We often get asked what a ‘modern garden’ is. What makes a garden design modern is constantly evolving, and what is modern now won’t look modern in a few years’ time. To create a timeless modern garden, it’s important to pick a theme and modernise it to create a garden that won’t look dated or out of fashion.

A good example of this is modernising a contemporary Victorian garden or Japanese Garden. We have many examples, so we can take help you choose.

THE WATER GARDEN

If you are drawn to a bright colour palette and are brave enough to allow that colour to be part of a central focal point such as a wall, then using a delicate array of different green textures can soften and incorporate that colour.

We often add brightly coloured walls in the corners of a garden, making it feel bigger, especially if we are aiming to lead your attention beyond a primary feature, such as the main water feature and platform in this garden.

In order to further soften the contemporary nature of the garden, we used tall trees, which connect not only with the lower planting but also with the neighbouring trees. It’s very important that a modern garden is sympathetic to its surroundings.

THE MINIMALIST GARDEN

It’s not often we’re asked to plant as few plants as possible. Fortunately, this garden had a white rendered wall as its perimeter, meaning only a few plants were needed to make a feature of it. We planted Italian spruces to break up the monotony of the wall. These spruces are tall, green pillars, and we lit them up to create striking blocks of green at night.

We installed paving further down the garden, which is not the norm. We did this to stop the garden looking too long and narrow. The low rendered wall further breaks the garden up. In a long garden, if the lawn is too long, it can make the garden look very narrow.

The garden now looks wider and more spacious, and it has a seating area that makes you feel like you are sitting in the garden as opposed to looking down a long funnel-like garden.

THE CONTEMPORARY OASIS

Mediterranean gardens are harder to design than you might think. It takes a lot of knowledge of foreign plants and the different soil compositions they require. Some Mediterranean plants need to be protected from winter frosts, so such a garden is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

If you want a seating area at the back of the garden, it’s best to avoid having it in plain sight. In this garden, we installed a garden wall with low-level planting in front of the seating.

We installed wood in the patio to stop the tunnel effect of a long paving area detracting from the features to the left and right. Without the wood plinths, the visual journey would be unnecessarily accelerated to the back of the garden.

THE MODULAR GARDEN

A modern house requires an even more modern garden, meaning there are but a few suitable paving choices. In this garden, we chose a light grey stone to reflect light into the house and match the grey rendered wall. A modern water feature with Japanese-style stepping stones divides the paving and the garden, allowing for a softer approach to planting.

It’s always wise to use a feature to provide that transition from modern to soft. The more modern a feature, the softer the planting style. Like anything in life, we need balance. If a garden is entirely contemporary, it can end up looking a little ostentatious.

THE JAPANESE GARDEN

Japanese gardens are a true wonder. Here, we were asked to design a Japanese-style garden with a zen area for meditating, which can be seen on the right-hand side. Like most gardens in London, traffic noise was an issue here, so we masked it by incorporating a water feature that runs into a grid below the stone platform.

All gardens need balance and none more so than a Japanese garden. In this small space, we provided functionality and a pathway through the garden.

The pool gently encapsulates the zen area, creating a transcendence. Stepping over the pool instantly soothes even the most stressed mind.

THE GRASS GARDEN

For people with disabilities, raising the garden is beneficial as the owner can then prune the plants and weed the borders without having to reach down. There are numerous materials that can be used to raise a garden. In this case, the budget allowed for bespoke planters that provide a delicacy that a wall can’t offer.

Having rows of plants not only keeps maintenance to a minimum but also provides a more modern feel and complements the pots. The grasses further add to the style and create a contrast with the bulky angular pots and soft feathery plants.

The front border is lower than the border behind. This step up is a good way of hiding the front facia, which, if not hidden with plants, can be overpowering. The height of the border is necessary to create a feeling of security and cosiness in the seating area.

THE CURVED GARDEN

In a modern garden, curves have to be very carefully thought through as they can make the garden look rustic rather than modern. The walls create so much drama that they need to be softened, and this is where the curves come in. They soften the design and take you on a visual journey, controlling where your attention is drawn.

The perimeter walls needed to be incorporated into the design. Connecting the straight boundary wall and the curved lower wall was certainly a challenge. We solved it by using rendering and painting the lower wall white to make it a feature of the garden. The indentations flow and ebb up and down the wall, reflecting the smaller curved wall in front.

To widen the garden, we laid grass between the paving stones. The lines of grass break up the line of sight and make the pathway feel wider than it actually is.

THE MEDITERRANEAN POOL

When designing around an existing swimming pool, it’s important to connect the surrounding landscape to the pool. What better way to do that than by adding water features that collect water from the pool and recycle it back into the pool

In this garden, the preferred style was Mediterranean. This style was dictated by the tiling already in the pool. A key consideration is not to add to the level of maintenance, so picking trees and shrubs that don’t lose their leaves in the winter was essential as the leaves of deciduous plants would soon clog up the pool filter.

This garden was very much designed for evening entertainment, so the planting is less important than the lights. In such a minimal garden, we needed to add a facia to the wall, allowing dappled light to reflect. The lit wall also creates a glow behind the low planting.

THE RELAXING SEATING AREA

large garden pond looks absolutely amazing surrounded by modern, calibrated coping stones. In this garden, we created a wonderful contrast between the light paving and the coloured water of the pond. We added a natural dye to the pond to stop the water from going green and to add a mysterious and dramatic look.

We minimised the towering feeling of the existing walls by adding lovely bamboos. The lush green foliage stands out from the wall and the green looks even brighter and lusher. The colour of the patio works with both the existing sofa and walls and the new bamboos, lawn and water feature.

One of the reasons we selected such a pale stone was to reflect light back into the house. This is just one of many wonderful ways of connecting the indoor and outdoor spaces.

THE FENSUI GARDEN

Design ideas for small, modern gardens often include water features as focal points. However, ponds can sometimes be too dark, especially if they’re allowed to get murky.

This pebble pool with a lining of light-coloured stones is a nice compromise. The minimal depth of just 25 centimetres means there’s less water to filter, so it’s relatively easy to keep clean. We set the walkway above the surface of the pool to make it seem more like a bridge. It was important to avoid dissecting the water into two separate areas, as this could make the pond feel smaller.

The client wanted a space for placing a few cushions to do yoga and read that felt completely separated from the main house.

THE TRANQUIL SEATING AREA

Seating is vital in most gardens, and in this modern garden design, it’s essential not only for socialising but also for dividing the space. Just as your house can be split into rooms, a garden can benefit from subdivisions. Here, the corner bench beautifully frames the focal point, which is a firepit, as a clearly defined space for entertaining.

Meanwhile, the gazebo seating area forms a perfect passageway, taking you from one side of the garden to the other. The paving also frames the firepit, which anchors the garden into a place of serenity and safety.

It’s a garden that sits between two themes. The brief was very much a garden that feels contemporary but is still sensitively planted and not too modern.

THE URBAN JUNGLE

There’s a lot going on in this modern garden design, and it’s just the kind of space that many of our clients love. The large modern paving slabs tie it all together, defining a grid for this intriguing layout (and the eye) to follow.

The intrinsic nature of this type of garden is simplicity at its finest. It’s easy for the client to maintain and the simple planting scheme provides a lush, tropical feel that balances the amount of hard landscaping.

If you look carefully, you can see how almost every feature conforms to the geometric nature of the paving, from the boundary walls to the pond, as well as the glass panes for the open conservatory. Each element sits along the joints between slabs. Everything comes together in this amazing garden design.