Landscape Visions: Ahmed Hassan

Ahmed Hassan, a landscape designer from the San Francisco Bay area, makes it his business to stay on top of the hottest landscaping trends. He was raised on an alfalfa farm in Redstone, California, by his landscape gardener father, and learned all aspects of the business early. With more than 17 years experience in the landscape industry, Hassan owns a landscape design, installation and maintenance company, teaches park maintenance and landscape design, is an expert contributor to HGTV’s “Landscape Smarts” series and is the popular new host of DIY Network’s “The Dirt on Gardening” series. Total Landscape Care asked him to forecast landscaping trends for 2007.

TLC: How will sluggish home sales affect the landscape industry this year?

AH: Potential home sellers will concentrate on adding value to their homes by investing in tried-and-true ways to increase their home value. Landscaping is one way to do that. The general rule of thumb is that you get back 100 percent to 200 percent of what you invest in landscaping when you sell your home. Adding permanent, higher-priced items like trees, automatic irrigation systems and hardscapes such as concrete and flagstone increase a homes’ marketability. Homeowners may choose to stay put while the market is flat, and that means more emphasis on adding pools, sports courses like golf tees, ponds and structures like patios and decks.

TLC: Will water features remain popular?

AH: The trend toward adding water to landscapes will continue to grow. Clients want the ambiance of a babbling brook, fish-filled ponds and focal points like stone fountains. Water in motion adds soothing sounds and contributes to a peaceful retreat. Other water features that drench the market are irrigation systems that offer conservation features similar to those of low-flow toilets. As environmental concerns surge in the future, so will the demand for low-flow sprinkler heads that put out only a third or a quarter of the water that traditional sprinkler heads do.

High tech systems – operated by remote control – are becoming increasingly popular because they are convenient and have the added gadget factor.

Ponds are also in high demand. People are even tailoring ponds to fit their space by creating water garden creeks that can wrap around their yard – anything that adds water.

TLC: What about the use of rocks, boulders and stones in landscape design?

AH: Large, two- to three-man boulders will continue to be in demand. Oversized, earthy, natural-looking boulders add a dramatic element to the garden. You don’t want to skimp on size since the plants will continue to grow. Stack the boulders in small groupings or use several boulders with flat tops to double as additional sitting areas. The bigger, the better.

TLC: What about the recent trend toward native plants in landscaping designs?

AH: The emphasis on using an area’s native plants will continue. They are easier to maintain and appeal to environmental consciousness. Native plants are more drought and pestilent resistant and better for the environment. On the flip-side, tropicals and even succulents are becoming popular. There’s so much hybridizing going on that it’s fun to experiment with some of the newer styles.

TLC: Are decks still popular?

AH: Big buzz words: extending living areas outdoors. Outdoor spaces are starting to look a lot more like the indoors with the addition of outdoor kitchens, outdoor living areas, fire pits and extensive outdoor lighting. Instead of adding on more room for entertainment, people use their backyards and decks as entertainment areas. Instead of building playscapes for kids, adults are carving out backyard territory for their own play.

TLC: What’s happening in the illumination field?

AH: While solar lighting continues to straggle along, the real growth is with stylish metal finishes on high-end, outdoor light fixtures. Everyone’s adding down lighting, up lighting and pathway lighting as more entertainment moves outdoors.
TLC: What about synthetic lawns? Is faux back in?

AH: As the population ages, more retired people are mixing synthetic turf with live plants and trees. It frees the homeowner from the tedium of lawn care and gives him more time to focus on plants and flowers.

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