For many, 2022 was another successful year. As this year comes to a close, it’s time to set our sights on the new year and look at what will be trending in 2023. Most landscape professionals are cautiously optimistic about what the new year will bring.
For instance, they expect the supply chain to not be quite an issue as it was the past two years for the majority of their products. Neil Bales, president and CEO of LandPatterns, based in Dallas, Texas, says vehicles are still a struggle to locate.
“New vehicles are hard to get as all three large U.S. based car manufacturers have already shut down their order banks for 2023,” Bales says. “Dealerships are getting to charge above MSRP due to vehicle shortages, which makes it harder to find vehicles that financially make sense.”
Potential Recession Impact
There have been fears of a recession throughout the year and debate as to whether we are already unofficially in one. In the past, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the agency that calls a recession, would call a recession after two consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product. However, this time the NBER says other economic indicators showed strength during the same contractions period.
While an official recession has not been declared, consumer uncertainty can lead to a pullback in spending.
“I do think clients will reassess all things with regards to their finances,” Bales says. “I think those that have disposable incomes will still want to reinvest in their homes and/or properties, but will look to see where/how they can get the most ‘bang for their buck.’ I still think outdoor spaces will be popular both residentially and commercially for a number of reasons, but budgets will be thought to stretch farther than before.”
Chap Gary, owner of Eden Scapes, LLC, based in Lafayette, Louisiana, says if the economy worsens, he expects their maintenance division to carry the load.
“In that case, a contract-heavy customer base will really pay off and we will be looking harder at smaller enhancement add-ons for contracted customers,” Gary says. “If we’re in the bottom of the bell and things start turning around soon, then the growth in outdoor living spaces that everyone has seen over the last two years may continue. That’s not what is being projected, but we are still hopeful.”
Gary notes that he has seen more people go with lower-priced competitors lately than they have seen in the past two years. Jake Koppes, designer and project manager for Franz Witte, based in Nampa, Idaho, predicts clients might leave off big-ticket items like pools for a more phased approach in 2023.
Hugh Morton, co-owner of Sun Valley Landscaping, based in Omaha, Nebraska, also has had more discussions with clients about phasing projects to fit a budget. He expects smaller companies that started during the pandemic are the most likely to be impacted.
“There has to be some type of equalization to offset the shortage of work in 2023 and the reduced labor pool that many of us have faced in the last couple of years,” Morton says. “For Sun Valley, our focus will be on our existing customers, continued quality of our installations and customer service.”
Another cost-cutting method Bales has seen is clients choosing pavers and decorative concrete over natural stone.
“Clients typically look to cut costs on areas of least impact and keep original designs and design intent in the areas where they’ll spend the most time and/or get the most value from financially,” Bales says.
Popular Design Elements
Despite economic concerns, the desire to create alluring areas that serve as getaways is still strong. Morton says these elements include fire pits, outdoor kitchens, hot tubs and pools.
“Not only are people continuing to spend money on landscaping, but they are increasing their budgets and focusing on creating a sense of space and feeling immersed with in these areas,” Morton says. “People have realized that they spend quite a bit of time outside and really want to relax and enjoy.”
He notes that the number of products and resources on the market for fire pits and outdoor kitchens is particularly impressive.
“5 years ago, you spent most of your time designing and estimating something for your client and now a days I have multiple vendors that I can tap into for help,” Morton says. “We have gone from screwing 2 x 4s together to shipping in custom fabricated steel welded structures for our kitchen units.”
Gary says thanks to their location, they are able to take advantage of tropical plants to create that oasis feeling.
“I think ‘outdoor’ kitchens, patios, living spaces and fire features will still be very popular in 2023,” Bales says. “I believe with higher interest rates, homeowners will look to reinvest in their homes verses moving.”
Another design feature growing slowly is vegetable and/or cut flower gardens. Koppes says he suggests adding a few raised garden boxes of cut flower options if the client doesn’t want that large of a vegetable garden.
“Since COVID, many people have shown a greater interest in being outside for both health reasons and because of mandates that restrict outside interaction,” Bales says. “Because of this, they’ve started taking to ‘gardening’ themselves and growing herbs, vegetables and some cutting flowers.”
A focus on native plants has been growing for various reasons, including they can survive on less water and provide a variety of textures and colors seasonally.
“Depending on your region, shifting to more a more ecological, water-saving focused landscape will continue,” Koppes says. “New Perennial planning style common in England and Europe will continue to gain popularity in the U.S. Going native and pollinator-friendly will become more accepted across all landscapes.”
Bales says they’ve done a few ‘cottage-style’ gardens in the past few years but they try to design more towards what the house lends itself to.
“Homeowners who desire that cottage feel typically get that through the incorporation of walkways/paths through the gardens/landscape with a variety of sitting/gathering areas,” Bales says.
Koppes says the ‘New Perennial’ movement has a lot of the cottage-style elements and clients have referenced Piet Oudolf’s gardens as inspiration for their own landscapes.
“Rudbeckia ‘American Gold Rush’ is the 2023 perennial plant of the year, according to the Perennial Plant Association,” Morton says. “It is interesting that this marries up well with people turning to native landscapes and natural planting spaces. We will have to see!”