How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden

Joanna Gaines really popularized “Modern Farmhouse” style ~ which blends traditional farmhouse decor with more contemporary design elements.  Most of the homes she & Chip designed on their popular show “Fixer Upper,” were great examples of this new fusion.  And currently, my friend Kadi (who’s an architect) just designed a modern farmhouse home in Central Oregon, where we live.  But now she’s wondering: how to design the landscape?  Here, I’ll explain how to create a modern farmhouse garden….& the good news: it’s not as hard as you might think!

How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden, Girl Who Gardens

Native grasses used repeatedly really soften & beautify this white & black farmhouse. Photo: Arka Power Gazebo.

What is Modern Farmhouse Style?  In short, modern farmhouse combines “Country” with “Contemporary.” This is achieved by using rustic elements such as shiplap walls (a Joanna Gaines favorite), hardwood floors, & antiques ~ but then combining that with more contemporary light fixtures, for instance, to bring the look “up-to-date.”

Shiplap Walls

Farmhouse Chandelier

Modern Lantern

What is a Modern Farmhouse Garden?

How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden, Girl Who Gardens

This home uses the same few plants repeatedly, to create a lovely & uniform look. Photo: The Tenessean.

  •  The house is really the star in “Modern Farmhouse” style; the garden is simply meant to enhance & soften the exterior of the home (which is typically painted in strong primary colors: white, black, navy, etc.).
  • A modern farmhouse garden is LOW-MAINTENANCE!!  Why?  Because, like I told my friend, all you need to do is choose 3-6 easy-growing plants, & repeat them throughout the landscape.  That way, it lets the house be the *star* ~ & is a much easier garden to maintain.
  • A modern farmhouse garden only uses a few plants (typically perennials) or trees, & repeats them throughout the landscape.  The effect is a soft, but not overwhelming, landscape.  This is the opposite of an English cottage garden (like mine!) ~ which can have up to 100 different species of plants & flowers!  That’s obviously a more difficult garden to maintain, & is meant for people who truly love gardening.  Whereas almost anyone can successfully grow a modern farmhouse garden, as the small number of plants is much easier to care for.
  • Perennials are more common than annuals in a modern farmhouse garden.  And they require less maintenance: you plant them once, make sure they have irrigation (water), & then pretty much forget about them ~ other than an occasional pruning.
  • Good plants for a modern farmhouse garden: any & ALL manner of native grasses (Karl Foersters are a stand-out & SO easy to grow), pampas grass, lavender or its easy-growing cousin Russian Sage, boxwood, all kinds of shrubs (weigela & forsythia are great options), climbing vines that work well in your zone, Magnolia trees (a Joanna Gaines favorite), evergreen trees, or crabapples ~ which are landscaper’s favorites, as they never get too tall. And if you want more color, plant some annuals in the landscape ~ or even better, in large pots by your front door…that are easy to change out!
  • Final Thought: Simplicity is key in a modern farmhouse garden.  Go to your local nursery, & ask them for 1-2 great evergreens, 2-3 easy-to-grow shrubs or native grasses, & 1-2 trees that won’t grow too tall, & are easy to maintain.  The trees are your punctuation marks (to be used sparingly), while shrubs & grasses will be used more often to “fill in” the landscape.  And that’s really it! 

You can fill in more color later if you choose….but this is a great base & starting point.

Example of a Modern Farmhouse Garden

Sometimes, it’s easier to have an example to re-create.  In Garden Zone 6, which goes down to about -10 degrees, my friend chose the following plants for her garden:

  • Green Arborvitae (an evergreen that looks good year-round);
  • Russian Sage (an easy & fast-growing perennial that looks like lavender, to add color);
  • Karl Foerster grass (an easy-growing native grass, that grows up to 6 feet in one year ~ great for helping with privacy);
  • Lilacs (for beautiful spring color & fragrance); &
  • Dappled Willow shrubs (another fast-growing shrub with beautiful, white-tipped leaves).

How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden, The Easiest-to-Grow Plants in Garden Zone 6, Girl Who Gardens

This is my garden (NOT modern farmhouse…exactly)! But my friend chose three of the plants in this photo: the pink lilacs & wheat-colored Karl Foerster in the foreground, & the dark green arborvitae in the background.

Photos of Great Modern Farmhouse Gardens

You’ll see in the photos below: you don’t need a lot of plants in a modern farmhouse garden.  Again, simplicity & repetition is the key….& it still creates a beautiful & polished exterior look.

How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden, Girl Who Gardens

The house is the star of the show here, as there are very few plants. Rustic containers on the front porch add just the right touch of “farmhouse.” Photo: Country Living.

How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden, Girl Who Gardens

Karl Foerster grass looks great against this white farmhouse. A few other low shrubs create a simple, clean look. Photo: Gingko Leaf Studio.

How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden, Girl Who Gardens

A Chip & Joanna Gaines home in Texas: the same native grass is repeated all along the house. Pretty, yet easy maintenance. Photo: HGTV.

How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden, Girl Who Gardens

While hydrangeas are more commonly associated with cottage gardens ~ the white ones here really soften the front of this farmhouse porch. Dark chairs add a nice contrast. Photo: Nikki’s Plate.

As many modern farmhouses have bright white exteriors: dark black Adirondack chairs look sensational against the white, creating a nice contrast.

How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden, Girl Who Gardens

A row of Karl Foerster grasses create privacy & movement, while a few evergreens have been placed strategically for year-round color. Photo: HGTV.

Photos of Modern Farmhouse Gardens, Girl Who Gardens

Two navy containers placed on either side of the front door, in a nod to traditional farmhouse style. Photo: Town & Country Living.

A Few Italian Farmhouse Gardens….

There’s probably no country more famous for its “Authentic Farmhouse” style than Italy.  Though their homes look very different than ours, with stone exteriors: their gardens are often very similar, using just a few plants to create a soft, inviting feel….

Photos of an Italian Farmhouse Garden, Girl Who Gardens

Not your typical farmhouse: a row of lavender leads to this authentic Italian farmhouse. Photo: The Italian Wedding Event.

Photos of an Italian Farmhouse Garden, Girl Who Gardens

Another Italian farmhouse shows that you don’t need many plants to create a beautiful outdoor space.

Photos of Italian Farmhouse Gardens, Girl Who Gardens

Two towering Cypress trees punctuate this Italian home. A fountain gurgles in the distance, & a row of shrubs is repeated all the way up the drive…

Earthy, terracotta garden pots & multi-tiered fountains are a great way to add Italian style to your farmhouse garden….

Photos of Tuscan Farmhouse Gardens, Girl Who Gardens

Lightly-aged terra cotta pots line the exterior of this charming Tuscan farmhouse. Photo: Deposit Photos.

Dark Adirondacks

Farmhouse Lantern

Italian Fountain

How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden

I hope you’ve gained some inspiration here….even if you don’t consider yourself a gardener! 

Two things that look great in any garden: arbors are a great way to add height & privacy ~ while tiered fountains add instant charm.  I love mine….& so does my cat (who drinks from it), the dog (who sleeps by it), & of course, the birds…. : )

xoxo Noelia

Read Next: How to Create a French Country Garden

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What is a Modern Farmhouse Garden? Girl Who Gardens

How to Create an Italian Farmhouse Garden, Girl Who Gardens

How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden, Girl Who Gardens