Throughout this cold, wet winter, we’ve been dreaming of flowers, long swaying grasses and gorgeous sunny days. We’re all about this year’s garden design trends because they speak not only to our sense of design aesthetics, but also to a melding of intention, human use, beauty and the needs of the surrounding natural environment.
These are our favorite garden design trends for 2023
1. Cottage Gardens
A throwback to the quintessential English garden where it seems like hollyhocks, foxglove, lavender and shrub roses run amok, but where there is a kind of mad order happening and a luscious relationship between the bees and butterflies, the flowers they feed on to survive and the need of humans to find a spot of beauty to rest and rejuvenate.
2. Drought Tolerant Plants
We’ve been hearing about this one for a decade now, but it’s taken on new meaning and import with the current state of climate change. While the Bay has had more rain this fall and winter than in the past 116 years (no wonder we feel like we’re living in a monsoon, because we are) the topical drought may be paused this year, but California’s groundwater supply has been severely depleted over the last few decades. This makes drought tolerant plants even more attractive for long term landscape planning with an eco-forward mindset.
The top 22 California drought tolerant plants
- Matilija Poppy (one of our personal favorites)
- California Poppy
- California Yarrow
- California Mountain Lilac
- California Wild Rose
- California Lilac
- Any of the mallows (Palmer’s, Apricot, Desert)
- Catalina Mariposa Lily
- White Sage
- Hummingbird Sage
- Point Sal Purple Sage
- Bush Monkeyflower
- Globe Gilia
- Canyon Grey California Sagebrush
- Western Redbud
- California Lilac
- Redtwig Dogwood
- Hoary California Fuchsia
- Blue Elderberry
- San Miguel Island Buckwheat
3. Pollinator Plants
Nothing new here either, but the demand to help bees, monarchs and other vital pollinators is increasing ten fold as the climate changes and their numbers continue to drop. Creating a pollinator garden helps the local pollinators but also helps create a pollinator corridor. The top ten California pollinator plants, according to UC Davis are:
- Frikart’s aster
- California lilac
- Western redbud
- California poppy
- Blanket flower
- Goodwin Creek lavender
- Russian sage
- German Sage (salvia)
- Cascade Creek goldenrod
Also from UC Davis, here’s a list of resources on how to select and grow pollinator plants.
4. More Formal Native Plant Gardens
One of the biggest garde design trends this year is the evolution of the wilding gardens from the past decade. Rather than just let your grass die off and replant with a riot of native and drought tolerant plants, the new eco-aesthetic is wild, native and drought resistant (which is a bit of a redundancy, since all native California plants are resistant to cycles of drought) but with order. It’s a cross between a formal garden and a wild one, with intentional plantings, places for rest and reflection, and places for play – think pool, bocce ball court, pickleball court, old-fashioned swing set.
The following designs take into account comfort and an interactive approach to garden spaces
5. Nature’s Needs Combined with Human Ones
This garden trend combines a more industrial hardscaping look – concrete, stone, wood and metal, mixed with the layering and texturing of lush plantings – voluminous grasses, full trees, flowering bushes like forsythia (which is a great native alternative to the invasive Scotch, Spanish and French broom), wild plants and densely combined interspersed with small spaces of hard- or rock-scape to provide a feeling of seclusion and coziness versus the unprotected expanse of lawn.
6. The Outdoor Living Room
We’ve all created outdoor places to eat, or sit and sip a cocktail, but this garden trend takes the simple idea of outdoor seating and expands it into a place of respite and relaxation beyond just a meal or evening drink. Think the Madera bar’s outdoor lounge at the Rosewood in Menlo Park, The idea is to create a lounging space that is elegant, comfortable, inviting – a place you’d like to spend an entire afternoon reading a book or talking to your friends.
7. The Indoor Plant Conservatory
Conservatories go beyond greenhouses in purpose and form. They are glass houses used to showcase and protect delicate and even rare plants while also being spaces for people to enjoy themselves. Home conservatories bring a lushness to the space that just one or two houseplants can’t. Some of our favorite houseplants for this garden trend:
- Angel wing begonia
- Standard begonia
- ZZ plant
- Staghorn ferns
Whether you go with the timeless look of a cottage garden, the modern hardscape, or something in between, keep in mind that the garden is a place of respite, somewhere to retreat from the world, to be still, to play, to be in the moment and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.
Read more on indoor plants: Decorative Plants You Need for the Holidays