What’s New in Landscape Design?

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An immersive outdoor experience is a huge part of the California way of life.  Much of our beautiful state offers climates conducive to living, working, and playing outdoors.  Whether it’s acres of land on which to cultivate crops, or a few hundred square feet of enjoyable yet easily maintainable space, the outdoor areas of a home and how they will be used are of utmost importance to the homeowner.  When presented with the opportunity to craft an outdoor space from the ground up, suitable to the wants and needs of those who will enjoy it, there are several recent recurring themes that are the leading prevailing trends in landscape planning.

Farm to table, sustainable, free range – these are some of the keywords that are growing in our daily lexicon.  There is an increasing awareness of, an emphasis on, the knowledge of how and where food is sourced.  To that end, the home garden, and gardens in lieu of grass are on the upswing.  In multi-family housing, the co-op or community garden is a sought-after amenity, which affords the residents of a community the opportunity to get out and grow, and to enjoy the fruits of shared labor. In new home construction, landscape plans increasingly have a space reserved and dedicated to future at-home cultivation.   The incorporation of components such as raised planter beds and rainwater catchment, combined with creative pathway design can create a beautiful, functional, and healthy initiative.

5913 Mountain Hawk

Xeriscaping – it’s not just for Southern California.  As rainfall becomes scarcer and lawns become browner, water-wise plantings are beginning to dominate new landscape plans, and smart solutions to irrigation are the new normal.  In certain counties, a low water street frontage is simply required as part of building a new home.  Drip irrigation systems and smart irrigation systems are now frequently utilized so that when it does rain, irrigation sensors can detect moisture and automatically cease watering for the day.  The luscious, but water-greedy green lawns of decades past are being replaced with California-native and pollinator-friendly plant choices, both for the benefit of the bees and for creating a pleasing aesthetic that is also drought tolerant.

Creating defensible space perimeters and planning the smart placement of trees and shrubs have become of utmost importance in areas of potential wildfire.   Defensible space is the area surrounding a structure that should be planned and maintained in such a manner as to help mitigate the risk of wildfire spreading via heat and embers.  Another term that is newer to landscape design but is becoming more widely used is firescaping.  While no plant is immune to fire, there are those that are more resistant than others.  Firescaping is a strategy that employs choosing plants that intrinsically have a greater resistance to fire and placing the plantings and other landscape features in a manner that creates fire break space, while still capturing the beauty of a well-planned yard.  According to the California Native Plant Society, hardwood trees like the native California Oak are more resistant than trees with a higher sap content, and shrubs and low plantings with fleshy, bendable leaves indicative of high water content are widely advised.

Finally, creating spaces that blend the indoors with the outside environment is key in the way Californians are choosing to live today.  A hallmark of current design is to bring dining and living spaces outside, and create opportunities for comfortable gathering spaces that are useable year-round.  A covered loggia is a great addition to a home plan, however a pergola or styled barn or shed can be a great alternative to creating livable area that is not inside the home.  Outdoor kitchens are often part of the total landscape plan, providing great functionality and a fun, inviting center of activity.  Hardscape features such as stone and rock pathways and low garden walls both delineate the yard and separate zones while creating an invitation to explore and meander.

When presented with the opportunity to design a yard from the ground up, we have the benefit of expert advice and guidance from our Landscape Manager, Ashell Cunningham.  With an extensive background and over 20 years in the trades, Ashell is committed to the experience of working with clients and creating beautiful surroundings together.

Published in the September / October Edition of Vacaville Magazine

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