These are the top six garden trends of 2022, from gravel to native plants.

waterwise gravel garden dining area

Courtesy of Yardzen

One benefit of being a garden editor is that I get to spot all the latest and greatest garden trends in real time. After all, designers are constantly sending me images of their newest work, I’m always on the lookout, and I can see for myself which way the wind is blowing just walking down the street or checking out a new restaurant that has a plant installation (as many do now).  

The thing is, I love a good new trend, and it just feels like now is a good time to freshen up. Meanwhile, the days when your garden was the same stuffy lawn and roses you may remember from your parents’ (or grandparents’) homes are over.  

These trends span the gamut from big to small, with the potential to do-it-yourself or blow your budget. And that’s okay. The joy of a garden is that it can evolve over time. You don’t have to do everything at once.  

More Videos From Sunset

But how fast do garden trends change? Lately, it feels like they come and go quicker than the latest look at H&M. Last year and the year before, the focus was on outdoor living rooms and making the garden a more comfortable space while people rode out the pandemic. (Some people were even creating what’s called a “social front yard.”) 

Now, in 2022, indoor/outdoor gardens are still going strong, but there are new twists on old themes, and even a surprising new trend that, ahem, lets you let it all hang out. 

Here are the six garden trends you need to know about now.  

Decomposed Granite

Molly Sedlacek Outdoor Seating Area
Molly Sedlacek created a play area where decomposed granite offers the perfect landing pad. 

Thomas J. Story

Designers are getting rid of lawns and replacing them with decomposed granite (or “DG” for those in the know). I love DG because it’s easy to maintain, looks great, and doesn’t trap too much heat. Meanwhile, this trend doesn’t only work for adults; it can work for kids too.  

For the above garden, Molly Sedlacek of OR.CA created what’s essentially a play area for a single dad and his two boys. Here, DG makes the perfect landing pad for totems, hammocks, and a “chunk bench” for the boys to use as stepping blocks, along with a place for their dad to host friends around the steel fire pit. “This is a kids’ jungle gym that’s designed to appeal to adults,” Sedlacek says. You can see more here.

But DG can also be used for a totally different look. Below, it conveys sophistication and elegance. It also works as a fire break to protect the home. Learn more here.

Portola Valley no-mow garden tour backyard
Glenda Flaim, an architect with Butler Armsden Architects in San Francisco, designed this family home in Portola Valley, California.

James Carriere

Gravel

House Painted Black
Landscape designer Sarita Jaccard created this gravel yard in Los Angeles.

Sam Wadieh

Is there anything more satisfying than the crunch of gravel underfoot? Above, Sarita Jaccard created a gravel yard with zones for parents and kids. She says it took some convincing to get the couple to forgo a lawn, but she persevered in the end. “Kids can fully enjoy playing between plants on gravel,” she says. See more here.  

Like DG, gravel is easy to maintain. Unlike DG, it can trap quite a bit of heat.

Native Plants

Purple flowers and front walkway in native plant yard
David Newsom founded the Wild Yards Project in Los Angeles to get more people interested in native plants.

David Newsom

According to the National Wildlife Federation, “Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat. A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.”  

With drought conditions continuing in the West, many designers are turning to native plants, so much so that they’ve become something of a movement. After all, native plants provide food and habitat for beneficial species, they sequester carbon, and are naturally and uniquely adapted to the regions in which they belong. Learn more here!

Dry Gardens

Palos Verdes dry garden front yard

Marion Brenner

A dry garden could also be called a “low-water garden,” as in, it features plants that use low water once established. James Lord, a founding partner of Surfacedesign who designed the front yard above, says “You don’t have to have a lot of water to create a beautiful garden.” As you can see, he’s absolutely right. See more here.

Whimsy

palm trees surrounding Palm Springs pool

Thomas J. Story

“I think people are looking for more whimsy outside,” says Roderick Wyllie of Surfacedesign. Case in point: The neon squirrel he had custom-made for a client in Palm Springs. I love the idea that we’re getting our sense of play back. Life has felt a bit colorless for far too long, wouldn’t you agree?  

And check out the “Bobbin Chair” below by Laun x Weft. It has curves that are not only whimsical in nature but are bringing sexy back.  

SLH Studio

The No-Wall Outdoor Shower

There are no walls around the outdoor shower in this Phoenix courtyard designed by Charlie Ray of The Green Room Collaborative.

Thomas J. Story

Once upon a time, an outdoor shower was all about privacy. The problem is that privacy could also make a shower dank. I’m thinking here of the mildew-y curtain, or the cinder block wall that blocked out all the light. Nowadays, designers and their clients are choosing no wall at all. And I love it. The look is fresh, new and, well, meant to show off a new side of you. Check out more here.


Read the Current Issue

Get one year of Sunset—and all kinds of bonuses—for just $24.95. Subscribe now!