The key theme for landscaping today is that it is part of an outdoor experience. The biggest trends in technologies involves ways to improve and individualize outdoor spaces. Even more important is that these spaces should be functional, sustainable, and aesthetically wonderful. More than ever before, landscaping is designed to preserve ecological balance and beauty. Ornamental plants are now chosen because they are native species, or because they support a purpose or function. Some attract pollinating bees, others are drought resistant, and still more are flood tolerant.
Some landscaping focuses on converting lawns into places for growing fruits and vegetables. Some are gardens which incorporate relaxing areas for homeowners and their guests. Outdoor spaces are often a pleasing combination of natural plantings and useful areas for dining, visiting and pursuing favorite activities. Landscaping offers every technological convenience available indoors, but developed for outside use. Scientific advances once only available for commercial growers are emerging as products for public use.
It’s an exciting time for landscaping, as vibrant colors appear in garden structures, new tools make gardening easier, soils and planting materials are improved and integrated into overall designs, and gardens become part of enjoyable experiences to be shared.
1. Targeted Irrigation Management Systems
HydroBio, Inc. has been awarded a patent for its targeted irrigation management system. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office acknowledged the revolutionary technology which uses satellite imagery combined with weather data to estimate crop water use. The system provides farmers the data they need as the growing season unfolds to make effective use of water. The global company currently maximizes yield and decreases input costs in ten countries. Barrett Mooney, Ph.D is the Co-Founder and CEO of this leader in precision technology for agriculture. The cutting edge technology was presented at the San Francisco World Agri-Tech Summit in March 2016. The technology has significant potential for commercial and residential benefits.
2. Smartphone App Controlled Landscape Lighting
There has been a significant increase in the number of customers requesting phone controlled outdoor lighting systems. In response to this demand, manufacturers such as Vista Professional Lighting based in Simi Valley, California have created app-controlled transformers which operate via Bluetooth. The choice of Bluetooth over WiFi was driven by contractors who need easier installation. The WiFi requires the homeowner’s IP address to set up a wireless connection, while the Bluetooth can be connected by the contractor on behalf of the homeowner. Vista Professional Lighting offers app-controlled transformers which range from 75 to 600 watts, and they are more expensive with prices fluctuating based on project size. The technology is so new that clients are not familiar with it, but smart devices are prevalent in home use, and outdoor lighting systems is just an easier next step for homeowners.
3. Edible Vertical Gardens
As more people come to live in urban spaces, the chance to enjoy green and living things is increasingly important. It’s no surprise that clever gardeners would figure out ways to use available spaces, which must be created vertically when horizontal space is not available. Spreading up is taking the place of spreading out for many. But what is new is the intrepid garden suppliers who are creating pre-packed, individualized vertical gardens for their customers.
- Edible Walls offers pre-planted living walls with plants included which it will ship to its customers. The company generally offers three categories of walls, including Herbs, Veggies, and Fruit, but all will customize each garden to include what the customer wants. Some specialty collections include Italian Cuisine, Herbal Tea, Medicinal Herb and Asian Cuisine.
- Wall Garden is a product marketed for the brown thumb club. It is a structure made from six modules.
- Each is 23” wide, 8” high and 8” deep. It can be attached to any wall, fence or desired vertical space using a board and screws. The installation is simple. It has its own trickling water system which disperses water evenly to all the modules in the system, and customers can add on an automatic drip watering system.
4. Edible Front Yards
This trend has its roots in the Victory Gardens of World War II. It’s a simple idea. Plant food at home to help feed a family when food supplies are scarce or uncertain. Plant extra to share with neighbors. Exchange plants so everyone in the neighborhood can enjoy things that they may not have in their own gardens. The version of this trend emerged in a big way when artist and architect Fritz Haeg received a commission from the Salina, Kansas, Art Museum to help a local household revamp their front yard from traditional to edible. Based in Los Angeles, Haeg has undertaken the mission of transforming front yards into edible landscapes. He has worked in London, all over the United States, and authored Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn. Due to recent drought conditions and uncertain weather, water conservation is a big part of the edible front yard movement. Many Californians, and those who dwell in arid states in the Western USA have turned to removing water guzzling yards in favor of drip irrigation systems which water only edibles. Combined with dry cover, such as rocks and stones, these homeowners are reducing their water consumption even as they increase their fresh produce supply.
- Rainbird Xerigation/Drip products are designed for low-volume irrigating systems.
- Burpee is an acknowledged, time tested seed company offering premium seeds for home gardeners.
5. Wood-Burning Pizza Ovens
Landscape contractors note that clients are asking for wood-burning pizza ovens to be included in the design for their residences. In the past, water features were the most popular items, but the interest in gathering together as a family to eat is surpassing the popularity of water related products. Alfresco dining and entertaining is also on the rise.
- One top quality product is the Mugnaini wood-fired oven.
- Another is the new Americano Model of the Chicago Brick Oven.
6. Fine LED Lighting
Lighting has become an important part of designing for the outside experience, as many homeowners seeks to extend their outdoor time.
Garden Light LED has been creating high quality, award winning products for over 30 years. The fixtures are constructed with aircraft-grade aluminum and solid brass billets. They are designed for aesthetics and optimal thermal transfer. The Florida based company works with landscape lighting professionals to provide elegant and durable lighting options. Some premium options include submersible lighting and decorative path lights.
7. Wireless Landscape Speakers
Homeowners are enjoying adding music to their landscaping, and companies such as Niles and Bose create high quality outdoor speakers. Niles offers speakers shaped like planters or like granite rock in a variety of natural colors. The speakers are weatherproof and come with a five-year warranty. Once only used extensively in public places such as theme parks, hotels, amusement centers and zoos, these products are now used as part of residential landscape designs where the focus is on entertaining.
8. Garden Watch Camera
The Brinno GardenWatchCam is a time lapse camera which will take photographs at timed intervals. The camera can be stuck into the garden, and set it to take photos anywhere from every minute to every 24 hours. The camera can record what’s happening in the garden and help catch any unwelcome intruders which may be visiting it.
9. Rain Gardens
Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College has built a biostream made of rocks. The construction is a depression in the landscape which serves to collect excess rainwater and allow it to filter into the ground so that it will be available for the plants in the landscape. Plants which can tolerate flooding during rainy periods are planted along the edges of the biostream, including Iris pseudacorus and amsonia. The idea is an old one. Designing the basin, including appropriate water-tolerant plants, and redirecting house downspouts towards the basin are all part of developing a landscape design which enhances the home. These things are decidedly new.
- Formecology, owned by John Gishnock III is a Wisconsin company which specializes in designing and building rain gardens using native plants. The company creates aesthetically pleasing rain gardens which are seamless additions to the existing landscape.
10. Bio Control for Ornamental Crops
Biobest, a significant producer of biological solutions for plant growers has launched the ABS mini-sachet, which is releases protective amounts of the thrips predator Amblyseius cucumeris. Greenhouse growers which supply ornamental crops such as Poinsettia, African violet and Stephanotis, to name a few examples, are increasingly relying on bio-control for successful plant propagation. Successful control of pests without pesticides ensures that landscapes have stronger, healthier plants. Biobest is also a global supplier of commercial bumblebees for pollinating greenhouse vegetables. The company provides bumblebee species adapted to the world’s various regions.