red Sunin Austin, Texas, says, “Rather than clean and modern, clients are asking for a more old-fashioned, more DIY look in their gardens. We’ve been using railway ties, free-form decks, smaller outdoor furniture, and swing seating. I think clients are looking for something more authentic and real. The Dwell look has been replicated so many times. People may be yearning for something more organic in their gardens.”
Richard Hartlage of Seattle-based Land Morphology also sees a heightened interest in natural, tactile materials like wood and stone for the built elements of a garden. “People are moving away from concrete unless it’s an ultra-modern, minimalist garden,” he says.
A trend in women’s fashion, color blocking is the use of discrete blocks of colors, and it’s making a splash in outdoor living spaces too. Noting the number of color blocked patio walls that she’s seeing on Pinterest and around Los Angeles, Potted co-owner Annette Gutierrez says, “It’s about framing or highlighting a specific plant or area.” A flash of color on a wall, for instance, can frame a row of potted plants or be the artful backdrop to an outdoor sofa. “It’s exhilarating and oh so inexpensive to do!” she adds. And if you don’t have a wall to paint, you can always use a solid-color outdoor rug or porch curtains to create the effect.
“Locally sourced” continues to be a buzzword in many industries, and garden designers too are seeing interest not just in native plants but endemic plants—those native to a very particular ecosystem. Tait Moring, a landscape architect who often designs ranch properties in central Texas, says, “We’re planting more local and endemic plants, not just natives.” These aren’t always readily available in the nursery trade, so he transplants existing plants where he can. Even building materials are sourced hyperlocally. “We use existing rocks and make posts from on-site junipers when possible.”
Such hyperlocalism is part of a trend that Susan Cohan, a New Jersey designer, calls a celebration of regionalism. Using native plants and locally sourced materials has been popular for years, she acknowledges. “What’s new,” she says, “is the impact that climate change is having on each region and how that drives design. More rain, drought, increased snowfall, no snowfall, cataclysmic weather events—these are all factors. Add local rules for impervious coverage, chemical runoff, and storm-water retention, and you have the basis for intense regional, even local, design qualities.” The designer’s challenge, she says, has always been to find the balance between natural elements and human wants and use. “The answer to that challenge today is regionally focused design.”