garden style/ house style

Iowa City, IA(Zone 5a)

How much do you consider house style when designing a garden/front yard? Some garden styles seem particularly suited to certain house styles- for example, cottage garden/bungalow, formal/Georgian, modern/California ranch all seem suited to each other.

But how do you do a garden that is quite different in style from the house, and make it work? For example, there was a thread about a modern garden for the front of a bungalow style house and I liked that idea. Also I have seen pictures of very modern houses that have a quite cottagey or perhaps prairie style garden.

What makes these less conventional pairings work? Is it the forms of the borders/beds, the colors of flowers and foliage, the species of plants? Obviously one connection might be hardscaping, but I'm wondering about the non-hardscaping elements.

I've been reading and learning about garden design principles (very interesting and challenging!) but I haven't seen this question addressed.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Very interesting question. I'll watch the thread.

Whidbey Island, WA(Zone 7a)

Excellent question . . . and a problem I was concerned about when we bought our house 4 1/2 years ago. We had lived in a 1920's Tudor style, so cottage gardening was obvious. Then we bought this very contemporary style house and I was concerned, as I'm really just not a "contemporary person." But I decided to just garden the way I want to and it seems to work! I do have a formal rose garden right next to the house, but pretty much everything else is just a mish-mosh!

This is a picture of what everything looked like at first (Summer 2002).

Thumbnail by Murmur
Whidbey Island, WA(Zone 7a)

And this shows the garden I put in the center of that expanse of grass in 2004.

Thumbnail by Murmur
Iowa City, IA(Zone 5a)

Well, that's impressive! A beautiful lush planting. I can't see much of the house- and it isn't the "front yard" - but do you think it works with the house- and why? From the pics, it looks in scale with the house, and that's important.

Metro DC, MD(Zone 7a)

For the front yard, I do consider the house style as well as the landscaping on the rest of the street and surrounding neighborhood styles. In the backyard, however, I tend to go with my heart.

If interested, here are some articles from Wash. Post columnist, Joel Lerner:

Whidbey Island, WA(Zone 7a)

It isn't the "formal" front of the house, but it is the front of the yard (does that make sense?). It is very difficult to keep things in scale, as we are limited on height (could affect someone's view). It feels (to me) that it works with the house, but I suspect that might simply be because I love the gardens so very much that anything would work for me. If it stops raining tomorrow, I'll try to take some photos that show you the house from the actual front and the gardens there as well.

This photo, taken just before we bought the house, shows the stairs to the deck and front door (the garden I showed earlier is to the right, the skinny area along the garage is packed full of plants, and the tiny garden to the right of the steps which had Calla Lilies and Rhubarb right next to each other, with weeds all the rest of the way, is now a rose garden). To the left, in front of the deck, you can see the edge of a sandbox. That has been turned into a garden also, and I have Astilbe running along the edge of the deck. There are gardens everywhere now - almost to the point of ridiculous, but that is where I find my peace, my joy.

We live on a very quiet street (two houses on one side, six on the other - and it's a dead end). Very little of my yard shows from the street at all as the yard is somewhat elevated.

Wrightie, I am definitely going to read that article (and others) - his columns have recently started running in the Seattle P-I and I have been enjoying him.

Thumbnail by Murmur
Iowa City, IA(Zone 5a)

Those were very useful links, thanks!

I lived in DC (omg, it's been nearly 20 yrs ago!) when Henry Mitchell wrote for the Post. Unfortunately I was a renter then and had no garden. And now I know how wonderful a zone 7a garden is!!!

soon you'll have cherry blossoms...

Iowa City, IA(Zone 5a)

Ah, murmur, yes I see. That's a cool house, imo, and with those windows I'm guessing you have a view too!

I think all the lush- in a way cottagey- plantings work because even though it is a modern house, it is very "earthy" in colors and materials.

I'm not even sure how one defines "cottage" garden anyway. Seems to be lots of things that could be called that. Like "country" decorating maybe.

Metro DC, MD(Zone 7a)

I've taken landscape design classes with him and think that he's wonderful. Those links popped up from a quick google search on him, but I'm certain that he has articles that speak to your original question better than these do. The Wash. Post archives might be a better place to search.

I was born & raised in Zone5 and, believe it or not, I do miss it up there but then again I do like our *shorter* winters here. :~)

This message was edited Mar 15, 2007 10:07 PM

Iowa City, IA(Zone 5a)

I loved living in DC. Having lived only in Iowa before moving to WV, then DC, the revelations to me were rhododendrons and dogwoods, which I miss now that I'm back in Iowa. Now I have lilacs and wide open places with wide blue skies, which I missed when I was back east!

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

do you have a current photo from the same position that the first photo was taken? Or a before from the 2nd photo?

All of my before photos are from a 35mm camera so I need to get those put on a disk so I can get them into my computer.

We live in a 1931 Tudor. I did take out some books from the library to research what others have done and went to the University library to look at old magazines from the time. Then went from there. The biggest difference was that most of the flowers used in the 30's here were annuals and I wanted perennials. I have ended up with a more formal front and a cottage type back yard. My neighbors are gardeners as well so I did have them to help me out. I wanted my garden to blend in. We live on a corner so our whole garden is open to see.

I think it is important to fit the style of house and the area and to do that takes research. The biggest for me was that my neighbors have all done a great job so I wanted to make sure my garden didn't jar the effect.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

zen - I had a '37 English Tudor and did very little to the front except to replace the ancient shrubs with typical rhododendrons and azaleas, pachysandra and a border of either bedding begonias or impatiens. Going down the driveway I put in 1,069 bulbs, which the new people ripped out. In the back I planted a magnolia, hydrangeas and typical old-fashioned wonderful plants. Then I was the mother of an infant and a 4 year old so I didn't garden as I do now. Other Tudors in the area (including one on a corner) also went more formal in the front and as they pleased in the back yard.

Whidbey Island, WA(Zone 7a)

Biscuitz5, I think you're correct that the earthy tones & materials make the cottagey look acceptable - thanks for putting that into words!

Zen, I do have before & after photos of every single inch of this place, but they are on the other computer in the guest room and my stepson is asleep in there. I'll be leaving this morning before he arises and won't be home until tomorrow afternoon. I'll share some then. I'm quite fortunate in that I'm really the only one who gardens on my street (to any extent anyway) and every house is entirely different. Originally this neighborhood was considered a vacation or weekend area. So all sorts of places were built. The majority of them have a relatively modern feel and lots of them are landscaped for minimum maintenance despite the fact that most owners now live here. There are at least 100 houses in our Honeymoon Lake Community and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who gardens in an obsessive/compulsive manner!!

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

OC gardening is good for the soul.

Whidbey Island, WA(Zone 7a)

Thanks, Pirl! I do think it's what keeps me sane (or lets me think I'm sane anyway). When things get stressful, it even helps just to THINK about the gardens and what I want to do next, or how the soil will feel to my hands, how something new will look . . . etc . . . you all get the picture, I am sure!!.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Yes, I do. Even on a snowy day like today, just looking at the photos of my plants is soothing and so much better than being out on the roads. It's grand to always look ahead and be the eternal optimist thinking all the plants I ordered really will fit where I want them to grow. Or maybe it's delusional?

Novato, CA

" What makes these less conventional pairings work? "
Somewhere there is a common denominator.
It may lie in the hardscaping ( usually ) or 'it' may lie in how ' it 'relates to the surrounding landscape or evokes the genus loci or reflects the personality of the garden owner.

Quite often it also has to do with 'follow through'.
If the idea is strong and it is well crafted & installed then it can, in many instances, create the necessary dialogue between the two unconventional entities bonding them together into one harmonious composition.

Sometimes a 'concept' creates tantilizing tension that evokes a strong visual and emotional response yet there is still an underlying unifying bond.
One often experiences this emotional resonance in unconventional contemporary landscape design done by such current day designers as
Topher Delaney, Andrea Cochran, Martha Schwartz, Ken Smith, Peter Walker, C. Bradley-Hole and Claude Cormier to name just a few.

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

This is a great time of the year to start going to garden centers and looking. A DG'er from Wisconsin was in town on Thursday and we met up at one of the big garden centers in town to have coffee and look and look and look. I even bought some more seeds to winter sow.

I like the fact that the neighbors garden, at least at my end of the block. We talk about our gardens and share plants. It works very well. A good share of the houses in my area are Tudor. Many colors and styles, but Tudor none the less.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I never saw a Tudor I didn't love!

Iowa City, IA(Zone 5a)


the common denominator idea I think I get- usually hardscape, but I could imagine color or even form might do the same.

The notions of "dialogue" and tension- I know I have seen them discussed, thanks for mentioning them in this context. Think I'll have a little "study session" trying to identify instances of both.

And also, thanks for the references to current designers.

At some point I will probably need to figure this all out for my own front yard- but not yet, thankfully. I still have time to get some design education.

p.s. How do you get italics in your reply?

Novato, CA


How do you get italics in your reply ?

ah grasshopper, you have to know the super secret codes
( wink wink , laugh laugh )

I am going to subsitute the symbol [ for <
( if I used the < symbol then the code would not reveal itself, )

To get an italic
type [ i ] followed by the phrase that you want in italics and end it off with [ / i ]

To get bold words
bracket the phrase with this [ b ] your bold words [ / b ]
substitute the symbols < and > for [ and ]

if you google search the words simplified HTML language you will probably find a website that explains this better than I .

Iowa City, IA(Zone 5a)

I'm humbly honored you chose to share those super secret codes!!!

Deer Park, IL(Zone 5b)

Pirl-Tutors are very challenging to design a garden with. With their "extreme" height with that roof style, a lot of plants can look lost at their feet. I have lived in a tudor for 8 years and just recently redid the front of the house closes to the house. It turned out great but I am still a long way off from being finished. I am having over-sized window boxes made for the house next week with a self watering system installed and the contractor making them didn't "get it" when I told him how large I wanted the boxes until I explained how they would get "lost" on the building otherwise. lol! Are knot gardens in my future? Nope. . .


Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

Mothermole..I am curiuos, are you using large scale perennials? Personaly, I love the tall stuff...I add as many tall things as I can find, and mass color also helps it to be read from a distance too. Do you have any pix available , would love to see what you're doing. Both borders and window boxes. My style is English Cottage and am still planting my 45ftX100ft mixed border, outlined in common purple lilacs, (think it was about 30). Spent a few years growing from seed, hitting up year end plant sales, and now doing trades here at Dave's just to get enough plants to get it filled up. Now, I have to sit back and see how it knits together so I can do my editing to get the Cottage look I'm after (Americanized).

This summer I am or will be doing two more areas. A spring border that is 40ftX45ft, filled with peonies, iris, centhranthus, and verbascums, I will be using Spiarea van houttii as walls. I will attempt to seed in many reseeding annuals for later bloom for the rest of the season.

The next area is my backyard, if you can call it that, lol. I live in the country and attempting to take back from the prairie grasses. Again along the fence line I will be outlineing the fence line in Lilacs and then layering more shrubs, 3 layers deep. Then I have to figure out what sort of path system and perennials. My biggest challenge is, Hmmm. Gosh actually a few, lol, money, deer, and heavy summer rains that have washed away lot of soil in years past with heavy gully washers that even washed away new plants, never to be seen again. Most of that rain water came from areas that are higher in elevation than my property. I live on a sloped hill, the end of my property is the bottom of the hill.

Pix 1: West side of my large border, 10 days ago
Pix 2: East side of my border, 10 days ago
Pix 3: an area at the top of the border that has filled in and knitted together quite nicely, pix from 2 years ago.
Pix 4: early spring this years, first blooms are Hesperis matronalis, oh sooo fragrant
Pix 5: from 17 days ago, mid border

Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy

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