Tired of mowing the lawn? Want an outdoor oasis that feels as much like home as your house?

 The outdoor living room is a common saying here in Palm Beach County. Yes, we love the weather but we also love our air-conditioned inside as well. When we want the best of both worlds, we enjoy our outdoor living space.Low Maintenance Yards

An outdoor living/grilling area ranked as the third-highest priority space, after a separate laundry room and additional closets/storage, in a recent survey of 4,000 readers by Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

 Home buyers see this is a whole other room to the house and having this space perhaps near a swimming pool or a spa gives the effect of a resort. Homeowners want an outdoor space where they can relax and entertain.

 This also opens up the possibility of an outdoor garden or even of livestock area. Now I'm not talking about cows and goats but many homeowners are considering chickens in their backyard that provides fresh eggs and creates great compost. The compost can be used in raised garden beds or flowerbeds throughout the backyard and the front yard. This dual partnership between livestock and the garden can enhance the home and be very self-sustaining.


 Here are some other backyard, curb appeal and garden ideas that are very popular, especially in the Florida area.

• Privacy. "People want privacy," says Messervy, who recommends they use hedges to create outdoor rooms.

Cecilia Palmer, who works at Shade Tree Farm in Sudley Springs, Va., says there's a lot of interest in screening trees that are tall and fast-growing, such as hollies and the Green Giant arborvitae.

• Grills and firepits. As homeowners remain budget conscious, firepits are replacing fireplaces as a less expensive, cozier option. Similarly, Messervy says she sees more portable grills and fewer outdoor kitchens.

• Accessories. She also notes more interest in personalizing yards with accessories such as birdhouses, fountains, hanging planters, window boxes, large stones, wind chimes and kinetic sculptures that turn in the wind.

Outdoor Living Space• Native plantings/grasses. "A lot of people have shade and don't know what to do with it," says Palmer, who recommends they intersperse perennials with tall grasses. She says such grasses, sages and ferns are durable and deer-resistant.

"I see a lot of grasses," because they're hardy, inexpensive, divide easily and provide height as well as movement (when the wind blows), Messervy says. She also sees more native plantings, which she says attract insects and thus, birds. To minimize grass and water use, homeowners are turning to groundcover such as sedum, drought-tolerant plants such as succulents and hardscaping.

• Pea gravel/ water barrels/clothes lines. For the eco-minded on a budget, homeowners are using pea gravel in lieu of more expensive bricks or pavers to hardscape their patios. At about $4 per square foot, pea gravel is permeable, so it reduces runoff by allowing rainwater to percolate.

To also help storm-water management, garden clubs and local governments are offering workshops that show people how to make rain barrels for irrigating their yards. Cisterns, which can also be plumbed to flush toilets, tend to be larger, costlier and subterranean. Image by Karen Jackson


 | Adapted By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY