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10 California Landsape Ideas for Contemporary Gardens

Thursday August 18, 2011

"Sometimes the best way to find inspiration for starting (or for some…finishing) landscape projects is to attend nearby garden tours, peruse landscape photo sharing websites, or flip through landscaping photos in magazines."


By doing so, you open yourself up to California landscape ideas and design concepts that may be foreign to you but have an undeniable appeal.  And more often that not, you’ll see many things you like but you may have a hard time pinpointing what it is about a specific garden that makes it “work”.  So, as a bit of a landscape design guide, we have provided 10 compelling images from recent garden tours and explain what design lessons can be learned from each.

1.  Embrace Color

A successful garden is an amalgamation of form, texture, and color.  The plants, hardscape, and other landscape elements you select must work as a cohesive unit to bring tangible meaning to a space.  Many mistakes are made when color is not fully embraced but rather tinkered with.  So make your statement loud and clear.  Simplify your color palette and use with gusto for maximum effect.  For a great color landscape design tool, visit Adobe’s kuler website.

colorful wall agave


2.  Take the Indoors Out

You live in California!  Do you know how many people throughout the country, if not the world, would love to be in your shoes?  Take maximum advantage of our fine mediterranean climate and extend your living space outdoors.  Treat outdoor rooms just as you would indoor rooms:  consider the floor material, wall color, furniture, and accent pieces.  The attraction of outdoor living is the pure pleasure of being surrounded by life, movement, and all of the sensory sensations a garden offers.

modern outdoor living room


3.  Think Vertically and Horizontally

The form of a line can be used in the landscape in a multitude of ways.  Lines, when oriented and applied properly, can lengthen or heighten the feel of a space (amongst many other things).  Whether lines are integrated into the ground plane, plant structure, or wall plane, use the line to your advantage.

horizontal wood fence


4.  Think Massive

The power of mass plantings is undeniable in both large and small applications.  Not only is there a wow-factor that is obvious, mass plantings generally require far less maintenance than diverse plant groupings.  Fight the urge to experiment with a multitude of plants.  Choose a few and stick to them for maximum effect.

fountain grass mass planting


5.  Don’t be so harsh

Often times contemporary architecture can be cold and abrupt as vertical planes meet horizontal planes without any transition.  This effect can be striking in some applications, but more often than not, it falls far short of the designers intended vision.  Utilize the vast array of plant textures and forms to soften these transitions.  The addition of plant material to these harsh, geometric locations instantly adds warmth and life.

rusted steel fence


6.  Re-purpose with Purpose

So many items in our daily lives are perfect candidates for integration into our gardens.  If you think out of the box when looking at these items, you’ll find there are multitudes of opportunities to create clever statements, save money, and have a little fun.

wine bottle and cork landscape uses


7.  Have fun with geometry

You likely didn’t understand why one needed geometry while studying in high school, but you may find a use for it now in your garden.  Bold, geometric shapes and patterns often define contemporary gardens. Many plants are naturally geometric or can be easily be pruned to basic shapes.  (Note:  This does not imply that topiary is  appropriate for your contemporary landscape)

rosemary hedge and steel sphere


8:  Grow it on the wall

Huge advancements in the past 5 years have made growing vertical gardens an economical option for most gardeners.  Wall gardens can screen unsightly views or act as focal points on an otherwise uninteresting wall.  You no longer have to painstakingly train and nurture espaliered plants to cover your walls; simply plant it and hang it. 

succulent wall planter


9. Terra cotta and glazed ceramics no more

Container plantings are the finishing touches in any garden.  They provide ideal growing conditions for finicky plants, draw attention to unique plant characteristics, and can add exclamations to the design intent.  The vast majority of pots used for this purpose are those seen at your local big box garden store and are actually fairly pricey.  But there are countless ways you can utilize different materials that act as a suitable container, create a little surprise or mystery, and hopefully save you some cash.

metal drain pipe planter


10.  Think Beyond Garden Gnomes

Why is it that when someone says “garden sculpture” we think gnomes, Greco-Roman statues, and lawn flamingos?  Attempt to shed this stigma and have some real fun with garden sculpture in the garden.  A well-placed piece may add just the right bit of energy needed to complete the space.

California Landsape Ideas - darth vadar garden art


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