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5 top plants for contemporary gardens

Contemporary gardens tend to be minimalist, and therefore don’t necessarily require a large number of plants. Instead modern gardens tend to rely heavily on strong shapes and textures for effect. Although contemporary garden design can look stunning with period properties, the design primarily is better suited to ‘unfussy’ modern houses, apartments and roof gardens.  

What plants work best in contemporary garden design?

When selecting plants for a modern garden, it always best to keep things simple, and follow these 3 basic garden rules:

  • The first rule to remember is that modern gardens should have a simplified plant palette; that is a palette that mainly sticks to shades and hues of green, although occasional colourful planters are useful for adding variety and accent.
  • The second rule to follow is that plants look best planted in straight lines. Although this may sound rather regimented; it does add to the sense of order within the garden.
  • The third rule is that plants should be grouped in odd numbers, preferably threes or fives. If you want to do a mass planting of one type of plant try planting them in a grid pattern.

Ladybrook Nursery’s 5 top plants for a contemporary garden

Black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra)

The Phyllostachys nigra is a striking bamboo with a tall, dramatic and upright shape. As it matures its finger-thick canes become glossy jet black, and show up well against the frieze of airy evergreen foliage. Plants look good growing with shrubs, particularly evergreens in a large border or foliage garden, but can also be grown as a single clump in a lawn. Bamboos look particularly good with water where they make striking reflections, although they do not like wet or waterlogged soil. The Royal Horticultural Society has given the Phyllostachys nigra its Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Lily turf (Ophiopogon  ‘Nigrescens’)

Also known variously as ‘Black Dragon’, ‘Ebony Knight’, or ‘Arabicus’,  Ophiopogon ‘Nigrescens’ is an extraordinary looking plant with purple-green leaves that turn jet black when grown in full sun and very well-drained soil. As it is a dwarf plant, it is easily lost in a border. So it will look best grown on a rock garden or raised bed. Left undisturbed it slowly forms larger colonies and looks good inter-planted with small wandering perennials, like Geranium farreri with its contrasting, lacy foliage and fragile pink flowers. It also makes a good foil for dwarf rock garden bulbs in spring. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Blue fescue (festuca glauca)

The truest blue of the dwarf grasses and a totally drought-proof plant. Once established, this is the perfect plant for a rock garden. The stiff thread-like blue foliage and steel blue flower-heads form dense upright tussocks, which look good grown for foliage interest amongst a wide variety of rock plants. They are also good grown in containers, and look stunning in terracotta pots. Alternatively grow several plants 20cm (8in) or more apart as ground cover in front of shrubs in a well-drained border. Plants develop their most intense coloration when kept dry in summer.

Mountain flax (Phormium cookianum sunsp. Hookeri ‘Cream Delight’)

Phormiums are New Zealand evergreen plants, and can add a striking element in any hot border scheme. They form bold clumps of long, gorgeously coloured, sword-shaped leaves, with tall, open flower-spikes on mature plants. P. cookianum is one of two common species, the source of many fine varieties such as ‘Cream Delight’, the leaves of which are marked with a broad central cream band, and narrower cream stripes towards the edges. Protect from frost and drought until established. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Wormwood (Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’)

An invaluable foliage plant, ‘Powis Castle’ is unique in carrying multi-branched stems of silver filigree foliage, which act as a superb foil to medium-sized flowering perennials such as pinks or scabious. Outstanding with pastel colours, the dense silver colour is held through the summer but is perhaps at its very best in mid-summer, just right for the bulk of the season’s flowers. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

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