A Fresh Perspective

Savoring The Great Outdoors

The idea of enjoying one’s home and garden to the fullest continues to drive trends this year.

“After the long quarantine in 2020, clients have put a big emphasis on their homes,” says interior designer Jennifer Welch of OKC’s Jennifer Welch Designs. “Clients have added pools, remodeled pools, added and/or updated outdoor kitchens and living areas. Some, if they have the space, have added pickleball courts.”

Kathy Caviness of Caviness Landscape Design agrees that the pandemic shifted perspectives.

“Since the shutdown, backyards have become more important than ever. It’s a way for families to escape while staying at home,” she says. “They are extending rooms in the home, and it continues to be huge in 2022 – outdoor kitchens, dining areas, entertainment areas, play areas. Areas to observe the nature around you. Water features continue to be popular, beautiful to look at and soothing to listen to. Pools are as popular as ever. They can be an investment in family time and a vacation in your backyard.”

Welch continues: “Outdoor living rooms are a must. Almost every home I design has an outdoor living component,” she says. “Most clients want an area outdoors with comfortable furniture, a television, fireplace and grill. We strongly recommend adding phantom screens to these areas to keep out mosquitoes during the summer.  An eco-friendly mosquito misting system is a must.”

Smart Tech in the Great Outdoors

You may assume high-tech gadgets are mostly for the home, but “smart technology is available in the backyard as well,” says Caviness. “Smart sprinkler system technology can also include an auto-fill zone for your swimming pool. Technology for pools can now read the quality of your water and notify you about what chemicals to add and when. There is also safety technology that notifies you on your cell phone when a foreign object is in the pool.”

Master Gardener Steve Fisher suggests using Apps like Google Lens or Plant ID to quickly identify plants and get needed tips. 

Also helpful, he says, is Mesonet.org for local weather and local soil information. The Oklahoma Mesonet is a network of 110 automated monitoring stations spread over all 77 Oklahoma counties. From farmers and ranchers to the home gardener, the site can help with “issues like rainfall – and I use it to determine if I need to supplement irrigation,” says Fisher. “It also gives soil [temperatures], and that is a trigger for when a lot of plants start to grow at 50 degrees.  It’s also useful for germination, as different seeds do best in different soil temperatures.”  

Adding a Pool 101 

 “Our suggestion is if you want a pool, start the process now,” says Caviness. “It is important to check out the reputation of the builder, ensure they have insurance and worker’s compensation, whether they contract every stage out or handle the construction in-house, and word-of-mouth recommendations from previous clients.

“There is financing available that doesn’t require collateral that pool companies offer.  Pricing for pools continue to rise, due to the demand and increase in the pricing of materials. One of the first steps in considering a pool is to get a plot plan of your property that will show the easements.  This will show whether a pool is possible in the first place.  The next step is to set a budget and list of desired features. When you contact a pool builder, they can tell you whether your desired features fit inside the budget.”

Be sure to check references because, Caviness says, “on the pool pricing, you can include the recommendations of checking past and recent clients, also the BBB. And there is no licensing for pool builders in the state of Oklahoma. Before the pool goes in, make sure and know your easements, any homeowner association requirements of submitting plans, and the permits required by your area.”

Gardening for Everyone

There are wide varieties of landscape material available for those with green thumbs and those with little experience, says Caviness. When planning your landscape, choose plants of different colors, textures and heights.

“We love acorus – the common name is sweet flag – as it can be used as a ground cover and will not spread or be invasive,” says Caviness. “Sweet flag are variegated in color, so adding it to some green plants such as blue Pacific junipers, dwarf mondo grass or grasses like miscanthus or hamlin add a lot of color and texture. For drier areas, we love using junipers.  For shade areas, negonias are low maintenance flowers that we plant in bulk for instant color.”

For beginning gardeners or anyone wanting easy success, Fisher says to check out the list of Oklahoma Proven for recommendations of trees, shrubs and annuals. He says these are often native plants suitable for Oklahoma climes and likely to survive. 

“Some of the easiest annuals out there are zinnias, periwinkles, petunias and lantana,” he says.  “For shade, there are impatiens and caladium which are very forgiving.  I personally prefer perennials for the long term investment, and some of the best for Oklahoma shade are impatiens and caladiums. For perennials I prefer daylilies, phlox, black eyed Susan, yarrow, coneflower, pincushion plant, salvia, and sage – all very common in this area. Shrubs that are easy are boxwood, rose of Sharon and panicle-type hydrangea which are hardy, bug free and can grow in full sun.”

For experienced gardeners, Fisher suggests fruit trees.

“If you do it right, you need to be spraying them six to eight times a year at specific times to prevent certain diseases and pests at their most vulnerable time. They require a lot of work,” he says. 

Interior Design Trends for 2022 

“Indoor/outdoor fabric has come a long way,” says Welch. “It’s now possible to have luxury fabric, soft to the touch, outdoors. These fabrics are incredibly stain resistant and cleanable. Solution dyed acrylic is used on outdoor rugs now that feel like silk to the touch, but they are bleach cleanable, and stand up to UV rays and do not fade. The current trend is for one to live indoors as well as outdoors, without compromising in aesthetic or comfort … a seamless transition from indoor to outdoor is highly desirable with our clients.”

Welch continues, saying that clients now have a singular focus on their homes. “Home offices have become a priority, as well as overall updates,” she says. “I think after everyone has spent so much time at home over the last couple of years, projects they thought ‘I’ll get to that later,’ have become an intense priority. I have not had any clients that have requested a social front door.  Most of my clients value privacy and have focused on their backyards and interiors.” 

A Backyard Oasis

Planning and more planning can make your backyard a true paradise, says Fisher.  

“Great designs don’t happen by accident,” he says. “The Master Gardener program teaches [you] to actually decide how to use your space – be it playground, vegetable garden, outdoor room with a fountain, a space for entertaining. Once you know that goal, you then can utilize design elements and design principles to guide you to the selections.

“For me, landscape design combines living and non-living items, organized into a useful and pleasing relationship. For example, if you’re going to eat outdoors, you want some shade and you don’t want to look at your compost pile or garbage cans. The right plants can screen things you don’t want to see and can provide noise reduction. Also think of wildlife. Some folk like squirrels, but personally I think they take advantage of your friendship!  But you want to plan for your intended purpose.”  

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