Garden Media’s 2021 Garden Trends Report concludes that 16 million Americans took up gardening and many more are spending up to two hours more per day during the pandemic. As a result, architects and builders need to know what homeowners want from their backyards to foster these trends.

Gardening wasn’t the only thing that increased over the last year. Outdoor living trends also accelerated dramatically as homeowners opted to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out with patio and deck renovations, outdoor kitchens, expansive windows, and even gardening.

The growth of interest in outdoor living spaces is nothing new, but social distancing guidelines have forced more Americans to use their backyards for exercise, small gatherings, and a source for relaxation. In the fourth quarter of 2019, Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens found 63.7% of designers surveyed confirmed a growing interest in outdoor living spaces. For the 2021 report, 82% of American homeowners say they are more interested in updating their outdoor living spaces now than before the pandemic.

Biophilia, or the human tendency to interact or be amongst nature, continues to be a design trend increasing since the onset of the pandemic as well. The National Kitchen and Bath Association’s 2021 Design Trends report, which gathers insight from hundreds of residential professionals, identified natural and organic design as one of the top design styles for the next three years.

In addition, the “urban exodus” and shift toward the suburbs are providing more Americans with an abundance of outdoor space. Instead of visiting crowded parks in a city, more Americans have private outdoor spaces that they can design and cater to their desires.

For millions of Americans that means catering their outdoors to gardening and outdoor entertaining. Here are trends for residential construction professionals to know.

Reducing the Lawn

In order to accommodate an outdoor entertainment area and gardening spaces, more homeowners are shrinking the sizes of their lawns, according to Garden Media.

A recent National Garden Bureau survey found 67% of respondents aged 35 and under still desire just “some” green lawn but want a variety of plants encompassing the remainder of the lawn.

In 2019, 23.1 million or 9% of American adults converted part of their lawn to natural/wildflower landscape, according to the 2020 National Gardening Survey.

Other areas of the backyard are being taken over by seating areas, kitchens, and pools.

A Focus on Environmentally Friendly Gardening Practices

Not only are Americans gardening more, they are becoming increasingly aware of how gardens can benefit local wildlife.

Research commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation found more Americans are changing the way they garden to benefit wildlife and the planet as a whole.

“The new National Gardening Survey shows people across America are purposefully planting for wildlife, making a conservation difference where they live and advancing the wildlife gardening movement,” said Mary Phillips, senior director of Garden for Wildlife.

During the last three years, 64.1 million American adults purchased a plant because it would benefit birds, bees, or butterflies.

In addition to pollinator gardens, homeowners are opting for native plants, along with water conservation and even organic lawn care, says the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

Garden Media suggests garden design has begun to lean toward designs that connect more with nature.

As warm weather approaches and summer kicks into full swing, outdoor activities are top of mind for many Americans. Last year, Yelp saw mentions of interior designers increase 372% as people spent more time in their kitchens, converted spare rooms to offices, and completed projects around the home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This year is all about the backyard: Searches for terms like “outdoor deck”, “patio heaters” and “outdoor lighting” have skyrocketed (jumping 373%, 263%, and 88% respectively) as homeowners are looking for more ways to spruce up their outdoor spaces for al fresco entertaining, rest and relaxation and fun with the family.

Elevated Al Fresco Entertaining

Outdoor dining has evolved since the onset of COVID-19, sparking a renaissance for al fresco dining at restaurants across the country, as well as in our own backyards. Though people are returning to restaurants, on Yelp we’re seeing trends that indicate a desire to make simple upgrades to improve the experience of at-home dining, and elevate what it means to entertain. Searches for outdoor pizza ovens increased 193% in March of this year, compared to March 2020, and searches for “BBQ island” increased 90% during the same time period; two additions that add a social and interactive element to outdoor entertaining, and create a new space to enjoy family meals.

Searches for outdoor lighting upgrades were up 88% during the same time period, as people look to transform their backyards and add more entertaining-friendly ambiance to their outdoor spaces. Installing light paths, hanging lighting fixtures, or adding lighting underneath the stairs or railing of a deck can make a backyard look brand new.

Outdoor Living Rooms

As we bring indoor decor outside, having a cohesive, serene aesthetic between the two spaces is more important than ever. Searches for fire tables, like this one from Infantry Landscaping in Atlanta, GA, have increased 76% in searches in the last year*. A more modern and sleek version of fire pits, adding this backyard feature creates an instant feel of luxury. Searches for patio heaters increased 263% during the same time period, indicating that the desire to have an outdoor living space that can be used year-round isn’t going anywhere. In addition to a patio heater, consider adding soft throw pillows that complement the decor of the space.

Deck & Patio Additions

Yelp data indicates searches for outdoor decks were up 373% this year*, and increased 64% between February and March. It’s clear that deck and patio additions will be one of the hottest home trends of the summer, as searches for these features are continuing to rise each month. Decks come in so many shapes and sizes, that there’s an option for almost every home, whether it’s a patio, screened-in porch, or elevated deck.

Easy, Rustic Landscaping

Plants provide decor, fresh air, and a pop of color to any space, including our backyards. For those who may have developed a green thumb with houseplants this year, greenhouses (up 11% in searches in March**) add a unique element to any outdoor space. Searches for planter beds have increased 47% this year*, and drip irrigation systems increased 103% during the same time period, indicating that our obsession with all things plants isn’t going anywhere. Summer 2021 is all about landscaping with ease: Planter beds are an easy solution for those with small spaces, and greenhouses protect against critters who may enjoy your plants as a midnight snack.

Backyard Oasis

With the ability to instantly create the feel of a private retreat, it’s no surprise that searches for hedges (up 317% in March**) have increased. This landscaping addition is a great way to incorporate greenery and solitude into the backyard without an expensive – or obtrusive – fence. Adding in hedges is not typically a DIY project.

Reducing and Reusing

For those who like a low maintenance backyard, artificial turf is becoming a popular landscaping trend with searches up 75% in the last year*. Bonus: It’s typically cheaper than grass and is especially good for dry climates. Artificial turf is an easy solution for backyards to look bright and healthy, but not require constant watering or treatment, which is easy on the homeowner and environment. Additionally, we’re seeing an increased demand for antique furniture (up 30% this spring from March 2020 and up 34% from March 2019) , perhaps influenced by more intentionality when it comes to upcycling clothing, furniture and materials.

CHICAGO, May 27, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The Appraisal Institute, the nation's largest professional association of real estate appraisers, today encouraged homeowners to hire an appraiser to offer ideas about how to enhance their property's landscaping and potentially boost their sales price.

Well-landscaped homes are worth anywhere from 1% to 10% more than homes without landscaping, according to a report from HomeLight. Landscaping can make a house much more saleable and attract potential buyers.

"Just as job seekers shouldn't show up improperly attired for an interview, sellers need to ensure their property is as attractive from the outside as possible," said Appraisal Institute President Rodman Schley, MAI, SRA. "Well-maintained landscaping is particularly attractive to home buyers who aren't willing to invest money to upgrade the property to their desired condition."

A home with lackluster landscaping or an exterior in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint will likely be unappealing to prospective buyers and, ultimately, could affect the home's potential resale value.

Homeowners considering selling their property should ask themselves:

  • Is the landscaping attractive enough to make the prospective buyer walk through the front door?

  • Could the landscaping provide cost savings?

  • Is the landscaping energy-efficient for the home overall?

  • Are the trees planted at the safe distance from the home and are they healthy and well-maintained?