Excerpt from “2017 Trends in Garden Design” published in Garden Design Magazine’s Autumn 2016 issue, by Pam Penick. Reprinted and edited with permission from Garden Design. Five of 10 trends are listed here. To read the rest, visit www.gardendesign.com/trends/2017.html

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. We asked designers and retailers across the country to share the biggest trends they anticipate for 2017. Here are five trends they say we’ll be seeing more of.

Just-harvested flowers are laid out on wet fabric as part of the dyeing process.
JONNY THOMAS FOR PINE HOUSE EDIBLE GARDENS

1. Natural dye gardens

Backyard homesteading has been going strong for a while, and edible gardens, chicken coops and beehives are ubiquitous, even in urban neighborhoods. The latest addition to the grow-it-yourself movement is natural dye gardens: plants used to make dyes for coloring textiles, yarn and clothing.

“Last year, I put in my first natural dye garden here in Berkeley,” says Leslie C. Bennett, owner of Pine House Edible Gardens in Oakland, Calif. “It’s really beautiful and includes a lot of vegetables, fruit trees, and pollinator-attracting flowers, but we’ve selected varieties and quantities so that the harvests can be used for natural plant dyes as well.” Multiple recent books including Sasha Duerr’s “Natural Color,” Kristine Vejar’s “The Modern Natural Dyer,” and Chris McLaughlin’s “A Garden to Dye For” also attest to the growing interest in dye gardening.

Bennett favors coreopsis, cosmos, Japanese indigo, marigold, ‘Moonshine’ yarrow, blue cornflower and purple basil for making dyes. “Many of these are kitchen and cutting garden favorites too,” she points out. “So it’s pretty easy to integrate a natural dye garden into an edible garden.”

Homeowners increasingly prefer more rustic, lived-in furniture and décor.
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2. Natural materials

After years of minimalist dominance in hardscaping materials, furniture and décor, designers are noticing renewed interest in natural materials and a less geometric style. Designer Julie Blakeslee at Big Red Sun in 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.

3. Lawn reimagined

A short-grass meadow of native wildflowers and grasses reduces watering outside a serpentine limestone wall.
TAIT MORING

Long a symbol of the American dream, the expansive and neatly manicured lawn continues to take a hit, due in part to drought, water shortages and concerns about the environmental impact of fertilizing, pest-control treatments, and other traditional maintenance. Lawn-like alternatives, however, are hot. “We’re installing a lot more grass mixes that don’t need to be mowed, like Habiturf [a native turfgrass blend for the Southwest], and also taller, prairie-type mixes,” says Tait Moring, a landscape architect in central Texas. While he doesn’t anticipate the end of traditional lawns anytime soon, his clients are opting for smaller ones than in the past. “These are lawns that will be used as opposed to being just for show,” he says.

Despite controversy over its environmental impact, faux grass continues to grow in popularity, thanks to improvements in how natural it looks. “We are still installing a lot of artificial turf,” says Blakeslee in Austin. Designer Sue Goetz of Creative Gardener in Tacoma, Wash., is too, especially in small spaces that clients don’t want the bother of mowing and for pet play areas. “I have had more requests for artificial turf in the last year than ever,” Goetz says. “It looks and feels real. It also speaks to a desire for low maintenance.”

4. Active play spaces for all ages

Bocce balls
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Playing out in the yard isn’t just for kids anymore, and even for kids it’s different. “I’ve had an uptick in requests for play and entertaining spaces,” Goetz says. “Bocce courts, dog and pet spaces, dining areas, fireplaces, hammocks. People don’t want places they have to weed. They want places where they can relax and play.” Susan Morrison, author and designer at Creative Exteriors Landscape Design in East Bay, Calif., agrees that game courts for adults and families are popular. “Most of my clients don’t have room for a regulation bocce court,” she says, “but I have done pétanque courts and recently got a request for a cornhole court. Yes, there is a regulation size for cornhole!”

And after decades of plunking wooden climbing structures into their yards, parents today want designed spaces for their children that encourage imaginative play. “Families with young children are asking for active play spaces rather than traditional play structures,” Morrison says. “I’ve had four clients in the last year ask for spaces where their kids can create and build, rather than just climb on a play structure or dig in a sandbox. The idea is a free-form digging area intermixed with plants, rocks, and landscape ties. The organic shape means it can be better integrated with the rest of the garden than a stand-alone play structure can be.”

Technology allows homeowners to monitor and adjust irrigation systems from their smart phones.
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5. Sustainability tech

“It’s amazing what you can do from your smart phone these days,” Morrison says. Ongoing droughts in California and throughout the West have galvanized an embrace of low-water landscaping, and technology advancements in irrigation systems make it easier than ever to control how much water is delivered to plants. “Smart controllers that use weather data to automatically determine correct irrigation amounts have been around for a while now,” Morrison says. “But the newest can be programmed and monitored from your phone. You can literally check on your irrigation system from your beach chair while you vacation! Some even include flow sensors that send a text alert if they detect a leak in the system and a portal so that your contractor can manage your irrigation remotely if you run into scheduling problems.”

Moring agrees. “We are seeing more advanced and efficient irrigation systems that can give a specific amount of water where it’s needed. It’s more expensive up front, but you can also create more zones so that specific plants can be watered more or less, depending on their needs.”