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Living, Homes, Exteriors

Contemporary Garden Make-Overs for a Bank Holiday Weekend


When it comes to creating a contemporary garden, forget about flowing, sweeping borders and well stocked highly colourful flower beds. Instead, work on the principle of ‘less is more’ and use a ruler and set square when drawing your plan out on paper. Being creative with stylish colour schemes in shades of grey, dark blue or even black, hard landscaping, lighting and planting you create an outside room to be proud of whilst adding value to your property.

With summer to look forward to, now is the perfect time to get planning. Modern garden designs work well in small gardens and courtyards or in sections of a larger garden. There are key areas you need to consider as part of your planning. So, let’s look at your options:

Creating a patio area

If you are looking to create a new patio area work from the ground up and select an appropriate shape for the area, complimented with suitable materials. Remember, although light coloured paving can get dirty, it does throw light and creates space. Once you have selected your base materials, whether it is porcelain tiles in a range of styles including wood effect, limestone paving, decking or even gravel with paving slabs interspersed, you will have created a key element in your overall scheme. 

Be adventurous with angles

If you are working with a square shaped garden, consider cutting across the corners to create planting areas. You can even use a series of triangles projecting into the square to make interesting seating areas if you are working with a larger area. 

Go one step further and create raised beds and seats. These can be built using new railway sleepers or rendered walls using blockwork to create the walls before they are rendered and painted. You can even continue the tiles you may have used on your patio to cover the raised beds. Wooden bench seats can also be created across corners to give you additional seating when you have visitors.

Recycle where you can

If your paving is delivered on pallets, these can make a cheap source of wood; however, ensure they are not marked ‘MB’ as this means they have been chemically treated. If they are marked ‘HT’ it’s been heat treated which is fine. You can dismantle them, sand the wood and create garden seating, tables or planters. Alternatively, keep them as they are, turn them upright, fix some wood at the bottom of each section and make them into planters before giving them a coat of suitable paint. You will find numerous websites showing you how to be creative to add finishing touches on a budget.

Keep some green

Whilst small spaces do not necessarily need traditional lawns, the contrast between a paved patio area and a green lawn adds to the contemporary look. Lawns also provide safe places for children to play. Try to avoid opting for plastic Astro turf as its manufacture is not environmentally friendly; plastic lawns do not have a particularly long life and create a plastic barrier on top of compacted soil and sand, so no garden materials can reach the soil below. Natural materials from leaf litter and grass clippings which exist in tiny amounts on grass lawns, are essential for feeding worms and other microscopic creatures which keep the garden soil healthy.

Plan your vertical borders

If you plan to install a new fence as part of your garden makeover, stylish slatted fences offer a great alternative to traditional fence panels. If you are handy with a hammer and saw, you can be creative using roofing battens fixed onto traditional fence posts to create a similar effect. Remember to tie in the fence colour to enhance the ‘walls’ of your new garden room and show off the bordering plants.

In small garden areas, make the most of any wall space or fences to grow vertical climbers, install planters, hang garden mirrors or put up lights.

Use any colour but traditional brown on garden structures

You are creating a contemporary, stylish outdoor room. Please don’t spoil it by choosing old fashioned brown fence paint. Be creative – there are some wonderful colours to choose from when it comes to water based outdoor paints. If you really want a brown colour scheme, select one of the more contemporary brown shades. Fences painted a dark colour such as black, dark blue or purple will really show off any plants standing in front of them. Sheds and garden furniture can become features and help compliment your colour scheme.

This year’s high fashion colour is Very Peri which is Pantone Colour of 2022. Not only could you consider using this colour on doors and wooden garden furniture, but there are a number of plants that offer spectacular blooms with Very Peri’s blue and violet red undertones. These include Verbena Bonariensis (plant mid border), Clematis Multiblue to grow up fences or around a pergola, Lobellia syphilitica which loves damp soil, Nemesia ‘Denim Blue’ for summer bedding, Lavendula Hidcote, Alliums, Salvia and Nepeta.

Choose your plants carefully

When you come to selecting the plants for your contemporary garden, you need to consider the aspect and soil type your garden offers. Try and work with a restricted colour palette choosing up to five complementary colours. Also restrict the number of different plant varieties you plan to work with. With a limited selection, repeat plant in groups of one, three, five, seven or nine (ever even numbers unless you are putting pots either side of a door, gateway or arch).

When it comes to selecting the style of planting, if you have well-drained soil in full to partial sun, a selection of Mediterranean plants such as lavender, bay, olive trees, rosemary, thyme, and cistus x purpureus (rock rose) can add colour and fragrance to your planting areas. Many Mediterranean plants have silver foliage which works well when combined with a box balls or spirals and trees such as a white bark Himalayan silver birch.

Alternatively, opt for a denser planting scheme with more architectural plants such as palms, fatsia japonica (castor oil plant), upright grasses such as Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ or Miscanthus ‘Zebrinus’ which grow tall throughout the summer, produce flower heads in autumn and can be cut down to grown level in early February. There are several grasses which provide colour and require little care throughout the year.

If you need some privacy and want to introduce height to the garden, consider having pleached trees. They are expensive but do look highly effective. If you want to introduce a tree, try and find something that offers more than one season of interest, eg blossom, fruits and autumnal colour.

Create drama with outdoor lighting

Just as when you create an interior design scheme, lighting plays an equally important part in an outdoor room. With effective solar powered lights working so long as we have a reasonable amount of sunlight, you won’t always need an external electrical power supply to light your garden effectively. Place uplighters amongst your plants to create dramatic effects as the sky gets darker. String small lights along fences or pergolas to create a starlight effect.

Sit back and enjoy your garden space

When you have spent time and money creating your new garden space, make sure to reward yourself by spending time enjoying your garden room. Add finishing touches with comfortable garden furniture, swing seats and dining furniture. All will compliment your hard landscaping and planting. Above all, sit back and enjoy your garden space.


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