Throughout the first half of the 20th century, gardens were explosively colourful and filled with as many types and families of flowers as possible. Today, modern and contemporary gardens tend to be defined by their clean, geometric lines. They’re often filled with sequences, patterns and avoid clutter and frills whenever possible.
Functionality and simplicity are key – everything has a place and purpose. Architectural appeal takes the front seat over ornamental value and texture and balance rule. This streamlined approach to garden design lends itself to structured plants, shrubs that can be carefully trimmed, and subtle but eye-catching greenery that’s easy to maintain.
We’ve put together a list of the five best plants for your modern garden and (because we’re here to help!) have provided advice on how to care for them so that they flourish.
Fast-growing, strong, versatile and affordable, bamboo is quickly becoming one of the most utilised plants in gardens of all types, especially modern gardens. Bamboo can be planted in flower pots, directly into the ground, and can be used as a way to divide areas or hide less attractive parts of your outdoor space. Because of its height and density, it’s the perfect ‘filler’ plant that creates levels while still being lovely to look at.
Caring for Bamboo: Bamboo needs at least one inch of water per week. The deeper the watering, the faster it will grow and the more protected it will be from drought. There’s no need to prune bamboo as the leaves protect the plant and return essential nutrients to the soil, helping the plant to grow. Just be careful which variety you buy as some can be quite invasive!
Box Plants (Buxus)
Commonly referred to as hedging plants, box plants can be transformed into whatever shape you like. Whether you’re looking for rounded focal points or a series of square plants that create a perimeter around your garden, the buxus is a must in any modern garden.
Caring for Box Plants: Box plants grow quite easily in most soils and climates. You should water them frequently after planting and in severe droughts but, once established, the buxus is quite resilient. Trim them twice a year, in June and September to maintain their shape.
Needle Grasses (Stipa)
Considerably more free-flowing than the first two plants on this list, needle grasses have become a staple in modern garden design. While they look amazing and seem to demonstrate a sense of movement when planted in multiples, they can hold their own when planted amongst other varieties of plants.
Caring for Needle Grasses: Come springtime, cut the plants just before (or as soon as!) new growth appears. They shouldn’t need another cut afterwards. Most needle grasses only need occasional waterings and are able to handle long periods of time without water. We recommend watering no more than once a week.
Over the last several years, succulents have been appearing everywhere, both in and outdoors. These meaty, symmetrical plants capture the air of the modern garden. While they’re most often seen planted individually in pots, they grow quite well in the ground and can even produce beautiful flower buds.
Caring for Succulents: Succulents don’t require much. They need occasional waterings (once every 2-3 weeks in summer) and a bit of sunshine.
Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia)
While modern gardens tend to utilize mostly muted colours, the Red Hot Poker adds the perfect splash of colour. These unique, vertical flowers can be found in shades of pink, orange, red, and yellow. Their bright buds are complemented by their grassy stems and, like needle grasses, they can add movement to an outdoor space.
Caring for Red Hot Pokers: Mulch new plants well and water thoroughly and regularly. Once autumn hits, remove the flower spike in order to encourage blooming next season!
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