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Fire & Water

Pools and fire features have both been popular for many years. However, lately we’ve seen many examples of them being used together to create stunning effects. Fire adds ambiance to any pool setting and creates a warm glow that is more pleasing than artificial light. Here, four stone columns topped with fire bowls rise up along the edges of this pool. Water also spills from the columns, adding even more drama.

Most of our social media followers love designs that combine fire and water, calling them beautiful, gorgeous and a dream come true. However, this pairing doesn’t appeal to everyone. A handful called this sort of project over-the-top and commented that they believe less is more.

See pools with integrated fire features:
Small Arizona Backyard Enhanced
High-Tech Pool & Landscape
See more ideas for fire and water elements

Hi-Tech Yards

Smartphones and tablets have changed the way we do many things - from banking to shopping and now even enjoying our backyards. This fire pit can be turned on and off remotely using an iPad so that the space is already warm when you go outside. Other features of this yard can also be operated with the iPad, including a louvered patio cover and a water feature.

With over 110 shares on Facebook, this hi-tech design was a hit. However, not everyone was a fan. Some thought that the ability to remotely control outdoor features was unnecessary. One user even went so far as to point out that our society has gotten lazy and also brought up concerns over safety since the fire would be burning unattended.

See iPad controlled backyards:
Modern Backyard in Newport Beach Goes High-Tech
High-Tech Pool & Landscape

Black Fencing

When it comes to wood fencing, most people opt to leave the boards with a natural look or paint them white. However, we’ve seen many projects with black fences lately. This example is a small Japanese-inspired garden enclosed with a custom-built privacy fence. The fence was painted black to act as negative space and make the garden feel larger. Other reasons for dark fence colors include providing a dramatic backdrop or coordinating with the exterior colors of a home. While most homeowners are apprehensive about painting or staining their fence black, once they see the results they realize it was a good choice.

See landscapes with black fences:
Small Space Japanese Garden
Philadelphia Garden Transformation

Splashes of Color

A red bi-parting gate adds a pop of color to this lawnless courtyard garden designed by Alida Aldrich Landscape Design.

Adding bright splashes of color on architectural elements has been popular for a few years now. Our Facebook fans suggest purple, red, pink, yellow, blue and lime green as good colors for the garden. David Pedersen, a landscape architect in Newport Beach, CA says cobalt blue is a popular choice among their clients.

See landscapes with colorful accents:
Renovating a Front Courtyard Garden
A Small Outdoor Space Gets a Makeover
A Frank Lloyd Wright Inspired Pool

Mexican Beach Pebbles

In this modern front yard, smooth, dark Mexican beach pebbles are used for mulch.

Mexican beach pebbles are a clean, attractive and low-maintenance option when it comes to mulching. It's no wonder homeowners are requesting them. One Facebook user says that with weed block they provide an almost effortless landscape and another points out that they allow water to go back into the ground instead of washing down the storm drains. However, people with kids or dogs be warned, they may not be the best option.

See yards with Mexican beach pebbles:
A Modern Coastal Landscape
Creating a Modern Resort in a Utah Backyard

Adirondack Chairs

Two blue adirondack chairs provide the perfect spot for enjoying this stone patio surrounded by blooming, low-water plants.

This one may come as a suprise, but most people agree that a pair of adirondacks is still a classic garden staple. Although, many of the commenters did recognize that they were in need of an update. Some of their suggestions include a bright coat of paint, padding for comfort and footrests. Designer Shellene Mueler out of San Diego, CA says, "All you need is a few throw pillows and your good, you can even swap them out for different seasons."

See front and backyards with adirondack chairs:
Indiana Backyard Remodel
Rustic Landscape Design
Lawnless Family Garden


Here, low-growing succulents add interest amongst a playful paving pattern. They were selected to create big impact in a small amount of space.

Over the past few years succulents have found their way into many gardens. They are so popular that they can be found displayed front and center at nurseries.

What has lead to their sudden rise in stardom? According to many, it is becasue they are low-maintenance, drought-tolerant and easy to multiply. Designers love them for their color and texture as well as their otherworldly quality and ability to complement many types of architecture. However, Lisa Port, of Banyon Tree Design Studio in Seattle, cautions that rain and soggy soils will destroy them.

See landscapes with succulent plantings:
Vanishing-Edge Pool Enhances Lakeside Vista
A Fire Safe Landscape Restoration
Drought-Tolerant Outdoor Living Space

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses can be used to add texture and movement to a garden. Here, Mexican feather grass softens the edges of a dry streambed.

Grasses have risen to the forefront of the plant world in the last few years because they create high impact without a lot of water or maintenance. People's opinions vary widely when it comes to planting ornamental grasses in a residential landscape - some love them, while others think they are too messy. Michele Polach-Howard, one of our Facebook followers, points out that with a good landscape design and plant placing, they can look amazing, especially when they are lit at night with landscape lighting. Another follower, Matt Bauwens, recommends arranging them in mass plantings, much like the work of Oehme van Sweden.

If you're still not convinced, John Macklem suggests starting with low-growing varieties that won't become invasive or get knocked over by rain or animals. Another idea comes from Karen Pierre who says the perfect compromise is to have them in pots where they can do what they do, yet can be controlled chaos.

Get ideas for landscaping with ornamental grasses:
Bay Area Backyard Landscape Design - Video Tour
Ornamental Grasses for Front Yard Landscaping

Natural Gardens

This garden was featured on the 2012 tour hosted by the California Native Plant Society. With the recent interest in sustainability, many homeowners are becoming more aware of what they grow in their gardens. Slowly we are beginning to see climate-appropriate plants appear in residential gardens.

Many of our Facebook followers are catching on to this trend. More than 70% of the comments on this photo were in favor of the natural look. The reasons cited for liking this style of landscaping vary. Some simply said it was beautiful, some pointed out that it is low-maintenance, while still others commented on how it benefits the environment by providing habitat for birds, animals and insects.

Check out these natural gardens:
Naturalistic Garden Tour
Timeless Simplicity

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