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Modern Garden Design: Tips, Styles, and DIY Projects to Inspire

Orange house with big garden

Credit: Eugenia Clara

In recent years, modern garden design has gained popularity for its sleek and innovative approach to outdoor spaces. Find out more about it in our guide where you’ll be able to explore the world of modern garden design, while we offer you ideas, styles, tips, and advice to help you create a contemporary outdoor oasis that reflects your unique taste and lifestyle.

Are you looking for a modern garden design for your outdoor area? Consider booking a 30-minute video call with one of our Landscape Design Gurus for more insights on how to create a space that resonates with your personality.

What is Modern Garden Design?

Modern garden design is a style that emphasizes simplicity, clean lines, and functionality. It seeks to create outdoor spaces that blend seamlessly with contemporary architecture and urban living. Here are some key elements and ideas to consider when embarking on your modern garden design journey:

Minimalist Layout

  • A minimalist layout is the backbone of modern garden design. Begin with a clean slate by decluttering your garden space. Remove unnecessary items and keep only what serves a purpose or adds aesthetic value.

  • Create defined areas within your garden using geometric shapes and patterns. For instance, a rectangular lawn area can be surrounded by a border of square plant beds.

Minimalist-style garden with stone wall and lounge area

Credit: Nichols

Contemporary Materials

  • Choose materials that define the modern aesthetic. Concrete, steel, glass, and composite decking are excellent choices for achieving a sleek and modern look.

  • Consider using concrete pavers for your pathways, complemented by a sleek wooden deck or a minimalist concrete patio. These materials are not only visually appealing but also durable and low-maintenance, ensuring your garden remains stylish year-round.

Innovative Lighting

  • Innovative lighting can transform your garden after dark, adding drama and ambience. LED strip lights can be installed along pathways or under steps, creating a stunning visual effect.

  • Uplighting trees and architectural elements like sculptures or water features can create a captivating atmosphere. Integrated solar-powered fixtures offer eco-friendly and cost-effective options for lighting your garden.

Sustainable Landscaping

  • Sustainability is a core element of modern garden design. Choose plants and landscaping practices that reduce water consumption and environmental impact.

  • Embrace native plant species that thrive in your region, reducing the need for excessive watering and maintenance. Drought-tolerant plants like succulents and ornamental grasses are also great additions.

Sustainable garden with plant and small pagoda


Modern Garden Design Styles

While modern garden design shares common characteristics, there are various styles within this category to suit different preferences:

Contemporary Urban Garden

  • Contemporary urban gardens maximize limited space with vertical gardens, rooftop greenery, and potted plants. These gardens are perfect for city dwellers.

  • To create a contemporary urban garden, consider installing raised planters along the perimeter of your balcony or rooftop. Use sleek, modular furniture and potted plants to create a comfortable and stylish outdoor space.

Zen-Inspired Modern Garden

  • Zen-inspired modern gardens emphasize tranquillity and balance, incorporating elements from Japanese Zen gardens.

  • Features may include raked gravel, minimalist water features, carefully placed stones, and Zen-inspired sculptures. These elements create a serene atmosphere, perfect for meditation or relaxation.

Japanese-style garden with bridge


Tropical Modern Garden

  • Tropical modern gardens blend lush greenery with contemporary design elements, creating a resort-like atmosphere in your backyard.

  • Consider adding palm trees, bold foliage plants, and modern outdoor furniture to evoke the feeling of a tropical paradise. A minimalist pool with clean lines can be a centrepiece of your tropical retreat.

Desert Modern Garden

  • Desert modern gardens embrace the beauty of arid landscapes. They often feature cacti, succulents, and rocks, complemented by minimalist design and subdued colour palettes.

  • To create a desert modern garden, use succulent plants in various shapes and sizes. Incorporate decorative rocks and gravel to mimic desert terrain. Minimalist sculptures and seating arrangements complete the look.

Desert-style garden with cacti

Tips and Advice for Your Modern Garden Design

Creating a modern garden requires thoughtful planning and execution. Here are some tips and advice to ensure your project is a success:

Start with a Clear Vision

  • Define your goals and vision for your modern garden. What do you want to achieve with the space? Is it a place for relaxation, entertainment, or both?

  • Consider creating a mood board with images and ideas that inspire you. This will help you refine your vision and convey it to your designer or contractor.

Select the Right Plants

  • Choose plants that not only fit the modern aesthetic but also thrive in your local climate. Research native and drought-tolerant plant species that require minimal water and maintenance.

  • Incorporate a variety of plants with different heights, textures, and colours to add visual interest to your garden. Consider ornamental grasses, agaves, and architectural plants for a modern look.

Define Zones

  • Divide your garden into functional zones, such as seating areas, dining spaces, and green spaces. Use hardscaping elements like pergolas, patios, and pathways to delineate these zones.

  • Create an outdoor kitchen or barbecue area if you enjoy outdoor cooking and entertaining. A designated play area or a fire pit with comfortable seating can be perfect for family gatherings.

Embrace Technology

  • Modern garden design can benefit from smart technology, including automated irrigation systems and outdoor speakers. These additions enhance convenience and entertainment value.

  • Install Wi-Fi-enabled outdoor speakers to enjoy music or podcasts while relaxing in your garden. A smart irrigation system with weather sensors ensures efficient watering practices.

Incorporate Water Features

  • Water features like fountains, ponds, or reflecting pools can add a calming and elegant touch to your garden. The sound of flowing water creates a soothing soundscape for relaxation.

  • Modern water features often have minimalist designs, with simple shapes and smooth surfaces. Consider a sleek, rectangular water feature with integrated lighting for a contemporary look.

Seek Professional Help

  • Professionals can also assist with soil analysis, drainage solutions, and ensuring that your garden complies with local regulations and building codes.

Wooden chairs and table in the middle of the garden

Credit: Robert Katzki

Maintenance and Care for Your Modern Garden

Maintaining a modern garden is relatively straightforward, thanks to its clean lines and minimalist design. Here are some maintenance tips to keep your garden looking its best:

Regular Pruning and Trimming

  • Keep your plants well-maintained by pruning and trimming as needed. Remove dead or diseased branches and shape your plants to maintain a neat appearance.

  • Prune deciduous trees and shrubs during the dormant season, typically in late winter or early spring.


  • Apply mulch around your plant beds to help retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and reduce weed growth. Mulching also gives your garden a polished appearance.

  • Use organic mulch like wood chips or compost for a natural look. Ensure that the mulch layer is not too thick, as this can suffocate plant roots.

Pest and Disease Management

  • Monitor your garden regularly for signs of pests or diseases. Early detection allows for prompt treatment and prevents issues from spreading.

  • Consider using integrated pest management (IPM) techniques, such as introducing beneficial insects or using organic pesticides sparingly.


  • Maintain your irrigation system to ensure that plants receive adequate water. Adjust watering schedules based on seasonal changes and weather conditions.

  • Consider installing a smart irrigation controller that can be programmed and monitored remotely, saving water and ensuring efficient watering practices.

Clean Hardscaping and Features

  • Periodically clean and maintain hardscaping elements like pathways, patios, and outdoor furniture. Remove dirt, moss, or algae buildup to keep your garden looking fresh.

  • Clean water features and filters to ensure they function properly and prevent clogs.

Outdoor patio with split-level garden, table and chairs

Credit: Tile Merchant Ireland

DIY Projects for Modern Garden Enthusiasts

If you're a DIY enthusiast looking to enhance your modern garden, here are a few project ideas:

  • Vertical Garden Wall: Create a vertical garden using wall-mounted planters or a modular vertical garden system. This adds greenery to small spaces and provides an eye-catching focal point.

  • Modern Planter Boxes: Build custom planter boxes using sleek materials like cedar or composite decking. These planters can be tailored to fit your garden's design and are perfect for showcasing your favourite plants.

  • Solar-Powered Pathway Lighting: Install solar-powered pathway lights along garden walkways. These lights are eco-friendly and cost-effective, providing soft illumination for evening strolls.

Vertical garden wall

Garden Design with Sleepers and Gravel: Elevating Aesthetics and Functionality

Sleepers for Edging: Defining Boundaries with Elegance

Railway sleepers, commonly known as sleepers, offer a charming and rustic way to define boundaries and edges within your garden. They not only serve as practical delineators but also add character and a natural ambience to your outdoor space.

  • Design Variety: Explore different ways to use sleepers for edging. You can create raised borders for your garden beds, define the perimeter of your decking area, or even construct seating areas with built-in sleeper benches. The choice of sleeper placement and orientation allows for diverse design possibilities.

  • Materials and Sustainability: Consider the type of sleepers you want to use. While reclaimed or repurposed sleepers can add a weathered and aged charm, new sleepers offer a clean and uniform appearance. Mention the eco-friendliness of using reclaimed materials, aligning with sustainable garden design trends.

  • Low Maintenance: Highlight the minimal maintenance required for sleepers. A periodic treatment with wood preservatives can enhance their longevity and appearance, making them an enduring choice for garden edging.

Gravel Pathways: Guiding Through Texture and Style

They introduce an engaging texture, guide visitors through your garden with finesse, and can be customized to suit your garden's style.

  • Pathway Design: Discuss various gravel sizes and colours available, emphasizing the importance of choosing gravel that complements your garden's overall aesthetic. Mention the use of edging materials, like sleepers or decorative stones, to define and enhance the pathways.

  • Practicality and Drainage: Explain how gravel pathways are not only visually pleasing but also practical. They allow for proper water drainage, preventing puddles and runoff. This feature is essential for gardens with heavy rainfall.

  • Year-Round Appeal: Highlight the versatility of gravel pathways, which maintain their appeal throughout the seasons. In winter, they can be easily cleared of snow, while in summer, they provide a cool surface underfoot.


Raised Beds with Sleepers: Elevating Gardening and Structure

Raised garden beds constructed with sleepers are a fantastic addition to your garden design. They not only facilitate the cultivation of plants but also add depth and structure, effectively demarcating different garden areas.

  • Benefits of Raised Beds: Discuss the advantages of raised beds, such as improved soil quality, better drainage, and easier maintenance. Explain how they create a designated space for gardening activities.

  • Customisation: Encourage readers to customize the height and dimensions of their raised beds based on the plants they intend to grow. Raised beds can be designed to accommodate vegetables, flowers, or even herbs, allowing for a diverse garden.

  • Creative Arrangements: Share ideas for creative arrangements of raised beds, such as tiered designs or zigzag patterns, to add visual interest to your garden. Mention the use of sleepers to build seating areas within or adjacent to the raised beds.

Credit: Isaac Smith

Gravel Patio Areas: A Cost-Effective Alternative

Gravel can serve as a cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing alternative to traditional patio surfaces. Its ease of installation and compatibility with other materials make it a versatile choice.

  • Materials Combination: Explain how gravel can be combined with materials like pavers or flagstones to create unique and visually appealing patio areas. Mention the use of sleeper borders to define and enhance the patio's design.

  • Durability and Accessibility: Highlight the durability of gravel patios when properly installed and compacted. Discuss the importance of proper foundation preparation to ensure a stable and accessible surface for outdoor furniture and activities.

  • Maintenance: Mention that regular raking and occasional replenishment may be required to maintain the appearance of gravel patios, making it a low-maintenance choice for outdoor living spaces.

Credit: Camille Brodard

Our Final Thoughts

Modern garden design is a captivating blend of innovation, aesthetics, and functionality. Whether you're looking to create a tranquil retreat, an entertainment hub, or a harmonious urban oasis, modern garden design offers endless possibilities. By adhering to the principles of minimalism, contemporary materials, and sustainable practices, you can transform your outdoor space into a modern masterpiece that suits your lifestyle and reflects your personal style. 

So, roll up your sleeves, embrace the modern garden trend, and embark on a journey to redefine your outdoor living experience. Your modern garden awaits! With careful planning, attention to detail, and a touch of creativity, your garden will become a testament to the power of thoughtful design and careful maintenance. Enjoy the beauty and functionality of your modern outdoor oasis year-round.

Want to know more about modern garden designs? Book one of our Landscape Design Gurus for a 30-minute video call. Transforming your home into a space you love shouldn't be a daunting task. With HiiGuru you can save time, avoid costly mistakes and bring your goals to life with experts by your side.

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