Key elements in a modern garden are low-maintenance and low-impact to environment, according to garden design expert and author, Tim Newbury. These elements should be considered when selecting plants for a modern garden. Choose plenty of evergreen species, where the emphasis is on foliage and shape of the plants and how each blend into the garden through the seasons.
Black Bamboo or Phyllostachys Nigra
Black bamboo, or phyllostachys nigra, has ebony black stems and bright green leaves. An evergreen, the bamboo can provide winter interest and be used as a screen, giving any landscape a more modern feel than a traditional hedge. The spread of this variety of bamboo is easier to control than other varieties. Thin new sprouts, or plant bamboo trees in plastic containers to prevent rhizomes from spreading. Black bamboo can tolerant of winter temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Euphorbia amygdaloides, var. robbiae, is a perennial with dark-green leaves and provides quite a visual impact in a modern garden. The plants grow to about 24 inches. Brilliant yellow-green bracts on 7-inch stems shoot out from the main plant from June through September. Sow seeds in early spring or fall in partial shade areas, in nutrient-rich soil that retains moisture. The blooms are lovely, but the euphorbia plant is mostly grown for its interesting foliage.
Stipa Splendens or Needle Grass
Needle grass produces purple or white blooms from May to July. The foliage is dark green and turns a golden yellow in the fall. The deciduous perennial fits the contemporary landscape because it is an upright species. The leaves and stalks are used in making paper, matting, fencing and fuel. Plant in the fall or early spring in well-drained soil and cut back in late winter.
White Birch Trees
White birch trees are strikingly beautiful, even in winter. The tree has delicate foliage in spring and summer that blends well in a modern garden instead of overwhelming the landscape. Plant in large containers to control growth. Complementary silver or white containers filled with tall grasses and the white birch provide interest even in winter months when foliage is gone. Birch trees prefer moist, but not overly wet soil. Maintain nutrients in soil throughout the summer months by watering with an organic tea once a month.
Zephyr Lily or Rainflower
Starry-white flowers and shiny grass-like foliage make the zephyr lily, or rainflower, an ideal bulb for mass planting in a modern garden. The plant has low-growing flowers that resemble crocus, which blooms in June and July and then again in September and October. Plant in spring in full sun along borders, at 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart, or among rocks. Add organic humus to soil to encourage growth.
Liriope Muscari or Lilyturf
This hardy plant is popular in Southern gardens as an edging. In a modern garden, it can be combined with tall grasses in a pot at the base of white birch for year-round impact. Liriope is often called "monkeygrass," but it is a member of the lily family. Spikes of blue flowers shoot above foliage in In August and bloom through November. The perennial will grow in dappled shade, but flowers best in full sun. Plant in early spring in well-drained soil.