Modern gardens are a reflection of their owner’s personality. It can seem like a lot of landscape design ideas you find these days are incredibly expensive and prohibitive to a small budget.

However, there are really a large number of landscaping backyard ideas on a budget for you to use as you create a contemporary garden.

A truly creative modernist garden design does not need to cost you millions of dollars. You can easily create a beautiful back or front yard using easily sourced materials and plants.

All of this is not only inexpensive, but also more environmentally sensitive. You can reuse materials in a lot of low maintenance landscape design plans that can produce a lovely and contemporary landscape.

Think about the area you already and have and what your plans for it are. What is its size? Do you do a lot of activities there?

Are you looking to create curb appeal with some modern design? Deciding what you want from the space and what you want or need it to do will guide your landscape design plans.

It can still be hard to start figuring out to start, even when you’ve figured out what kind of space you need your yard to be.

There’s just so many things to consider with contemporary hardens that it can seem overwhelming.

Below, we have a few cheap landscaping ideas that can help turn your yard into a polished and appealing space for all your needs.


Online Tools

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One of the best things about the internet, at least as far as landscaping ideas go, is the rich number of inspirational guides, ideas, and tools out there to help you with your front yard and backyard landscaping. It is amazing how these online tools can help save you time and money.

A quick web search can yield up really helpful landscape design pictures to get you started. Take the time to find the right inspiration.

A good plan is vital in making modern landscaping ideas to become reality. Without it, you’ll quickly find yourself drowning in all the small projects and considerations involved in modern landscaping architecture.

You’ll probably give up on your garden redesign before you get everything together. Online tools can help minimize the likelihood of this.

You can sort out what your end result will look like, sort it into smaller projects, then figure out what resources you will need. It really will make it much easier to build the yard of your dreams if you use online tools.

Drawing a Garden Plan

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It’s important to keep track of all your plants, plans, and garden ideas. It’s all too easy to lose track of where you planted seeds and bulbs, or where you plan on planting other plants or laying paths.

The best way to make sure you keep on track with your plan is to draw it up. Here’s some simple rules to remember when drawing your garden plan:

Rule 1. Write down your garden’s measurements (and don’t lose them!)

Rule 2. Assign scale. The average backyard is 18 feet wide and works best with a scale of 3 feet to 1 inch (1 inch represents 3 feet).

Rule 3. Outline the perimeter of the area on a piece of while paper or graph paper. Sketch in existing elements like plants and other features (grass, paths, and/or fences).

Rule 4. Tape some tracing paper on top of your sketch of your current garden. Sketch in the plants and features you want to fill in the gaps in your current design.

Below are some core rules to guide your landscape ideas for the front of the house and the back of the house alike. These are some simple landscape ideas that combine for elegant effect.

Hard Landscaping

For a truly contemporary design, your garden and yard will be pulled together using hard landscaping. It has a very angular unity to it. Utilize stones, raised beds, water features, and built-in planters.

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These elements are all built into the garden with rendered walls and bench inserts.

These features provide good soil to help the plants grow, as well as function to lift plants up to eye level so everyone can see them well.

Sometimes, however, constructing such large features can’t easily fit into your budget.

Contemporary, pre-made planters can easily fill the same role and look just as nice, while being far cheaper.

Low Maintenance

You’ll find modern gardens are constructed so they are easy to maintain. The idea is to create an environmentally and finically sustainable space that still functions well and looks good.

A vital part of this effort is self-irrigation methods. Use self-watering planters with raised beds. Modern landscaping plants are generally hardy.

Bay-by-Urban-Angels Modern Landscaping Architecture On A BudgetImage source: Urban Angles

You won’t see very many modern gardens with delicate flowers, all because these kinds of plants require a fair bit of maintenance compared to other, sturdier flora.

A lot gravel and/or bark makes for useful weed-proof matting. Using these, you won’t need to spend time weeding as much.

Planters with raised beds make it very easy to lock this kind of matting into place.

Varied Heights

One of the most important aspects to making a garden or yard look modern is making sure there are a lot of interesting things to look at. This is due to varying heights within the design.

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Think about what makes for an interesting natural landscape. Flat plains are far less interesting than a view where there are mountains in the background.

With varied heights integrated into your landscape design, you get a more interesting view, as more can be seen as someone looks up or down than just one thing.

Contemporary gardens have a lot of height variance to keep people visually interested.

Focal Points

Focal points are regarded as a necessity in modern garden design. In fact, it can be argued that this is the most basic principle in any kind of design.

The focal point draws a viewer’s eyes, while filtering out less important features and elements. You want a strong feature and, in landscaping, certainly not a subtle one.

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Some good focal points are large planters, waterfalls, or sculptures.

It usually has some sort of central position within the area and is often used to tie the garden together, visually and possibly in theme as well.


Modern gardens are notable for the fact they really shine at night. Night lighting can give a contemporary garden design a totally different look and feel. You can use lighting to highlight parts of the garden within light frames.

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You can show off particular plants or design lines. Experiment with different ideas as you plan and look at how others have successfully integrated lighting into their designs.

Some Other Important Considerations


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Modern gardens tend to be very boxy. Round corners are rare. Just about everything has a box and rectangular shape, from the platers to the lawns to the seating to the borders. It creates a minimalist feel.

Isolating Greenery

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Grass is very isolated from other elements of the garden design. It is often surrounded by clearly manmade borders. It gives the garden an organized feel.

Every area is sectioned for a specific activity—patios, deck, pools, and so forth—which is also true for the grassy areas. It is a very crisp, clean look.

Color Schemes

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Use neutral and natural tones to accent the plant life of your garden and yard.

If you look at modern landscape design images, you’ll see a lot black, white, and gray for flooring, walls, and furniture. Wooden furniture and accents can add in some warmth.

Add in the Unexpected

Try recycling materials for some surprising and artful touches. It’s easy to find wood scraps, corrugated steel, old copper, and various found objects that would look good in your garden design.

A good place to add in these oddball materials is your walls or fences. It can break up visual monotony.

Artfully Express Yourself

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All the elements of a garden or yard come together to create customized and personalized spaces. Adding a bit more personality can really finish off that customized sense of the space, provided it doesn’t interfere with the modern minimalist aesthetic.

Stick with keeping it simple. Choose wooden furniture to warm up the simple and modern area. Add color with cushions, which will make for some nice focal points.

A lot of modern gardens use orange and lime green, but these colors are so trendy right now that they can lack all sense of personality. They’re also so loud that they can overwhelm the design.

Try taking your color cues from your garden’s plants. By utilizing and repeating a color found in your plants, it can feel more natural and personal. It also avoids looking tawdry or out of fashion when the landscaping trends change.

Feel free to add in a bit of natural liveliness. Water features are fine sculptural elements, especially with the addition of fish to create another point of interest.

Plants that attract pollinators can create a lovely effect, as visiting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are always worthwhile and fascinating sights. These elements can keep your garden from seeming static.



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Keep the style of your planting natural and loose. Far too many modern landscape designs keep everything organized into stiff lines. This style can run counter to a sense of a natural connection.

Loosely organized planting make a space feel lively and playful. The hardscape can give plenty of organization and structure to your design on its own.

Ask Friends and Neighbors for Cuttings

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There are a lot of plants you can grow with small cuttings. Before you start spending money, ask your friends or neighbors for the cutting off of any of their plants that you like.

Succulents and butterfly bush, among others, can grow very well from cuttings and will look very nice in your garden or yard.

Add Planters

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You might already have the perfect planters in your home without having to go to the store. See if you can up-cycle any wine crates, barrels, tires, or old pallets you have lying around.

Cluster them at varying heights for dimension and depth. These up-cycled planters can add nice focal points.

Add in a further contemporary way to touch up your planters is to paint them in a vibrant color.

Make sure you use the appropriate primer or preparation methods; for terracotta, for instance, you’ll need to soak them in water for an hour before using water-based paint.

Plants Can Connect the Design

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Use plants with bold sellouts for a clean look. Go with an organized set-up in and near the outdoors.

As you go further out from the house, allow the plantings to be organized in a more natural way.

Use Perennial Plants

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Perennials are rarely used in modern gardens, even though they can look really nice. They return every year and do not need to be replanted like annual plants.

Place them carefully, as they can have a messy look out of season. They can really reduce the cost of your garden.

Some good perennials are:

  • Allium
  • Astilbe
  • Baptisia
  • Buddleia
  • Coneflower
  • Kangaroo Paw
  • Sage
  • Veronica

Try Ornamental Grass

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Having a few different grasses can add variations in color and texture.

This can look very modern and classy as well as reduce maintenance needs on the cheap- while looking very expensive all year long. They make nice plants for front yard landscaping.

There’s a fair amount of diversity among ornamental grasses. Some good options among ornamental grasses are:

  • Blue Oatgrass
  • Feather Reedgrass
  • Flax
  • Fountaingrass
  • Little Bluestem
  • Zoysia


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These tips can help you get started on your own modern garden design. Feel free to add in your personal touch and explore fun ideas.

You can have a great looking contemporary garden on a budget!

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