The right landscaping can do wonders for the aesthetic of a property, adding a splash of visual interest and providing a welcoming entrance to the home. Increasingly, it’s not enough to simply plant a few trees and throw a little gravel around – homeowners are looking for landscaping ideas that work in harmony with their house. For ranch house owners, ranch house landscaping, a style of landscaping created specifically to compliment the particular design features of the traditional ranch home, is an increasingly popular trend, complementing the style of the home and creating a natural “flow” between the grounds and the house.
What is Ranch House Landscaping?
Although the first ranch houses began springing up in the 1920s, the style really hit its stride in the post-war era. Embraced by the growing middle classes for its affordability, informality, and adaptability, the style took off so well that by the 1950s, ranch houses represented 9 out of 10 new builds. After a period of decline, the style was resurrected in the late 1990s, and today, its simple, unpretentious nature is as popular as ever.
Along with the resurgence in the house style, an increasing number of home-owners are looking to complement and update their properties with a type of landscaping that plays into the same casual aesthetic as the house itself. As The Spruce notes, ranch houses are characterized by a one-story or one and a half-story, angular style, resulting in the need for landscaping that flatters, rather than overwhelms, the lowered height and sculptural details.
As with all landscaping styles, the overall look is created through the strategic use and placement of features such as:
- Flower gardens and flowering beds
- Foundation plantings
- Drives and walkways
- Fountains and water features
Where ranch house landscaping comes into its own, and what sets it apart from the type of landscaping traditionally associated with multi-story residences, is how (and where) these features are arranged and used.
As Zac Garden notes, trees are a classic feature of ranch house landscaping. As well as providing some much-needed height, surrounding the house with shade trees will act as an effective windbreak in stormy weather and provide plenty of shade on hotter days. As with all landscaping designs, it should be ensured trees are planted at a sufficient distance from the house to stop their roots interfering with its foundations: if the garden isn’t big enough to accommodate large trees or those with big root systems, smaller specimens such as the western redbud, flowering crabapples, Japanese maples, or sand cherry trees can be used to great effect. To avoid obscuring the outlook, most ranch dwellers prefer to keep larger trees to the sides of the house and dedicate the front garden to lower plantings.
Flower gardens act as a great way of demarcating between different areas of the garden, as well as providing a wonderful splash of seasonal color. As ranch houses tend to be very angular, a few curved flower beds can go a long way to softening any sharp edges. As some ranch houses have large back gardens but next to no front yard, a rock bordered flower bed positioned along the front of the house and planted with a mix of small, flowering shrubs and sculptural plants will create an eye-catching look.
Shrubs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can be used to create an illusion of depth… something one-story buildings like the ranch house can sometimes lack. If you want to emphasize rather than soften the sharp angles of the traditional ranch house, you can prune the hedges into bold, square designs that will add a dramatic beauty to the overall aesthetic. Otherwise, allowing the shrubs to grow into their full splendor (with just an occasional clip to keep things looking orderly) will help soften and round off any prominent edges. For a dynamic, cross-seasonal appeal, try using a mixture of perennials and evergreens, and don’t hesitate to keep things varied with a combination of different foliage types, shapes, and textures.
When designing your garden, one of the most important elements to consider is the walkway – after all, there’s no point in having a beautiful garden if visitors have to trample over your flower beds to get to the front door. As Home Guides notes, ranch house landscaping tends to favor curved walkways of stone or brick to soften the otherwise angular appearance of the dwellings. To create interest, garden beds or small shrubs can be used to line the walkways.
A walkway needn’t just lead to the front door, however- ranch houses tend to have sprawling backyards, and paths can provide a great way of both breaking up the different areas of the yard and letting you get maximum enjoyment out of every square inch of it. Bordering the paths with perennial beds will not only create a uniform aesthetic, it’ll also add a big splash of color and vibrancy. To really integrate your home and garden, you could even draw on the colors used in your home to help you decide which plants to use in the beds.
Ranch houses can, by nature, be quite simple and generic; in a neighborhood full of ranch houses, the garden can be the one real chance you have of making your home stand out from the rest. A water feature or fountain in the front garden can make a big splash, adding visual interest and depth even when the floral displays of summer have passed. Regardless of what type of water feature you choose, make sure it doesn’t end up dwarfing the low style of the house.
A tall fence rarely sits well against the short height of a ranch house, but a miniature picket fence or an elegant metal fence can be used to create privacy and visual interest, without obscuring the view to, or from, the house.