Modern Contemporary Gardens are formal—bold, organized, well kept, sleek—landscape designs that are popular in Southern California, especially along the coast. Symmetrical, clean lines and bold patterns allow for a clean, fresh style. As an extension of your home’s interior, the purpose must be to create an outdoor room with straight or geometrical lines with grids of green plants having formal shapes and interesting textures. The focus is on the hardscape, not the plants. Focal points may be a formal wall fountain, sculpture, or painted wall with colored glass inlay. Outdoor lighting is a critical component in the modern garden.
Modern Contemporary Elements: The outdoor “room” must feature materials such as concrete, metal, colored glass, and wood. Natural grey concrete, weathered corten steel and wood decking is common. With contrast as your goal, blacks and silvers must be accented properly with bright colors. Less is better, meaning, pick two or three focal points in the yard and feature one element for each. Sleek walls of various heights, built-in seating on retaining walls accented with colored cushions. Rectilinear pools, spas, and fountains (add fire if possible) with formal waterfall features are standard elements. Formal-shaped fire pits with fire glass works well on concrete, stone, or wood decks. Furniture must be sleek, modern, and match the color scheme of the surrounding structures.
Modern Contemporary Plants: The plant palette is critical to a successful Modern Garden. Repeating a limited number of plant species is important. Repeated in straight, neat paths or rows. It is important to use formal-shaped plants with textural, interesting leaves. Some excellent plant choices are ornamental grasses against grey or white walls. Bold, sword-like foliage is mandatory, including such plants a Dwarf Purple Flax, Dwarf Agave, Dwarf Aloe, spherical Agaves, Dracaenas, Sago Palms, and Dwarf Kangaroo Paws. Depending on the design and the limited use of lawn areas, formally pruned hedges may be used, as long as they display symmetry and balance. The overall look of the planter beds is important. Due to the separation, or space between shrubs, a glossy, colored rock/cobblestone should be used in the formal planter beds. Focal-point, raised planters should contain a specimen plant with a fire glass bed. Specimen trees, limited in number, are typically multi-trunked with twisted limbs and textured bark. Selections include Pink Melaleuca, mature Olive Trees, xxx, xxx. Known as abstract specimens, large multi-trunked Cycads or mature succulents like a Dr. Suess Tree or a Dragon Tree are spectacular.