Rustic materials can be really versatile and in a contemporary space they help to bring texture to the simplicity of the garden's structure. Most of the pictures I'm showing here were taken of show gardens, both at RHS Hampton Court Palace and Chelsea Flower Shows, where often materials are showcased in different ways.
The Cancer Research garden at Chelsea in 2011 used natural stone to bring texture and interest to the sitting area at the back of the garden.
The photograph below shows the whole garden and you'll notice that although the structure of the garden is positive and strong, the planting at the front also brings some informality to the space.
The seating area at the back has simplicity and elegance, emphasised by the horizontal lines of the timer trellis behind the sofa. The wall in itself is strong and architectural, but the textured stone brings another dimension.
The sleeper walls in this garden were also used in quite a contemporary way. They were constructed using timbers that were half the depth of normal sleepers and this gave the wall a bit more elegance. I thought this tied them into the beautiful sawn paving really well.
The planting in the garden below was very informal, but the structure of the garden is strong and the upright sawn timbers at the back gave it a contemporary feel. Again, the texture of the natural stone brought depth to the garden. Each course of the stone wall here is uniform and this helps to hold the strong geometry together.
The A Monaco Garden at Chelsea 2011 also had a very contemporary feel to it and if you look closely at the back of the garden you will see that the stone wall has been constructed so that the joints between the stones have been pointed. The crisp corners prevent it from looking rustic and the texture of the wall's surface adds dimension to the water wall in the middle.
The Italian Job garden at Hampton Court this year used stone walls to break up the lines of the hedges along the boundary of the garden. These tied in with the pleached trees and maintained the strong structure that was reflected in the other hard landscaped elements.
Bringing texture to a garden is so important, whatever style of garden you have. the dry stone wall effect in many of the images above will also create shadows when the sun comes out. Aesthetic lighting at night will bring a different dimension again.
I love natural stone walls whatever shape or size they are, but I particularly love them when they are used in this more contemporary way because they really enhance the sharper and smoother elements that normally come alongside them.
(Images: Lisa Cox)