If your home is your castle—what’s your yard? A little less regal, maybe?

Perhaps your outdoor environment leaves something to be desired? Is your outside, shall we say, a little outdated?

Do you have the standard-issue lawn, maybe a patio, possibly a play area for the munchkins?

Does the boring backyard give you an urge to do a landscaping makeover?

Well, if that’s the case, you’re in luck—the options for outdoor living have exploded in the past few years, and that means appealing, inviting landscaping can beautify your environment, enlarge your options and increase the value of your home. Here are five fabulous new landscaping trends you’ll want to consider before you call the contractor:

1. Move the Living Room Outside

Landscape design today revolves around creating new living spaces in the great outdoors. With screened-in rooms, pergolas and hundreds of varieties of freestanding canopies, you can make a boring patio or deck into a comfortable, open or closed area complete with seating, art and electronic entertainment. If you do it well, these outdoor living spaces can add enormous value to your home and expand your space far beyond its four walls.

2. Fire! 

Outdoor fireplaces and firepits, extended barbecue and cooking islands and even designer vertical gas torches can really liven up your exterior spaces. They don’t even have to be expensive—many manufacturers make propane-powered outdoor fireplaces that can warm your guests without heating up your bank account. Outdoor kitchens and pizza ovens can make entertaining easy and fun, and the cost of built-in outdoor kitchens has come down significantly.

3. Dramatic Outdoor Lighting

Light-emitting diodes—LEDs—and advances in solar have revolutionized outdoor lighting, and made possible what was once impossible. Going far beyond the standard pathway poles of years past, we now have access to solar LED pavers, a wealth of beautiful outdoor fixtures like chandeliers and lighted fans, and even soft ambient lighting for pools, ponds and water features.

4. Sustainability

With droughts and drastic weather pattern changes, and with the increasing costs of water, landscape design has entered a new realm. Managing and conserving water with rain barrels, green roofs and walls, and even new technology like permeable pavement has become not just economically but environmentally essential. If you’re selecting a landscape designer or contractor, keep green in mind. Spending a little more now on water conservation will pay off big in the years ahead.

5. Biodiversity

Instead of the old paradigm--a grassy, thirsty lawn dotted with a few trees and bushes--the new trend involves building a garden habitat of self-sustaining, bio-diverse native plants that are already well-adapted to your locale, weather and conditions. Select plants that use less water, and do your research before your trip to the nursery. When you plant flowers, think about pollinator-friendly varieties, so butterflies and bees won’t lose more habitat, and so your own flowering plants, vegetable gardens and fruit trees will be pollinated, too.