Discovering garden styles: Modern gardens

Damn this weather. Let's talk gardening, shall we?

I love studying garden design (that is, if you count looking at countless photos of gardens to be studying). I think it would be great to have a garden in every style if such a thing was possible to pull off (I think would require multiple properties or one really, really big one).

So I thought I'd do a few posts on the various kinds of garden designs. And at the end we'll all fess up as to what kind of gardens we have and what kind we want. Or something like that.

I'm starting with ...

M O D E R N   G A R D E N S

Modern gardens rely heavily on hardscaping for their style. Structure is key and usually created through hardscaping with materials that tend to be cleaner lined and smoother in texture. Concrete, steel and slate, along with wood that's anything but rustic, are generally called for.

Often that hardscaping is angular.


Wide, arcing curves are a bit easier on the eye, I think.

Andy Sturgeon design photo

Modern gardens tend to have great paths and patios.


D-Crain Design photo

Repetition is also a hallmark of modern garden design, although I think it's pretty much key in any garden design.

Some elements call to mind Japanese style, but I think that's more because the two styles share such clean lines.


As for plants, modern gardens tend to be more reserved in the variety of plants. Succulents, bamboo and "hard-edged" plants like yucca are common. More subdued (although hardy and low-maintenance) perennials such as nepeta fit in well, as do numerous ground covers and neatly trimmed hedges.


But I think the hallmark plants of modern gardens are ornamental grasses.


M O D E R N   G A R D E N S at a glance

H A R D S C A P E :  Possibly the most important aspect of the style. Materials are clean lined: concrete, steel, rocks, ipe hardwood

P L A N T S : Ornamental grasses, succulents, bamboo, perfectly trimmed hedges

M A I N T E N A N C E : Once it's installed, most modern gardens won't be much work thanks to plants that mostly take care of themselves. But be forewarned, the look is all about things being perfect and it will fall apart the second things get a little shabby.

G A R D E N E R  T Y P E :  Loves back-breaking hardscaping installations and likes to sit back on a gorgeous but sparse patio with a Cosmopolitan and laugh while watching the neighbors toil over their high-maintenance gardens. Suckers.

Next up: Formal gardens

4 comments :

  1. Great study, Erin. I'm not a big fan of modern anything really - too clinical and hard for my old-fashion taste. But I do love the ornamental grasses.

    Can't wait to see what you come up with next…..cottage, Japanese?

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  2. Love corten steel! I like elements of all but the best is the one where you can sit/eat over the water feature.

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  3. Generally speaking I'm not a fan of modern gardens, but these are impressive. Given the choice however, I'd opt for something a bit more traditional.

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  4. While this garden style is not for me, I do appreciate it. I love seeing sculptures in modern style gardens. Great series, Erin. I'm enjoying all of them!

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