Notes from the Garden: Landscape with a Modern Approach

Modern landscape with hedge by Unlimited Earth Care
Modern landscape with hedge, Photo: Unlimited Earth Care

The design of a garden that will best suit you depends on your personal sense of style and the kind of look that appeals to you. Designing a modern garden is about applying your own philosophy with new materials to create a special outdoor space. Keep high design in mind while using low-maintenance plants and products.

In modern gardens, the idea of a lush lawn can be substituted for a well-designed meadow with a life of its own. The meadow can include ornamental grasses of different varieties. Ornamental grasses offer an amazing textural addition to the landscape. Flowing and spontaneous grasses require very little maintenance; other than annual feeding, the grasses only require watering during dry spells and cutting back once a year in early spring. You can choose from hundreds of exciting types of grasses of different sizes, colors and textures to suit a modern garden design. Fountain grass has purple plumes that fade to brown and will last into the winter. Switch grass is a native grass that has long green leaves and light yellow plumes in the summer. When selecting grasses, make sure to select those adapted to your environmental conditions. In general, grasses prefer full sun and well-drained soil.

Borders, meadows and beds look their best in modern landscapes when native perennials are included. Native plants will thrive far better than non-native species because they are more naturally suited to the growing conditions and will never look out of place. Some large trees such as Flowering Dogwood or American Hornbeam can be combined with native shrubs such as Arrowwood Viburnum or Inkberry and with native flowers such as Lupine, Black-eyed Susan or Baptisia. The coloring of the flowers and foliage should harmonize with one another. It is important to add plants with a variety of characteristics including, but not limited to flower shape, plant height, texture and bloom size.

Choosing the right accents for the garden complements the modern flow of the landscaping. Illuminating the garden after dark can work to great effect – lighting conveys a sexy mood and expands the use of outdoor entertainment areas. Illumination in modern garden design can include outdoor chandeliers or fixtures that look the same as indoor ones, lanterns made of recycled plastic and strings of lights. Form easily meets function with the right containers. Displays of grouped planters made of materials such as fiberglass, cast iron or cement can accentuate outdoor spaces while always allowing the plants to be the focal point. Heighten the enjoyment of garden views and vistas by strategically placing comfortable seating. New outdoor furniture can be mixed with vintage or mid-century styles to breathe new life into the classic. Nestled in the center of a flowering bed, a garden sculpture delights the eye. The architectural artifact gives the plants a focal point.

The success of each garden design will be directly related to the correct selection of plant materials, and placement of beds, borders, meadows, hardscaping and selection of garden accessories. By combining all of these factors together in harmony, the landscape will naturally look right.

Landscape designer, writer and lecturer Frederico Azevedo is the founder of Unlimited Earth Care, Inc., providing high quality landscape design and maintenance to the Hamptons for over 24 years. For more information, call 631-725-7551, or visit

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