Design & Decor - Design Ideas

How to ensure your home and the landscaping that surrounds it are perfectly in tune with each other

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Contemporary/Ranch

Origins: Following the Arts and Crafts style were several other architectural movements, many of which incorporated readily available building materials, such as concrete, metals and glass. Designers believed that a house should reflect the environment surrounding it rather than impose itself upon it. Designs became more modern, demonstrating the “less is more” approach of the Bauhaus movement in Germany.

Characteristics: The houses going up in the early days of suburban living were mostly low-slung ranches and bungalows, watered-down versions of the (U.S.) prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Design: Although there is nothing based on Asian traditions in contemporary North Ameri-can architecture, garden designs from this culture are often complementary. Stones, plants and interesting positive and negative spaces add up to restful and balanced arrangements that suit the simple, clean lines of contemporary buildings. A site’s natural characteristics should be given top priority when designing a landscape for a modern-style dwelling.

Surface materials: Concrete and aggregate composites have a sleek, minimalist look. Wooden decking is another compatible surface.

Structures: Pergolas made with large, square timbers won’t get lost next to a sprawling ranch house. Built-in benches on the perimeter of a multi-level deck is another contemporary look.

Finishing touches: Gravel or other stones are appropriate materials for mulch. Consider installing a dry stream bed using round beach pebbles and dotting the edges with Siberian irises, ornamental grasses and prostrate junipers.

Plants: Massing plants to create interesting lines, textures and forms is more important than the individual plants and their colours. Ornamental grasses, sword-shaped yuccas, junipers, ferns and other plants with strong architectural forms are good choices.

Where to find heritage plants

Where to find heritage plants or more specialized information:

  • Mail-order catalogues are often a good source for seeds and plants from a particular era. Some specialty catalogues, such as those for irises, peonies, bulbs and roses, also list the date a plant was hybridized or introduced.
  • Visit historical homes that are of a similar era to your own home. Often, the grounds have also been restored to their former glory; the curator may be able to share plant lists or diagrams and put you in touch with local landscape architects or designers who have experience with period gardens or garden restorations.
  • If you have a house built in the late 1800s or early 1900s, seek out old gardening books or catalogues from that time period in used book stores. You may be lucky enough to find some with landscape plans.
  • Attend local garden tours or plant sales hosted by horticultural societies. You may discover a few pass-along plants, such as old climbing roses, peonies, tall bearded irises or hollyhocks, that have been in your neighbourhood for a few generations.
  • Contact your local botanical garden for archival material of a historical nature.

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