Recently, I visited my son and his wife in Mountain View, CA, just south of San Francisco. They are young professionals who found themselves in the Bay area a couple of years ago, working for start-up firms. The price of houses there is astronomical compared to most other areas of the country. In the suburbs of San Francisco and other expensive cities, even small homes with small lots are out of reach for most people. Renting is very common, even though rent prices are also in the clouds.
The desire to rent rather than own is not only true for expensive cities, but it is a documented trend. A recent report from the Urban Institute forecasts that between 2010 and 2030, the majority (59%) of the 22 million new households that will form will rent, while just 41% will buy homes. My point here is not to dwell on the economics of housing, but rather on the economics of landscaping.
Modern-Day Lifestyles Revolve Around The Deck
Jon and Mandy live on Anna Street, which I explored each day during my visit. It was lovely and seemed the epitome of suburbia. Houses are very close to each other, but every house and yard is well maintained. Every lot seems to be fenced on all sides, with gates through to the alleyways between homes and more gates to access the back. There is little open space. While the front yards often sported a large yucca, oak, or large shrubs, the back yards consist entirely of the decks and small areas around them. My son’s home was no exception.
I have said for many years that the garden of tomorrow is the deck, veranda, patio, or balcony, but I believe I can now safely replace “tomorrow” with “today.” Like so many others, my son and daughter-in-law both work and are outdoors only in the evening and on weekends. The deck is their park, the deck chairs and table their den. This is so true for GenXers and will be even more so for Millennials, as renters become an even greater force in the marketplace.
Jon and Mandy are no different than any of their generation or those after them. They want color. They want flowers. They want containers, and they want to use them to decorate on and around their deck. What they don’t want is a lot of work. As an industry, we have known these facts for years. We simply have to put them into day-to-day practice. Younger generations no longer want to go out to the garden; they want to bring the garden in. It is the deck and the small space beyond that allows this to happen.
Deck And Patio Programs Can Meet Consumer Needs
My son and his wife have more disposable money than disposable time, and they are willing to pay for well-designed mixed containers for the deck and some colorful annuals, perennials, or small shrubs for their small garden space. Our industry has programs for native plant lovers, for drought-tolerance, and for deer resistance. We need to highlight programs for deck and patio gardens. Successful branded programs in the future will be solution-based, not plant-based.