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Golden Era Landscaping

ITG

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2,483
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Dallas/Fort Worth (TEXAS)
We're going to be doing some landscaping in our front yard. This got me to thinking, were there some popular landscaping shrubs or other plants popular to use in 1940s or certain landscaping styles that were popular? I'm sure lots depend on what part of the country you live in as to what plants grow best there. But it's a question I thought might be interesting to pose. Or if you have vintagey homes, show pics of your landscaping.
 

Viola

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2,469
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NSW, AUS
I don't think you could go wrong with clipped hedges of privet or yew. Not very exciting to today's eyes, though.

I will dig up my old landscaping books and see what else they specify. I know they had hostas as "plantain lilies" and of course the '40s was an era that LOVED its hybrid tea roses, the most famous of which would have to be 'Peace' which was introduced in '45 and is still beloved today. Its a soft pink-cream color.

'Chrysler Imperial' was brought out in '52 and is bright red and fragrant. I love the midcentury flavor of its name.

During WWII, the Netherlands showed support for the Allied Forces by, in a cunning streak of pure military genius...hybridizing a really pretty tulip and naming it 'West Point.' Nothing says "in your face, Nazi bastards!" like a tulip. :D

-Viola
 

Cousin Hepcat

Practically Family
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774
Location
NC
I was thinking the exact same thing, was even going to surf ebay soon for vintage 30s-40s landscaping books, looking forward to the responses.

:eek:fftopic:

The main university near I grew up, Duke University (Glenn Miller roots for the Duke Blue Devils in one of his broadcasts :) , has a formal gardens that was constructed in 1940.

Lots of symmetry & terraces: A neighbor (we're on 1/10th-acre lots) has a tiny but steeply sloped front lawn & they put in two 1-foot-tall curved cobblestone wall terraces with a flat bed of flowers on each, and really creates a classic golden era look:

The main parts of Duke Gardens, unchanged since 1940:

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- C H
 

BegintheBeguine

My Mail is Forwarded Here
What houseplants were popular? They are more in my budget. Last week I picked up a free book about decorating with houseplants as I collect interior decorating books (this one is 70s, though.)
:eek:fftopic: The pictures of Duke are nice, Cousin Hepcat. One of my work t-shirts is from the Duke soccer team and I bought it at the thrift store solely because of hearing an old recording of the Blue Devils jazz band on AM740. That and my family had a joke about a lady we knew who was so Southern she pronounced Duke with 4 syllables.
 

Viola

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NSW, AUS
BegintheBeguine, I really adore the bold shape of rubber plant (...my sister was horrified at the idea until I assured her I didn't mean a plastic plant!) and snake plant, but those are more Victorian than mid-century.

The rubber plant especially has a bold shape that suits modern design. And its hard to kill, which I appreciate. They have green-leaved and burgundy-leaved kinds.

Philodendron was popular in the '50s but it is poisonous to cats and thus I am leery of it for myself. (If anybody kills my cats its going to be me!;) ) It does have gorgeous shiny leaves and takes shade.

Palms make great accents especially with British Colonial or tropical/tiki rooms. And they're pretty easy though nothing's as easy as rubber plant.

Gardenias are perfect for '40s corsages and they smell heavenly. You cannot let them dry out or they die though. I don't have one at the moment but I think I have to get one. I am a danger to myself at Home Depot, I can't stop! :eek: :D

-Viola
 

BegintheBeguine

My Mail is Forwarded Here
Thanks, Viola! I was thinking rubber plants. They actually made a huge, cliched comeback in the 70s. While I was looking at my freebie book last week I recalled going downtown on the bus to buy a very expensive beautiful rubber plant with my big brother for our dad's home office. As I was a child it was in the 70s.
I want to do an Oriental room, but I'm wasn't necessarily going to put a plant in there? I like the idea of palms! I'll have to look up philodendron. I'm hopeless with matching names to plants. A rose by any other name, and all that.
I never thought of gardenias! Home Depot, you say? :)
 

Viola

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2,469
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NSW, AUS
Home Depot and Lowes are my two go-to stores. By which I mean I go-to and go-to until I've gone-through all my money! lol

Bamboo, or lucky bamboo, (which is technically a dracaena but nevermind) would look cute as can be in an Asian themed room.

This lucky bamboo is pruned rather severely but let to grow a bit more naturally (less work, woo-hoo!) it would look really good.
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Philodendron
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Potted gardenia
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PADDY

I'll Lock Up
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METROPOLIS OF EUROPA
You're going to be busy there Holly!!

Having finished landscaping my place, I know the job you are likely to be taking on. But it'll be worth it!!
 

Big Man

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3,776
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Nebo, NC
Our old family homeplace has seen relatively little landscaping changes over the past 80 years or so (except for everything having "grown up"). My grandmother always had flowers in her garden and around the house, but she would not allow cut flowers inside the house. she said they reminded her too much of a funeral (that's another story for another time). Most, if not all, of the flowers, shrubs, and trees she planted are still there. What we call "March flowers" line the driveway, as do a number of Iris and Mums. The front flower beds have Nandina bushes and more Mums and Iris, as well as a couple of Lilac bushes. she also planted a lot of Dogwoods, Boxwoods, and Crape Myrtle trees along the road bank.

One thing that has died out and is the Thrift plants that used to border the front walk. I can remember the low-growing plants with tiny white, pink, purple, and blue flowers that grew along that old walk. She also always had a large tulip patch, but none of her tulips remain. I'm working on reestablishing these two things in some of the same areas.

The following pictures will, I hope, establish some sort of time line to help illustrate the evolution of the front landscaping of the house, and how (with the exception of "growing up") it has remained basically the same over all these years.

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Christmas, 1925. You can't really see much of the flower beds in front of the house, but this picture will give a good starting reference for how things developed over the years. By the way, that's my Dad in the picture.


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My Grandmother, my aunt Hazel, me, and my Dad in November, 1955. You can see some of the Nandina bushes in the front flower bed.


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Summer, 2006. The same flower beds in front of the house (and the same Nandina bushes).
 
This doesn't exactly show much detail but I can get more if you like. The landscaping here hasn't changed much since my grandfather did it in 1951. There was a Magnolia tree in the rock circle but now it hosts a Hydrangea. Hedges on both sides are shorn close and tight. The one on the right undulates in and out. The varigated evergreen at the end is shaped like a heart.
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The hedge at the back surrounds a rose garden. There are also roses in front of the hedge on both sides. Roses can be a lot of work but choosing the correct disease resistant varieties from the beginning is key. Chrysler Imperial, mentioned before, is a wonderful red color and highly fragrant (Hybrid Tea 1952).
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It won the Gamble award for fragrance in the 50s. I generally go for the unusual in roses.
Distant Drums is a great variety whose tan flowers fade to pink as it opens.
Ferdinand Pichard (Hybrid Perpetual 1921) is a two tone rose whose pink and white stripes really set off an area.
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Baron Girod d'lain (hybrid perpetual 1897) is a deep red with white ticks on the ends of the petals.
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Lastly Frau Karl Druschki (hybrid perpetual 1901)
For a good white rose which has proven its durability to me, this is the best for a vintage white rose. I can even excuse its lack of scent.

Regards to all,

J
 

LizzieMaine

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31,059
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Where The Tourists Meet The Sea
We still have a couple of 1940s houseplants in the family -- a Boston fern and a philodendron that belonged to my grandmother. My mother remembers them from her own childhood, which makes them at least 70-75 years old, and after my grandmother died, she took posession of them. They're still doing fine, and I hope when the time comes they'll pass on to my sister, because I can barely keep a spider plant alive.
 

tonyb

I'll Lock Up
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9,898
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My mother's basement
About the only common houseplants in my earliest recollections are the split-leaf philodendron, the rubber tree, and the occasional Sansevieria, aka “mother-in-law’s tongue.”

I knew of no one with houseplants in abundance until the late 1960s, about the time that macrame houseplant hangers caught on big. All that hippie stuff, you know.

I now have what some would deem too many houseplants. Most I got either free or next to it. Some I’ve had for decades.

Around about 1975 I became a regular visitor to a houseplant shop a block and a half away from my close-in studio apartment. Long story short, the proprietress and I got real sweet on each other and so commenced an on-again, off-again love affair of some 20 years duration. She was talented, she was beautiful, and she was difficult. And I couldn’t resist going back for more. I had a huge crush on her, which hasn’t completely died away yet, even though I haven’t seen her in more than two decades, even though I married another woman 19 years ago, even though she has herself been dead since January of 2013.

So mostly on account of all that I know my houseplants pretty well, every bit as well if not better than most workers at commercial greenhouses. Keeping tropical plants alive under trying conditions (most interiors are) is among the things that feed my sense of purpose. It’s life.

Wish I still had the greenhouse I had to leave behind when we moved five states to the right and down. (Safely moving the plants themselves that distance presents greater challenges than most feel like tackling.) But we do have a large covered deck here, which makes for a splendid nursery for the four months or so of the year you can pretty much count on it being frost free.

I’ve been casually looking into another greenhouse. Research indicates that for my purposes the low-end kits (think Harbor Freight Tools) would be a waste of money, what with the high winds and large hail we get here. I’m seriously considering a Grandio, because of its uniformly favorable reviews from the customers as well as the pros, who cite its thicker glazing (substantially thicker — 10mm vs. 6 and even 4) and much heavier aluminum framing. If anyone here has experience along these lines, I’d welcome her input.
 
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Hat and Rehat

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Denver
My grandparents always had houseplants prior to the the macrame craze.
I wasn't particularly interested in horticulture at the time, but I remember the rubber tree by name. It had the obligatory dark brown support post of some 2"×2" porous material. There were others too. I remember helping my grandmother dust leaves, then apply some kind of glossy clear finish that smelled awful.


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tonyb

I'll Lock Up
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9,898
Location
My mother's basement
My grandparents always had houseplants prior to the the macrame craze.
I wasn't particularly interested in horticulture at the time, but I remember the rubber tree by name. It had the obligatory dark brown support post of some 2"×2" porous material. There were others too. I remember helping my grandmother dust leaves, then apply some kind of glossy clear finish that smelled awful.


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I rarely have to stake my tall plants, which I suppose is mostly because I bring them outside during the warm months, where they are exposed to winds, which prompts them to develop stronger trunks and branches.

Lest anyone follow my example, know that you can’t just take the plants from the interior and put ’em out under direct sunshine. Unless they were residing in a solarium over the winter, they aren’t nearly toughened up enough not to burn like hell. Covered decks are great, as the houseplants get direct light for only brief periods during the day. Just when during the day depends on which side of the house the deck is on.

I’ve used summer weather to resurrect large plants of various kinds that their former keepers gave up on, on account of scale infestation or whatever. I hit ’em with systemic insecticide (what doesn’t kill ’em makes ’em stronger) and strip off all the vegetative growth — totally denude ’em — put ’em in larger pots with fresh soil, and then put ’em out in direct summer sun. Houseplants are of tropical and sub-tropical origin, so the patients usually recover splendidly.
 

Hat and Rehat

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2,442
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Denver
I rarely have to stake my tall plants, which I suppose is mostly because I bring them outside during the warm months, where they are exposed to winds, which prompts them to develop stronger trunks and branches.

Lest anyone follow my example, know that you can’t just take the plants from the interior and put ’em out under direct sunshine. Unless they were residing in a solarium over the winter, they aren’t nearly toughened up enough not to burn like hell. Covered decks are great, as the houseplants get direct light for only brief periods during the day. Just when during the day depends on which side of the house the deck is on.

I’ve used summer weather to resurrect large plants of various kinds that their former keepers gave up on, on account of scale infestation or whatever. I hit ’em with systemic insecticide (what doesn’t kill ’em makes ’em stronger) and strip off all the vegetative growth — totally denude ’em — put ’em in larger pots with fresh soil, and then put ’em out in direct summer sun. Houseplants are of tropical and sub-tropical origin, so the patients usually recover splendidly.
I think the brown stake was partly ornamental.
Some norteamericano bugs may think they're on a tropical vacation if you bring them indoors, no?

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tonyb

I'll Lock Up
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9,898
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My mother's basement
I think the brown stake was partly ornamental.
Some norteamericano bugs may think they're on a tropical vacation if you bring them indoors, no?

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I’ve rarely had any difficulty with native bugs setting up housekeeping indoors. Perhaps that’s a greater concern in, say, the Southeast. I dunno.
We do get spiders here in the summer, oodles of them. A neighbor hipped me to this granular stuff you sprinkle around the perimeter of the structures. I’ve found it quite effective.
 

tonyb

I'll Lock Up
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9,898
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My mother's basement
Just spent an hour or so hacking back the rose bushes. Still a few buds left to open, but that’ll be it for this year. I hope. I really don’t want to do this again until next year.
 

Haversack

One Too Many
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1,192
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Clipperton Island
In looking at my reprint books of 1920s & 30s small house and garden plans*, (thank you Dover Editions), some common trends in landscaping emerge.
First is that garages were rarely connected to the house. The garage was either tucked back behind the house and entered from a driveway along the side of the house, or was at the back of the lot and entered from an alley. This meant you had some built-in division of outdoor spaces that could be developed separately into formal and non-formal spaces. It also meant that the door the family really used was increasingly in the back or side of the house.
Secondly, the front porch was beginning to disappear and the covered outdoor social space was moving to the side or back of the house. This meant the front yard and front door were becoming less used and the plantings associated with it requiring less maintenance. Usually these were lawns and trimmed bushes as opposed to flowers and perennials.
A third feature that was not uncommon then but has all but disappeared is what was sometimes called a kitchen or laundry yard. This was usually a long and narrow bit of the yard on the sunny side of the house or garage and planted with a lawn. Clothes lines would be strung along it for the drying of laundry. The lawn served a dual purpose in that it kept mud and dust down and would help whiten the laundry if left hanging overnight.
As noted above, the porch/patio/loggia was increasingly on the back or side of the house and would usually overlook a formal garden if one was planted. This would commonly include flowers, small shrubbery, pavings, and some feature such as bench, pond, or small statue.
Kitchen gardens for vegetables, herbs and fruit would usually be separate from and often not visible from the formal garden.
*The plans were for houses with a footprint of under 1000 square feet and were intended for suburban or rural use.
 
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