Modern gardens often share modern architecture's focus on clean lines and crisp details. Designs focus on texture and pattern rather than billowing foliage or opulent display. Plants with bold leaf patterns and sculptural branching habits work well in a modern garden. Mass together one variety of plant to build rhythm through repetition. Select a modern theme that inspires you then add plants that complement the scheme.
Japanese garden designs utilize a limited color palette and focus on foliage over flowers. The overall restraint and strict editing of elements suits modern gardens well. Select plants for glossy foliage and interesting texture. Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'nigrescens'), or dark green dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) grows in neat narrow-leafed tufts. The grass-like foliage creates distinct rounded fountains. Surround a 6 feet by 6 feet square of mondo grass with black river rocks set in sand. They create textural contrast. Potted black bamboo (Bambusa nigra) adds a strong tall vertical accent. The bold, deep-green leaves of Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica) contrast with the lance-shaped bamboo leaflets and the grass-like texture of the mondo grass.
Succulents and cactus plants have strong shapes that suit modern gardens well. Golden-barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) has a spherical shape and fierce spines. Lay out a grid of barrel cactus on a ground cover of crushed rock. Space the cactus evenly. The resulting design has geometric and textural interest. Octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana) grows in twisted shapes. Put it in a large urn shaped pot. Its long arching arms work well as a focal point in an arid garden. Use sedum varieties as succulent ground-cover. Some types change color in fall or bear small flowers. Blue Senecio mandraliscae planted in large rectangular beds creates a succulent sea-scape effect. The blue upright stems look almost like coral and their curved shapes create rhythm in the garden.
Structure For Seasons
Well-designed modern gardens work well in winter. Trees or shrubs with interesting branch structure stand out when leaves fall. Tartarian dogwood (Cornus alba) has crimson-red branches that pop against snow. Gardeners prize birch-bark cherry (Prunus serrula) for its rich deep red bark and strong branching structure. English yew (Taxus baccata) maintains its dark green color year round. Heavy snowfall dollops tightly clipped hedges like marshmallow, and bends untrimmed flexible yew branches to the ground. Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora) is an ornamental ground cover that forms fountain-shaped clumps. The grass turns a golden tan color and its foliage persists over winter. Cut back in early spring to encourage new clean growth.