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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Clash of House and Garden Styles

Is it a law that your landscape must compliment the architectural style of the house?

I've been watching lots of Curb Appeal these days and it seems like one thing I always hear them say is that your landscape should match the design of your house. Well that sucks if you are me because I have a 50's Ranch Style. I know, supposedly they are making a big comeback and there are all sorts of books on the subject now but the truth is that I hate this style of house.

My house is small and plain. It's about 1100 square feet, yellowish wide siding with dark brown trim, a brownish roof and very overgrown unidentified shrubs in the front. The front yard is small and mostly grass, except the overgrown shrubs and the one big tree next to the street. There is a small concrete porch leading to the front door and iron rails on the porch that is also painted the dark brown. Is it just me or does this sound crappy? I mean I love my house because it was perfect for us when we bought it but have you seen those "ranch style landscapes"?

I love cottage gardens. That's what I want. I feel like it would soften the yucky look of this house but maybe I'm just dreaming. I've pretty much already started working toward this in the backyard but eventually I need to address the front. As I see it, the backyard is safe from those landscape rules because it is surrounded by a tall wood privacy fence that looks just fine with the stupid ranch style. But the front is just out there, exposed for wood-be landscape designer passersby. God help me if I spend as much energy on the front only to have people drive by saying "look, that moron has a cottage style garden at her 50's ranch style house hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha what planet is she from?" The next thing you know I'll end up on some new show called "What Not to Plant" and then ..... HELP! I'VE GONE OFF ON ANOTHER TANGENT!

This is not my dream house. It's just the first house that I bought with Mr. Wonderful. I remember the look on his face when we walked in for the first time. He couldn't stop smiling. I think it had more to do with the fact that it smelled and looked clean compared to the other "fixer uppers" we'd looked at. Anyway, it's not my dream house, it's just the house I live in that I'm trying to love and now learn to garden. My dream house is a Tudor style one. Now if I'm not mistaken, a cottage garden BELONGS in a Tudor style home, right? To be honest I didn't even know what a Tudor style was until garden buddy told me on our garden tour a few weeks ago. I was trying to explain to her that I wanted to live in a house that looked like a castle. We passed one and I said LIKE THAT ONE! "Oh, a Tudor style?" Praise God, it has a name! I was really not looking forward to explaining to a real estate agent someday that I want a house that looks like a castle.

So what do you think gardening bloggers, readers, house builders, landscapers or any ole body that has an opinion (preferably one that supports my desires) - can I plant a cottage style garden in front of my very plain 50's ranch style home?


  1. First, stop watching Curb Appeal for ideas and just watch it for entertainment. That's all California based and some of what they do is nice, but some of it makes no sense at all.

    Do what you want in the front, because have you ever heard of a "ranch house style landscape"? I haven't.

    And if I'm not mistaken, those shrubs are yews and junipers, and overgrown.

  2. Gina,

    Listen to neighbor Carol - there are no hard or fast rules on landscaping. Be creative and be yourself.

    If I were your designer, I would advise you to trim the overgrown evergreens ( don't use your weedwacker ! ). The Yews are actually a wonderful background for a cottage garden. Then I would cut out some curved beds in front of them ( 4 to 5 feet deep if you can spare the room ) and start planting the cottage flowers you love !

    The thing I loved about the gardens I toured in England and Ireland is that even the humblest cottage has a flower garden of roses, daisies and the like .

    I say go for it !

  3. Thanks for telling me what those shrubs are, ladies.

    Carol - thank goodness I don't have to follow their rules! The word they always use to describe landscaping the ranch houses is "geometric". To me it looks like lots of hard lines and circles...lots of circles.

    Carolyn - thanks for the advice. I think that sounds very pretty. I was actually trimming the shrubs a little (after this picture was taken) and noticed that I really liked the Yews. I think thats them. I don't like the Junipers, though (if that's the one on the end) and I have no idea if I can remove that thing without breaking the bank.

  4. Oh, for goodness sake! You should have whatever style of garden you want. How could you possibly be successful if you were working in a garden/design that you hated? And who cares what other people think. They don't have to live there. You do. A wonderful cottage garden will make your house more livable for you.

  5. Me, again, Gina. Now that I've enlarged the photo ( duh !) I can see that you have yews mixed with junipers ( you can distinguish the juniper by its fine prickly needles). The juniper at the end if unfortunately in the wrong place and I would try to remove it. First just saw it down to the ground and then get out an axe, pitchfork and shovel and dig out the roots. Use the axe or a saw to cut any major roots. It'll take a little elbow grease but I think you can do it !

  6. Hi Gina, Stopping by from Garden answer your question,
    Yes,yes, YES! Go for it! Make some beds and sow them this fall with self-sowing annuals (if you need some suggestions come visit my blog)and you will have lots of color come next spring. Then you can add perennials as you go along and it will develop into a thing of beauty. The cottage style is relaxed, carefree, and so rewarding! Eventually, you could also change the look of your house a great deal with paint, shutters, trim etc. Follow your heart!

  7. Gina, I also have a ranch-style 50's house. I love the cottage look and have turned 1350 sq. feet of hellstrips to plants I love. Doesn't really fit in with the neighborhood, BUT everyone (at least those who comment) loves it. I also have those awful junipers along my foundation. My husband loves them, so it is a bone of contention for us. What I have done is make everything else look so great that no one notices them. Especially me. Go for it girl!

  8. Gina, I think if you just painted your trim white, you would see a huge difference - no need to paint the entire house. I am wondering if you could put shutters on the smaller windows and add some window boxes - both in an accent color. Maybe paint the front door, too? Use a hose to figure out your curved bed in front of the bushes before you dig. I think your house is cute!

  9. Eileen, thanks for stopping by! And thanks for the great advice on the house. I think you are right about the white trim and I'm going to give that a shot.