We bought an older home that is nestled in a popular neighborhood. It’s great – but the landscaping style looks like it belongs to Grandma. It is so dated. Can we replant, so it is more up-to-date, or do we have to invest in a complete do-over?
The importance of fresh, modern landscaping cannot be understated. In fact, stylish landscaping can mean the difference between a property that is ordinary and one that has eye-catching curb appeal, one that sparks a feeling of contentment every time you turn into your driveway.
If the style of your landscape makes you feel as though you’ve stepped through a time machine back to 1989 – it’s time to modernize. The good news is you might not need to start completely from scratch–a lot can be done with the plantings. Hardscaping will also need to be evaluated to ensure it is still serving your property well. A garden management professional can evaluate the plants you have and help you come up with a plan to rejuvenate your tired, old landscape into something bright and welcoming.
The Value of Updating an Existing Landscape: Landscaping Styles Have Changed
Over the last three decades, landscaping styles have changed a lot, primarily trending toward landscapes that utilize more native and perennial plants, as well as much more color and layering of materials. This new style of landscaping has exploded in popularity over the last 10 years with many lively, exciting options available today.
Here are some garden design options that your garden management professional will draw upon when modernizing your landscape:
- Overgrowth requires a lot of maintenance. Boxwoods and hollies often end up getting too big when they have been planted too close to the house. And they need a lot of pruning and shaping to keep their growth in check. In modern landscapes, these types of large plants are placed farther away from the house to give them more room to grow and spread as they are meant to do.
- Ground covers and dwarf varieties of popular plants offer versatility. These won’t grow so tall that they block windows or take over walkways–and they work well with the larger, free-flowing planting beds that are popular in modern landscaping styles.
- Natural curves and soft edges introduce a sense of intrigue. Old-style landscapes feature a lot of straight lines with plant material hugging the borders of the hardscaping or the foundation. A modern landscaping style lays out planting beds in natural curves and generally loosens up the visual effect–giving the landscape more room to express itself. This allows plants room to breathe, softens the edges between plantings and hardscaping, and makes the overall composition more interesting to look at. It’s not a monolithic green barrier like the landscapes of yore – instead, it’s more playful.
It’s important to note that plants don’t “fall out of fashion” if they are used correctly. Many plants may not be in the most logical spot in your yard but still are worth keeping in the overall design. If plants are healthy and in the right place, they can stay where they are – or in a landscape style renovation project, they can be relocated to allow a more suitable plant to take the spotlight.
New Plant Varieties Offer Landscaping Options For Every Season
The modern approach to landscape design draws from a selection of plants that will create interest in all four seasons. Over the years, new varieties of plants have been cultivated that have allowed landscapes to become more versatile, low maintenance, and visually interesting. For instance, some new boxwood cultivars are blight resistant, and new dwarf varieties grow no higher than three feet. These work well as foundation plantings – better than abelia and spirea, commonly used deciduous shrubs that aren’t attractive in the winter when their foliage has dropped.
Some deciduous shrubs that contribute to seasonal interest include:
- Red twig dogwood – displays orange, yellow, or red branches that are stunning during the winter.
- Paperbark maple – reveals beautiful peeling bark after the leaves drop.
- Winterberry holly – shows brilliant red berries that stand out all winter and can give a splash of color to the landscape.
- Dwarf ornamental trees – the dwarf filbert tree and ornamental grasses also show well in winter, as do some ground covers.
- Fathergilla and gardenia – bloom in the spring and add pops of early season color among the slow-growing evergreen shrubs.
- Drift roses – many varieties of compact roses bring a lot of color to the landscape without spreading and taking over.
During a Landscaping Style Renovation, Can I Keep the Hardscape?
Replacing hardscape is often more disruptive and costly than replacing plantings alone, but like landscaping, hardscaping styles have changed a lot over the last three decades. As the bones of landscaping, the hardscaping needs to accommodate the newer style of planting beds on the property, particularly in the front of the house and on pathways connecting the front to the backyard. Old-style concrete walkways are close to the house and plain and utilitarian in effect. To be fair, this was in keeping with the style of landscaping at the time, which featured evergreen hedges with a little ground cover in front of them that hugged the foundation of the house.
Today, hardscaping is designed to complement the free-flowing, playful landscaping style that has become popular. Instead of hugging the house, modern hardscaping is pulled away from the house, allowing more room for perennial beds to fill in the area between the walking path and the house. It lets the beds flow outward to bring more color and texture into the landscape and soften the transition between the landscape and the house. If your old hardscape is in good condition and serves the landscape well, aspects of it may be worth keeping, but a new hardscape design might be needed to facilitate a modern landscaping plan.
Modern Landscaping Styles Are Sophisticated and Welcoming
There’s no denying it – landscapes are so much more sophisticated now than they were then. Modern landscapes feature more variety. They include new cultivars that have different adaptations to site conditions and come in multiple sizes and colors. These varied plants can be used to create mixes featuring different heights, textures, and seasonal colors, allowing for a visually stunning and textured landscape that looks great all year. It’s time to get away from yesterday’s rigid-looking aesthetic and create something offering more ease and flow, like tumbling out a welcome carpet from your house to the guest approaching from the street.
If you’ve been thinking about investing in a landscape design project, our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.