There can be no doubt many of us spent more time in our backyards and front gardens, or were seeking out green spaces, in the year that was 2020.
Local hardware stores and nurseries certainly got a workout as we tried to pretty up our outdoor areas and create a place of refuge.
We spoke to some top landscape designers to get their thoughts on what we’re likely to see in 2021.
Structural and sophisticated
Darin Bradbury, design director at Mint Landscape Design, says a trend that continues to rise in popularity is pairing plenty of large leaf plants, like fatsias, philodendrons, alcanterias and succulents, with architectural concrete.
Architectural concrete is more than just your average slab. Think steps with a shadow line and clean edges and profiles.
“What we’re doing a lot more of at the moment, and is probably going to keep going into the next few years, is lots of lush green plants but offsetting that with hard surfaces – something like concrete. Concrete in the landscape is really exploding,” he says.
“It’s a really clean, hard landscape aesthetic at the ground level but it’s softened a lot by plants. People are wanting a juxtaposition between hard, solid surfaces and a softer landscape with lush plants.”
More garden, less lawn
Phillip Withers, director at Phillip Withers Landscape Architecture, Design and Horticulture, says another big trend will be “less lawn, more garden,” because it means less maintenance for home owners.
Bradbury says more people are embracing plants within the landscape, not just using them as borders along the fence line or around the lawn.
“People actually want that now and see the value in it whereas 10 years ago people would say, ‘give me minimal plants and a really large lawn’,” he says.
More natives and plant biodiversity
While our gardens have always been influenced by English or European styles, Withers believes we’re moving away from this and more of us are embracing the Australian native garden, by adding plants that are more suited to our climate.
“There’s a much greater focus these days … people are getting more interested in local plantlife and seeing how that can work for them.”
Withers adds that not only will we see more native gardens, but they will become more biodiverse as we use natives mixed with European, South African and South American plants such as succulents and cacti.
Landscape designer William Dangar from Dangar Barin Smith says he guides clients to be sensible when it comes to plant choice, and often uses a lot of native plants in the landscape.
“We combine them with other plants that a relatively low maintenance and don’t require a lot of water … which is a lot easier on the environment and a lot easier to look after.”
He says there’s often a misconception when it comes to using natives – that they may not look as appealing or inviting or lush – but says they work well when teamed with exotic plants.
The Australian meadow
A European meadow-style garden is a layering of shrubs, grasses, perennials and trees and is a great way to bring biodiversity to your yard.
Withers rates landscape designer Dan Pearson as one of the best and believes his influence will be felt here too, with more Australian designers embracing the style.
Withers says we’ll see designers putting their own spin on the style by using native plant life, such as eucalyptus, banksia, grevillea, callistemon and acacia to name a few.
“We’ll start to see more Aussie meadows, and it will become more relevant,” he says.
Also known as random stone paving, this design feature is making a comeback in a big way, according to Bradbury, but not as we remember it.
“People have an impression of that being big slabs of brown or Castlemaine slate, but there’s more new materials coming in from overseas with grey, almost granite-looking random stone, and those grey colours work really well with concrete and timber.”
Random paving in natural stone makes a strong visual impact when paired with natural timbers and a smooth-finished concrete, creating a textured, clean and contemporary look.
“I love it, and we’re using it a lot,” Bradbury says.
Outdoors as an extension of the indoors
We’ve always been a nation that embraces indoor-outdoor living and it’s something that is set to continue.
“Everything in the outdoors is driven in part by what’s happening inside the house,” Bradbury says.
“Because of lockdown, people are starting to look at their outdoor areas a lot more instinctively and will say ‘how can we make that more practical and more useable’ … people are valuing their outdoor area more.”
He notes outdoor kitchens are becoming highly valued, as are barbecues, and says pizza ovens are critical.
“Five years ago people were happy with a built-in barbecue, but now everyone wants everything outdoors. People want access to that relaxed lifestyle at home – it’s right there, they don’t have to travel for it.”
Withers believes there’ll be a rise in flexible furniture that’s suited to both indoors and outdoors and recommends brands such as Cult, Cosh Living and Tait.
“So many people want that connection between indoors and outdoors,” he says.
The size of our pools will shrink
As our outdoor spaces get smaller, so too does the size of our pools.
“Pools have been getting smaller and they will continue to do so,” Bradbury says.
The key is to make sure they’re properly designed for the available space and that they’re practical and functional.
“We do tend to put in smaller pools but if we do, we try to make them more useable and more social. It’s about making people want to use it, and use it for longer.”