Garden Design

Gardening Modern Style

Do you consider yourself a modern gardener? Do you keep up with the latest trends in landscape architecture, garden furnishings and those hot, new plants on the market?

Or do you look to the 1950s to guide your design pursuits? Now that was the modern period! California designers Thomas Church and Garrett Eckbo were trendsetters in molding the landscape that exemplified the 1950s. “A garden should have no beginning and no end,” said Church. Abstract was in vogue. And it still is.

Eckbo, in his 1956 landscape guide, The Art of Home Landscaping, states simply that by reading his book you can, “plan, build and plant to achieve useful and beautiful outdoor spaces for living.” The back yard beckoned us to participate in all of the activities open to outdoor enjoyment. The post war landscape became less formal and less stagnant and more strongly asymmetric and functional. The walls separating indoors and out became more obscure.

But what is modern today? The Modern Garden Makers, an informative guide to modern design by Sally Court, is forwarded by John Brookes. Brookes describes the featured gardens with these words, “Underpinning them all is that sense of design, a feeling for mass and space, and a facility for the inner eye to project the plan into some future time.”

Have you heard that it takes seven years to build a garden? A challenge taken on by many enthusiasts yet for many gardeners that decree may be a bit daunting.

Landscape architecture is defined in many ways but is very simply “the conscious arrangement of outdoor spaces.” Gardeners talk of building outdoor rooms and creating spaces that give a sense of structure to their outdoor lives. Fences, rock walls, the side of the house, trees, shrubs, deck and grass all lend their being to defining the spaces that form our garden rooms. We imitate our home’s interior spaces outdoors with the creation of open-air living rooms, kitchens, dining rooms, and even bedrooms. We employ the use of more structure and hardscape in building our garden. More and more we use plants for organization and spatial building in addition to dressing up the garden.

This is the very best season of the year to plan and make changes to the landscape. Fall is a period of transition that rewards us for enduring a North Carolina summer. The weather is inviting and the landscape checklist beckons us to spend more time outside.

Celebrate fall and take some time to modernize your garden. Go to your garden center and buy one of those hot new plants. Create a natural doorway with a small tree and a few shrubs that opens into a garden room.  And be sure to keep your eye on the future. Seven years can go by quickly if your garden is a big part of your life’s enjoyment.

Hoyt Bangs, a Raleigh native and landscape designer is owner of WaterWise Garden Design. You may reach him at

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