Landscape Design Trends 2016

by Ben Bowen

What to look for in landscape design in 2016

Drive down your average city street and look at the landscapes. What do you see? Probably a bunch of boring yards. Shrubs around grass and a tree or two... yawn.

But don't let that fool you. Exciting things are happening in landscapes all over. Maybe you have seen them in your neighborhood, or maybe you will be the one introducing them to your neighbors.

What trends should you be on the look for? Here in Portland there are at least three that will continue to gain steam in 2016:

  1. Wild, natural, native. Gardens full of natives that are well adapted to local soil and weather are coming. There is no stopping this. And guess what? Some will look messy and random. Not everyone is going to love this at first, but you will get used to it. Want to understand where this push is coming from and how it might develop? Check out the great (and sure to be influential) book "Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes" by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West. Portland publishing house Timber Press has a winner here.

  2. Gravel gardens. Dry garden, sand garden, karesansui- whatever you want to call it, these are going mainstream. The reasons are clear: they are beautiful, modern, and take little or no water and maintenance. See all the great forms they can take in this primer from Gardenista.

  3. Tech in the landscape. Landscapes may be looking simpler, but that doesn't mean they are. Increasingly my clients want smart timers for their irrigation systems and the ability to control them with an app or IFTTT. Landscape lighting utilizes super efficient LEDs, and each fixture is individually controlled. This technology increases efficiency and is just plain cool.

Landscaping in 2016:

Taken together it's easy to see what is driving change in landscape design: sustainability. (My guide to a sustainable Portland garden.) 

My clients here in Portland want landscapes that are high in natives, low in water use and maintenance. Feeding the birds, bees, and even people are considered. Time is spent enjoying the landscape, not in fussing over it.

How about you? What do you want to see more of in your landscape (or other's) this year? The comments are open below.