We’ve closed the door on 2015 and now it’s time to look towards the year ahead.

Outdoor spaces are the perfect antidote to a busy lifestyle and in 2016 we predict more people will invest in their courtyards, balconies, rooftops and green areas. Expect to see more considered design, statement plants and lighting, and more artistic applications in floor and wall treatments. Here is our edit of the 15 garden design trends to watch this year.

Undefined gardens

Put away the gardening tools and let nature take its own course. This style of gardening is suited to those who find beauty in imperfection. Left to grow without much constraint – and often without the intervention of garden edging – undefined gardens are most striking when they feature plants with contrasting colours, sizes and textures.

Image source:  Protracted Gardens

Image source: Protracted Gardens

Defined colour palettes

Choosing colour is always an important consideration in garden design. Colours must complement your home as well as the planting scheme and design of fixed structures. These are the colours that will be on the palettes and mood boards of designers this year.

  • In a nod to the revival of 1970s design, bold, contrasting colours and eye-catching geometric patterns are finding their way into outdoor areas.

  • For the first time this year, Pantone combined two shades (Rose Quartz and Serenity) for its colour of the year. According to Pantone, the rose pink and powder blue shades reflect “connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace”. These sentiments are fitting for outdoor retreats, and the two soft shades are complementary to lush foliage. 

  • As always, monochrome shades remain dependable, particularly in minimalist spaces.

  • For a truly serene setting, opt for a single colour palette for your hard surfaces and floral features. Choosing muted tones or crisp whites is an effective way to make green textures really pop.

Image L to R via:    Jacquelyn Clark  and  e-ogrody

Image L to R via: Jacquelyn Clark and e-ogrody

Gardens with purpose

As more people have become concerned about the health of the planet and their own wellbeing, there has been a shift towards using outdoor spaces for growing food and other utilitarian purposes. This year more gardens will feature vegetable beds, urban beehives and plants that attract pollinators.

Photograph by Marla Aufmuth, via:    gardenista

Photograph by Marla Aufmuth, via: gardenista

Repurposing natural materials

Materials such as timber, copper and steel are highly responsive to natural and raw elements and looking forward we can expect to see more creative repurposing of these materials in outdoor spaces. While they are rustic by nature, these materials can also be effectively utilised in contemporary spaces. In-built seating is a popular application for timber, as it is a smart way to maximise space and create storage.

Design & image:  ABMO Architects

Design & image: ABMO Architects

Indoor plants

Indoor planting reached peak popularity in the 1970s and while similar plants are currently being reintroduced into homes, it’s with a more contemporary twist. From terrariums to living walls and indoor planters, people are becoming more interested in treating planted pots as small-scale landscapes. Large pot plants and plant-inspired fabric prints are also popular interior touches.

Design by Ryan Taylor,  Object Interface

Design by Ryan Taylor, Object Interface


Statement lighting

Garden lights have come a long way, with advancements in LED lighting creating more possibilities for after-dark ambience. Use lighting to highlight in-built furniture, planters and other feature pieces, or choose standalone all-weather garden lamps to create a statement after sunset. 

Design & image:  My Landscapes

Design & image: My Landscapes

Floor focus

With so many options available, why settle for a concrete path or plain pavers? Oversized pavers, plant tiles sculptural pavers and tiles with geometric patterns are all elements you can use to add character and personality to an outdoor space. Oversized pavers are a particularly effective way of creating scale in a small space, while plant tiles create an instant garden effect that is ideal for small courtyards and rooftops.  

Image L to R via:    H ouse Pet and  J udy Kameon,  Elysian Landscapes

Image L to R via: House Pet and Judy Kameon, Elysian Landscapes

Walling innovations

It’s not just floors where shapes and patterns are taking centre stage – walls are also being treated to their own artistic finishes. Mid-century breezeblocks are back, but with a modern influence, and these are ideal for creating zones in an outdoor space. Cement and wooden 3D tiles are also being used to add texture, while outdoor panels with geometric 3D machined patterns are complementary to the shapes and textures found in nature.

Image clockwise from L via:  SF Girl by Bay ,  Urban Exotic Landscape Design    and    Referans

Image clockwise from L via: SF Girl by Bay, Urban Exotic Landscape Design and Referans

Season proofing

When investing in your outdoor space, consider how you can make it livable all year round. Install fans for summer and fire pits for winter, and an outdoor kitchen to entice you outdoors more often. Season proofing is a consideration more people are starting to make when designing an outdoor space, and the year-round rewards are well worth the planning.


The humble wheel can enhance the functionality of your whole outdoor space. Planters on wheels, portable pots and gardens that can be moved inside during cold weather are all considerations that designers are giving more weight to. Portability is not only beneficial for rearranging a space, but also for the health of your plants. In 2016, we also expect to see more pop-up gardens in urban environments.

Photograph:  Ruth Miller  - Parklet

Photograph: Ruth Miller - Parklet

Outdoor wall discs

This year, adorn your walls with a piece of outdoor art – either ornamental or living. Outdoor wall discs are ideal for small areas and can be clustered together or hung individually. Choose a living wall disc (a great alternative to larger vertical gardens) or a UV-resistant art piece.

Natural shade solutions

Use deciduous trees to shade your outdoor space the way nature intended. By planting deciduous trees and plants close to seating or entertaining areas, you’ll be able to enjoy shade in the heat of summer and comforting rays of dappled sunlight in winter.

Design & image:  Billinkoff Architecture

Design & image: Billinkoff Architecture

Oversized pots

Oversized pots have traditionally been saved for larger gardens, but they bring instant impact to small spaces. Place an oversized planter box or potted plant in small outdoor areas such as rooftops, courtyards and balconies, and you’ll instantly create a focal point. For the most impact, fill an oversized planter with different varieties of low-maintenance plants.

Image via:  Stua Design  Furniture

Image via: Stua Design Furniture

Zen gardens

You don’t need to go all the way to Japan to experience your own moment of Zen. Japanese-inspired raked pebble gardens are gaining popularity as a low-maintenance design solution. Raking the pebbles is a calming act, making terrarium-sized Zen gardens great additions to office desks.

Photograph:  e-chan

Photograph: e-chan

Rooftop garden design

As a trend, rooftop garden design isn’t a new concept, but it is only now that people are starting to embrace the idea in their own spaces. This year rooftop gardening will grow in popularity as urbanites crave more contact with nature and councils continue to encourage new developments with dedicated green spaces. 

Design & image:  Urban Roof Gardens

Design & image: Urban Roof Gardens

Want to know our garden design trend predictions for 2017 - click here.