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If all you do while watching AMC's Mad Men is lust after their homes, furniture and clothing then a modern landscape is for you. Modern garden design has its roots in the 1950s and '60s, a time that was all about bold geometry and linear designs.
Modern landscaping is known for its streamlined aesthetic and sleek sophisticated style. Overall the garden will feel controlled and organized. Typically, the focus is heavier on hardscape and structures than it is on plants. Modern plants are usually green and selected for shape and texture. Pops of color are then added with furniture cushions, planters or a painted wall.
Popular materials used in modern landscaping include concrete, metal and wood. Many designers opt for leaving concrete surfaces their natural grey, however it can be stained a variety of colors. Metal, especially weathered corten steel, is a common accent in modern gardens. It can be used as planters, as a privacy screen or even as small retaining walls. Wood decking is also common in modern yards. The wood of choice is usually Ipe, a Brazilian hardwood with a rich color.
One of the main goals of modern design is to create contrast. For example a large massing of ornamental grasses pops out against a grey concrete wall, orange cushions draw your eye when placed on otherwise simple patio furniture and a fire pit filled with colored glass demands attention when set amongst a bed of bluestone. It is important to be selective when creating contrast, too much can be overwhelming and make the space seem disjointed. Pick two or three spots in your yard and focus on one contrasting element for each.
A trademark of modern landscapes is a paved area planted with a grid of greenery. This can be paving stones with grass growing where the grout would traditionally be, or concrete poured in sections that allows thyme to grow in between. However, grid patterns are not the only way to achieve a modern look. Landscape designer and author Maureen Gilmer suggests using plants that are architectural and have interesting textures as well as using containers.
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