Landscaping creates comfort and beauty, even on a budget

As people postpone vacations and look to save money in this uncertain economy, some residents are investing in their homes and expanding their living space into their yards. They are creating special lighting and small ponds, or even tearing out lawns to put in a garden and grow their own food.

“I think people aren’t traveling as much and choosing to focus on improving their property,” said Brent Gamache, president of Gamache Landscaping. “They are staying home more and putting money into their home. So, they don’t really see it as a loss.”

Gamache said right now many homeowners are expanding their patios and adding pergolas and fencing for privacy. Pre-manufactured items, such as water bubblers, fountains and other small water features, are also favorites in 2009, he said.

Gamache said homeowners are investing in outdoor lighting, as they spend more time outdoors during the warm summer months. Even though sunlight lasts well into the evenings, homeowners can enjoy the Mid-Columbia’s inviting temperatures after dark with their patio illuminated.

Gamache said outdoor lighting trends have focused on powder-coated aluminum fixtures that not only offer a unique silhouette look at night, but are also attractive during the day.

Renae Bobbett, co-owner of Beaver Bark Gift and Garden Center, said although tighter budgets are affecting the landscaping industry, it’s also being driven by health awareness and environmentally conscious ideas.

“I think it’s a little bit because of the economy,” Bobbett said. “People may not be traveling this year but instead deciding to expand out their patio and put in a vegetable garden and invest in their lives and their lifestyle.”

Beaver Bark has seen a trend in edible landscaping, like customers inquiring about adding a blueberry bush, for example. “People are becoming more concerned about where their food comes from,” Bobbett said. “They aren’t going to the store as often and growing their own food. This is health conscious and saves money. Plus, it’s a family thing to do.”

Bobbett said this is a trend she has noticed for a few years, but there has been a substantial increase this year. Beaver Bark also has seen more sales in green goods – or plant material – and organic fertilizer, showing their customers are seeking health and environmentally conscious landscaping options.

“We see people focused on the sustainability of their yards using an organic manner that is pet safe and child safe and being more concerned about not using chemicals,” Bobbett said.

Gamache said customers are also seeking more low-maintenance or maintenance-free products. Pond owners quickly realize that scrubbing algae off their rocks every week is frustrating. Today, that can be avoided with the right products and information.

“Especially with the baby boomers,” Gamache said. “People working hard all week and want to play on the weekends. They want low maintenance stuff that looks good. I’d say that I noticed this in about one out of 10 customers when I first started, but now I think it’s three or four out of 10.”

Of course, the usual suspects of every summer landscaping project are still prevalent, such as adding plants and trees for shade as temperatures approach triple digits.

“Then there’s the usual higher-end stuff, such as outdoor kitchens and big water features. People seem to be making their areas bigger and more usable,” Gamache said.

That’s exactly what Oscar and Cynthia Rickman of Richland did when they turned their backyard into an outdoor oasis.

“Our old cedar deck was getting old and we cook outside almost 12 months  year,” Oscar Rickman said. “We entertain occasionally and Cynthia wanted something drop dead gorgeous.”

They started planning last fall and now the Rickmans, who live in Horn Rapids, have one of the nicest outdoor kitchen and fire pits you’ll ever see, complete with marble countertops and striking planters around a new patio.

Rickman said homeowners who want to extend their living space to the outdoors should start with a good plan. “Have an idea of what you want and make sure you work with a few good suppliers who can help with the design, appliances and furniture,” he said.

Source: Journal of Business

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