Gardens are among the most sought-after outdoor design elements overall, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects' 2013 Residential Design Trends Survey. The ASLA asked residential landscape architects to rate the expected popularity of outdoor design elements for the year and gardens are a front-runner at 94%. Proof that the local food movement is gaining traction? The survey also predicts an increase in people opting for fruit and vegetable gardens (76.4% popularity) and that organic gardens are becoming more in-demand (up to 65.3% versus 61.2% in the 2011 survey).
Fire Pits: Burning Up the Charts
The popularity of gardens may seem a bit predictable. The real breakout stars of the ASLA survey are fire pits (like this one built by Carter Oosterhouse) and fireplaces at 97% popularity. They're so hot, they just edged out our next fiery feature...
Grills: Your Backyard BBQ HQs
Grills may have been beaten by fire pits in this popularity contest, but they aren't going anywhere. Sure, you can roast hot dogs and marshmallows over a pit, but for flame-broiled burgers? You gotta fire up that grill.
Hardscapes: A Lush Landscape's Perfect Partner
Homeowners and landscaping experts agree: work one or more of the types of hardscape into your backyard for a professionally planned look. Stacked stone retaining walls, paver patios and meandering pathways are just a few of the hottest hardscapes to try. Learn more about these durable outdoor surfaces.
Outdoor Dining Areas: Alfresco, Elevated
Dining areas are a must-have outdoor living feature lately, at 96.3% popularity. After all, everything tastes better when enjoyed in the great outdoors. To ensure maximum comfort, choose comfortable chairs with durable cushions so dinner guests will linger for coffee and conversation.
Decks: Taking Living Outdoors
Extending your home's indoor living space into the backyard, decks are a must-have for many homeowners and pros alike with an 80.9% rating. For a low-maintenance surface that will stand the test of time, opt for composite materials over traditional wood.
Arbors: Stylish Structures
Arbors are looking especially attractive right now at 83.5% popularity. They're a romantic touch in gardens, and as this example shows, excellent at providing transitions between two spaces.
Pergolas: Made In the Shade
Part of pergolas' popularity (81.6%) is that they provide structure and shade yet still manage to feel open and airy. offers a triple-threat here with a pergola, outdoor dining room and fire pit — in the same yard!
Hot Tubs: Take a Dip
Spa features, such as hot tubs, whirlpools and saunas, are among the most popular outdoor recreation amenities, at 81.5% popularity. And, it's easy to see why - who wouldn't want to sink into this beauty at the end of a long day?
Container Gardens: The Perfect Small Space Solution
Apartment dwellers, rejoice! You too can enjoy an outdoor space that's beautiful and provides you with fresh flowers and fruits or veggies - you just have to contain it. Experts anticipate that the popularity of container gardening will continue to rise as food costs increase and more and more urbanites embrace the benefits of going organic.
Play Structures: Kid Tested, Mother Approved
Backyards are a kid's best friend. Play structures like treehouses, swing sets or this seesaw from a backyard featured on can provide hours of fun for children, which may explain their relatively high popularity rate (56.3%) amongst other outoor structures in the survey.