With an unusual year behind us, it’s refreshing to flip over a new leaf and think about the good things to come. Even though winter has just begun, the growing daylight has a way of awakening fresh inspiration. If last year was a time for setting down roots, this year is a time to bloom. Here are ten garden landscaping ideas that you can bring to light in 2021!
Vertical gardening is a trend that’s rising in popularity, especially for those lacking ground space. It’s a way to expand the garden without changing the dimensions of any bed. Instead of growing outwards, you grow up—up trellises, pergolas, and poles. You can even mount small pots onto a sturdy fence or garage wall. Many vegetables love to climb, including pole beans, climbing squash, nasturtiums, cucumbers, and indeterminate tomatoes. But the green wall doesn’t need to be edible: you may simply enjoy the greenery and flowers of vines like honeysuckle, Virginia Creepers, and American Wisteria.
Good pollinator flowers are often native ones, which are tough and low maintenance. Plus, they’re usually packed with strong scents and flavor that we can enjoy in tea or as fresh herbs in our cooking.
Perennials You Can Eat
Edimentals have lately become the talk of the garden. These perennials are both edible and ornamental—an obvious appeal for many green thumbs. Unlike most vegetables that die each fall, they come back to life in spring, like any garden perennial. Plus, you can eat them. They also withstand pests better than annual crops, build the soil by bringing up deep nutrients, and often live a long time—asparagus can live up to 40 years. Meanwhile, daylilies have tasty flower buds before they open, try them fried in a little butter!
The Bee Garden
Go beyond a few pollinator flowers this year and plant a whole tier of your garden for bees. The key is to have open blossoms at every point in the growing season, so they always have something to eat. Good pollinator flowers are often native ones, which are tough and low maintenance. Plus, they’re usually packed with strong scents and flavor that we can enjoy in tea or as fresh herbs in our cooking. Echinacea, mint, wild bergamot, giant blue hyssop, and goldenrod are a few to awaken your senses. And don’t forget to add red flowers, such as hollyhocks, lupines, and columbine for the hummingbirds too.
Landscaping for the Birds
When you plant bird habitat in your landscape, you’ll ultimately see birds as well. And once you start enjoying their songs, colors, and company, you’ll want to host them in every season. Evergreen trees provide warm shelter and nourishing cones over the winter. Berry shrubs offer tempting cuisine in the summer for fruit eaters, like waxwings, oriole, tanagers, and cardinals. Tall trees of any kind are important nesting sites. And if you host a few insects, you may enjoy some natural pest control from the winged ones.
Harvest Your Rainwater
Rainwater harvesting has made a splash in recent years, and a well-deserved one, as it has many practical benefits. It reduces your water bill, lessens your environmental footprint, and slows down water on the landscape—a key for flood mitigation. Installing a rainwater barrel or two is often a straightforward do-it-yourself project. Your roof, gutters, and drain pipes are already set up. With a tank, a mesh filter, and sturdy footings, you’ll soon be preserving the good stuff that falls from the sky.
Let It Flow
Going beyond a rain barrel, you can easily wet your lips on a swale, stream, pond, fountain, or waterfall. The serenity of water alone is worth the installation. And once you have a trickle, more possibilities begin to flow, like the chance to grow aquatic plants. Do you have a landscaping drainage problem? You can feed two birds with one scone by correcting it while adding a new water feature.
The Joy of Fruit Trees
Do you have an old apple tree that makes a mess of your patio every fall? That smooshed harvest may be the most valuable gift of your garden once you discover how to manage fruit trees. It often seems like a chore to collect all of the fruit. But you can make it easier by pruning the tree to a manageable height. The hard part is knowing how to process the produce. We’re not used to cooking 15 gallons of apple sauce at once, nor making 10 yards of fruit leather. But once you solve your processing problem, then you can embrace your inner orchardist and grow the abundant apples, pears, sour cherries, and plums that grow in northern Illinois.
Bask in Berries
Planting berry shrubs is one of the simplest landscaping updates. In a few years, you’ll be basking in all of the serviceberries, raspberries, blueberries, currants, blackberries, blueberries, and gooseberries that you can eat. And unlike an apple tree, it’s not hard to find ways to stuff them into your mouth. Berry shrubs also make a great privacy screen along the border of your yard.
The Outdoor Room
Also known as a pavilion or backyard oasis, the outdoor room will undoubtedly gain popularity in 2021. Many discovered them this year as they sought a change of scenery while working at home, but they’re something we could have been enjoying all along. Just imagine bringing your office outside or setting up a kitchen amidst the garden. You don’t need to make big adjustments to begin. Start with a shady desk for the laptop. Once you experience the creativity of working outside, you’ll soon be overflowing with more landscaping ideas.
Tend the Garden Within
Moving your indoor rooms outside is one idea, but what about bringing the outside in? We don’t often think of our house as part of our landscape. But with trees all around it and fresh air and sunlight flowing through the windows, your home belongs more to the garden than you realize. At least, that’s how we see it. (As your local garden center, we might be biased.) Growing houseplants is the way to cultivate the garden within. They can make your rooms more vibrant, green, healthy, and beautiful. And they are one landscape update that you start right away!
Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.