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  • Modern clean styling is a very popular choice for homeowners and interior designers. It's also a really effective theme for a garden. If you like clean lines, high impact planting and that chic feel, then a modern style garden design is for you. Forget about soft curves, cottage planting and pots. This design style is about bold statements and strong structures. Put down the guide to rambling roses, were going modernist today!

    A modern garden design style can turn a garden into a room you just can’t wait to be in. Summer evenings are spent sipping fizz out in your garden terrace, with careful mood lighting, dramatic planting and the feeling of privacy. Plants organised into blocks of colour. Everything in its place with neat lines and plants all in order. What’s not to love?

    I’m going to help show you the design features of a clean modern garden with a recent design example. The client had just moved into a new build executive home. Everything inside the house was contemporary and super stylish. However, the back garden was a basic box of low-grade turf and not much else. It was overlooked, in part shade and had zero curb appeal to it. The last thing you would want to do is sit out drinking wine there! Sound familiar? Well, unfortunately, most new build houses suffer from this as sadly garden space becomes more of a premium with new homes.

    How to design a modernist style garden

    Modernist garden design is all about pairing back your design to a few key features and textures. Less is definitely more, which is actually quite a challenge as a designer as you’ve got to really consider your choices carefully. Heres my list of modernist garden tips.

    1.Clean lines

    You’ll often hear this statement when people discuss garden design. It’s almost become a buzzword with design and can be both useful and annoying. I want to clear something up with this term. It doesn’t just mean straight lines and sharp corners.  You can have a clean curve or circular seating area for example in a modern garden. What ‘clean lines’ refers to is a definately line, not a wiggly loose set of wavy curves. The kind you see in gardens across the UK when people think, I’ll soften this with a curve. Then the half-moon edger comes out and before they know it they have the dreaded weak curve all over the show.

    2. Contemporary Paving Choices

    Using contemporary paving such as porcelain, granite or even brushed concrete you can achieve a really bold slick look in your garden. No crazy paving or loose layouts. It’s about making a statement!

    Modern garden design outdoor garden

    Outdoor living treats gardens as an extension of your home

    3. Bold planting choices

    Again a modern garden style pairs back the planting scheme. In an informal design, you may have a variety of specimens, cultivars and plants taking you on a journey around the garden. In a modern garden usually you strip back the planting to key elements. Such as height, texture and colour. You may then choose a handful of plants to satisfy each of these. Don’t be tempted to start adding hundreds of different forms or you’re losing the impact.

    Modern planting scheme

    See how only a limited number of plant species are used in repetition?

    4. Proportion

    If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times that proportion in garden design is fundamental! A top tip with a modern design is to take your scale from doors and windows on the property. As most new build gardens are small its easy to take the scale from the house, as you’re not having to deal with distance. If you have a huge garden then usually the scale would expand the further you go down the garden. In this design example, I used the width of the patio doors to create the main entrance to the garden from the house. It helps connect the garden as a room of the house. Clever eh!

    Modern style garden design example

    Garden Ninja was called in to create something reminiscent of a high-end boutique hotel for this client. She wanted a high impact garden that would be clean and fresh. With Asian inspired colours and planting this project was a fantastic piece to show how careful theming with high-end materials can create a look that will be the envy of your neighbours! Planting with colour blocking and creating both a dramatic and calming feel in different zones of the garden was required to meet the brief.

    Modern Style Chic Garden Design

    One of the mood boards that set the ball rolling with this design

    All my followers know that zoning is a key part of my garden design. You have heard about the garden as rooms, but I prefer the garden in zones. The client wanted a garden where she could return home to and sink into relaxation without the neighbours peering down on her. She also wanted somewhere that was a haven for birds so winter interest planting was required and seed heads. As the client spent a lot of time travelling she wanted something high impact but without too much maintenance. I developed zones to accommodate these multiple needs.

    New build basic garden

    The Garden before the transformation

    The zones required were:

    • Hidden seating terrace – to give privacy when sitting outside
    • Wildlife area – with water and food for birds
    • Modernist planting to separate the zones
    • Shady planting area

    The plan view of the modern chic garden design

    Hidden Seating Terrace

    I designed a raised rendered bed that would act as a seating area at the back left of the garden. This would help give the feeling of privacy when sat out in the garden. It also allowed for some serious mood lighting in the evening with build in lights in the paving. Nice! This area was going to be paved in the same consistent grey porcelain as the paths. This was key to the cohesion of the garden. Keeping the materials consistent throughout the garden helps bind it together and give it a nested feel.

    This new build garden after the makeover

    Wildlife Area & Different Textures

    I used gorgeous grey porcelain stone paving to give a real solid design feel to the garden hard landscaping. I then used cobbles in the gravel bed with grasses, an Acer and Corten steel bowls which would be filled full of water. This was to attract the birds and help give that Asian inspired feel of Buddhism where the connection to water is profound. I was careful not to use too many materials to keep the theme strong. The use of repetition in the planting also helps with design in ensuring all the zones connect to one another. Carex and grasses are used to connect zones and add calm to the garden.

    This CorTen steel bowl is a great design feature, it also doubles as a drinking spot for wildlife

    Modernist Planting Scheme

    The key to the maintenance issue was to use a modernist planting style. Where groups of the same plants would be planted together. This gives a real high impact in a small garden but also mean that they keep their form a bit longer. So any that start to die back can be hidden and they can hold their own. If you look at the prairie border below you can see what I mean. By grouping them as some flowers fade others take their place and it’s not as obvious that they need deadheading.

    Modern style garden design

    Light and airy vs dark and brooding; mix up your planting combinations for greater effect

    Shady Fern Border

    The far right wall was predominantly in the shade so we worked with this using shade loving plants. I also incorporated some more delicate specimens such as Thalictrum and Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ which would give a really floaty calm planting scheme in this darker area. Woven in with some evergreen Skimmia for winter structure. When you look over through the other bed to this area it will seem really inviting and calm away from the main high impact socialising area.


    By carefully considering your garden design you can turn even the most overlooked back garden into a place of sanctuary. Using the right proportions and planting scheme can provide a cohesive look to your garden. A place to entertain and relax. Want to see more how-to guides and gardening tips? Why not head over to my Youtube channel or send me a message on social media TweetFacebook or Instagram me!

    Happy Gardening!

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    2 thoughts on “Modern Garden Design Makeover Guide

    1. Brett Anderson says:


      I love your videos, they are inspirational! We’ve just had raised beds built from concrete blocks. The builders have left a blue plastic sheet as a liner but we not sure if that’s the right material to use so any advise or ideas who be really appreciated?

      1. lee says:

        Hi Brett, Thanks so much for your support of my YouTube Garden Guides! I’m guessing that sheet is glued or pinned to the side of the concrete beds to stop the damp penetrating. If so it is fine. If it is in the bottom as a liner, then the bottom of the raised beds does need to be free draining, so add some holes if so or the raised bed will just fill up with water over time which you don’t want. Hope that helps and Happy Gardening! Lee

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