Top Outdoor Living Trends
That Add Resale Value

I am, thankfully, busier than ever – both as a landscape designer and as a landscape contractor. I am working with a number of clients to transform their front and back yards into wonderful, livable spaces that are not only beautiful outdoor environments designed for relaxation and entertaining but are far more environmentally friendly and far less expensive to maintain than the water-guzzling grass that had previously covered the majority of these sites.

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A great deal of what I'm doing is the design and construction of hardscape environments. This increased interest in construction was highlighted when I came across a survey of 2013 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects. According to their survey (which follows) American homeowners are increasingly interested in creating outdoor rooms and outdoor kitchens (hardscape) for entertaining and relaxation.

The results of the survey confirm what I've been hearing: with the economy improving and real estate prices heading upward, homeowners are now willing to invest in their homes. It's clear that they want to maximize their properties' enjoyable, usable spaces, to save money on maintenance while at the same time increasing their homes' resale value.

Building What People Want Is A Wise Investment

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The following survey will give you an idea of how a serious sampling of homeowners are looking to improve their properties. It would be a helpful guide if you too are looking to make such an investment. Because, let's face it, if you're going to spend the time, energy and money improving you landscape, you might as well know what most people are looking for so that in the event you decided to sell ... those improvements will turn out to be a wise investment.

American Society of Landscape Architects' Survey


American homeowners increasingly are drawn to adding outdoor rooms for entertaining and recreation on their properties, according to the aforementioned survey. The results also show demand for both sustainable and low-maintenance design.

Survey Analysis

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Landscape architects who specialize in residential design across the country were asked to rate the expected popularity of a variety of residential outdoor design elements in 2013.

The category of outdoor living spaces, defined as kitchens and entertainment spaces, received a 94.5 percent rating as somewhat or very popular. It all but tied with gardens and landscaped spaces at 94.4 percent.

"In this uncertain economy, homeowners want to get more enjoyment out of their yards," said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA. "They want attractive outdoor spaces that are both easy to take care of and sustainable."

Decorative water elements—including waterfalls, ornamental pools, and splash pools—were predicted to be in demand for home landscapes (90.9 percent). Spas (81.5 percent) and pools (75.3 percent) are also expected to be popular.

Terraces, patios, and decks are high on people's lists (97.6 percent), as are fencing (89.6 percent) and ornamental water features (84.2 percent).

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Americans still prefer such practical yet striking design elements for their gardens as low-maintenance landscapes (93.9 percent) and native plants (86.6 percent), with organic slightly increasing in popularity (65.3 percent compared to 61.2 percent in 2012). In keeping with the local food movement, more people are opting for food and vegetable gardens, including orchards and vineyards (82.7 percent).

Besides planting locally and organically, other sustainable elements continue their popularity with homeowners. Native or drought-tolerant plants (83 percent), drip irrigation (82.5 percent), permeable paving (72.8 percent) and reduced lawns (72.6 percent) are making their way into outdoor living spaces across the country.

Additional information on residential landscape architecture can be found at

Outdoor Design Elements

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

  • Outdoor living spaces (kitchens, entertainment spaces) – 94.5%
  • Gardens/landscaped spaces – 94.4%
  • Outdoor recreation amenities (pools, spas, tennis courts) – 76.3%
  • Sustainable design practices – 74.8%
  • Vegetable/fruit gardens – 76.4%
  • Turf lawns – 52.2%

Outdoor Living Features

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

  • Fire pits/fireplace – 97.0%
  • Grills – 96.3%
  • Seating/dining areas – 96.3%
  • Lighting – 95.1%
  • Installed seating (benches, seat walls, ledges, steps, boulders) – 90.3%
  • Weatherized outdoor furniture – 82.3%
  • Counter space – 74.4%
  • Utility storage – 64.4%
  • Stereo systems – 58.5%
  • Outdoor heaters – 50.6%
  • Sinks – 49.1%
  • Refrigerators – 48.7%
  • Wireless/Internet connectivity – 47.8%
  • Televisions/projection screens – 45.2%
  • Showers/baths – 43.3%
  • Outdoor cooling systems (including fans) – 31.1%
  • Hammocks – 24.1%
  • Bedrooms/sleeping spaces – 8.0%

Outdoor Recreation Amenities

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

  • Decorative water elements such as ornamental pools, splash pools, waterfalls, grottoes, water runnels or bubblers – 90.9%
  • Spa features (hot tub, Jacuzzi, whirlpool, indoor/outdoor sauna) – 81.5%
  • Swimming pools – 75.3%
  • Sports/recreational spaces (tennis courts, bocce ball, etc.) – 54.3%
  • Movie/video/TV theatres – 34.4%

Landscape/Garden Elements

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

  • Low maintenance landscapes – 93.9%
  • Native plants – 86.6%
  • Fountains/ornamental water features – 84.7%
  • Food/Vegetable gardens (including orchards/vineyards etc.) – 82.7%
  • Organic gardens – 65.3%
  • Xeriscaping or dry gardens – 63.8%
  • Ponds/streams – 58.3%
  • Rain gardens – 58.2%
  • Rooftop gardens – 50.4%
  • Plant walls/vertical gardens – 47.9%

Sustainable Design Elements

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

  • Native/adapted drought-tolerant plants – 83.0%
  • Drip/water-efficient irrigation – 82.5%
  • Permeable paving – 72.8%
  • Reduced lawn – 72.6%
  • Recycled materials – 62.5%
  • Rainwater/graywater harvesting – 59.1%
  • Compost bins – 55.1%
  • Solar-powered lights – 40.6%
  • Geothermal-heated pools – 28.4%

Outdoor Structures

Percent Rating Popular or Somewhat Popular:

  • Terraces/patios/decks – 97.6%
  • Fencing (includes gates) – 89.6%
  • Ornamental water features such as fountains or splash pools – 84.2%
  • Arbors – 83.5%
  • Pergolas – 81.6%
  • Decks – 80.9%
  • Steps – 80.6%
  • Porches – 71.5%
  • Kitchens/ovens – 67.1%
  • Utility sheds (tool sheds, garden sheds, etc.) – 64.8%
  • Art (sculptures, murals etc.) – 61.0%
  • Play structures (tree houses, swing sets, etc.) – 56.3%
  • Awnings, including retractable – 51.9%
  • Pavilions – 47.8%
  • Gazebos – 44.8%
  • Columns – 44.5%
  • ADA-accessible structures (ramps, bars, accessible shelving, etc.) – 22.1%

About the Survey

The survey asked residential landscape architecture professionals about the estimated popularity of various design elements for 2013. The survey was fielded January 28 through February 12, 2013, with 166 Landscape Architects responding

Garden Consultation & Gift Certificates

If you're interested in exploring how to save water, save money, help save our planet and still have a stunning landscape, please give me a call (323-461-6556) or email me to set up a phone consultation or arrange for a site inspection. In addition to my work as a landscape designer and contractor, I love giving advice and have provided garden consultations to any number of folks with great results.

I am also pleased to offer Garden Of Eva Gift Certificates for those of you who would like to provide a truly unique, thoughtful and very special gift—suitable for holiday giving or for any special occasion. There are three levels of Certificates, depending on the scope of the work. If you'd like to see what's being offered, please CLICK HERE.

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Plant Of The Month
Hydrangea macrophylla

Hydrangeas, also known as hortensia, are popular ornamental plants, grown for their large flowerheads, with Hydrangea macrophylla (above) being by far the most widely grown with over 600 named cultivars.

Hydrangea is a genus of 70-75 species of flowering plants native to southern and eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas, and Indonesia) and the Americas.

By far the greatest species diversity is in eastern Asia, notably China, Japan, and Korea. Most are shrubs 1 to 3 meters tall, but some are small trees, and others lianas reaching up to 30 m (98 ft) by climbing up trees. They can be either deciduous or evergreen, though the widely cultivated temperate species are all deciduous.

There are two flower arrangements in hydrangeas. Mophead flowers are large round flowerheads resembling pom-poms or, as the name implies, the head of a mop.

In contrast, lacecap flowers bear round, flat flowerheads with a center core of subdued, fertile flowers surrounded by outer rings of showy, sterile flowers. The flowers of some rhododendrons can appear similar to those of some hydrangeas, but Rhododendron (including azalea) is in a different order.

The pink hydrangea has risen in popularity all over the world, but especially in Asia. Pink hydrangeas have many different meanings, but generally means, "You are the beat of my heart," as described by the celebrated Asian florist Tan Jun Yong, where he was quoted saying, "The light delicate blush of the petals reminds me of a beating heart, while the size could only match the heart of the sender!"

Life Cycle

Hydrangea flowers are produced from early spring to late autumn; they grow in flowerheads (corymbs or panicles) at the ends of the stems. In many species, the flowerheads contain two types of flowers, small fertile flowers in the middle of the flowerhead, and large, sterile bract-like flowers in a ring around the edge of each flowerhead. Other species have all the flowers sterile and of the same size.

Some are best pruned on an annual basis when the new leaf buds begin to appear. If not pruned regularly, the bush will become very 'leggy', growing upwards until the weight of the stems is greater than their strength, at which point the stems will sag down to the ground and possibly break. Other species only flower on 'old wood'. Thus new wood resulting from pruning will not produce flowers until the following season.

Colors and Soil Acidity

In most species the flowers are white, but in some species (notably H. macrophylla), can be blue, red, pink, light purple, or dark purple. In these species the color is affected by soil pH.

For H. macrophylla and H. serrata cultivars, the flower color can be determined by the relative acidity of the soil: an acidic soil (pH below 6), by the influence of sundry agents in the soil, such as alum or iron, will usually produce flower color closer to blue, whereas an alkaline soil (pH above 6) will produce flowers more pink. This is caused by a color change of the flower pigments in the presence of aluminium ions which can be taken up into hyperaccumulating plants.

Hydrangeas are moderately toxic if eaten, with all parts of the plant containing cyanogenic glycosides. Hydrangea paniculata is reportedly sometimes smoked as an intoxicant, despite the danger of illness and/or death due to the cyanide.


For more information and photographs on various Hydrangea species, please visit Wickapedia or check out Monrovia's website – an excellent resource for plants.

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