Who isn’t eager to get outside, watch the flowers grow, and enjoy outdoor living? Yardzen, arguably one of the largest landscape design firms in the United States, recently released its annual Outdoor Living Trends Report for 2023. Yardzen’s findings were gleaned from data gathered via homeowner insights and its team of designers. After a long, hard winter, outdoor living for spring and summer 2023 will focus on climate-responsible, drought-resistant plants, unfussy organic design, untamed textures, and elements of well-being such as saunas and plunge pools. Steve Modrow, founder and designer of biota Landscapes in Minneapolis, is in agreement. “The trend away from traditional lawns and toward lawn alternatives is starting to increase in Minnesota,” he says. “As we experience more weather extremes and drought becomes more prevalent, people are understanding the benefits of conserving water in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.” And plunge pools are a great backyard option for Minnesota homeowners.
“Plunge pools have been around for a long time but have really taken off the last few years,” Modrow says. “They are a great option in our climate and in urban yards with limited space. Imagine on those hot summer days, you can go out your back door and simply hop into the water to cool off. They can be made to function hot or cool, depending on your preference and use. They easily incorporate into all styles of garden and can [be] readily incorporated into an existing, mature garden.”
Before you take the plunge, however, realize that plunge pools “are no different than a swimming pool with regard to codes, safety, and cost,” he warns. “An experienced contractor can help you navigate the options and determine what is the best solution for your needs. A cool plunge pool is perfect when paired with a sauna. It is the quintessential Scandinavian experience in your own backyard!”
Karen Filloon, director of marketing and business development of Southview Design in St. Paul, adds, “Plunge pools promote socialization; a cool spot on a hot summer day. Swimming pools are a gym alternative, promoting exercise. One of our Southview Design clients requested a side-by-side plunge pool and in-ground hot tub, the best of both worlds.” Homeowners, she continues, are also looking for fire amenities for their outdoor living spaces.
“Depending on the size of the space, client requests range from fireplaces to fire pits to fire tables,” she explains. “Fireplaces and fire pits can be gas or wood-burning depending on homeowner preferences. Fire tables can be gas-burning or propane. Some fire pits and fire tables come with a remote—a touch of luxury!” And for the greatest ease and lowest maintenance, Filloon says homeowners are increasingly “using synthetic turf in place of hardscapes, such as on dog runs, patio inlays, and pool decks.”
Another way to minimize lawn care—while taking care of the environment and the pollinators who feed us—is to plant bee- and butterfly-friendly perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees. “Clover is a great option for play areas, and we recommend planting a diverse mix of clover,” Modrow says. “Another lawn alternative we are installing more often is a low-mow grass mix. These are grasses that achieve heights of 6” to 10” and don’t require weekly mowing or watering once established. They are a great option to still have the look of a traditional turf grass lawn. All of these options promote using more than one species of plant to ensure a diverse plant palette.”
As the Yardzen Outdoor Living Trend Report states, homeowners are “eager to lessen their environmental footprint.” In the last year, “24% more Yardzen clients opted for artificial turf over sod grass, and 13% more year over year requested to remove their lawn altogether. Plus, 17% more people said they wanted drought-tolerant plants.” There’s no time like the present to begin designing your outdoor living spaces to maximize Minnesota summer.