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Pat Munts: Garden design trending toward free-form and casual – The Spokesman

As the sugar plums dance out of our heads and the holidays fade away, we gardeners will have to find something new to dream, scheme and plan for over the next couple of cold, snowy months. Here are some of the hot new trends that garden designers around the country are putting into their clients’ gardens in 2017.

The use of more free-form, locally sourced, natural materials for furniture, structures, fences and walls are replacing the minimalist and modern look that has been around for several years. Gardeners are asking for garden furnishings that blend with the natural surroundings to create a casual, lived-in feel that looks like it’s been there for years. Angular hardscape paths are being replaced by more free-form gravel or crushed stone paths that meander about the garden as if you are walking on a nature trail. Patios and decks are no longer squares and rectangles but more free-form shapes that flow into spaces for outdoor living or draw your attention to a view of the garden.

In our region, this will mean using a lot of wood for furnishings and native stone for hardscaping. Salvaged materials from old structures, fences and rock piles can be made into new outdoor furniture, garden sheds and hardscaping. For stone, our area is blessed with lots of basalt and glacial boulders that can be incorporated into walls, fences and garden accents. With access to a truck and some strong backs, you might even get them for the asking.

It’s a lot of work to maintain a garden to bloom through the entire season so why not just incorporate some colorful panels or whimsical structures around the garden? Maybe it’s some bright yellow panels hung on an exterior wall or fence, colorful pots or outdoor rugs. These flashes of color don’t need to be deadheaded, trimmed or weeded.

That leads me to the next trend: selecting the right plants for the right space, thereby reducing the amount of work you have to do. Pick plants that fit your garden conditions rather than imposing your idea of a garden on the space. Got lots of shade? Plant stuff that can take the shade. Have dry spots? Plant drought-tolerant plants instead of trying to keep the water hogs happy and failing miserably in the process. If you must have your hydrangeas and rhododendrons, plant them in a place that is easy for you to look after them.

In keeping with the more casual gardening style, consider replacing your traditional lawn grass with one of the short-statured grass varieties that are coming on to the market. Throw in a mix that has some wildflowers in it and create a short grass meadow that will only need to be mowed a few times a summer. Many of these new grasses are also fairly drought tolerant and do well without a lot of fertilizer. This will help your water bill and reduce chances of excess fertilizer getting into our ground water.

Pat Munts can be reached at pat@inlandnw gardening.com.

Article source: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2016/dec/29/pat-munts-garden-design-trending-toward-free-form-/