Five Landscape Trends for 2013

I only need to be as accurate as the Weather Channel, right?
I only need to be as accurate as the Weather Channel, right?

I’ve always wanted to be a successful prognosticator. It’s much easier to be a procrastinator, though. That notwithstanding, I’ve gazed into my crystal ball and come up with what I think we’ll see more of in 2013. Ok, I’m actually forecasting based on a combination of client requests, search engine stats, and chatter I’ve seen from other designers and installers. Shh. Ignore the man behind the curtain!

1- Outdoor Living will become even more of a thing

I won’t lie, I feel a little dirty writing that, because I’ll bet you a hundred bucks someone has made this prediction every year since the first landscape designer scrawled a malformed tree on the wall of a cave. However, I really do believe we’ll see an increase in outdoor living design this year. Here’s why:

  • With our increasingly screwy weather we have more warm days. While the fact that 2012 was a record-breakingly warm year is not a good thing, the silver lining is that there are more days where we can comfortably grill out and spend time on the patio.
  • Architects and builders are capitalizing on the idea of blending the indoors and the outdoors when it comes to how clients live. I get to play in the backyards of custom homes and remodels throughout the DC metro area, and that’s definitely a trend. I see banks of French doors opening onto decks, patios, and terraces, three season rooms, sunrooms, and more. Whether you argue that designers are shaping demand or responding to it, this is how people want to live – with one foot out the back door at all times.
  • We have products for the outdoors that are every bit as good as their indoor counterparts. Outdoor kitchens used to be clunky, awkward masonry structures with limited functionality. Now, we have gorgeous stainless steel base and wall cabinets, amazing burners, warming drawers, wine fridges, and even ice makers – ice makers! – for outdoor applications. We have flat panel tvs designed for the outdoors. We have outdoor furniture that makes an Ethan Allen sofa look like waiting room furniture at a Third World airport.

So the bottom line is, I feel good about this prediction. Plus, I love designing these spaces, so this prediction is relevant to my interests.

2- Expect restrictions on firepits and fireplaces

I’m torn on this one. I love throwing some scrap wood in the firepit on a spring evening and sitting out with MJ and a bottle of wine. However, I recognize I’m not doing the air quality any favors. Many municipalities have limited or banned wood burning outdoor fire features, and I fully expect to see those in the more densely settled parts of northern Virginia, DC, and southern Maryland. Plus, we’re seeing more respiratory issues in kids and an aging population. Even though I can legally burn what I want in my yard, if my neighbor came over and asked me not to so as to prevent an asthma attack, I wouldn’t light that fire.

Clean burning modern firepit

Luckily, there are alternatives. One of the companies I’ll be working with this year offers these amazing fire features that burn bioethanol. It’s clean burning and still throws off decent heat, with the benefit that you don’t have to shovel ash when you’re done. These are really cool, and I will probably end up with at least one in my yard.

3- Manmade products will continue to get better

I love stone, wood, and brick. I always will. Sometimes, though, they’re just not the right functional choice even if they’re the right aesthetic choice. When I talked about the 2013 Techo-Bloc products I mentioned Travertina, a concrete paver that looks like travertine marble:

Techo Bloc Travertina

There are also many more compelling wall stones, composite lumber, and other products that may not be the real thing, but they’re darn close.

4- There will be no reason to settle for lame off-the-shelf crap from the local box store

I recognize that this is a bold statement, but here’s why: I haz the internets. Seriously, this is an exciting time to be a designer. If you’re creative and can do some research, you stand a really good chance of finding one of a kind items produced by amazing artists somewhere in the country. If you’re REALLY creative, even if you can’t find a piece that exists, you can design it and find a talented artist who will make it for you.


I hate 99% of the fountains that I see at garden centers. I just can’t get excited about a squat vase bubbling water or a heron spitting from its beak. I can certainly get excited about the steampunk water feature from Rock Art Studios in New England, though (above).

5- Annuals and other seasonal color will become THE outdoor accessory

You read that here first. Remember that.

I worked with a landscape design client in Great Falls who had so many Christmas decorations for the house (plates, candles, runners, throw pillows with reindeer) that she had one of those storage pods dropped off every year to deal with them. Homeowners will begin to realize that annuals and containers are a way in which they can carry their personalities out into the landscape as effectively as they’re doing indoors.

northern virginia custom container plantings

Why do I believe this? Because 2012 was the first year that I really started promoting containers, annuals, and bulbs, and people LOVED them. I think the reason we don’t see more of them is that most folks in the landscape industry focus on the big stuff, like patios and big plantings. They don’t want to bother with the finishing touches. Well, I do. Just like Doug, my drafting instructor in Arizona, was on a mission to single-handedly make the Dutch door standard in every home, I want greenery in front of every garage and gorgeous color in every pot.

This is a list of what I see as the hot landscape trends for 2013; what do you think will be big this year?


    January 28, 2013 REPLY

    Good list, Dave, but you probably already saw my thoughts about “trends”. Of course quality always trumps popularity IMO, and I know you’ve got that covered. And since you’re the designer and I’m more on the install side, I’ll bow to your expertise.

    January 28, 2013 REPLY

    Clark, next time we get together we’ll have to talk about the Color Marketing Group, the folks who actually decide for us what color palettes are going to be “in” next year. It’s like a fuchsia-tinted Illuminati conspiracy theory.

    Anyhow, I’m all for following trends, because that way we know what our clients are asking for and can be better researched than our competitors. Fads, not so much.

    January 28, 2013 REPLY

    Good point differentiating between trends and fads.

    February 5, 2013 REPLY


    I think you’re more accurate than the weather channel.

    Like everything you wrote here, especially your observation of what people in landscaping industry tend to focus on. It’s true it’s often about the big stuff, but also details, as those finishing touches make all the difference.


    February 6, 2013 REPLY

    I think you’re spot on, especially with the outdoor living space. 😉

    BTW- our local network station has a 5 degree guarantee….

    February 6, 2013 REPLY

    Mike and Ana, thanks so much!

    Anna – a guarantee? What do you get when they’re wrong?

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