BY ANNIE HUSTON, BIRDSALL & CO.
Personal empowerment is what it’s all about for 2023. All of us were patient and understanding for the past few years and were compliant to support the good of the community. We stayed home by ourselves, worked alone, and our individual needs took a back seat. No more.
This spring, we are reclaiming our needs, wants and desires. We’ve learned a thing or two about our daily lives and have established new rituals. Now is the time to get in the weeds of what we truly want in our gardens, as we have forged a bond with our outdoor spaces. We are personally empowered.
There are notable inspirations for this trend. The Bridgeton series fueled the interest for romantic gardens that feature over-the-top florals, roses, lilacs, and hydrangeas on either side of the gravel paths. Cue the rose gardens with an undergrowth of lavender around the birdbath fountain!
Homeowners have started to travel again and re-discovered new inspiration they want to bring home. Mediterranean gardens in the classic Greek, Italian and French styles enchant the senses with the sounds of footsteps on gravel paths under the baking sun. They seem so sophisticated with stone walls, statuary, archways, and columns crawling with blooming vines. And no mowing necessary!
Wellness rooms may be on their way to replace home gyms indoors. In the same vein for outside, the Chelsea Flower Show designated a new category for sanctuary gardens. They are much more secluded than the previous meditation gardens and highly personalized: a private corner for morning coffee, room for yoga mat, comfy chairs for reading, little table for working, beautiful pots with fragrant blooms, a bubbling fountain, all for uniquely personal use and enjoyment. Don’t forget to tuck them away and surround them with greenery. You don’t want anybody to see you!
Conversation pits are the very opposite of sanctuary gardens. These well-delineated spaces are for entertaining groups of friends, colleagues, neighbors, and family for late night parties. You may already have a conversation pit inside your house. The different levels provide clear distinction between the rooms and their appropriate activities. These spaces are perfect for built-in furniture, probably a fire pit and/or bar. Don’t forget a good sound system and warn the neighbors!
MERGING OF INDOOR AND OUTDOOR
The National Association of Home Builders reported in 2022 that 58% of surveyed homeowners want a connection with nature and the outdoor; that’s biophilic design. Glass garage doors now open onto a private patio. An enclosed conservatory communicates with the house. Partially covered gardens extend the living space in all weathers. We’re no longer talking about bringing the outside in or the inside out; they are now blended with as little barrier as possible. Denver may very well have the best climate for this design concept: warm summer evenings and no bugs.
PLANTS FOR PRIVACY
Privacy has become more important as we spend more time in our homes than we did pre-pandemic. We expect our outside walls and fences to be decorated, green and even lush. Pergolas and shade structures grow heavy under vines. Hedges surround the property, soften the hardscape, and provide needed shade. Planter boxes serve as living walls with shrubs, grasses, perennials and annuals. They become movable architectural elements of the landscape that can be relocated at will.
BOUTIQUE HOTEL FURNITURE
Sustainability is a concern that we are learning to address with the choice of our purchases. This translates into high quality furniture pieces that will be long lasting. When it aligns with our values, we are willing to spend more now to save later. Outdoor furniture is expected to be as comfortable, stylish and durable as indoor furniture. We covet the lounge chairs as we saw them in The White Lotus and gosh darn, we are worth it!
TEXTURE IS EVERYWHERE
Gardeners have long ago discovered the art of mixing colors, heights, and leaf textures to emulate the beauty of nature. The textile industry may also have led the way with textured fabrics, but the container artisans are catching up in their own creative ways. Colorado homeowners in general do not like bright and garish colors for their containers. They prefer more natural hues that make room for the plantings to take front stage. However, they have grown to appreciate the subtlety of textured glazed ceramic or cast stone containers that are still elegant when empty.
TERRA COTTA MAKING A STRONG COMEBACK
The Mediterranean flare is found in sun-baked (not really) terra cotta containers. With their different shades and shapes, they can meld into a variety of architectural and landscape styles. It is a classic look, warm and perfect next to greenery. Choose between regular unglazed terra cotta, or antique hues, or red Vietnamese clay, or then again the terra rosa. You absolutely cannot go wrong with terra cotta. When in doubt…
CUT FLOWER GARDENS
Neighborhood markets and social media have encouraged the popularity of cut flower bouquets. Allocate a spot in the garden for these special perennials or add annuals in between. The key is to have a variety of booms to pick all summer long. Mix perennials, annuals, spring bulbs (dahlias, cannas), and grasses to your heart’s content. The names alone bring happiness: cosmos, zinnias, sweet peas, peonies, sunflowers. My favorite is Sweet William. If you do not have the space in the garden, remember that containers are always a good solution for small urban gardens.
CONTAINERS CONTAINERS CONTAINERS
Containers in the garden are no longer an afterthought for the front porch or back step; they have become an integral part of the landscape and home. Gone are the days when we planted only annuals in pots. The Great Grow Along Survey found that container gardening is the #1 way 34-45 year old gardeners prefer to garden. Growers have accommodated that spike in interest by producing small fruit shrubs, vegetables that will thrive in containers, and perennials, including “Petite Knockout” roses. Mix and match using trees, shrubs, perennials, herbs, grasses, fruit, hardy succulents and annuals.
WATER IN THE GARDEN
In any form, water in the garden feels like an indulgence. The space and budget will dictate which one you pick for your reward: a water feature with koi fish and a stream, a little pond with gold fish, a pondless stone fountain, a stand alone/cast stone one, a bird bath, a water garden, or a water bowl.
My individual empowerment this season will be an ever-changing water bowl, as seen at the Chanticleer Gardens in Pennsylvania. I will bring in a large ceramic bowl, fill it with water, and drop cut blooms and leaves from the garden that will gracefully float on the surface, until I replace it with new ones. Ephemeral art!