5 Landscape Trends for 2017

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What’s new in landscape and gardening?

Every year there are numerous reports on the latest trends in plants, hardscape, irrigation and even color. From technology to outdoor living. Designers, Landscape Architects and Green Industry pundits weigh in on what’s hot. 

There are several sources for this article. The people at Gardeners’ Guild have chimed in on the latest wrinkle. I’ve combed through Garden Design Magazine, NALP (National Association for Landscape Professionals), ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) and irrigation experts. 

According to some experts, Millennials are driving some of these trends.  See below.

More Local Sourcing

Using native plants is a trend that has been building over the years. Some landscape designers see the market’s interest in natives morphing to endemic plants – those which are native to a particular ecosystem.

One example – is a project we completed for U.C. Berkeley in 2016.  It was the restoration of Strawberry Creek.  The specifications required locally sourced plants and mulch. They had to be native plants grown in the Strawberry Canyon area, the location of the project.

Note: I encourage you to visit Strawberry Canyon. It is a marvel – a quiet oasis of nature sandwiched between a highly caffeinated college campus.

More building materials are being sourced locally. A reason for the increased popularity of local sourcing can be traced to climate change. Its geographic impacts and the ensuing regulation on say, the use of chemicals, water and the like are, in part, driving the preference of locally sourcing.

The reasons are practical. Reduced use of fossil fuel to transport them.

Strawberry Creek, U.C. Berkeley


Natural Products – With One Exception

There is a gradual shift away from the use of concrete toward natural and materials. Wood, brick, slate, gravel, pea stone and natural stone are popular. Increasingly, green materials are being used for retaining walls, fencing, decking, walkways and outdoor kitchens.
ASLA says “Nature will continue to play an important role in landscape architecture and we as practitioners will continue to be inspired and create designs that emulate and mimic(bio-mimicry) nature. An increasing trend will be to use the messiness and ephemerality of nature in a structured manner to create beautiful landscapes.”

The exception – there is a trend toward the use of artificial turf. Technology continues to innovate a product that looks and feels more like grass. Could they also invent the smell of fresh mowed grass?



Urban Gardening

One type of urban gardening trend that Gardeners’ Guild has noticed is the increased support for urban projects that provide affordable housing, gardens providing food for local residents and restoration projects in low-income urban areas.

ASLA says (American Society of Landscape Architects) “As densities increase in cities we will see larger scale projects that will attempt to service the needs of increasing populations (housing, transport, social, green space, job creation) at a local level.”

San Francisco has a number of projects designed to improve public space. Among them is the Green Benefits District. A quote from their mission statement: “to clean, maintain, enhance, and expand open spaces, parks, plazas, parklets, gardens, sidewalk greening and the Public Realm in general in the Dogpatch and Northwest Potrero Hill neighborhoods”. There are a host of other projects aimed at revitalizing blighted areas such as the Tenderloin.  Gardeners’ Guild did some projects for the Green Benefits District.

Urban Tilth, Richmond is another example. It’s an ambitious non-profit dedicated to improving the health of its community. Their website says: “We farm, feed, forage, teach, train, build community, employ, and give back. We help our community grow our own food;” As part of 2015 Earth Day, GGI helped Urban Tilth plant a  vegetable garden at Verde Elementary School, Richmond.

Container gardening is exploding.  Urban dwellers with limited space see the low maintenance advantages of container plantings. A recent study by Harris Poll found that millennials are embracing edible gardening. Of the 6 million new people who took up gardening, 5 million of them were millennials. Their home gardening interests gravitate toward microgreens, medicinal herbs and herbs they can use in cooking.


Interior Plant Trends

Garden Design Magazine forecasts a renewed interest in interior plants for 2017. They say, “Just as bell bottoms are reappearing on runways, a 1970s-style fascination with houseplants is back. Millennials could have something to do with this.

Living walls for commercial buildings remains popular. They come in all sizes including a plethora modular units that can be installed like wall art. A heightened interest in plants for the office may have to do with the needs of younger workers for a healthier work environment. The extensive research about interior plants’ benefits such as air filtering as well as productivity enhancement is now widely available and posted. Plants both in the home and office is a trend that will continue to proliferate.


Brian O’Hara our Irrigation Manager, has noticed an uptick in the choices of add-on technology or upgrade kits that can convert a conventional controller into a “smart” controller*. This is a budget friendly option.

Smart controller technology continues to evolve. With more sophisticated cellular communication and the cloud all the onsite data can be shared with the operator. It has become a two-way wireless communications giving operators the ability to control an unlimited number of stations and flow sensors from a central remote location.

Moreover, they can be programmed and monitored by smart phone. Some include flow sensors that will text a contractor if they detect a leak in the system.

*About Smart controllers: They use weather and on-site local data sensing tools to optimize your water use.



Latest Water District Regs & Rebates

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Local Regulations

  • 10% voluntary reduction in water use compared to 2013 – all SFPUC customers. 
  • 25% reduction of landscape watering lifted as of July 1, 2016
  • Revert wastewater flow factors back to their original adjustments, effective July 1, 2016.

Prohibited water activities (State Requirements)

  • Watering outdoor landscapes that causes runoff to sidewalks, streets, and hardscapes
  • Using a hose without a shut-off nozzle
  • No washing of driveways, sidewalks or hardscape; except as needed for health and safety or to meet City of San Francisco standards
  • Using drinking water for soil compaction, dust control, or other non-essential construction purposes if non-potable water is available.
  • Watering outdoor landscapes with potable water during and within forty-eight (48) hours after a rain event.
  • Watering with potable water of ornamental turf on public street medians; 
  • Inefficient irrigation of landscapes outside of new homes and buildings
  • Using drinking water in non-recirculating fountains or decorative water devices. 

SFPUC Watering Recommendations

For a typical San Francisco property, reducing watering to once or twice a week, and/or the amount time that watering occurs, will help ensure efficient water use while keeping plants alive.

For steeply sloped areas, watering should be done in multiple start times to avoid runoff. Watering for 5 minutes, turn off for an hour, and then water again for another 5 minutes results in better absorption than 10 minutes straight. Consider replacing grass or high water use plants with drought-tolerant species or converting to drip irrigation.


Residential turf replacement program

Residential Graywater systems

Large landscape improvement grants – this however, is for half acre minimum and has very specific guidelines (new) and applications are due October 22nd.*

*GGI note: this guidelines are lengthy and complex.  See SFPUC website for details.

The above was reprinted and summarized from SFPUC website.


75% of their water supply comes from local reservoirs that, when full, provide only about two years of water.  They continue to ask customers to voluntarily conserve.


State of California Rebates

$2/square foot turf removal rebate for residential customers

They are continuing the following outdoor restrictions:

  • Using a garden hose without a shut-off nozzle
  • Landscape irrigation between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.
  • Irrigating any ornamental landscape or turf areas more than three days in any week.
  • Applying potable water to outdoor landscapes during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall.

Contact MMWD office with any questions (415) 945-1520.


Continuing Restrictions

The following outdoor watering restrictions are in effect.

  • Repair leaks 
  • Landscape watering that runs off on sidewalks, streets and hardscapes.
  • No washing of driveways and sidewalks; except as needed for health and safety.
  • Only hoses with shutoff nozzles are allowed.
  • Fountains or decorative water features must use recirculated water.
  • No irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.
  • No watering of outdoor landscapes within 48 hours of rainfall.

For more information



Lawn Conversion & Irrigation Upgrade Rebates

Get up to $2,500 for converting lawns and upgrading irrigation equipment at single-family homes and multi-family residences of 4 units of less.

The Magic of Mulch 

Save water, beautify your garden, and enhance soil health with mulch.

Graywater Rebate

Get a rebate of up to $50 for purchase of a graywater system 3-way diverter valve.


Lawn Conversion and Irrigation Upgrades

Multi-family properties: up to $20,000 for 5 units or more; up to $2,500 for 4 units or less (includes drip irrigation, high-efficiency nozzles, pressure regulators, submeters and lawn conversion.)

Commercial Properties

Up to $2,500 (single-family and multi-family residences of 4 units or less)
Up to $20,000 (commercial sites and multi-family residences of 5 or more units)


June 14th voted to lift mandatory water restrictions


For turf conversion and/or improving the efficiency of your irrigation system
Graywater rebate program
Rainwater harvesting

For more information


Smart Irrigation Controller Rebates
Install a qualifying smart controller to irrigate your existing landscape and you could receive up to $300, $700, or $1000 depending on the number of stations.

Go to: www.waterprograms.com/solano or call 855.512.1221 

Water-Efficient Landscaping Rebates
Replace your lawn with water-efficient landscaping and receive $1.00/square foot, up to $1000 maximum; see Turf Replacement Rebate Program and check out FAQs about the Landscape Rebate Program. Please read the terms and conditions before you remove your lawn. Contact 707.455.1113 or solanocash4grass@scwa2.com for details. 

Gardeners’ Guild works in the above areas including Napa, Sonoma County, Marin, San Francisco, East Bay and Solano County.

We have a dedicated irrigation division and can diagnose, repair, design an irrigation system. Our awards since the mid 1980’s demonstrate we’ve been ahead of the pack in our long term planning that water management would be one of the most important issues of our time.

Call us at 510-439-3700 or 415-457-0400







Four Reasons Why Bees Are Dying

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Imagine for a minute. 

You go to the store to buy strawberries. There you discover that strawberries are not available – ever. 

It could happen.  Not likely, but it could.

Not just berries, but apples, oranges, lemons, limes, carrots, avocados, cantaloupes, cucumbers, alfalfa and almonds – all gone.  No more guacamole.  Goodbye apple pie.

How is this possible?

Pollinators, as in bees, are our hidden lifeline.  We depend on them for food yet that fact is easy to forget.  But, now we really need to pay attention as they are in jeopardy.

Author, Biologist, Naturalist EO Wilson once said – “every third bite of food you take, thank a bee or another pollinator”.

Okay, I’ve made my point. 

You will never be as busy as a bee

30 percent of world’s food crops and 90 percent of wild plants are pollinated by bees.  Translated into dollars, that represents a breathtaking $15 billion a year in the US.   Bees also produce honey – about $150 million worth.


The biggest news: honeybees are still declining. 

To underscore the financial impact. It’s a loss of upwards of $5.7 billion per year. 

Putting this in perspective, season to season it is normal for bees to die off.  17 percent is an average annual amount. 

The losses are troubling when that die-off amount doubles.  And, it has in recent years. 

A survey of U.S. beekeepers from April 2015 through April 2016 showed a loss of 44 percent of their colonies.

It began a decade ago with Colony Collapse disorder, prompting a massive and sudden disappearance of worker bees.  While the surge of deaths has slowed a bit, beekeepers continue to report alarming losses.

The USDA and other organizations who have studied the decline have settled on three or four reasons for it.  

  • A parasite mite called the Varroa destrictor. Referred to as the vampire of the bee world, Varroa feeds on developing bees, thereby suppressing their immune system. Remedies to control the mites have had mixed results.  Other treatments have been hampered due to Varroa’s growing resistance to them. 
  • Pesticides.The EPA has now publicly acknowledged that a common insecticide called neonicotinoids has been shown to harm bees.
  • The California drought. Lack of rainfall means fewer crops and wildflowers that have nectar bees need to produce honey.
  • Deficient Nutrition. Bees need nectar in order to survive.  Studies show when they have access to this ideal nutrition they are able to combat diseases.  Cane sugar and water is considered the preferred substitute for nectar.  Unfortunately, many industrialized farms feed bees high fructose corn syrup instead which can weaken their defenses from pesticides.

Sources include: USDA, EPA, University of California Cooperative Extension, Greenpeace

The Solution – Individuals and Businesses Are Making a Difference

Kevin Davis, President of Gardeners’ Guild Landscape Management, is becoming part of the solution.

Besides the day to day of running Gardeners’ Guild, Kevin is also an avid home gardener.  Not only does he have an enviable drought tolerant garden, he also grows produce and sells it to neighbors.  His most recent venture is becoming a beekeeper.  More information including photos to follow!

Hotels in San Francisco Build Hives on their Rooftops

An idea that grew out of concern about the plight of honeybees, several San Francisco Hotels including the Clift and The Fairmont are seeing its other benefits.  Using their own honey in cocktails, beer and even ice cream not only raises awareness about bees but compliments efforts to serve products that are local and sustainable.  Source for this story: Associated Press.




2016 Landscape Trends

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Every year journalists in the industry forecast what is new for the next year.  What I saw when digging around (no pun intended) were subtle offshoots of similar themes over the past few years.  This post tries to make sense of what experts are forecasting and why homeowners and property managers should be interested.

Trends in Commercial Landscaping

Outdoor Meeting Areas

More work getting done outdoors.  The trend – landscaped meeting areas  that include hardscape, plantings and comfortable furnishings including WIFI – are big differentiators.  It’s an employee’s market.  Job seekers want more flexibility and a work environment that suits their healthy lifestyle which means having the option to work, exercise or meet on site.  Examples of this trend are tech companies, including Facebook. Their new nine acre rooftop park boasts a half mile walking loop and 400 trees.

Low Maintenance /Water Conserving Landscaping / LEED

This, while not new, is starting to look like the norm in landscaping designs. Property Managers have become educated to the benefits of rain sensors, smart irrigation controllers and drip irrigation where appropriate.

LEED has recently purchased SITES (Sustainable a rating system for sustainable landscape design started 2009. Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) says “Landscapes knit together the fabric of our communities, and sustainable landscapes are critical in their ability to reduce water demand, filter and reduce storm water runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health, and increase outdoor recreation opportunities. SITES is an important addition to our toolkit, and GBCI appreciates this opportunity to support this additional contribution to healthy, thriving communities and neighborhoods.” This is a new opportunity property developers and managers.

Multi-Family Residences

The construction boom in San Francisco and other urban and suburban continues.abated. San Francisco, (3rd in the nation for ultra “high net worth” residents) is building about the most prestigious condominiums catering to the affluent residents with amenities such as beautifully landscaped outdoor living areas that include an entertainment, games, outdoor grills.  Each more luxurious than the next.  This trend is fueled in part by job growth in high-tech and bio-tech industries.

The target market for these are Millennials, GenXrs and to a lesser, but growing extent, baby boomers.

  • 54% of milennials rent versus buy* as many prefer living in urban walk-able areas.*
  • More baby boomers are selling their homes and either rent in more urban areas or assisted living communities.*
*Source: Urban Land Institute & Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey

Commercial Property Outdoor Signage

6 Spyglass After Photos PDF

Gardeners’ Guild Project

 An article in “Turf Design/Build” website talks about traditional stone and column entryways being replaced with color panels with raised layers of glass and steel.  You cannot say plants with out adding the suffix “drought tolerant”. There are a host of creative solutions to differentiate your property without spending your entire budget.  Boulders, succulents, mulching perennials and other permanent plantings offer color, texture and beauty.



Residential Garden Trends

Ecologically friendly landscapes

Factors that are driving this trend include the drought, higher percentage of homeowners with dogs.  In fact a study of San Francisco residents counts 120,000 dogs.   Both San Francisco and Marin County are gradually moving toward reducing the use of pesticides.  The Marin I.J. says that the county may initiate an educational campaign against Roundup aimed at homeowners who use the product.

Some sustainable elements include:

  • Rainwater/greywater harvesting
  • Native / adapted drought tolerant plants
  • Permeable paving

Gardens that Rejuvenate

cohodes - saxon holt 006

Gardeners’ Guild Project



People are increasingly overworked and are looking at gardens for Zen like experiences that include music, lights and water.  Textural elements include statues, water fountains and planters.  More people are growing their own food.




Yes –  this word is being used.  Changing demographics; growing number of dog owners who demand a pet friendly garden.  They are particular about plant types and will eliminate any that may be harmful.

Outdoor Kitchens

A Spectacular Landscape Transformation

Gardeners’ Guild Project


This is not new, but it is expanding.  Our warming climate is one factor.

Three top design elements include:

  •   Fire pits/fireplaces
  •   Lighting
  •   Wireless/internet connectivity



  • American Society of Landscape Architects
  • Lawn & Landscape Magazine
  • HGTV
  • Marin Independent Journal



Latest News on the Drought – San Francisco Bay Area

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I heard a report this week on KQED about the drought outlook going forward into spring, 2016.

The good news is Northern California had a lot of rain.  Bay area residents can attest to the high winds, torrential rains and ensuing tree falls; power outages typical of heavy winter weather.  Many of us were sighing with relief and thinking, maybe, just maybe the drought is over. Maybe?


Being a Richmond based landscape contractor, we felt the difference between 2016 and 2015 in rain days.  Its result – a profusion of weed growth.

As we begin our approach to the end of the season experts are weighing in on defining how El Nino met our expectations.   Some good news is our snowpack is 87% of average.  Sounds good?  Unfortunately that is 13% below normal.

Peter Gleick, a hydrologist and head of the Oakland based Pacific Institute explains that our dry soil and groundwater levels being at such a negative, California needed snowpack far above the 87%.

Daniel Swain, atmospheric scientist at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, submitted an article in which he expresses some disappointment in the promise of El Nino.  In essence, the atmospheric response to the systems’ warmer sea temps was different than previous events.  Another curious characteristic of this El Nino – its effects were much more pronounced in Northern California.

April 2016 starts tomorrow.  We will know more by the end of that month.

In the meantime California’s drought mandates remain in  place until further notice.  Gardeners’ Guild continues to monitor these restrictions and will continue to communicate to you the latest in water and landscape management.

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Source for this story: KQED and Daniel Swain