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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Contemporary Garden Design

All too often, outdoor areas are the last to receive any attention in a home makeover or design effort.  However, that shouldn’t be the case.  The surrounding area of a home is just as important as what’s on the inside, maybe even more important if the house happens to be on the market. 

Flemings Australian Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012
In contemporary garden design, the focus is on simplicity and nature.  This is primarily due to the fact that many modern homes have relatively small areas of land as their gardens.  There has also been a cultural shift toward contemporary design, in which clean lines and hard landscaping materials such as hardwood garden table and chairs, stone, and rendered walls have become very popular.

In any contemporary garden the planting style will be bold yet simple, with repetition of just a few varieties of plants throughout the space.  Today, grasses are very popular as they are visually appealing, simple, and easy to care for. 



Lighting also plays a role in contemporary garden design, as subtle effects can be achieved with low voltage lights strategically placed throughout the garden, usually along the walls, beside paths and to highlight garden features such as statuary.

Contemporary gardens aren’t without classic, iconic design elements.  Form, shape, and other iconic design elements have stood the test of time and will always be part of any garden’s design.  The individual touches come from how modern gardeners choose to incorporate classic features such as sculpture, containers, and other elements into their gardens.


The Essential Indulgence (Silver Gilt) - another contemporary garden at Hampton Court 2012 that I liked
The hard areas

Any garden – classic or contemporary – will have some sort of path or paving incorporated into the design. Choose from natural stone or the cheaper reconstituted products that can be extremely attractive.  Old railway sleepers have also become very popular over the last few years; as a result they have risen in price quite considerably.  Don’t forget shingle – very practical and still quite cheap. 


Live Outdoors Garden (Silver Gilt) - built on a budget of £13,000
While concrete features add a modern element to a contemporary garden design they do not suit all gardens. More natural features, such as rounded, smooth river stones are an excellent alternative to the manmade, industrial materials featured so prominently in some modern gardens.  Cobbles may be used on paths as well as in accent areas throughout the space.

Metal, metal everywhere

Traditional gardens often featured wrought iron garden furniture, which can be ornate and heavy.  Although metal is still used in contemporary garden design, it is used a little differently these days.  Some modern gardens incorporate industrial metal grids combined with wooden planks for vines and ivy, for a fresh yet rugged look.  Galvanized sheet metal is also popular in modern garden design for weatherproofing and screening solutions.  Stainless steel and chrome furniture are also contemporary and affordable choices.


Metal work used as part of the pathways in this garden we saw at Hampton Court this year - Contemporary Contemplation (Gold medal) - a stunning garden and one of my favorites! I love it for the restrained planting palette and the use of contemporary hard lansdcaping. Top marks from me too!

Modern gardens, with their clean lines and industrial elements, may seem uninviting if certain iconic elements are not incorporated into the overall design.  Lighting, furniture, and textures are all essential in making the contemporary garden a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere.  The secret is to keep the theme simple and clean; the garden will do the rest of the work.


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