So Your Garden Style Is: Contemporary

Whether it’s an urban courtyard or a clifftop terrace, there are many different, interwoven design themes in modern gardens with sustainability often just as important as sculptural forms. Water, art, lighting and innovative materials are key components, as is an emphasis on using the garden as an outdoor living space, an extension to the home. Today’s contemporary gardeners also often opt for an edible component in their gardens, ideally based on organic principles.
Contemporary Garden at a Glance
You’ll love it if … the bold, clean lines of contemporary architectural design is your thing. You like planting that either complements or contrasts with the built elements of a garden.
Difficulty ranking: Relatively easy as most contemporary gardens are designed with low-maintenance in mind, incorporating plants that suit the location and therefore need little TLC.
Key plants: Architectural plants such as succulents, cycads and clipped hedging, as well as drought-tolerant and native species.
Room outside
Outdoor living is more than just a deck or terrace in the contemporary garden. Now, these spaces incorporate kitchens complete with fireplaces, benches, bars and fridges, as well as elegant dining and lounge areas as shown in this Perth garden.
Light up
Outdoor lighting is almost obligatory in 21st century gardens with some designers specialising in the art. This makes sense when you consider how little time garden owners of today have to spend outside during the evening after work. In this Melbourne garden, outdoor lighting is used to highlight key elements so they acquire an ethereal quality come night time.
Block party
A favourite device of contemporary landscape designers is to use large groups of one plant, as it allows their form and colour to be clearly displayed, and creates a more dramatic look. Mixing several different plants together has the opposite effect.
Going strong 
Bold architectural plants such as these succulents, bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia reginae), cycads (Cycadales) and grasses complement the strong lines of contemporary architecture. Some designers, however, use soft plants to contrast with the rectilinear lines of modern buildings.
Floor plan
In contemporary landscape design, the ‘floor’ of a garden is just as interesting as the other areas. In this Perth garden, narrow strips of dark paving diagonally dissect another area of light-coloured pavers, adding a dynamic, vibrant feel to the space.
Water worlds
Water is an essential element in the contemporary garden. From fountains and ponds to swimming pools and spas, water is used in exciting ways defined by strong forms and innovative materials.
Art show
Outdoor art is also increasingly popular in 21st century gardens, often used as a focal point to be viewed from exterior and/or interior living areas. In small spaces, such as this Sydney terrace, one piece of sculpture is all that is needed, while several artworks can be displayed in larger gardens.
Incredible edibles
The growing interest in organic food has led many homeowners today to incorporate edible plants in their gardens. These can be grown in a separate kitchen garden area or mixed with ornamentals, as shown in this Perth property.
Well furnished
In contemporary gardens, outdoor furniture is often treated as a sculptural element in its own right. This is partly due to the fact that there is often insufficient space for both art and furniture in smaller gardens, which are now the norm, as well as the increased availability of well designed outdoor furniture these days.