Like everyone in this same boat of life, we’ve never experienced such a dramatic downturn of the potential state of our health, health systems and financial markets in the span of a few weeks. I can recall the influence of the Great Depression on my grandparents and even how my mother needed to have shelves stocked decades later. Who will we all become in the aftermath of this looming recession and recovery act that our government is delicately trying to implement? Who will we be after suffering losses of loved ones and our homes or jobs as well as our well-being and peace of mind?

An Oak tree symbolizes Strength

Is it too trite to write ‘Nature Heals?” I’ve written about Japanese Forest Bathing and how health centers have healing gardens that have proven benefits to our physical health. I’ve studied how certain plants can promote healing. We’ve all heard about the potential losses of future medicines with the slash and burn of our rain forests. Some have experienced the calm of crushing a lavender plant and inhaling the subtle aroma that soothes our souls. Or quite simply, now is a time when we need the act of stopping to smell the roses.

How will landscape design evolve with this unfathomable crisis? Will meditation gardens become the norm? Will “Victory Gardens” prevail in front yards? Will backyard orchards be the new normal? Will customers want to spend as much on high end materials, outdoor kitchens, water features, and swimming pools? Will any of this matter in the long run? I predict a major shift in the mindset of design. “Less is more” will certainly rule. The extravagances may go by the wayside. Practicalities will rule as a major element of almost every design. Design will convey a careful consideration about what our gardens want to say, how we expect them to provide shelter, healing and rescue for our newly found appreciation in living.

Landscape design for the new recovery of 2020 may have its roots in greater symbolism. Design will employ a greater sense of color to project meaning. Plants that have a historic meaning to project hope, health or resilience will become more prominent. The use of other healing elements will take center stage, whether fragrance or the sound of water, specific colors to soothe and so forth. Of course, inviting wildlife into our spaces to entertain us and allow us to marvel at nature itself will be welcome.

Landscape Design for the New Recovery of 2020

This unfortunate event does give us the chance to pause and perhaps smell the roses; they are free after all. Being in lock down now does allow us to get out and walk our pets or just take a walk with social distancing. In walking, we gain a sense of balance and a small blessing, this being spring with so much of nature showcasing it’s beauty with spring flowers and fragrance. Just yesterday I marveled at seeing a butterfly, the day before a hummingbird. Let’s face it for the foreseeable, future finding joy in the little things will bring some happiness and contentment to many.

As for landscape design will evolve under these current circumstances, I feel many will seek out greater meaning in the nature of their own back (and front) yards. Selecting plants that project a certain confidence of our future may offer a sense of well-being to one’s entire neighborhood. We’ve already seen how many are coming together to care for elderly neighbors, or how businesses like distilleries are now making hand sanitizers for free. These small acts will have a lasting impact on our society for many years to come. Why not create a garden that instills a sense of peace, prosperity and most needed, hope? Planting, whether a seed or a small tree, is a statement in belief of a future, a better future for all to experience and enjoy. Caring and planning for natural spaces to me has always been an elementary factor in what I do…acting as a steward of the land. It’s been a gift that I found this profession early in life. Planning for landscape design for the new recovery of 2020, I expect to utilize my former experiences along with this new vocabulary of symbolism to project healing and indeed, our future.

Such examples include the following:

Strength – Oak trees
Longevity – Bamboo
Perseverance – Magnolia (white for purity and perfection and pink for joy or innocence).

Magnolia blossom

Hope – Iris and Gladiolas
New Beginnings – Daffodils and Plumeria
Health – Rosemary
Wealth – Peruvian Lily, Jacaranda tree, African daisy
Better Sleep – Jasmine

Imagine a beautiful Southern California Garden with a canopy of a mature Olive tree which represents Peace. Laurel hedges declaring Success or Renown, banks of (okay, small areas of} ivy that suggest Endurance. I’d place Campanula as a ground cover under that noble Olive tree to fortify Peace with Gratitude. Sweet Pea flowers also express Gratitude. Nearby, I’d create space for Gardenias to bring Good Luck and perhaps across the area a large mass of Iris promoting much needed Good News. Adding the cheerful yellow of coreopsis makes an Always Cheerful proclamation. A bit of Devotion associated with Lavender and Bird of Paradise’s symbolism of faithfulness might be a center piece to this garden. On an opposite side, I’d locate a flowering Almond suggesting Promise. Sure, there might be a Dwarf Magnolia tree, Rosemary and African daisy in the mix, as well.

Landscape design in the new recovery of 2020 may take on a greater role using color theory. I’ve shared before a design trick of using warm colors to advance or project forward, while cool colors recede and suggest a greater distance. Considering the color of certain flowering plants, and or foliage, also play an important role of a landscape’s statement. The color red evokes passion, excitement and energy. Orange relays an aspect of freshness, youth, and cheer, while yellow offers optimism, playfulness and happiness. Green provides a sense of vitality and wealth. Purple implies royalty or majesty. Blue provides a sense of trust, caring and being conservative. Pink is associated with sensitivity, excitement and a feminine quality. And finally, white lends purity, simplicity and minimalism.


Like in the landscape described above, I can forecast the desire for more blue flowers (Agapanthus ‘peter pan’- lily of the Nile) for a sense of trust, contrasting orange (Lion’s tail or Leonotis leonarus) adds cheer. Having yellow (Hemerocallis ‘lemon yellow’ – Daylily) for extra optimism, and even solid green (Agave attenuatta – Foxtail Agave) for some much needed vitality. Most lavenders or (Salvia leucantha – Mexican Sage) inspire with their purple flowers to add a regal touch to manifest a more robust financial future. Evoking some humility and sensitivity, the color pink (Gaura lindenheimerii – Gaura) is also a nice touch in a large mass planting. And as an often used color to accent others, white can play a strong role suggesting purity and appreciation of a sense of simplicity.

This could well be a new direction for many landscape designers to utilize for our near future. Every element of design should have a reason. And, now we have a reason to have our backyards become even more of a sanctuary. An outdoor space should speak to your soul; it can be an area of salvation and much needed place to find calm, peace, and trust in our future. Taking the time to take in beauty, to appreciate and benefit from time in our own outdoor spaces, is one step in the direction of our recovery.

Please contact Letz Design Landscape in San Diego to get more information on landscape design for the new recovery of 2020. I welcome the opportunity to incorporate much of the above information of how various plants will offer a better tomorrow in my future master plan drawings.

We can’t stop hoping; we can’t stop planting and planning for a better future. We can use this greater knowledge to our advantage, while being a kinder community. Being our best selves, we all need to act as gardeners who care for the earth and each other. Never give in, for as Alexander Pope’s phrase states, “hope springs eternal.” Your own landscape can say exactly that.