Contemporary gardens have that minimalist feel of sleek perfection. And somehow sleek perfection doesn’t seem to fit well with the tropics where plants, all plants, have that tendency to become lush, gorgeous and over-blown.
Some of the most gorgeous gardens I’ve seen in the past few months have been both tropical and modern. Not a Bali Hut in sight and nothing to suggest the outdoor living space is being taken over by triffid-like plants which make the living part of outdoor living difficult. These tropical gardens are lush but essentially uncluttered. Organization is the foundation of their design.
Here are some of the gardens I’ve come across, each with a tip on how to achieve the look.
Tip One – These Rules are made to be Broken
All rules are made to be broken in my view.
Tip Two- Design space so each activity (or set of activities) has its place
Open plan living has been a part of contemporary home design for a while now. And in interiors, we’ve learned that creating clear spaces for separate activities is key to making this look work.
Keeping things separate applies to outdoor areas too but in small outdoor spaces there is a difference. Whilst, indoors, activities such as living, kitchen etc are kept separate, outdoors, especially in small areas, you also need to keep planting separate from the area you will use to live in. This reduces the feeling of clutter which would otherwise encroach.
The gardens in the Singapore Garden Festival earlier this year clearly show this technique.
Probably my favorite, which is why images are scattered all over this website, is the Modernist Garden by Joe Palermeno from the USA.
The deck and pool are for people. Structures, furniture and art pieces all combine to encourage rest, relaxation and luxury. These areas are minimalist, clean-cut, uncluttered and structured.
But they sit in an oasis of tropical planting which is lush and inviting. This planting adds to the feeling of pampered heaven.
Tip Three – Don’t over-do the different kinds of plants you use
In spite of the lushness of planting, in every successful contemporary tropical garden I have seen, planting is significantly restrained. Restrained in the number of different plant types, restrained in where plants are placed and, in some cases, the number of plants used. Don’t worry, the area will still look lush and tropical if you choose the plants right and add lush accent points in strategic places. But restraint will give that uncluttered feeling.
Notice the blocks and lines of different texture and color in the tropical plants used. Altogether the different plant types are kept to a minimum.
Tip Four – Use lush and colorful accents in the planting
And this is where you need to think about plants as decor items rather than plants.
I love this garden by. Called the Path of Light, the contemporary use of blocks of planting give texture and calm color. The huge bowls of pink orchids add zing and a contemporary bohemian touch. But note, the orchids are kept to a minimum. Only five bowls are placed up the path. Each bowl is huge but only one kind of orchid is used and only one in your face color.
Tip Five – Keep statues and other garden decor items to a minimum
Contemporary gardens are minimalist. This applies to tropical gardens in this style too. So keep the decor items in style and don’t put in too many.
I can’t help but return to the Modernist Garden to illustrate this point. These huge statues, used as water features by the pool, are the only decor items in the garden. They make a statement, add to the lush, luxurious, tropical feel and no other decoration is needed. Keep it simple.