The Contemporary Garden

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There is an ever-growing trend toward a simple, contemporary garden – one that works for a smaller yard or for those seeking a water-wise or an easy-care garden.

These gardens have an emphasis on hardscape of stone, wood and concrete, with bold architectural plants incorporated. Water features, sculpture and containers are important in the contemporary garden; and plants, while fewer in numbers, are actually highlighted and add drama. We are more likely to notice a plant’s stunning attributes when it is not competing against scores of other plants for attention.

Elements of the Contemporary Garden

Concrete Steppers

Inexpensive and highly versatile: precast concrete stepping-stones are the perfect geometric form for surfacing. Round, square or rectangular; small or massive slabs; exposed aggregate or smooth surface, these are an affordable way to get just the right look.

Metal Grids

Originally created as reinforcement mesh for concrete and masonry, welded wire panels of varying density are ideal fencing materials. Use as screen panels for vines, combine with wood planks or create a revolutionary idea with new or recycled segments.


The rounded, natural form of river stone is the perfect contrast for rigid, man-made industrial materials. They offer an excellent surfacing texture for those difficult spaces that can be turned into serious design opportunities. Widely available in a range of colors and sizes.

Sheet Metal

Galvanized metal sheeting, be it flat or corrugated, is delightfully industrial and yet easy to install without any special skills. Popular for its ability to curve and wrap, it makes outstanding veneer and as weatherproof solid screening.


Whether created of concrete, ceramic, metal or even a recycled bowling ball, spheres become vital sculptural elements for these gardens. They stand out as bold art forms in a spare landscape.

Slick Pots

Follow the same clean lines as the rest of the landscape. Cylindrical or square, composed of resin or ceramic, metals with or without patina, containers paired with a plant featuring bold sculptural form doubles the overall impact.

Contemporary Furniture

Reflections of the great modern-era designers can be found in the furniture for these gardens. Stainless steel and chrome alternate with dense polyester mesh and bright plastics to render these functional places to recline or dine into stylish environments.

Keys to a contemporary garden

Dwarf varieties that are well suited to containers; new types of shrubs and trees with a tidy habit; and dramatic architectural plants that can be a focal point in the modern garden.

Trees in a contemporary garden tend to have a more upright habit, so they become a structural element. Their canopies are not too large, and there may be several in a row to create a hedge effect. For example, our new Crimson Pointe™ Purple Leaf Plum is the first and only columnar shaped Prunus. It looks fantastic when several are planted in an allée to draw the view toward a focal point. A Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) has an attractive shape that is a standout as a specimen tree. They are prized for their distinctive leaf shape and colorful foliage that turns orange, red, burgundy or even reddish-purple. Try Emperor I® or Oshio-Beni.

Containers are a standard in the contemporary garden. Often with just a single plant that is either neat and tidy — like a topiary or a trimmed boxwood — or an upright plant chosen for its drama – such as an architectural tropical like Phormium or Agave. Interesting grasses like Bowles Golden Sedge or Fountain Grass look great. Or get creative with topiaries or shrubs with a tidy shape like the Golf Ball Pittosporum and Hetz Midget Arborvitae.

Plants for a Contemporary Garden

Monrovia contemporary topiaries, cordylines, phormiums, agaves, bamboo, and containerized trees such as Majestic Beauty Fruitless Olive, Golden Spirit Smoke Tree, Crimson Pointe Flowering Plum, palms such as Windmill Palm, and conifers like the Blue Arrow Juniper.