Naples landscape experts share the latest trends for creating the best outdoor spaces for Paradise Coast living, from low-maintenance synthetic turf to year-round edible gardens.
FAN THE FLAMES
Outdoor fire features continue to grow in popularity, creating a warm and cozy ambience for your backyard space. Landscape architects are seeing an increase in prefabricated models, including bowls, pots, urns, and the traditional fire pits.
“Fire is very attractive; the thrill of one is almost primal,” says Ellin Goetz, landscape artist at Goetz + Stropes Landscape Architects in Naples. “If you’ve ever sat around a campfire before, you know how mesmerizing the flames can be, and prefabricated models give people an easy way to feel like they’re out in nature in their own backyard.”
Waterfront homes appear to benefit uniquely from the flaming attraction. “There’s nothing better than sitting out by a fire and enjoying the water,” Goetz says.
Whether you add a fire pit to create a relaxed and welcoming gathering space or simply for aesthetic appeal, there are more stylish options than ever before.
“They’re far cleaner and more contemporary now, more like another piece of furniture,” says Pat Trefz, owner of Outside Productions International in Naples. “Some are sleek and linear and built into a bar, while others might be large bowls or urns placed somewhere in the garden or out by the swimming pool.” Fire pots can make an especially interesting focal point when set up on a dark, starry night.
Try this at home: If you have a raised fire pit and you’re not using it during the day, place a patio tabletop over it to convert it into a table for drinks or flower arrangements.
Gardens are evolving along with architectural styles from an ornate, Mediterranean aesthetic to a more modern design focusing on function.
“Architectural styles are in a transitional period,” Trefz says. “Likewise, there’s been a movement toward more manicured gardens—not formal, but neat and simple with clean lines.”
Trefz says more homeowners are minimizing and simplifying the plant palette, choosing quantity over variety. “We’ve also been working a lot of borders into designs, such as taking a plant bed and adding a boxwood-type hedge around the material, which outlines the garden beds and gives it a cleaner look.”
As Naples attracts more families, parents of young children are looking at their gardens and yards as more than just having aesthetic appeal—the use and function is very important, according to Trefz.
“Before, we’d plant around 50 percent, and the other half would be open. Now it’s more like 70 percent [open space],” he says.
Vertical planting is one way to allow for more lawn space. “I’ve been seeing a trend known as ‘green walls,’ which are vertical walls made of a kind of lattice that you grow plants on in different patterns,” says John Ribes, landscape architect at JRL Design Studios in Naples. It goes along with the concept of vertical planting versus horizontal planting, and the walls can even serve as background screens, he says.
Try this at home: Instead of standard playgrounds, Goetz suggests working fun elements such as hammocks, swings, sand play areas, and a small volleyball court throughout the yard.
Functional appeal goes a step further as homeowners’ yards fill up with year-round edible gardens that include herbs and vegetables mixed in with flowers, as well as fruit trees and plants.
“Growing edibles in your garden is both decorative and delicious,” says Goetz. “You can grow beautiful and aromatic essential herbs, which are relatively easy to grow and can be very pretty. We’re blessed here in Florida because we have a climate that lends itself to growing tropical fruits the rest of the country is very jealous of.”
While growing citrus fruits has always been popular in Southwest Florida, more variety and exotica are trending. Fruit trees add variety to the landscape, and their blossoms often attract butterflies.
“People would often like a grapefruit or lemon tree, but I’ve seen bananas, mangos, and papayas, and even avocados, peppers, and pineapples,” says Goetz.
She attributes the trend to the growing awareness of healthy living and the farm-to-table movement. It’s relatively easy, furthermore, for backyard gardeners to incorporate edibles into their landscaping using containers, raised beds, and trellises.
“They don’t have to go to the store and get their produce, they can just go in their backyards,” Goetz says. “They think, ‘Hey, I can grow some cherry tomatoes and basil in a container in my yard, add some lettuce, and make my own salad.’”
Try this at home: To get started quickly and easily on your garden edibles, plant a couple of decorative pots with herbs and vegetables from the local gardening store.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, infinity edges and step-down levels flooded the market—and while they remain popular, Trefz has noticed more homeowners focusing on function. He says lines and rectangles with clean glass tiles now rule like a straight edge when it comes to backyard pools.
“They look like something that might have been seen at homes in the 1920s over in Palm Beach,” says Trefz. “They were a lot more concerned with simplicity then, and now there’s not so many bells and whistles. They don’t want three different remotes for their spas. Also, the decks and pools are being used by younger clients whose kids are going to be using the pool more.”
Tim Grey, president of G2 Aquatics in Naples, says homeowners are also looking for a more seamless transition from indoors to outdoors. “You don’t want the pool just dropped outside on your deck,” Grey says. “You want to incorporate it into the living space, whether that’s through broken-up deck spaces, a screen enclosure, or bringing a portion of the pool in under a covered lanai. That way you can go outside and feel like you’re stepping into another room in your home.”
Try this at home: Grey suggests using large potted plants to help smooth the transition between home and pool areas.
Functional, low-maintenance, and eco-friendly, synthetic turf is growing in popularity, particularly considering the browning effect that the scorching hot summers can have on the lawns in Southwest Florida.
“Synthetic turf is great for long-term maintenance,” says Goetz. “A lot of energy goes into making it, but it doesn’t have to be watered, fertilized, or cut, and it looks very real and is always ready for action.”
She recommends synthetic turf for small areas where people gather for certain activities that require a tight, short, grassy surface.
“The turf can be adapted for croquet, a little putting green for golf, any kind of lawn bowling, or even a little bocce court,” Goetz says. “You can use it for basically any kind of athletic area, so it’s really great for kids and pets. Sometimes dog run areas might be near the side of the house in the shade where nothing will grow, so the turf is perfect for that.”
Artificial grass also means there’s no need for fertilizers or pesticides, which is especially comforting if there are pets running around in the yard, and it’s good for the environment.
Try this at home: Goetz says synthetic turf is a cinch to keep looking good with just a rake and a hose.