Modernist Garden

In this Modernist garden design, I set out to recreate the timeless spirit of the 1920s Bauhaus style; the design tradition that popularised the credo ‘form follows function’.

To be true to this historic movement, I had to prioritise the primary purpose of each space to avoid adding unnecessary elements. 

I aimed to achieve a garden in which all parts are well-proportioned and link to each other in a manner which creates a sense of flow. 

The garden had to accommodate various activities. There are functional areas dedicated to entertainment, food preparation, storage, or reading, while the reflection pool lends the garden a touch of luxury.

Modernist architecture is well known for its open-plan principle. Here, this principle also applies to the garden. Despite different functional areas, the space doesn’t feel divided and can hold many guests. The interlinked pergolas further help with creating a smooth transition between the indoor and outdoor spaces.

I wanted all hardscape in this garden to embody the characteristic modernist industrial elegance. Simplicity of form and truth to the material is paramount in the modernist style. Most people today find the original modernist style somewhat impersonal. For this reason, I chose a variety of grass plants to soften the look and to add splashes of colour.

Plants for the modernist garden

Original modernists viewed plants as too ornamental and therefore often reduced the landscape to lawns and a few tall trees at best. Considering our contemporary needs, I drifted from this purist style, while still maintaining simple forms and a limited palette. The emphasis is on mass planting and foliage rather than flowers.

I drew inspiration from one of the prominent Bauhaus figures, Mies van der Rohe. Mies is perhaps best known for another famous credo “less is more”, which was also a guiding principle behind this work.

Clarity, simplicity, and openness are the core values that this modernist garden aims to communicate.

Here are some plants which are easy to grow in Sydney and fit well with the modernist look:

Planting palette for modernist garden in Temperate climate showing Japanese Pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira 'Nana'), Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) , Mexican Stonecrop (Sedum mexicanum 'Aureum'), Blue Chalk Sticks (Senecio serpens), Duranta 'Sheena's Gold' (Duranta erecta 'Sheena's Gold', Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscarpus 'Nigrescens'), Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina), Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides).
Modernist planting palette for Temperate Climate
Common NameBotanical Name
Japanese Pittosporum Pittosporum tobira ‘Nana’ 
PapyrusCyperus papyrus
Creeping FigFicus pumila
Mexican StonecropSedum mexicanum ‘Aureum’
Blue ChalksticksSenecio serpens
Duranta ‘Sheena’s Gold’Duranta erecta ‘Sheena’s Gold’
Black Mondo Grass Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’
Lamb’s EarsStachys byzantina
Fountain GrassPennisetum alopecuroides

Designer: Rado Zezulak

Member of the Australian Institute of Landscape Designers and Managers (AILDM)

Elizabeth Bay, NSW 2011

(by appointment)

ABN: 89579468404
Licence #: 339210C