Garden experts reveals mistakes that will date your backyard

Avoid these common garden design mistakes if you want a contemporary look in your backyard

And English container garden with many pots
(Image credit: Rosemary Calvert/Getty)

These are the top garden design mistakes that will date your backyard, according to garden design experts. Full disclaimer: if any (or all) of these garden design ideas are your favorite and they work for you, keep doing what you're doing. After all, garden design is subjective. 

However, if you want your outdoor space to look contemporary and up-to-date, it may be best to avoid these common backyard design choices. 

1. Going miniature in a small garden

An English container garden with many pots

(Image credit: Rosemary Calvert/Getty)

Renowned horticulturalist Carol Klein pointed out this common mistake when we interviewed her ahead of her new Great British Gardens with Carol Klein show. 'People believe that you’ve got to have everything in miniature,' Carol said, which risks making a small garden look 'twee' – and, yes, dated. 

She explained that 'it’s much, much better to have a bit of drama in there. I think you’ve really got to go for it.' 

So, think oversized statement planters and a few big, showy plants – rather than a vast collection of tiny pots and ornaments crammed into a small space. We have many container gardening ideas that are fresh and contemporary in our gallery. 

2. Using cheap-looking waterproof materials

A porch with a painted deck and patio furniture

(Image credit: Francesca Tosolini on Unsplash)

Remember when pressure-treated wood and resin were used for just about everything, from decking ideas to planters? Yes, these materials are durable and low-maintenance – but they just don't look very contemporary anymore, unless you can find a more expensive version that successfully imitates the real thing. 

HTGT presenter and licensed remodeler Matt Blashaw recently told us in an interview: 'stay away from the pressure-treated stuff'. Particularly when talking about cladding for raised planters, 'I like to do natural cedar or redwood,' adds Matt.

Marc Husband, product design lead at Leader Doors, adds: 'People can become obsessed with putting in features that are abundant with dated waterproof materials – regardless of whether they suit the rest of your garden! Be brave and use natural materials! If you're worried about longevity for materials like wood, you can easily apply a waterproof sealer after using linseed/tung oil and varnish.' 

3. A flat, open-concept backyard with a lawn in the middle

kids garden with lawn and playhouse

(Image credit: Colin Poole/Future)

It is the most basic and still most widely used garden layout ideas out there – and also the most dated one. We're talking about the classic, rectangular or square lawn with perimeter borders. If you want a garden that looks fresh and contemporary, it's time to leave this old-fashioned design behind. 

Garden designer and Your Garden Made Perfect presenter Tom Massey says: 'Think beyond the basic layout where you have a lawn in the middle of the garden and a thin strip of planting pushed out to edge. Be bold and think about creating intimate spaces rather than just keeping it all open and flat. Why not scrap the lawn altogether and plant a wildflower meadow?'

Modern garden ideas are all about zoning and clever mixing of materials and different areas. Your garden deserves more than square lawn ideas

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna is a keen urban gardener, with David Austin roses and Japanese acers among her favourite plants. She moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space a couple of years ago. She's always been interested in how people make houses into homes, and how our concepts of what's stylish change over time.