If 2020 taught us anything, it’s the importance of home — and having outdoor spaces that reflect our lifestyles.
by Elton Liles
A new year, a time to reflect on the past one … but let’s not spend too much time on that. As we enter 2021, we can be hopeful that normalcy is soon to come. One thing we learned over the last year is the importance of home and what it can provide for us, and this includes having outdoor spaces to reflect or spend time with the people closest to you.
Updating your home’s landscape is a great way to increase property value while creating an area in which you can relax and entertain. Whether reimagining your front landscape to improve curb appeal or creating a backyard to enjoy with family, outdoor spaces provide a glimpse into an individual’s personality. Having fun and enjoying your garden is what it is all about.
We’re spending so much time at home these days, we can’t help but notice things we never paid attention to before: The shrubs are so tall I can no longer see out my windows. That mud hole in my backyard keeps getting bigger! Let’s bring in the new year with some ideas and concepts for the landscape that will transform those problems into solutions.
A concept I refer to as stylized nature uses materials in a way that may be observed in nature but are influenced by the designer to emphasize areas of the garden. A stylized nature garden can embrace the simplicity of a woodland pathway that meanders through a fern glade. Recreating a trickling stream provides an opportunity to reflect and relax. A pollinator garden provides the opportunity to steal a glimpse of a hummingbird levitating among a field of flowers. Sometimes, the little things can be just enough to brighten your day and provide a little reminder of the world that surrounds us. The magic of nature offers a much-needed retreat from our hectic lifestyles.
Outdoor living spaces provide additional entertaining areas to spend important time with friends and family that essentially increase the size of your home — and can significantly increase your home value if properly installed. When creating an area such as an outdoor kitchen or a patio and fire pit, the trick is developing the concept and ways to individualize it. Creating interest using patterns and inlays can help characterize a space. A new trend in outdoor living is rustic with a modern twist, such as oversized pavers with boulder accents.
Xeroscape refers to lawn-free landscapes that don’t require irrigation, often using plants that need little to no maintenance. Xeroscaping might be a consideration for small urban landscapes that provide a lot of interest without the upkeep. Another environmentally conscious and innovative approach to landscapes is ecoscaping, which integrates design and landscape architecture with environmental science to create a sustainable and nature-friendly design, often with native plants. Ecoscaping creates harmony and an environmentally healthy and sustainable landscape.
A new concept to think about is sustainable urban vegetable gardening. Imagine harvesting salad greens for your dinner right from your own front yard instead of going to the market. This also can provide a great opportunity to share your produce with friends, neighbors and the community. Growing herbs and vegetables in your landscape can be aesthetically pleasing. While this type of garden is not for everyone, it can be very rewarding for individuals who are interested in sustainability and lowering your carbon footprint.
Designers like myself often connect to the environments in which we work, taking the concepts of the story that is yet to be told and visually composing it throughout the landscape. As you begin thinking about the potential of what your landscape holds, be sure your outdoor spaces tell the story you want to tell. SP
A lifelong outdoorsman and landscaper, Elton Liles studied horticulture at N.C. State University, where he developed a knowledge that merged with a natural gift of art and imagination. “My passion for creating and nature allows me to enjoy what I do from day to day. For that, I am fortunate and always optimistic of what tomorrow may bring.”