Rainwater Harvesting Now the Hottest Outdoor Design Trend

Permeable paver patios and driveways can be designed to collect and recycle rainwater. (Product shown: Eco-Dublin® pavers)

With last year’s annual survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), green practices began to dominate the list of top outdoor design trends like never before, with 8 of the top 10 trends all related to eco-friendly or sustainable practices. With the recently released 2016 survey results, make that number now 9 out of 10, with rainwater harvesting making a giant leap up to the top spot. Take a look at last year’s trends compared to this year’s.

2015 Top 10 2016 Top 10
1 Native plants Rainwater/graywater harvesting
2 Drought-tolerant plants Native plants
3 Edible gardens Drought-tolerant plants
4 Fire pits/fireplaces Low-maintenance landscaping
5 Low-maintenance landscapes Permeable paving
6 Permeable paving Fire pits/fireplaces
7 Water-efficient irrigation Edible gardens
8 Rain gardens Rain gardens
9 Lighting Water-efficient irrigation
10 Rainwater/graywater harvesting Reduced lawn area

These trends reflect consumers’ growing commitment to landscapes that reduce water use and stormwater runoff, says Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA.

“Water issues are hot topics for many communities, and many people are turning to landscape architects for creative green infrastructure solutions,” said Somerville. “Sustainable residential landscape architecture, if part of a broader integrated site design, can dramatically reduce water usage and stormwater runoff over the long term while creating a healthy residential environment.”

With a combined rainwater harvesting permeable pavement system, Belgard offers a way to combine three of these top outdoor design trends with a single design element. With this type of pavement system, rainwater drains through the joints between pavers and percolates down through a bed of gravel into a collection cistern, where a pump can recycle the water for irrigation or water features. Pollutants are removed from the water as it drains through the gravel, which adds additional protection for the environment.


Many municipalities and states offer grants and tax incentives for installing either permeable pavers or a rainwater harvesting system, which is likely a factor in the growing popularity of using permeable pavers for this purpose. With the variety of attractive Belgard permeable pavers available, homeowners can build stunning outdoor living areas, driveways and walkways that are as ecologically responsible as they are beautiful.

Tips for Keeping Your Cool

With triple-digit heat indexes spanning the lower half of the country, many people are now scurrying indoors to avoid the heat, forced to enjoy their beautiful outdoor living spaces from the comfort of the kitchen window. However, there are a number of design tips and tricks that can alleviate some of the heat and allow you to get more use from your outdoor living spaces during those dog days of summer.

Advantages of Pergolas

A pergola can provide multiple design benefits for an outdoor living space. The open-air aspect allows for unrestricted air movement while still defining the space to visually create the look of an “outdoor room”. Additionally, the structure itself both filters the direct sunlight and can provide the framework for a outdoor-rated ceiling fan. To provide additional shade and add to the visual interest, flowering vines — such as Wisteria or Morning Glory — can be trained to grow atop the pergola.

.   .   .

Outdoor Living Structures

The benefit of a roofed structure, as opposed to an open-air pergola, is that it provides a little more protection from the elements, including both sun and rain. Although late afternoon sun and driving rain will still creep in, you’ll still have increased shelter, as well as additional opportunities for fans, lighting, audio/visual equipment and appliances.

.   .   .

Made in the Shade

There are a variety of affordable products available that can help increase the amount of shade in your outdoor living space, particular during that unbearably hot time of the day when the sunlight comes in at just the right angle to make you feel like you can fry an egg right on the patio flooring. Attractive options include indoor/outdoor curtains, retractable solar shades, and colorful sun canopies.

.   .   .

Permeable Paver Water Features

Particularly in hot climates with lower humidity, water mist can significantly reduce the ambient temperature of a localized outdoor area. An alternate option to a traditional water-misting system is to install a water-recycling permeable pavement system that incorporates a water feature. The paver system can collect and recycle rainwater and provide a fun activity for kids, all while releasing mist into the air that will help alleviate some of the oppressive heat.

2016 Outdoor Living
Trends Forecast

Outdoor living has indeed become a staple of American culture. As many homeowners begin to spend more time in their outdoor living areas than in their indoor living areas, the overall trends continue to revolve around creating homey, attractive, livable outdoor spaces that are an extension of the indoor environment. As we enter 2016, expect to see a continuation of this theme in outdoor living design, as well as increases in sustainable (“green”) outdoor living practices.

Midnight Bordeaux
Bordeaux Series Fireplace, Midnight trim

Home is where the hearth is.

Once upon a time, the living room fireplace was the favored gathering spot for family and guests, and roasting marshmallows over a campground fire was part of the annual family vacation. Modern outdoor living combines these two traditions into one with outdoor fireplaces and fire pits. This trend will continue to be one of the fastest growing phenomenons in outdoor living for 2016. To meet these needs, Belgard continues to expand and develop the Belgard Elements collection and has recently released a new Midnight trim option for the Bordeaux Series fireplace and matching kitchen pieces. In addition, Belgard offers a full line of retaining wall products that are ideal for creating custom outdoor fireplaces and fire pits, such as Celtik® Wall or Weston Stone®.

Mirage Porcelain Pavers, Officine Collection

Mimicking the indoor environment.

Outdoor living room designs continue to mimic the look of their indoor counterparts. This includes furniture design, lighting fixtures, decorative accessories and flooring. Modern interior design is trending towards larger tiles with natural textures. The same goes for outdoor hardscapes. Expect to see an increase in the popularity of larger format pavers with natural textures and design elements, such as the natural flagstone look of Mega-Arbel®, the cut flagstone look of Mega-Lafitt™, and the cut slate look of Lafitt™ Rustic Slab, all of which offer multi-piece large-format design options. Because of the thinner profile, Lafitt Rustic Slab and its smooth counterpart Lafitt™ Grana Slab are both available with an extra-large 14″x22″ piece. Also expect to see an increase in the popularity of Mirage® Porcelain Pavers, which are a durable outdoor-rated version of interior porcelain tiles and are available in a variety of large-format sizes and natural looks, including trendy wood grain and stone textures.

Celtik Kitchen
Celtik Wall kitchen and Mega-Bergerac pavers

Rise of the outdoor chef.

Outdoor kitchens now rival the scope and scale of their indoor counterparts, with professional-rated appliances, multiple cooking surfaces, and bar-type seating with ample countertop and prep space. Expect to see an increase in brick ovens as more homeowners learn that these attractive fixtures can be used for more than just cooking pizza, but can actually function as a full-use outdoor oven. To meet the needs of evolving kitchen trends, Belgard offers a variety of kitchen pieces and brick ovens in the Belgard Elements collection and has recently released Tandem™ Modular Grid, which can be used to quickly and easily create custom outdoor kitchens and coordinating design elements.

National hardscape manufacturer, Oldcastle APG, projects located in North and South Carolina.
Subterra Stone permeable paver driveway

Turns out, it is easy being “green”.

For several years, permeable pavers have been a growing movement in commercial construction as more municipalities develop and implement stronger codes for managing stormwater. But as homeowners learn about the benefits of permeable pavers, the trend is beginning to make its way into the residential arena, particularly for driveways, and is expected to continue to grow. Textured permeable pavers, like Subterra® Stone and Eco Dublin®, offer the natural stone look that homeowners desire, while at the same time reducing flooding and improving local waterways through the absorption and filtration of stormwater through the paver joints. As an added benefit, permeable pavers can be used as part of a rainwater harvesting system to collect and reuse water for irrigation or other gray-water uses. Because many states and municipalities offer grants and tax incentives for these types of sustainable, or green, practices, the reduced net cost is an attractive incentive for savvy homeowners.

Product Highlight:
Permeable Pavers

One of the fastest growing trends in outdoor living, permeable pavers are an attractive way to improve drainage, recycle water, and help the environment. Built over a gradient bed of gravel, permeable pavers allow water to percolate down into the ground below, which not only reduces the amount of stormwater runoff, but cleans the water of pollutants in the process. A permeable pavement system can also be constructed to include a water harvesting system to recycle water for irrigation or other uses. Belgard offers a full line of permeable pavers ideal for a variety of outdoor living designs.

Eco Dublin®: With the smooth face of cut stone, Eco Dublin is a three-piece modular paver that supports both foot and vehicular traffic and adds a modular contemporary flair to outdoor living designs.

Subterra®Stone: Subterra Stone might very well be the most attractive, natural-looking permeable paver on the market. Featuring a false joint structure and a textured face, it offers the elegant look of chiseled stone and is ideal for homeowners who desire environmental stewardship without compromising beauty and style.

Aqua-Roc™: Offering the classic look of brick pavers, Aqua-Roc can be laid in a running bond, basket-weave, or herringbone patterns to create attractive and durable driveways, walkways, patios and poolscapes.

Aqua-Bric®: Aqua-Bric incorporates a notched edge to offer a modern twist on the classic brick paver. This versatile paver can be used for numerous applications and complements any architectural style.

Turfstone®:  Turfstone’s eco-friendly design reduces run-off and allows greenery to grow right through it, creating a highly unique hardscape design that works in harmony with nature and helps control and stabilize soil erosion.


The Ultimate Battle Plan for a Pest Free Garden

garden pests

(image source)

You’ve worked and worked under the hot summer sun to have a garden worthy of your friends’ oohs and aahs. There’s just one problem: pests.

Whether you have deer, rabbits, slugs, mice, birds, or another garden bully, these animals can wreak havoc on your meticulously planted masterpiece.

But before you rage an all out war on nature, check out our easy tips for keeping your garden pest free. These could save you a headache, and a battle with wildlife conservationists!

Know your enemy

The first step in any defense plan is knowing who, or what, you’re up against. Take some time to do research about the pests in your garden. Are you dealing with deer, who graze on everything? Or maybe you have rabbits eating your beans. Perhaps slugs are chomping the leaves of your beautiful plants. The point is, different pests call for different strategies. Unfortunately, there isn’t a set, cure-all plan in keeping your garden pest free. But once you figure out the main source of the problem, there are several defenses to keep critters away.

Use repellents

Repellents are a highly suggested way to keep your garden free from pests. Once you’ve figured out which animal is your priority, choose a specific repellent to address the problem. Garden-pros advise against using harsh chemicals and poisons, especially for gardeners with children and pets. However, there are several, less severe options for a pest free garden (besides ordinary insect repellent). Fox urine may sound gross, but it’s quite effective in keeping rabbits away and can be purchased from your local gardening or hardware store. Try using visual repellents for birds (such as a fake owl or foil strips that wave in the wind), who are known for their flighty nature. The flashing of the foil in the sunlight and the movement will scare off your winged foes. If you need a more blanket approach to this issue, pepper-based sprays are also a popular method for deterring several types of pests, such as rabbits, squirrels, deer, and even insects or pets. Remember, repellents are not permanent. If you choose to go this route, you will have to reapply them frequently to keep pests away for good.

Make your garden ugly

Ugly to pests, that is! Your garden should be beautiful for visitors, but that doesn’t mean it needs to look great for garden foes. Thankfully, the two have different definitions of a “good” garden. Make your plant paradise unattractive to critters by eliminating food supplies such as excess birdseed and compost areas. Also, clear out brush and other hiding places. Make sure there aren’t any potential nesting areas for long-term residents. Maintaining a well-groomed garden can be an additional assurance that pests are not hiding somewhere in your shrubs.

Make the area difficult to reach

 If the thought of surrounding your masterpiece with a fence doesn’t make you cringe, then this can be one of the sure-fire ways to keep pests out. Once again, it is important to know what kind of critter you are dealing with before you take steps to block off your plants. Deer can jump pretty high, so fencing will have to accommodate for this trait. If putting up a fence does sound horrible, there are other barriers you can put in place instead. For rabbits, consider elevating your plant beds; these critters can burrow under fences anyways! Netting can provide a more universal defense, deterring rabbits, deer, and even birds. Some garden experts also suggest placing thorny plants around enticing areas to keep pests and pets away.

If you have pests in your garden, don’t fret. Take a deep breath, put the BB gun down, and try out one of these tips first. Soon, your masterpiece will be pest free, and you’ll be telling friends about how you won the Battle of the Shrubs as they fawn over your gardenias. Carry on soldier, and good luck!

Do you have more suggestions for keeping pests out of the garden? Share them in the comments, and help a fellow gardener out!

Permeable Pavers At Work and At Home

A misconception of permeable pavers is that they are only for commercial projects, or that they aren’t available in a variety of styles that a homeowner would want to use for their driveway, walkway, pool deck or patio.

Throw of all of those thoughts out the window because this week we’re going to talk about how being environmentally friendly is a beautiful thing for the workplace and the home.

The key to understanding permeable pavers is to think of the pavement and the base aggregates – or the small stones and gravel that form the base under and around the pavers – as a system, instead of separate products. As water rains down on the pavement, it begins its journey by seeping through the pavement, and then through the base aggregates, which naturally filter the pollutants. As it travels down, the water is stored in the base, until it reaches the natural underlying soils and recharges the ground aquifers. Thus, permeable pavement serves as an underground storage basin that filters the water while allowing pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the surface.

Belgard permeable pavers are a beautiful solution to manage storm water and lessen homeowners’ environmental footprints. Besides a stylish aesthetic, benefits of permeable pavers include:

• Reduces pollution from rain water runoff
• Reduces runoff from the common rain storm by as much as 100%
• 50 year life-cycle for surface
• Outperforms similar systems in harsh climates or freeze thaw cycles
• Replaces detention/retention ponds

While there are pavers specifically labeled as permeable because they are more porous than regular pavers, any Belgard paver can be laid with aggregate material, such as this pool deck featuring Urbana pavers. So you can feel good about protecting the environment for the future while making your outdoor space look good for the party today.

Visit Belgard to request a complimentary Idea Book and start planning your permeable patio today!