Garden trends to avoid – designers reveal the most outdated ideas for outdoor spaces

Take note of these garden trends to avoid to ensure your backyard remains timeless, practical and easy to maintain

A garden with bright toned furniture
(Image credit: James Merrell)

It's worth keeping these garden trends to avoid in mind while renovating or completely redesigning your outdoor space this year. 

Sure, when it comes to garden, pool, or backyard ideas, trends come and go, but some styles and practices become outdated quickly. This can leave you with a garden that looks less than fresh, and that can be expensive to re-design. 

You might have an idea of some of the latest garden trends, but which should you avoid? We asked the experts to give us their take, ensuring you don't waste time and money on a garden without staying power. 

Take a look at their thoughts, from which outdoor furniture is a bad investment, through to materials that won't last and bad planting picks, before you start your garden re-design.

1. Buying garden-specific furniture

A lush green garden with seating

(Image credit: Paul Massey)

With a growing indoor-outdoor lifestyle, the need for more fluid furniture has arisen, that can be used both in a modern garden and around the home. '2021 was all about connecting with nature and spending plenty of time with friends and family in outdoor spaces,' says Juliette Thomas, principal designer at Juliettes Interiors (opens in new tab). 'Although spending time outdoors still plays a vital part in our mental wellbeing, we’ve noticed our clients desiring more adaptable furniture pieces which can be used in the garden as well as indoors.'

'With the trend for natural textures forecast to be big this year, the desire to mix inside furniture with outside pieces is rising in popularity. Accessorize spaces with sofas, rugs, cushions, and of course, plants – by incorporating these soft and cozy touches, it helps to establish a seamless indoor-outdoor feel, creating an inviting setting.'

2. Theme-less garden planting 

A garden space with flower boxes

(Image credit: Paul Raeside )

A simple garden with a flower bed, trees, and shrubs is all well and good. But a theme-less garden is a thing of the past. The newest garden trends seek style, but also a story. 

'The trend now is to give your garden an exotic look, that reminds you of places around the world,' says Juliette. 'A Miami-style garden is a great way to create a holiday feeling at home. Perhaps making up for the holidays we longed for, over the past two years, the growing desire for white furniture pieces, poolside lounging, and olive-like trees is an essential addition to luxury garden spaces this summer.'

3. Tropical hardwood decks 

A garden deck

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Wooden decking ideas have become super popular as a way to bring warmth and character to outdoor spaces. However, there are some things to think about before jumping on this bandwagon for your garden design. 

'I don't recommend tropical hardwoods on environmental grounds,' says Steve Ritchey of seedstudio.design (opens in new tab). Though beautiful, tropical hardwoods like Ipe, a particular favorite with designers, can have a large carbon footprint and may not be sustainably forested if not responsibly sourced.  

Wooden deckign can be slippery when wet too, and wood can weather over time and drive up maintenance costs. If you do choose wood, it will have to be maintained lest it rots, dries out, warps, cracks, or splinters. But if you’re willing to maintain it, wood decking is beautiful, especially up close. 

'No matter how great some natural materials may look, it's better to be safe than sorry,' says Kate Anne Gross, interior designer and founder of Kate Anne Designs (opens in new tab). 'Also, avoid installing materials that are of poor quality, and may need replacing shortly after. You're better off saving up a bit longer and considering materials that have longevity and are built to last.'

'With the availability of thermally & acetylated treated woods like Thermory, Kebony and Accoya I don't see a reason for a low-quality pressure-treated wood for surface decking outside of cost considerations,' echoes Steve.

4. Over-pruned shrubs

A garden with a cobbled path and neat shrubs

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

Everyone loves for their garden to look neat, tidy, and beautiful, especially during the summer months. But while a beautifully maintained garden will increase a home's curb appeal, a little restraint should be exercised. 

Ornate topiary is a trend that's not only divisive, but requires a lot of maintenance. Over pruning by chopping the top and sides of a shrub can also weaken the plant, make it vulnerable to pests.  An over-pruned shrub also holds within it a dead, twiggy center. 

Plus, they bring an unnatural aesthetic to a garden, where a more natural planting aesthetic is currently in vogue. For shrubs, it's best to prune gently and more selectively, opening some areas to facilitate airflow. If you still like extremely neat shrubs, perhaps choose a dwarf shrub cultivar that'll naturally stay and grow low.

5. Quartz for outdoor countertops 

Outdoor kitchen ideas by Lundhs Real Stone

(Image credit: Lundhs Real Stone)

When it comes to outdoor kitchen countertop ideas, there has been a raft of new, composite materials in recent years for use outside. Weatherproof materials are, of course, essential and these new surfaces are designed to be both waterproof and UV-resistant. The same cannot be said for non-specialized Quartz surfaces which, while a a huge kitchen trend, shouldn't be used outdoors. 

This leaves you with a very limited range to choose from, when the answer is a stone material that already exists. 

'The key to durability outside when it comes to material and surface choice, particularly for outdoor kitchens, is something that can withstand UV,' says Oliver Webb, director at natural stone retailer Cullifords (opens in new tab). 'A good majority of granites are suitable for this and any stones that are not heavily resined such as black granites, are suitable. Generally surface-resined quartzite materials, schists, and soft dark granites will fade in color over time in strong UV light.'

Tile too is a good alternative if your budget is tight although it needs to be outdoor resistant and cleaning the grout will be a pain

6. Colorful, painted garden fences

A narrow garden with fence on one side and greenery on the other

(Image credit: Paul Massey)

Bright yellow, deep orange, and eye-catching blue garden fences were big in the US in the 70s and 80s. Conversations with neighbors over the fence was perhaps less about the chatter and more about whose fence was prettier. But garden design has evolved over the decades.

Today's garden fencing ideas require a little restraint and more natural elegance. While painted wooden fences may still be a thing, there's a definite shift towards natural tones and other unique materials.

Corten steel in their natural hue give a sculptural quality to a fence. A mix-material fence of glass, steel, and wood too is trending. Interestingly, a fence need not be a manmade structure at all. A large hedge can be a great way to add privacy to a garden.

Recycled materials like spare birch too can work as fencing material, and so can metal panels. The latter especially works well in gardens where you require more privacy.  

7. Animal statues

A small garden with a flamingo statue

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

Fake animal and bird statues of flamingos, horses, deers to even small garden accessories such as gnomes can really date a garden once trends move on, even if that particularly motif is seen everywhere at one point. 

The trends for garden ornaments now dictate more classic objects such as stone pedestals suited for garden niches, wooden pergolas, modern birdhouses, to stone water features. 

To add a touch of natural beauty, a small patch of pampas grass too looks whimsical and adds to the wilderness of the garden.

8. Colorful garden lighting 

An outdoor dining with string lights

(Image credit: Askar Abayev/ Pexels)

The garden is an already a naturally colorful space if you plant it with the right flowers, so there's no real need for colored lights. Avoid a string of bulbs that throw a blue, red, or green illumination and choose instead, specialized garden lighting with warm white or yellow bulbs. 

Further, when it comes to garden lighting ideas, if you're using exposed fixtures, ensure it is of a higher IP rating, are weatherproof, water-resistant, and suitable for wet locations. Similarly, if you're using an extension cord for your garden, use only outdoor-rated ones for any temporary lighting you're connecting outside your house. Be careful to keep light bulbs, away from other materials that can ignite and burn easily.

What should you avoid in a garden?

With changing lifestyles, priorities, and even trends, the right garden 'look' too goes through its ebb and flow. Things that may have been in vogue a few years ago may not work well now. 

An overly decorated garden with statues, colors, shaped bushes, and poor-quality materials is a thing of the past. A low-maintenance garden that is as stylish as it is practical is the need of the hour. 

While it is true that most gardens are essentially the heart of the home, there are infinite possibilities for creating a one-of-a-kind design without going overboard. 

When it comes to giving the green space character, a themed garden could work, and currently, a tropical beach-style look is in; one that reminds people of the places they didn't visit during the last two years. Small intimate spaces with the right IP-rated lighting can help create wonderful moments in the garden. 

When it comes to planting, a combination of structural planting intermingled with softer perennial/herbaceous planting is the new go-to. Grass mixed with perennials and bulbs can give the garden a beautiful, landscaped look. 

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast).  Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.