A Look Back: Landscaping Trends from the 1920s to the 1950s

Although some of us view landscaping more as a business than an art form, the truth is that landscaping has a rich and intricate history that has a lot to say about the social and cultural development of our society. In fact, some speak so highly of landscaping as an ancient art form that they have their roots in one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon created in 600 BC. C.

While we are busy installing landscapes that bring the best of modern technologies to our customers, such as televisions and outdoor sound systems, it is easy to forget how much the idea of ​​’landscaping’ has changed over time. Just a few decades ago, landscaping was considered an absolute luxury. Only the ‘well-off’ could afford to decorate their outdoor space with beautiful gardens and patios and cover their backyard with the latest outdoor toys.

Today, some form of landscaping is expected, even if it means a few trees, a small patio, a porch, or patio. That said, while basic landscaping is the norm, most homeowners actually take it one step further. They feel that it is important to enhance the curb appeal of their home, and more importantly, they enjoy having an outdoor space that is fully tailored to their own tastes. Hence the desire to treat the landscape as an extension of the home, complete with all the added comforts and luxuries of the interior interior. But it was not always like this.

For fun, here’s a look at landscaping trends from decades past, minus today’s Japanese-inspired spa gardens, outdoor kitchens, and fire pit tables.

The Roarin ’20’s:

The landscaping of the 1920s was all about vegetation. There was a real desire to celebrate and welcome nature in all its glory, prompting owners to install bird feeders, birdhouses and bird baths, as well as fish ponds and rock gardens … anything that attracted more nature to the home. At the time, bird watching was a shared hobby, so berry plants and trees (such as holly, hawthorn, nandina, rugosa roses, crabapples) were popular choices.

In the 1920s home, the front yard was considered the “public place” and was therefore the space that received the most attention in terms of landscaping. Most of the houses had a large front porch, often furnished with rocking chairs and swings so that people could comfortably enjoy the natural scenery outdoors. Most of the front yards were unfenced, and the walkways and driveways were typically lined with perennials, such as Canterbury bells, lilies, foxgloves, phlox, pyrethrum, coreopsis, hollyhocks, roses, columbine, delphinium, poppies, and carnations and annuals, for example. such as California poppies, cosmos, petunias, snapdragons, verbena, bachelor’s buttons, knapweed (sweet sultan), straw flowers, marigolds, drummond phlox, asters, etc. The bushes were boxwood, holly, yew, abelia.

The backyard, often referred to as a “service area”, was primarily reserved for drying clothes on clotheslines and storing trash cans, although some homeowners designated a small area in the backyard as a “private place”, which was generally closed with mosquito nets or fence. in or surrounded by a border of trees or shrubs to protect residents from the watchful eyes of their neighbors and from the sun.

Popular recreational activities were often introduced into landscape design. Campfires, bowling greens, golf courses, and croquet fields were popular elements of the landscape.

The dirty 30s:

The decade of the Great Depression saw small advances on the landscaping front. Most homeowners were struggling to make ends meet, which meant there was little or no money left to spend on luxuries like gardening. With that said, there were still some popular gardening trends out there. Large rose gardens were popular during the 1930s, as were plants such as hydrangeas, lilacs, and hostas.

The 50s on the rise:

Consumerism is probably the most appropriate word to describe the 1950s theme. And just as it affected most aspects of life in the 1950s, it influenced the type and style of landscaping that was popular in the suburbs. Looking back now, we typically associate the 1950s garden and landscape style with all things ‘tacky’: garden gnomes, pink plastic flamingos, an overuse of evergreens as foundation plantings, and a excessive amount of green grass. In other words, a far cry from the modern, eco-friendly look popular today!

While the landscapes of the 1950s may evoke images of plastic decorations and boxed hedges, the 1950s is actually defined as a decade of “modernism.” Although, a very different kind of modernism from today’s so-called “modern” styles. With an incredible number of soldiers returning home from the war in the 1950s, marrying, and starting families, the home building industry flourished.

However, many of the houses built were smaller, leaving limited space for gardening. The result of the limitations of space was a “modern” landscape, a style that was far removed from the overly ornate look of the pre-war era.

Although modernism was the style of the day, with the rise of consumerism and a love of all things with a price tag came the fascination for big, flashy items. Garden flowers were oversized, vibrant, and colorful – for example, large tea roses like Garden Party roses, Tiffany roses, and Chrysler Imperial roses were popular choices. And, in keeping with the whole concept of “keeping up with the Joneses,” the lawn was the symbol of dream life in the suburbs. The greener and bigger the lawn, the better! With the rise of consumerism and the desire to keep lawns perfectly maintained, the market was flooded with lawn care products, including pesticides and pest control chemicals. At this time, the first lawn spreader was also invented.

And there you have it! Times have really changed … below we will look at trends in landscaping from the 1960s to the present day. Stay tuned!


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