Exterior Worlds
Modern Garden Design
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Modern Garden Design

Modern garden design enables functional elements of the landscape such as walkways, motor courts, and patios, to work as integrated portions of the landscape rather than typical stand alone elements. We see this a great deal in contemporary landscaping, where features are characterized by very stark geometry and abstract forms. Inorganic themes define the yard, with the organic only serving as a frame or connector of significant geometric design elements and outdoor forms. Gardens are kept to minimalist proportions so they may serve a master plan that whose design promotes human consciousness over the aesthetics and free-standing forms of nature.


In a modern landscape, the garden tends toward the inorganic in element and design. It exits to support manmade forms and home architecture, not to showcase natural elements as aesthetics in their own respect. Darker foliage is the norm here because it contributes to the sense of stark absolutism that distinguishes the modern landscape. Plants such as boxwoods and mondo grass are normally used for linear plantings running adjacent to walls, such as those commonly found in backyard design. Modern garden areas can also be installed inside hardscape structures themselves. This involves removing entire sections of concrete, blocks, or stone and installing plants in their place. The resulting outcome suggests that nature has now been contained within the boundaries modern human progress, and that forms of nature itself are now subject to human engineering and construction.

A modern garden can also be used to create a perimeter around a significant contemporary landscape element. Modern fountains, for example, are normally very important features in contemporary front yards and backyards. By adding a circular planting around the base of a fountain, we can strengthen its sense of form and draw attention to its presence. In a similar manner, the linear elements of contemporary wall fountains can further accentuated with low-profile plantings that emphasize strong lines at the base of the fountain and geometric angles inherent to its design.

A large number of custom homes today are built with an eclectic blend of architectural themes and are not purely contemporary or modern styles, per se. A garden here will have to be a bit more organic and diverse in its design to the extent that some aspect of the home or yard that requires an additional decorative touch. For instance, many multi-story custom homes are constructed with second story patios and rooftop areas distinguished by a high level of linearity and symmetry. We can magnify these attributes by planting a traditional garden style—such as Italian or Mediterranean—and adapting its form and proportion to support the principles of modern design.

In the same fashion, more organic lawns require gardens that add color with flowering plants, and contribute a sense of vitality and expression to front and back yards. The degree to which we use color and variety in such a garden will depend on factors such as the size and proportions of the house, the color of its façade, the materials used to construct the home and other exterior structures, and the number of trees within the yard which by their very presence require a more organic aesthetic to support their own.

Modern garden design ideas such as the ones discussed in this article should only be developed by licensed landscaping architects or landscape designers who are familiar with the complexities inherent to this very challenging style where organic priorities are almost determined solely by inorganic demands, and where garden installation and proportion are predicated on manmade geometry and structural forms.

For more the 20 years Exterior Worlds has specialized in servicing many of Houston’s fine neighborhoods.