Landscaping a midcentury house: Beware the sideburn hedges

landscaping mid century houseTGIF, so we are guessing a lot of readers will be outside, working on the garden and the lawn and landscaping in general. So today, a simple before-and-after landscaping photo that makes a dramatic point about reconsidering those classic midcentury sideburn hedges.

Reader Shann owns a lovely coolonial. All the vintage hedges — they got a major haircut.  In their place and in addition:  Low lying plantings… a window box… a trellis… and some front yard hardscaping — most notably, the sidewalk. Looks like Shann also got a new roof – dark, to play up the shutters.) Trim the hedges and now: We can see the pretty facade of the house.

Folks, those classic midcentury box hedges chucked right up against the foundation and left to grow and grow and grow, choking the front of the house? Well, I don’t think they were  a particularly good idea.

Want to improve your curb appeal? Get those hedge hogs out of there. Or, cut ’em ‘way down below the windows at least. Layer other plantings in front of them. “Pull” your landscaping out about as deep as the height of the first floor wall of the house. Add some hardscape. Etc. Nicely done, Shann — what a lovely house you have — classic!

  1. Claudia Rainey says:

    I’m a landscape designer, and I think Midcentury homes do well with either modern (very simple and textural) landscapes or oriental style, or a combination of the two. Many, including my own, come with overgrown hedges and foundation plantings. Mine was all boxwoods. I have moved and replaced most of them and have planted a flowering cherry and some native muhly grass so far. The key is to keep the plant palette simple and focus on texture and year-round interest rather than flowers.

  2. I am a native plant advocate myself. Our house originally had box shrubs that over time nearly enveloped the whole front of the house. Besides covering the natural look and lines of the house they also create other problems – places for animals to hide out, prevent easy access to parts of your house, etc. I’m in the midst of a re-landscaping our house now with much more lower profile shrubs and flowers in the hopes of it not overgrowing as significantly in the future.

  3. Janet says:

    Hedges next to the house, junipers in particular, are serious fire hazards. If they catch fire, the flames go up right under the eaves and catch the roof on fire.

  4. Christa says:

    A big section of my mid century house is hidden behind enormous rare varieties of camellia trees. I’m debating taking them out. They’re so pretty but they take up a lot of room in my little yard and really are out of scale to the house. I wonder if there is some sort of plant exchange out there or some landscaper who would want to come and take them to use on another project.

  5. Scott says:

    If they are still good looking trees, and more important structurally solid, I’d think about what those trees do for you as far as protection from the elements and sun. Could removal of the trees cause your summer AC costs to skyrocket?

    Also keep in mind new trees of any reasonable size are astounisingly expensive not to mention the cost involved in removing the old tree and its roots which is a pretty messy and invasive procedure for your yard as well.

  6. Carl Youngblood says:

    I’m with you. I live in Colorado but I just don’t like that “weedy” landscaping. I like minimalism. To avoid having to water a lot of grass, I used wood chips and rocks in some areas and planted some of those sculptural-style evergreens. Since the entire front of my house is glass, I did the lawn all the way up to the foundation with no plants there at all. I do like the idea of using Asian-style landscaping that is mentioned in another comment.

  7. DIY April says:

    I have overgrown bushes in my mid century fixer upper. Thank you for giving me permission. Seriously… I didn’t know until reading this. So helpful.

  8. PJ says:

    It’s called a house MUSTACHE not a side burn *wink*. I xeriscape with native plants in a dry area (Texas) it doesn’t look weedy. The trick is to cut back native plants twice a year to keep them from getting “leggy”. You can do it with a string trimmer or shears. It keeps them compact. Also, add edging to all flowerbeds! It makes it look more organized and keeps the sod, or ground cover out. Mulching regularly is important too.

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