Beds and borders

How you organise and plan your beds is very important in the contemporary garden. Because you’re using less plants you really have to pick and choose where you’re putting them carefully to achieve the look you’re after. And, of course, you want them to be happy in their final homes, so once you’ve got an idea of the sort of plants you want, take a look around your garden to see where conditions will suit them best. Raised beds are great because you can control the conditions in them much more easily. They also help bring plants more into the garden space, making them more of a focal point. Borders tend to run in straight lines, geometric shapes or statement curves and keep to crisp lines and defined areas.

It might seem like the plants are taking a back seat in the garden but in fact they are key to achieving the look. Because using fewer of them and they’re not competing with tons of other varieties, they have real standout.

Key plants can be picked out to really show off their structure and form, and big blocks of the same plants can have a huge impact on the overall look. Now by featuring fewer plants, the need to choose them extra carefully is important to the effect gained. All gardens are all about bold, but simple planting with more uniform, architectural plants and grasses picked for their shape and texture.

Colour schemes tend to be either limited to a single colour that runs throughout the garden or pops of striking colour designed to add impact in key areas. Silver or dark purple foliage looks pretty striking and makes the whole garden look more dramatic. If you can be without your blooms, try planting flowers in a single colour – white looks crisp and elegant, purples and pinks give a softer feel.


Containers can be used to mirror the uniformity, shape and structure of any garden. Sets of the same pots, repeated throughout the garden in neat rows or simple clusters. A few large containers used sparingly will fit the style far better than a jumble of shapes and sizes that might make things feel cluttered.

Galvanised or powder-coated metal containers look clean and modern. Weathering steel containers (designed to develop a layer of rust on the surface that protects the metal underneath) look particularly striking.

Wall-mounted containers arranged in a grid, or asymmetric pattern enable you to soften architectural features with planting. Or if you want to make a real statement with plants, how about a living green wall filled with plants.

There are a couple of ways you can plan your pots. You can either think about what you’d like to grow in them first, and then select the right size, shape and position for them in your garden. Or you can do it the opposite way round and decide where you want the pots to go before finding plants that will love those conditions.