Current landscaping is guided by the idea of creating place-appropriate designs. In this Little Gasparilla Island home, landscape architect David W. Young used strips of callida limestone with ribbons of a salt-tolerant zoysia grass in between for permeability. In the end, it appears as if the home’s sidings are reflected in the grass. Underneath, a cistern collects rainwater that is used for irrigation. Courtesy DWY Landscape Architects/Greg Wilson



Modern-day landscape architects are creating lush landscapes that are as livable as the interior, along with plenty of tech innovation and sustainability measures.

From spectacular hedging to mind-blowing swimming pools, Southwest Florida’s landscape game is strong. But to keep it that way, the people who lie awake at night contemplating areca palms and irrigation methods are always thinking ahead.

After all, it takes more than some sod and the occasional croton to cut it today. These days, landscape designers constantly juggle the need to keep clients, climates and coastlines happy and healthy, while also delivering gorgeous settings for all of us to envy.

It’s challenging work when you consider the need to balance customer demands, governmental regulations and an ever-changing climate, while also making sure the plants not only survive, but thrive. “In the past there was more of ‘let’s dress up the property with plants,’” Ellin Goetz of Goetz+Strophes Landscape Architects says. She adds that now she often has clients who ask for a sequence of spaces in their yard that have different characteristics: a fire pit or outdoor kitchen or a water feature. Those clients are also considering which materials to use on the ground that will best allow for those additions—artificial turf or permeable pavers, for example. “So many different options are being used in yards now, and that’s good,” Goetz says.

What has also influenced the trend is the magic of the internet. People see an idea at their fingertips and that churns a lot of creativity. “We used to tell people if they see something they like in a magazine, tear the page out and we’ll talk about it,” Goetz says. “Now they are clicking on stuff and getting ideas and saying, ‘How can we make something like this for us?’ But doing things outdoors can be a little bit more intimidating than buying furniture for the house. There are a lot of aspects to the outside that are different.”

Landscaping professionals are creating room-like spaces with plenty of defined areas for entertaining (often with outdoor kitchens, firepits, play areas for kids, yoga lawns), and designs that blur the lines between the indoors and outdoors; Courtesy DWY Landscape Architects/Greg Wilson
While in the past, clients mostly wanted to “dress up the property with plants,” Ellin Goetz of Goetz+Stropes Landscape Architects says a home’s exterior spaces have to deliver more these days. In this Aqualane Shores oasis, Goetz installed tall palms to mask the imposing dock and boat and neighboring homes, raised beds for planting and a peace-inducing water garden that serves as a small ecosystem where birds and critters can thrive; Photo by Tina Sargeant
Now it’s less about overmanicured, formal gardens and more about wilder scenes, like those seen in Sanibel, where landscaping has to be made up of 75% native plants. Another key feature in contemporary landscaping is the use of designated spaces, like the conversation nooks seen in these R.S. Walsh Landscaping projects; Courtesy R.S. Walsh Landscaping

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