JoAnne Skelly: 2023 landscaping trends

JoAnne Skelly

JoAnne Skelly

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As each year starts, landscape designers come out with their new trends. While I always check them out, they generally amuse me. Too often the “new trends” are things that are making a comeback or are tried and true gardening techniques.

House & Garden (H&G) (, reports “the big themes shaping the garden world this year” are “eco-friendly gardens,” “sustainable planting,” “resilient plants,” “planting colour (their spelling) trends,” “designed wildlife habitats,” “gardens for mental health,” “lawn vs. meadow,” and “no-dig.”

Eco-friendly gardens are being driven by climate change since droughts and weather extremes are now common. We must live more sustainably, therefore our yards and gardens need to use less water on plants that are drought-tolerant and hardy to heat, cold and wind. In an ideal world our products and plants would be locally sourced and organic.

To plant sustainably, H&G recommends working with “nutrient-poor substrates” by finding native or drought-tolerant plants that are adapted to poorer soils and hardier than typical, more needy ornamentals. Plants need to be able to tolerate extremes from drought to occasional flooding, high summer temperatures, smoke, and low winter temperatures that are usually accompanied by winter drought, particularly in our area. They also should not be reliant on chemical inputs, such as pesticides or fertilizers, to thrive.

I practiced and taught these previous “trends” throughout my entire horticulture career first by designing/installing xeriscape landscapes and later teaching others how to do so. And, while these previously mentioned trends are nothing new, the idea of color trends is always interesting. H&G says that some garden designers “predict fashion for darker colours in planting, peppered with small burst of colour.” Dark colors, not only of flowers, but of stems and foliage, provide a backdrop for plants with bright colors.

My graduate work was on designing urban landscapes from an ecological perspective, so the idea of designing with wildlife in mind is something I also included in my landscape design classes.

By incorporating wildlife habitats in urban yards, a group of neighbors or an entire community can create corridors that provide food and shelter for mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles. Increasing beneficial insect populations and other beneficial organisms reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers while improving soil health. Meadows over lawns and no-dig vegetable gardening techniques contribute to this.

I like to think all gardens are good for mental health, for the gardener who does the work and for those who share in the yield and beauty. I’m afraid I’m not much of a trend follower. I’m more inclined to let nature take its course and seeing what happens.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperation. Email


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