By Ryan Nix
Smart homes have been the “next big thing” for decades now, but only recently have we begun seeing them truly work. So, what’s next after smart homes? Well, for many people, the next step is taking all that electronic innovation from the kitchen and living room to the patio and deck.
“Like everything else in the home, outdoor living is becoming more technologically advanced,” says Jennifer Gibson of the Good Earth Garden Center. “From programmable overhead lights on the patio and path lights out in the landscape, to speaker systems on the front porch, you can now control many landscape systems from your phone.” This new smart technology allows homeowners to create their own sense of ambiance, allowing the ability to customize outdoor spaces like never before.
However, all this innovation isn’t just limited to creature comforts. “We’re also seeing an improvement on utilitarian features, like options for direct control or automated sprinkler and mosquito misting systems,” says Gibson.
Other outdoorsy folks are investing in devices that drive away mosquitoes and other pests with ultrasonic sounds, so they can better enjoy their fire pits and outdoor kitchens, like the ones built by Congo Fireplace & Patio.
“A lot of people don’t just want to enjoy their outdoor spaces, they also want them to be useful,” says Tammy Maertens of Congo. “We’ve installed a lot of outdoor refrigerators and stoves, specifically for that purpose.”
So, let’s say you’ve got the perfect lighting and sound setup to complement your outdoor kitchen and patio. Many current trends are focused on bringing indoor comforts to the outside world, but we shouldn’t forget the potential decoration options outdoor living provides.
This hidden potential is best seen through the explosion of plant ownership, especially among the younger set. “Outdoor living spaces are now accented with more houseplants, specifically foliage tropicals like fiddle-leaf figs and philodendrons than ever before,” says Gibson. “Past the patio and out in the landscape, large leaf banana plants and elephant ears are gracing more seasonal container plantings than before as well.”
While houseplants are enjoying massive popularity, Gibson sees a strong interest in multi-use flora, specifically in fruiting plants. “Adding edible plants is actually a national trend, and it’s not as hard as people think,” she says. “There’s been an upsurge in container-grown berries, along with an increased interest in locally-sourced food.”
It doesn’t get more local than your own backyard.
There is so much information out there for people to build outdoor spaces that are uniquely reflective of their personalities and design philosophies. Gibson believes that a great backyard is well within reach for anyone, but, “Quality landscaping is an investment. Take note of what you enjoy and what is important to you and your family before undertaking a huge design project,” Gibson says. “A good landscape designer can help marry your style with your family needs and create it all on a foundation of functionality.”