How To Choose Your Modern Garden Style
Hand's up whose garden is full of individual things you bought, made, inherited or were gifted with little attempt to create a cohesive style? Then have a look at all those dreamy garden pictures you have collected on Pinterest or from your favourite magazine. I am pretty sure that most of them will have some order, structure and harmonious features rather than a screaming disarray of visual loudness. OK, so you are not a trained garden designer, but by the end of this post we sure hope that you will be well on your way to choosing your own unique modern garden style.
1. Why Bother With a Garden Style?
If you saw our blog What Exactly is Garden Design? you will know that planning your garden with a specific style in mind creates a much more harmonious place that is easy on the eye and more enjoyable to experience. Our minds find it hard to enjoy what we see when the eye is taking in too many different shapes, colours, textures etc.
I always think of my grandmother’s place when I was a child: big floral carpets, completely different big floral curtains, cabinets and shelves crammed full of ornaments and way too much furniture collected through her life that she couldn't bear to part with. I loved visiting her, but her home was never a relaxing place to be. If you look at the gardens in your neighbourhood that you find messy or unsatisfactory, it is likely because they don't have any sort of integrated style.
2. Create a Style By Setting Boundaries
A style is really just a set of boundaries that you set to decide what goes in the garden and what doesn't. It is a tool to help you simplify your garden design and focus your efforts (and buying impulses) on key components that will work well together. Any professional garden designer will tell you that "less is more".
Some ways you can focus your garden plans on a style are:
• Select a limited colour palette
• Harmonise materials with the exterior house architecture
• Use similar types of materials, e.g. all reclaimed or all natural
• Use similar shapes e.g. curves, straight lines or circles
• Extend your interior style to the garden
• Choose furniture, plants and accessories that evoke a particular place or era.
• Use plants of shapes, colours and textures to the rest of your garden elements
3. How to Choose a Style Unique To You
You most likely want your garden to be unique to you, even if it contains the same patio, lawn, shed and flower bed components as the other gardens in your street. The simplest way to introduce some unique style is by adding some accessories such as cushions, pots or maybe some wall art.
With a bit more effort you can change the shape of your lawn and your flower beds. Hard landscaping is the most expensive to change, but it sets the tone for the rest of the garden and is a worthwhile longer-term investment.
If you are a real budding creative then of course let your talents loose on your garden design journey. Regardless, trust your instincts and be authentic. Just because your neighbour's garden look's great with tiles from their Moroccan holiday doesn't mean you can't extend the wooden floors and all-green houseplant style you have inside your home into your garden space.
4. Adapt a Familiar Style
It can be easier to start with a familiar garden style to help you formulate your ideas. If you like the idea cottage garden with curvy, meandering paths and soft billowing flowers everywhere then natural or reclaimed materials for paths will work much better than large format concrete slabs. If you don't have time to maintain borders full of different flowers though, then you can still create the cottagey feel by repeating softer plants with looser textures between lower-maintenance shrubs or evergreens.
If you prefer modern minimalism inside and out, then be ruthless in limiting yourself to one or two flooring materials. Use grey or dark paving and decking and embrace modern materials such as concrete, metal and composite planters. However, to soften this style without going too flouncy, look to Scandinavian garden style for inspiration. Softer grey fences mixed with natural wood decks, pergolas and furniture, with green and white plants in wicker baskets can be a restrained style to use if you would like a relaxed modern feel that works well in town gardens.
4. Create a Mood Board
One of the best tools to help you find and focus on your garden style is to create a mood board. This is the fun part. You can find inspiration by typing keywords and hashtags into Pinterest or Instagram. You can collect images from magazines. You will soon start to find words and common themes that define the style(s) you like.
Then you need to do a little work to refine these down into one simpler mood board with the key elements you would like to use in your own garden.
This is essentially when you set the style boundaries we covered in section 2 above. By seeing examples of the colours, shapes and materials you will use together as one collage, you will have a much clearer idea of whether or not your style will work before you spend any time or money in the garden.
5. Add Style To Your Existing Garden
I get that you probably don't have the luxury of designing your garden from scratch, but that doesn't mean you can't edit what you have to give it some style.
Start with a clear-out. What can you remove that jars most with the garden or that you never use? Then think about what you can modify. Can you paint the shed and fence in a colour that fits a style you like? Could you change the dated crazy paving in your patio with more modern paving?
Finally, consider what you can add to incorporate existing features into a new style. Let's be realistic, the main feature in your garden right now might be a bright blue trampoline. So use that to define your style! Find some bright blue planters to coordinate with it, add some blue candle holders to your table or paint your furniture bright ocean blue. Add some blue flowers for each season such as Muscari bulbs for Spring, Sea Holly (Eryngium) and cornflowers in summer followed by blue Hydrangeas and Asters. For modern minimalism, use blue-tinged grasses such as Festuca 'Elijah Blue' or Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens). Don't overdo it though, use other blue elements sparingly and spread them around the garden to make sure the end result is balanced.
5. Be Practical: Future-Proof Your Garden Style
There is always a danger when jazzing up your garden to fill it with this year’s trends from major stores. This is an expensive way to style your garden, since after a couple of years your style will start to feel dated. Trying to style your Welsh Coastal garden on your holiday in Provence is also likely to be hard to pull off well so think ahead before pulling out your wallet.
Since garden materials need to withstand weather and some touch wear-and-tear, they are costly. It is much better to see them as an investment in the fabric of your home and choose wisely so that components stand the test of time.
It makes sense to use the best quality materials that you can afford, even if this means creating your garden over a longer period of time. Be creative: recycle materials from local websites and get help from friends and family in exchange for a BBQ and beer. Most of all, have fun choosing your own garden style!