Trendspotting: Outdoor Living 2016

Naturescapes, edibles and soothing hues round out this season’s trends at Columbus Home & Garden Show which wraps up today at Ohio Fairgrounds.

The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) announced its official list of the top landscape design trends for 2016 and several were evident this week at the Columbus Home & Garden Show.

According to Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs, NALP, “the latest trends reflect the desire to bring the indoors out—to create comfortable landscapes that are both functional and beautiful. At the same time, we’re seeing a shift toward sustainable landscapes that reflect a renewed sense of mindfulness for the Earth and its ecosystems.”

  1. Fully customized outdoor living spaces. As more and more homeowners entertain outdoors and make the most of time spent outside, landscapes have become extensions of interior spaces, complete with furniture and appliances. Beyond basic decks and patios, more landscapes this year will be transformed into full-service kitchens with brick ovens and grills, comfortable living and dining rooms featuring fireplaces and firepits, and romantic canopy bedrooms. Themed spaces, such as yoga gardens or bocce fields, further personalize outdoor retreats to fit homeowners’ interests.


  2. Lighted and high-tech landscapes. A natural extension of the outdoor living trend is equipping these landscapes with creative and functional lighting and technological enhancements. Dramatic and boldly colored lights, twinkling accent lighting in walkways, backyard Wi-Fi and TV installations are just some of the ways gardens are getting tech-savvy in 2016.IMG_8839 
  3. Eco-friendly and native gardens. “Naturescaping”—selecting and growing native plants to attract birds, insects and wildlife—is one method landscapers will continue to employ in 2016 to appeal to an increased interest in developing environmentally conscious landscapes. Busy homeowners seek simply beautiful landscapes that are easy to maintain, and naturescaping encourages the use of low-maintenance perennial native plants and innately manages water runoff. The installation of solar-powered lighting or energy-efficient LED lights is another way landscapes will go green this year.


  4. Edible landscapes. The demand for low-maintenance options has made container gardens, which often do not require extensive care, grow in popularity. When combined with a preference for the natural and organic, a new trend emerges: edible landscapes. Fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables add texture and color variety to landscapes, while providing a fresh supply of delicious ingredients. Not limited to individual home gardens, edible landscapes will be planned and planted by landscape developers in neighborhoods and community residences in 2016.


    Even Kermit the frog appreciates edibles like these colorful chard.

  5. Freshwater features. The techniques used to manage stormwater will not be hidden in 2016. Rain barrels, rain gardens and stone retaining walls add stunning dimension to lush landscapes, while serving an important purpose of collecting, cleaning or stopping water. In fact, water and other non-plant features, including sculptures or pottery, are becoming focal points in landscapes.
  6. Soothing hues. For the first time, Pantone, the authority on color and provider of color systems and technology for color communication, has announced the blending of two colors—Rose Quartz and Serenity—as its Pantone Color of the Year for 2016. Expect these soft, nature-inspired pink and blue hues to bloom in gardens this year as heritage rose bushes, Catherine Woodbury daylilies, Angelique tulips, blue lace delphinium, French hydrangea and others.


Garden Year Round (Almost)

 Cold frames, row covers extend the growing season

row cover

Row covers seem to reduce wind burn, allowing cold-tolerant greens a chance to survive winter. I picked a few leaves from these collards, planted in late summer, in early February.

By Michael Leach

Perhaps a pinch of pixie dust would make cold frame gardening more appealing.

Cold frames, solar-heated grow boxes, are as utilitarian as shovels and trash cans. Mine, constructed of salvaged bricks (for passive solar heating) and a window sash from an old aluminum storm door, is especially homely. Although a commendable example of up-cycling, it’s hardly worthy of Martha Stewart.

Fairy gardens, on the other hand, appeal to the imagination. This is where Barbie does gardening with cute little plants and adorable accessories to match every outfit. Macho versions also exist, from farms and ranches to Jurassic jungles with plastic dinos. No doubt succulent-studded landscapes worthy of Star Wars also exist somewhere in the galaxy.  

Despite its lack of visual appeal, the cold frame oozes charm. It’s an excuse to dabble in the dirt long before (or after) the growing season. For cabin fever crazed green thumbs, this is as much a draw as the most elaborately accessorized fairy garden.

The only accessory in my cold frame is a row marker for the kale planted January 30.

Yes, January 30. That’s part of the appeal of cold frame gardening, a chance to plant in a reasonably safe environment “when all aloud the wind doth blow … and birds sit brooding in the snow … .” as Shakespeare observed. Beneath the glass cover, the wind won’t blow the little kale, spinach, collards and other tough greens. Inside their miniature world, the weather is more late-March or early April, which is about planting time outside in this part of the Midwest. And that’s only if soil and weather conditions cooperate.

Besides an early start, I’ve found the cold frame eliminates the tedious business of coddling seedlings for weeks indoors under lights or on windowsills. This is child’s play for many growers but somehow I usually manage to dump trays when watering or being klutzy. 

cold frame

Cold frames can be constructed of many types of materials. Mine is made of salvaged bricks and a window sash.

Cold frames aren’t foolproof. Because a vicious blast of late winter might prove too much, additional sowings are planned about every two weeks or so.

Another threat is neglect. Even cool sunny days can turn a cold frame into a solar oven. Monitoring is a must to keep the lid ajar as needed. Temperature controlled hinges are available for ambitious gardeners. They’re the sort who use cold frames for: wintering plants of questionable hardiness, forcing spring-flowering bulbs, starting summer flower and vegetable seeds, and sowing fall crops that will linger into winter. 

Besides cold frames, floating row cover serves as a season extender. The lightweight fabric is made specifically for agricultural purposes. The sort I use is designed to ward off insects not frost.  Yet it has been sufficient most years to help spring-planted greens survive all winter and produce a flush of new foliage the following spring. When this happens, the plants eventually burst into  sprays of cheery yellow flowers that delight bees. 

Googling “cold frames” and “floating row cover,” not to mention checking the gardening sections of public libraries, produce a plethora of ideas for creating and using these warming environments for early — and late — season gardening.

Now that I think about it, maybe a miniature red tractor and some tiny fencing would add a dash of whimsical charm to the kale seedlings when they emerge.


Catch Us If You Can

Upcoming Talks and Stories for Heartland Gardening Bloggers


Heartland Gardening bloggers Deb Knapke, Teresa Woodard and Michael Leach recent met for a brainstorming session at Fox in the Snow café near downtown Columbus.

Heartland Gardening bloggers Debra Knapke, Teresa Woodard and Michael Leach recently met for a brainstorming session at Fox in the Snow café in Columbus.


The Heartland Gardening bloggers have a busy spring ahead.  Catch them at the following events and look for their stories in the following magazines:

Debra Knapke

  • Feb. 14: Debra will present two talks at the OEFFA conference in Granville — What is a Plant? and Polycultures and Garden Guilds.
  • Feb. 24: Debra will be speaking to the 2016 Delaware Master Gardener class about Annuals and Perennials.
  • March 5: Debra will be speaking on Sustainable Gardens at Wegerzyn Gardens in Dayton.
  • March 17: Debra will be traveling to Connecticut to present The Garden Aesthetic in a Time of Global Climate  Change at the UConn Sustainable Landscape Conference
  • March 19: Debra will be presenting at the Oakland Nursery Spring Fling.
  • April 8: Debra and her daughter, Sarah Arevalo, will be presenting Complementary Design: Embracing Inside and Out at LABash 2016 at The Ohio State University.
  • May 9: Debra will be presenting at the Gahanna Annual Herb Day
  • May 27: Debra will give a talk at Holden Arboretum for the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Libraries. Her topic is: Books, Botany and Horticulture– a Beautiful Combination.

Michael Leach

  • Feb. 20-28:  As the garden stage manager at the Columbus Home & Garden Show at the Ohio Expo Center, Michael Leach has recruited a speaker line-up who will cover everything from backyard beekeeping to growing your own vegetables.
  • Feb. 21, 11 a.m.: Michael will present “Healing Gardens” at the Columbus Home & Garden Show.
  • Spring issue:  Michael’s garden will be featured in the spring issue of Columbus Monthly’s Home & Garden.

Teresa Woodard


Garden Topics

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