Liberty business owner sees national trends in KC gardens

07/19/2014 7:00 AM

07/15/2014 1:06 PM

In a well-designed garden, you can feel the music.

“It’s like a waltz,” says Ted Cleary, a landscape architect in Charlotte, N.C. Gardens, like music, are about movement and rest, he says. You should glide through a good garden as gracefully as a couple moves across a dance floor.

A survey from the American Society of Landscape Architects reveals that this outdoor dance fits a pattern. Homeowners want pretty gardens with places to entertain, grill and relax. They’re interested in sensitive garden lighting and comfortable places to sit.

Owners want “livable, open spaces that are both stylish and Earth-friendly,” says Nancy Somerville of the architects group.

The 2014 survey reflects the observations of landscape architects across the country who specialize in residential design.

In a successful garden plan, courtyards, flower gardens, pools, seating areas, grilling spots and storage buildings all fit neatly together.

“Your house is just a microcosm of a small town square, and our job is to figure out how it all relates,” Cleary says.

One of the biggest trends is first-rate outdoor lighting. Good lighting makes any garden more attractive, Cleary says. “You would be amazed at how it will transform your landscape.”

Lighting should highlight features and direct you and your guests through the evening landscape safely, but it should also be subdued and a little mysterious.

A runway of fixtures set too close together spoils the mood. Smaller pools of light that slightly overlap are visually graceful and still make a garden easy to navigate, Cleary says.

John Pletcher, owner of Natural Accents Lighting Design in Liberty, calls bright lights “glare bombs.”

“People are really starting to see that you don’t need a lot of light,” he says. “You can keep it very low, and it can still be gorgeous.”

The survey also found that outdoor dining areas are high on the list of priorities for homeowners, with fire pits, fireplaces, grills and built-in seating close behind.

A garden with great places to sit looks inviting even if you don’t have time to linger, Cleary says. He prefers several seating areas — perhaps a few chairs just outside the back door, for example, and a bench deeper in the garden.

Lightweight furniture that can be moved easily lets you experiment with different views and perspectives in your own garden.

Built-in seating serves other purposes, and has become justly popular, Cleary says. Seating walls help define the spaces in a garden, reduce clutter and introduce strong horizontal lines.

The built-in bench in a stone wall designed by landscape architect Meg Turner for clients in Richmond, Va., follows a graceful curve in a corner, and the view from there seems to embrace the garden. The bench faces the house, which is made of the same handsome stone.

In another garden, Turner designed a seating wall that frames an outdoor fireplace. On cool evenings, the wall can hold a cozy crowd.

“It’s almost a missed opportunity if you have a terrace with a wall and don’t have built-in seating,” Cleary says. People naturally gravitate to these spaces, because they “want to be a part of things, to see what’s going on, but you want to feel protected.” Seating built against a wall fills that need.

Garden trends don’t change dramatically over the years, Cleary says. This year’s garden design will still look great in years to come.

As plants mature, well-cared-for landscaping can even increase in value. ASLA research shows that a professional landscape design can add as much as 15 percent to the value of your home.

A well-designed garden is a comfortable and inviting space you will enjoy every day you live in your house. That’s a trend anyone can appreciate.


From the American Society of Landscape Architects, is a resource for homeowners looking for information about landscape architects and their work, and for anyone interested in the business of landscape architecture. Search for “residential design” for tips on hiring and working with a landscape architect, and links to award-winning design.

Ted Cleary’s designs can be seen on and on from Studio Cleary Landscape Architecture.

Landscape architect Meg Turner is the owner of M. Turner Landscapes in Richmond, Va. See

John Pletcher, owner of Natural Accents, is an award-winning landscape lighting designer. See

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