In recent years, backyards and outdoor living areas have truly become an extension of a person’s home. The same as homeowners spend time decorating and relaxing in their main living quarters now holds true for their residence’s exterior as well. At Hicks Nurseries, industry professionals can help your vision of an outdoor oasis come true. But time, thought and careful planning go into creating such a sanctuary, lush with foliage, flora and fauna and a comfortable place to take a seat.
Ken Muellers is a CNLP/board certified master arborist and has been in the industry for more than 30 years.
“My job at Hicks is to design (mostly residential landscapes) including everything outside the four walls of the house, a hardscape/softscape if you will,” said Muellers, who has a degree in landscape architecture. “It’s great to work on projects that create beauty out in the world. I like taking people’s ideas and turning them into reality.”
Muellers has found that many people have the desire to take mini staycations at home, but will incorporate some of the features they have seen on vacations, like water features, luxurious sitting areas, fire pits and tropical plants. Homeowners also want the same amenities outside that they have inside their homes—a kitchen, TV, fireplace, pizza oven and decorative seating in an entertaining space. When it comes to the landscaping element, there are different challenges and opportunities for smaller areas versus larger ones.
“For a small yard, people want to maximize the space and utilize every nook and cranny to make those areas multi-useful. I recommend using plants that will stay in scale—fastigiate plants, slow growing, dwarf varieties,” said Muellers, adding that it is wise to provide balance with “negative space” so the yard does not seem claustrophobic. “For larger yards, compartmentalize the space by dividing the yard into different outdoor rooms like a dining/kitchen/living/play area. Carefully plan how these spaces can be interconnected, but also work independently.”
Just as you would decorate and design a bedroom or living room, the same principle applies to the backyard. It’s important that homeowners make these spaces unique to them and personalize it with details, plants and decorative ornaments to suit their tastes.
“Make the garden as maintenance free as possible, so you don’t feel you need to work while you are trying to relax. Create a progression of interest with flowers, leaf color, berries and bark that offer something to enjoy year-round. It’s the combination of plants that make the garden special,” said Muellers when selecting flora and fauna, adding that it is wise to choose timeless materials that complement each other and the home. “As for trends, water features are popular, which you can achieve via a pond, swimming pool or the sound of water flowing in the garden. Just the same, fire elements like a fire pit or some sort of outdoor fireplace can make a space as well.”
Now that you’ve landscaped your yard with greenery and flowers, it’s time to move in. To help, Hicks’ furniture and decorative buyer, Sue Murphy, puts her 20 years of experience at the forefront of beautifying this new entertainment space.
“As our lives become more hectic, we want our homes, and that includes the backyard, to be a refuge from the stress,” said Murphy. “By moving our living space into the garden, we begin to reconnect with nature as well, a known stress-reducer.”
Just as homeowners allot space for their gardens, so too must they choose how to fill up said space. If it comes down to creating a dining or seating area because of limited space, Murphy recommends selecting a dining set that has extra comfortable chairs so you don’t mind sitting at the table or using a loveseat instead of a sofa in your seating group.
“Regardless, create an intimate space,” she said. “Keep your accessories simple; add accent pillows for color, an arrangement of candles in lanterns for lighting and a rug to define your space. You want to keep clutter to a minimum or the yard will start to close in on you.”
Those who are fortunate to have more room to play with should create outdoor rooms and coordinate the furniture to reflect their personal style.
“Now is the time to try something new and maybe a bit more fun than the way you decorate inside your home. Use those colors you might not want inside to express yourself outside, after all, your time in the yard is limited to six to seven months, so make the most of it,” said Murphy. “The industry is responding to the consumer’s desire to create a space that brings to mind a favorite vacation spot or resort.”
Trends in outdoor furniture usually follow indoor furniture trends with an extra emphasis on durability due to elements of weather and wildlife. This also includes fabrics that are both fashion-forward and weather, wear and fade-resistant. Murphy has seen a shift away from the cast aluminum patio sets with the roll-arm wickers of our grandmother’s front porch to a sleeker, more modern look. Silhouettes have moved to a very mid-century look. She also noted that the consumer needs to look for “a solution-dyed fabric, meaning that the dye has been added while the fiber is still in liquid form so the color is embedded and will not fade.”
“Materials have also become more organic with products like sustainable woods, even though recycled plastics have come on strong,” said Murphy of recycled plastics, which have been manufactured to look and feel like real wood so that it is quite difficult to tell the difference. “Mixing materials is trending as well; wicker mixed with metal or wood mixed with metal, our customers want furniture that is comfortable, attractive and doesn’t make more work for them.”
As you embark on a shopping spree for plants, flowers, dining tables and unique garden lighting, remember that while your backyard can be a refuge, it is also an extension of your already beautiful and welcoming home.
For more information on your home’s landscaping needs, call 516-334-0066 or visit www.hicksnurseries.com. Hicks Nurseries Inc., is located at 100 Jericho Tpke., Westbury.