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How to design your contemporary garden

Design your contemporary garden

Create contrast and textures with surfaces like wooden decking, slate paving or coloured gravel for maximum effect.

The key to a contemporary garden is simple planting with interesting flowers and foliage. Bamboos and grasses are ideal, they sway and rustle in the breeze and stay looking good all year round.

Tools and materials

Compost and fertiliser

Quantity: Optional


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Soil improvers

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Weed control

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Top soil

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Water features & ornaments

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Deck kits and packs

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Outdoor lights

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Useful videos

Related How to guides

Buying guides



Paving calculator.
Use this handy calculator to work out how many paving tiles you require.

Don't forget the project completers...

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The Contemporary Garden

Contemporary garden

Click on the image above to enlarge.

H = Height | S = Spread

1. Chilean Bromeliad Fascicularia bicolor
Evergreen perennial bromeliad which forms rosettes of spiny foliage. Tubular pale blue flowers in summer surrounded by red bracts within each rosette. Requires full sun, well drained soil and shelter from cold winds. H45cm. S60cm. Frost tender.

2. Giant Yucca Yucca elephantipes
Large upright shrub or small tree. Architectural plant suited to sheltered border or containers. Evergreen, with stiff, leathery, narrow leaves. Panicles of creamy white flowers in summer and autumn. Plant in full sun and light soil. H10m. S5-8m. Tender.

3. Dwarf Fan Palm Chamaerops humilis
The dwarf fan palm is a slow growing evergreen. Exotic fan shaped leaves, 60-90cms across, make it a striking accent plant for borders or containers. Has small yellow fl owers from May to August. Plant in full sun and well drained soil in a warm, sheltered position. Tender.

4. Australian Tree Fern Dicksonia antarctica
Often used as a feature plant to invoke a tropical mood. Evergreen with a crown of long arching palm-like fronds. Prefers dappled to deep shade and well drained moist soil. H10m. S4m. Protect the crown from frost.

5. Bamboo Fargesia murieliae 'jumbo'
Evergreen, clump forming bamboo with beautiful arching canes and light green foliage. Specimen plant, hedging or containers. Upright habit H2.5-3.5m. Plant in sun or shade. Prefers moist not waterlogged soil.

6. Black Bamboo Phyllostachys nigra
Evergreen, clump forming black bamboo. Dramatic thick canes turn a glossy black in second season. Specimen plant which looks good against a backdrop of evergreen foliage or grown in containers. H6-8m. Plant in full sun or partial shade in well drained moist soil. Hardy.

7. Lily of the Nile Agapanthus umbellatus
A perennial with striking, bright blue, bell shaped flowers from July to September. Requires full sun and well drained, moist soil. H120cm. S60cm. Protect from frost in winter or grow in containers.

8. Purple Torbay Palm Cordyline australis 'Red Star'
Evergreen slow growing shrub with decorative sword shaped leaves. Suitable for a sheltered spot in the garden or patio container. Requires sunny position and well drained soil. Protect from frost in winter.

9. Chusan Palm Trachycarpus fortunei
A slow growing palm tree which adds a tropical feel to the garden. Fragrant yellow flowers in early summer. Grows well in southern seaside gardens, but elsewhere needs protection from cold winds and frost. Ideal patio plant. Eventual H10-12m.

10. Japanese Maple Acer palmatum atropupureum
The Japanese maple is a deciduous small tree or shrub for garden or patio. Leaves turn bright, vivid red in Autumn. Plant in sun or partial shade and shelter from cold winds. Requires neutral to slightly acid soil. H6m. S6m. Frost hardy.

11. Clematis Clematis armandii
Vigorous, evergreen climber. Single, glossy white, almond scented flowers borne from March to April. Ideal for planting near paths and doorways. Needs sheltered south or south west facing site, in full sun or partial shade. H3-5m. S2-3m. Hardy.

12. Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
Bushy, evergreen, decorative, culinary and medicinal herb. Highly aromatic narrow leaves and purple/blue flowers from mid-spring to summer. Attractive to bees and butterflies. Suitable for sunny beds, borders, and pots. H150cm. S150cm. Full sun and well drained soil. Hardy.

13. New Zealand Flax Phormium tenax (in variety)
Evergreen, architectural plant with arching sword-shaped leaves often in gorgeous colours. Mature plants produce tall spikes of tubular flowers in summer. Prefers full sun and fertile well drained soil. Hardy.

14. Southern Magnolia Magnolia grandiflora
Massive, evergreen, round headed shrub. Leathery, oblong, dark green leaves with rust/red hairs on underside. Very fragrant, showy white flowers from mid summer to early autumn. H10m. S10m. Requires sun or semishade and fertile well drained soil. Frost hardy, but shelter from strong winds.

15. American Wisteria Wisteria frutescens
'Amethyst Falls'

Woody-stemmed, deciduous climber suitable for growing against walls, pergolas and trees. Racemes of fragrant, pea-like, lavender/purple flowers are borne on bare stems in late spring to early summer. Prefers full sun and fertile well drained soil in a sheltered position. H3m. Hardy.

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Water features

There's nothing quite like moving water to create a beautiful feature and a relaxing feel in the garden. We have a range of contemporary water features to create the look you want.

Water features

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Outdoor lighting

Outdoor lighting gives valuable extra security and at the same time creates a truly magical night-time atmosphere. Use it to create a warm welcome for visitors and extend outdoor living long after sunset. Think about solar powered lights for ambient lighting in your contemporary garden. Powered by the sun and with no wiring required, they are energy efficient and easy to install.

Outdoor lighting

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Soil improvers - what do they do?

Good soil structure is vital for healthy root growth. Without good structure, a weak root network will develop, which may lead to poor drought tolerance, nutrient defi ciencies and unhealthy plants.

Farmyard manure
Manure not only fertilises the soil, it conditions it too. It's the ideal choice for roses and other heavy feeders as well as fruit and vegetable gardens. Fork some manure into open beds in the spring, three weeks or more before planting, or use it for top dressing around existing plants.

Organic soil conditioner
A long lasting alternative to farmyard manure, this is the ideal product for those that want a soil improver that's free from animal material. Produced from composted bark and green waste, it has a rich, dark appearance and can also be used as a surface mulch. When mixed with soil it conditions it to allow stronger root growth.

Top soil
You will need a good quality top soil if you want to create new beds and borders, replace old depleted soil or need extra soil for turfi ng. Ideally, top soil should be 30cm deep for a bed or 15cm deep for a lawn. Our top soil has been screened to remove weeds and debris and sterilised to kill any bacteria.

Weed control
The last stage after planting is mulching – this extra step will keep weeds at bay, give roots some extra thermal insulation and help keep moisture in the soil. For shrub beds and other permanent planting areas, consider laying a permeable weed-control fabric, planting through it and then spreading a mulch (or bark) on top.

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