Modern Garden Design

Embrace the clean lines of modern garden design in your landscape. Discover tips for creating a modern ambience.

modern pavilion

Modern Pavilion

A modern copper pavilion includes a water feature that seems to spring from an underground source and recalls La Louve garden in Provence.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Felicia Feaster

Image courtesy of Felicia Feaster

Highlight modern, carefree materials in your yard by embracing modern garden design. The beauty of this design style is more than skin deep. By using materials like stone, metal, concrete and even plastic, you leave behind many upkeep considerations, making maintenance a breeze. Limited planting areas support this theme, along with new plant introductions developed to work in modern garden designs with limited pruning or irrigation.

Although modern garden designs typically revolve around strong lines and areas that emphasize function, beauty isn’t left out of the modern equation. This sleek look shines with a tight color palette, bold focal points and architectural materials used in unexpected ways.

Galvanized metal earns its keep in modern garden design, adapting effortlessly to many uses. Sheet metal might be flat or corrugated and installs without much fuss. A common way to use metal is as planting containers. By attaching sheet metal to a frame, you can build your own custom containers. Or select corrugated metal for shed walls or to create a screen. Alternate it with cedar to form an unusual fence.

As bed edging, galvanized metal provides an elegant touch, and it also reflects light at night, effectively illuminating planting areas or paths. Metal fire pits look absolutely stunning, especially when paired with a gas flame emerging from polished black pebbles or colorful fire glass. Stainless steel is a common choice for outdoor kitchens and can also be used to design custom fire pits. 

Warm up the look of metal by pairing it with a warm-tone wood or tinted concrete. Plants also soften the sheen of metal, as does water. A metal fountain easily transforms cold stainless steel simply with the sound of tricking water. 

Underfoot, rely on concrete steppers or pavers to create geometric designs. Intersperse and interrupt paving areas with polished pebbles or glass to craft a beautiful, eye-catching pattern. Grass or ground covers, like dwarf mondo grass or creeping thyme, pair well with concrete to soften it. It’s important to contrast materials in a modern garden design to stir visual interest.

Lighting plays a major role in modern garden designs. Stainless steel or galvanized metal fixtures update gardens with a contemporary look. Or tuck low-voltage landscape lights among polished river rock to add drama after dusk. Incorporate solar-powered steppers to light up garden paths, or use rope lighting to outline a small pool.

Include plants that underscore a modern ambience, such as topiaries, an upright tree form or a neatly clipped hedge. Consider adding tropicals with strong lines, like phormium, cordyline or agave, to infuse planting beds or containers with architectural interest. These plants can work even in climates where they won’t survive winter outdoors. Simply grow them in pots you can shift to cozy quarters before freezing temperatures arrive.

Grasses makes another fabulous addition to a modern garden design. Tall, cylindrical sheet metal containers pair wonderfully with upright grasses, like Karl Foerster feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) or Elijah Blue fescue (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’). Sedges are grass-like plants that also make a splash in contemporary gardens—in beds or containers. Consider Toffee Twist hair sedge (Carex flagellifera ‘Toffee Twist’) and variegated Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Aurea-variegata’) for foliage with modern tints and patterns.

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