As more people migrated to the suburbs in the 1950s, the plain, unadorned ranch house style become wildly popular. Variations on the basic form included the raised ranch and split level, which incorporated architectural elements that provided more room for garages and entry foyers.
Numerous individuals now refer to these patterns as “midcentury” or “modernist.” Some ranch homes were exquisitely designed on the interior and exterior, like the “Storybook” ranch houses that formed a niche market for design professionals in booming communities from Buffalo, New York to Los Angeles, California. Occasionally, these homes were constructed in wooded areas for a “hidden in plain sight” impression.
Ranch-style homes are less popular in contemporary home construction, although they are nevertheless purchased by many individuals seeking to downsize or relocate to single-story homes. Some homeowners modernize their midcentury ranch homes by installing new entryways or exterior features such as a new roof or chimney.
However, landscaping can go a far toward modernizing and renewing the appearance of your ranch home. Unlike bigger multi-floored types such as a Dutch Colonial, Victorian, or stately Bungalow, ranch houses are often one- or one-and-a-half-story buildings; therefore, the dimensions and style of your landscaping design must complement this lessened height.
In addition, ranch buildings are typically rather angular, so incorporating visual curves into the landscaping design contributes to a more dynamic appearance. This can be accomplished through walkways, sculptural pieces, and materials in addition to vegetation.
Ranch-style home landscaping goals
The main goals when landscaping the ranch house are to visually raise its low profile and soften its sharp, square silhouette.
While other plants, such as trees and grasses, help meet these goals, the right shrubs do double — and sometimes triple—duty.
Low-growing shrubs in the front bed also help preserve one of the ranch home’s key architectural elements: picture windows.
Break up the straight lines with curved planting beds
Widening the front planting bed to at least 4 feet, and curving it, helps break up the straight lines of the front of the ranch house.
As you design the curved bed, place the center curve directly in the center of the front of the house, curving toward the house.
Raising the bed 10 inches with topsoil helps bring the eye up when viewing the home from the street.
We referred earlier to the importance of shrubs when landscaping the yard in front of a ranch house.
Toward the front of the beds, plant shrubs that remain small and have a rounded growth habit, or tolerate heavy pruning to make them round.
Winter Gem or dwarf English boxwoods are ideal and will thrive in the shade cast by the house’s eaves.
Variegated or colored foliage, such as the soft yellow of the gold thread cypress, draws the eye away from the house’s low profile.
Balance is an important landscaping concept, so a tall, conical tree or shrub is something to consider planting.
Plant the low-growing shrubs in the front bed, set back from the edge, in the same arc as the bed. Consider the following:
- Box-leaf Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus ‘Microphyllus’) USDA Zones 6 – 9
- Prostrate white Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora ‘Prostrata’) USDA zones 6 – 9
- Cream De Mint dwarf mock orange (Pittosporum tobira ‘Shima’) USDA Zones 8 – 11
Enter your ZIP Code here to find your growing zone.
Set larger shrubs, such as azaleas, or the conical tree, at the corners of the house to provide a definite end to the house’s long line. These corner plantings also add a vertical focal point.
Aim for an asymmetrical grouping of plants. Ranch houses are supposed to be informal and were designed for simple, casual living.