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Landscape Designs For The Fall

fire cooking outdoors camping

Sorry, sun worshippers. It's that time of year again, when the flames of those barbecues and bonfires start to die down for good, the shorts go back into deep storage, and the summer vacations come grinding to an end.

But just because the days are shorter and the temperature's a bit chillier doesn't mean homeowners can't continue to enjoy their own outdoor oases. They just may want to add fire.

Fire features, such as outdoor fire pits and fire tables (designed so that the flames burst through the center), are the hottest landscape trend of the fall, according to the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

The Fairfax, VA-based association came up with the top landscaping trends by analyzing the results from the annual survey of its more than 5,000 members and also from in-depth conversations with several dozen landscape professionals across the country.

Fire features "are great accessories for entertaining people of all ages," association spokeswoman Missy Henriksen says of the dramatic pits, tables, and even walls. "Young people can cook some s'mores around them. They're also great for creating a mood and ambience."

This sizzling design trend can also help keep homeowners and their guests warm on chilly nights. And many of the fire-based amenities can be controlled remotely by smartphones, or programmed to turn on or off at specific times.

Classic fall plants also remain popular, nabbing the No. 2 spot on the list. Homeowners seem particularly keen on the next generation of chrysanthemums, boxwood, and maples, in hardier varieties that may require less work and water.

Outdoor lighting came in third, since safety is always a concern. Homeowners are installing LED lighting along their walkways to make sure they don't trip and fall in the dark.

More durable, low-maintenance materials, such as porcelain tiles for patios, decks, and walkways, are also rising in popularity. That's because they look like real wood and natural stone, but don't cause splinters and are less likely to degrade over time or be damaged by bad weather.

"They're very, very durable," says Henriksen, adding that some varieties can be cheaper than wood and stone. "And they look good."

The last trend on the list was creating interiorscapes. These living, green decorations (plants sprouting out of hanging frames on walls and tropical plants growing out of groups of containers) are popular both indoors and in courtyards.

"People really want to be able to enjoy being outside," Henriksen says. These are ways "to enjoy the outdoors inside."