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Defining a modern formal landscape design

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A formal modern style of landscape design is a classic style with a luxurious look and feel. It’s often referred to as ‘traditional sophistication’. Generally speaking, the term ‘formal modern’ evokes ideas of the regal English garden or the classy French or Italian renaissance design. The good thing is that formal modern can be versatile and the characteristics can be adapted.

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As a general rule, formal modern style landscaping is made up of symmetrical lines. It is created using geometrical shapes, planned out sections and divisions. It’s all about straight edges and long sight lines.



6 features of modern formal landscape design

With the basic principle in mind, here are six features of the contemporary formal design.


1. Plant size

In a formal modern garden, plant size and style is quite an important feature. In line with the geometric nature of the style, low boxwood hedges are a wonderful way to create symmetry and interest using plants. The hedges can either be used to create a pathway or as planting pockets. Just remember to make the garden symmetrical, so whatever you plant on one side of the section, mimic it on the other.

Another way to incorporate plants is to utilise them as a simple accent. Using a planter with simple greenery can really create a big impact.

Successful planting can make or break a garden, so there are some rules to planting, especially when it comes to the serenity and symmetry commanded by a modern formal garden. Plant big to small. Start with trees, followed by shrubs, perennials and then ground cover. It’s also a good idea to plant in masses – this is key with modern formal because it’s about repetition.

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2. Focal point

When creating a formal garden, start with a focal point and work your way out. Focal points can be anything from a fountain or a birdbath right through to a deck or even a view. In a modern formal garden, ornaments can be used as excellent focal points to frame the area. 

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The most well-received examples include a statue, urn, archway or large feature plant or tree. Another idea is a mirror which can be used as a lovely reflective surface to create a more dramatic symmetrical effect.

A nice idea is to place lighting on the focal point so even when the sun goes down, it’s the centrepiece of the garden.



3. Colour

When we think of modern formal gardens, colour doesn’t really come to mind. And this is key. Stick to neutral greens and touches of white for the soothing, relaxing atmosphere. If you are going to use colour, pair it back.



4. Scale and geometry

The first big rule of a modern formal garden is remembering the principles of geometry. Simple shapes such as squares, rectangles, circles and triangles all have a place in modern landscaping. Ensure that your garden pots, jars and troughs have the same or complementary simple shapes

Not only do they allow you to define specific areas in the garden, creating individual spaces, but they also provide a clean, modern aesthetic. Also, don’t forget the long sightlines and straight lines.

When it comes to scaling, the saying ‘go big or go home’ most definitely applies. When faced with a decision to make a pathway wider or narrower, longer or shorter, go wider and longer. Of course, use common sense here. If you have a tiny space, create elements that are suitable for the setting.

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5. Texture

As a general landscaping principle, the texture is added to a garden by using plants. And this is still the case in modern formal landscaping design. Using different plants throughout the area will also create a lovely textured effect. Just remember to keep it restrained and sophisticated. Don’t go too crazy on the number of different plants you choose.

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However, you can also add texture using materials such as stone, pavers or timber. Additionally, texture can be added using elements relating to the plants, such as bark and branches. This allows for variety and interest without going overboard with styling.  

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Artisan Exterior recommends using the following materials to create texture:

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6. Using natural stone to create shape

Remember, one of the key rules when it comes to modern formal is geometric shapes and symmetry. Both of these elements can be created using many materials, one of which is stone. Whether it’s a straight-lined stone path or circular stepping stones, both walkways can lead to a central focal point. 

Using stone creates a sense of order and tidiness, especially when used to create straight walkways or curved paths. Contrasted against the greenery, it’s a sophisticated, sleek and contemporary design.

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Create your Modern Formal landscape  

Defined by clean lines, a simple layout, symmetry and a luxurious look and feel, contemporary landscape design is actually quite simple to implement. The key is to keep the area uncluttered and serene by using a limited palette of materials in a clever way. And remember, sometimes gaps are a good thing. Let the big picture do the talking rather than trying to fit too much into the area.

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Get in touch with the experts at Artisan Exterior to find the best natural stone products to bring your modern formal landscape design to life. Our friendly team are on hand to assist you to find the perfect natural stone material that will suit your landscaping project.

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