Does anyone know much about 1920's gardens?

lavender_lass(4b)August 19, 2010

I know this is the cottage garden forum, but I also know some of you like a more traditional layout, with cottage flowers and shrubs, etc.

As some of you know, I've been working on my new kitchen garden and the weeds have been getting the upper hand, so to speak. This was the former horse pasture, so the weeds are loving this soil. The other night, I realized this garden looks more like a ruin, than a new garden. LOL The weeds are 3' tall (and I've pulled them up three times this summer) and as I weed, I keep finding my blueberry bushes, strawberries, roses, etc. They're all doing very well and look great, they're just hidden by weeds.

Anyway, it made me think about historic gardens and I went over to the Garden Restoration forum...and found a 1920's garden that looks a lot like my kitchen garden. It's bordered by shrubs all the way around and has an arbor/pergola on one side and a round bed with a sundial (I have a birdbath) on the other side.

Does anyone have a 1920's style garden? I didn't even know there was one. I'll try to post the picture I found on the forum and a picture of my kitchen garden (weeds and all) when I get a chance tomorrow. Off to check on my mom right now.

If anyone has pictures or ideas, please let me know. Thanks :)

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I am a garden historian and I think I posted to that thread.

There is no one single style of 1920s garden. That is good news as it gives you a lot of flexibility. Gardening was hugely popular in the 1920s, perhaps more so than at any time til the 1990s.

The style you describe was very popular--shrubs surrounding a space, usually a square, rectangle or circle--with an arbor at the entrance and a sundial garden in the middle. That style is called Colonial Revival. It was their idea of what a colonial garden looked like.

But gardens could vary according to the house's architecture and what part of the country they were in. My best suggestion is to go to Google and Google Images and type in terms like 1920s gardens or Colonial Revival gardens or Arts and Crafts gardens. Look thru the photos for ideas.

Then search Amazon for books about these kinds of gardens and get the books from the library. They are usually full of photos.

The best was is to search thru magazines and books from the 1920s but that will only work if you have access to major libraries, especially at schools of architecture. Not practical for most people. Good luck! Most of all, make a garden *you* love.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 10:57AM
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Ginny- Thanks for the great suggestions! I had no idea gardening was so popular in the 1920s.

I posted the link to the photos in the restoration garden forum gallery. The garden that is similar to mine is the third picture, with the arbor and the round bed. I have an arch into the garden, then the round bed with a birdbath, then the bigger arbor (but mine is black metal with benches facing each other).

The funny thing about all this is that I have been ordering old fashioned roses for the front beds. OGRs are hardier with our cold winters and seemed appropriate for the old farmhouse. The "newest" roses I ordered were the hybrid musks, which are supposed to be from the 1920s. Just happened that way, but kind of a happy coincidence :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of 1920s gardens

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 11:24AM
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Thanks so much!

This is was the plan I started with when I first bought my place. I don't think it necessarily rules it out of the Cottage Garden style - it was the beginning of the American style Arts and Crafts period with carefree-style living in and out of the house and gardens (or so it was called).

I would be very interested in researching this with you.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 12:05PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

I specialize in historic American gardens as well (of course, mainly Southern). There is an excellent book on Bungalow gardens of the 20's - and almost every garden pictured in the book is from Oregon or Washington State. It's a beautiful book!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 12:12PM
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Lavender, what style is your house? Is it Victorian, bungalow, tudor revival, colonial revival, etc...?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 1:05PM
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GGG- What were the Southern gardens like in the 1920s? Do you remember the name of the book on Bungalow gardens?

Annie- I would love to research this with you. Do you have any ideas where to start?

Thanks for the input! I just thought I had some "weird idea" to mix a more formal layout with cottage-style plants, but this could be a lot of fun :)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 1:06PM
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Krycek- My "house" is a double-wide manufactured home, but very cute, at least to me. We live on a farm, next to the old farmhouse, where my husband's grandparent's lived. (That would be the one I talk about on the Old House forum.)

The farmhouse was built in 1904, with an addition added in the 1950's. I, personally, am not a big fan of 1950's architecture, so I tried to concentrate on choosing plants for the gardens that were popular back in the 20s and 30s, but I didn't know there was an actual style.

His grandmother was a wonderful gardener...people have stopped by and told us her gardens were beautiful and some of the nicest in the area. She was the one who planted the lilac hedge. Where our home is now, used to be the vegetable garden. There are still fruit trees here from the 1950s and before. Daffodils still come up all around the old house and I've rescued peonies from the old back yard, where we no longer water. Almost every spring, something new shows up, especially when we've had a lot of snow.

Since there were all the lilacs, peonies, and other flowers popping up (even a few columbine and pansies show up one year and gone the next) I thought roses would be the perfect addition to the garden, but I wanted the older roses, as they just seemed like the right choice. I mixed in other shrubs and flowers, to get more of a cottage style.

Honestly, I've always joked my garden style is Disney's Snow White's wishing well meets Snow White's escape in the woods. I have the book for my nieces and I noticed if you flip back and forth between the two pictures, it looks a lot like my gardens...especially the fairy garden :)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 1:43PM
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So cool that we have a garden historian among us. I read about garden history a lot and find it intriguing.

There are a number of great books out there on the topic. I'd start with these:

Outside the Bungalow: America's Arts and Crafts Garden by Paul Duchscherer aand Douglas Keister
The New Traditional Garden: A Practical Guide to Creating and Restoring Authentic American Gardens for Homes of All Ages by Michael Weishan
Period Gardens: New Life for Historic Landscapes by Patrick Taylor

You might find these in your public library, or from used book sellers.

You might also look for reprints of books by Gertrude Jeckyll and William Robinson, since they were leading garden designers of the early 20th century.

Good luck with this wonderful project!


    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 1:51PM
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memo(Zone 4B Nebraska)

I found this link to a re-created 1920's Colonial Revival garden that has some history in it. The pics I found were wonderful and surprisingly very close to what we, today, call a cottage garden. I think you are on the right track!


Here is a link that might be useful: 1920's garden

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 5:33PM
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Here's some nice gardens. Some of you have probably seen this before, but I like the descriptions and diagrams in the pamphlets :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Reeves-Reed Arboretum

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 9:01PM
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Rosefolly- Thanks for the book recommendations. I'll have to see if I can find them at the library.

Memo- Great does look like a cottage garden :)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 9:14PM
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Here's another link I found, for Sears homes in the 1920s. The Magnolia has a nice front garden, with the birdbath in the bottom corner and you can just see the rose pergola(?) off to the left.

I like the Hathaway, too. Isn't that the cutest yard and the porch and window box are charming.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sears homes in the 1920s

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 9:35PM
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I like to browse through used book stores and I've come across old books on gardening during many eras. 1920s is so much more about the flapper years and so I think gardens reflected the vibrant feel of that period.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 11:42PM
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Since long before it became fashionable I have loved the Arts and Crafts period of architecture, fine arts, and decorative arts ranging from the late 1800's to about 1930. Both the American version (Stickely et al) and English version (William Morris and his pals) appeal to me, perhaps the English version just a bit more, since it was more romantic and less practical. Gardening was integral to the ideas of the period, uniting the indoors and the outdoors, though not in the way we look at that concept today. I think you will enjoy the books very much. Do look for Gertrude Jeckyll and William Robinson. They were the The Man when it came to gardens in those days, and I know that there are modern reprints of their books.

You also might want to include a look at the nursery called Old House Gardens when selecting plant material. Their specialty is heirloom bulbs, and they are identified by date of first introduction. That makes it easy to select bulbs that actually would have existed in the 1920's. Also you might want to look at the Vintage Gardens rose nursery website. They have a lot of older roses and list the year of introduction for you.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 12:22AM
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We were thinking maybe about a manufactured home. I hear really good, and really bad about them. So we just don't know!

I know for Victorian homes, there tended to be a specific garden "style" of the time. They wanted to extend rooms into the yard so there would be several formal areas boxed off (maybe with boxwood) for a sitting area, much like an indoor room would be. With some informal flourishes mixed in.

Alot of the homes around here were built from 1910-1930 so there is a lot of the transitional style here...transitioning from Victorian to Colonial Revival. Ours is a mix, as are a lot of people's on the street.

One thing I see repeated over and over in old garden books and websites is VInes, Vines, Vines! They used vines ALL the time and loved them.

I just planted a dutchman's pipe and a clematis for the front porch, a clematis and climjbing rose for the deck, and morning glories and a clematis for the fences. It will really help bring that "authentic" early 20th century look.

I think some people are intimidated by vines, but they do make such a difference! Whenever I see one on an old house, it just looks like it belongs there.

Don't get any suckering vines though (climbing hydrangea, english ivy, etc.) if you have'll suck it right off!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 1:08AM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Lavender, it's the Arts and Crafts book Rosefolly mentions (I don't have that book!).
Most of the gardens here were very linear: Old fashioned shrubs and lots of seed and bulb grown "typical" flowers we all love lining walks. In my own neighborhood, mostly built from the late 1800's - the 40's (and some in the 50's) the houses of the 20's often had extra side yards, a yard and a half, the entire length of the half yard was vegetable garden grown in typical rows. I live in a very working class neighborhood.
Gardens through the city in that time period varied depending mostly on wealth. The wealthier people had lawns, and mainly evergreen gardens - typical of what is seen today - plants lining linear walkways, a variety of shrubs - and lots of spring flowers. The rest of the year the gardens were often barren of most flowers, just cooling shades of green.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 1:50AM
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This is a great thread. I have a 1922 kit house (Aladdin) and I found the book called "Outside The Bungalow" very helpful. I got the book thru The American Bungalow Society magazine.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 7:27AM
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Interesting thread. I think I've been influenced by Gertrude Jekyll, but hadn't realized how much gardening was popular in the 1920's!

My own garden tries to combine (mostly) formal geometry with informal planting of cottage flowers, but I'm more influenced by French and English gardens than American ones! But maybe it is more of 1920's garden than I thought? ;). (I also love Arts and Crafts, but I know much more about the architecture and furniture than garden style. Love, love, love Greene and Greene...)

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 8:15AM
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The Victorian style of gardening was dead, dead, dead right around 1900. It survived in public parks and railroad stations but most people had come to dislike it intensely. One of its chief features was the bedding-out of annuals, both flowering and foliage plants. I am now seeing some of these foliage plants, like coleus, so popular in the 1800s, popular again. Huge foliage plants such as cannas were also big with the Victorians and scorned after 1900.

William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll began a revolution in English gardens. They advocated naturalistic planting styles and perennials. They also wrote books. Jekyll designed gardens for the very rich in England, never stirring from her hidden home at Munstead Wood, which I have had the great good fortune to visit.

Jekyll was inspired by English cottage gardens but her gardens were planned for the upper class. Her books were very popular and well-to-do Americans bought them with enthusiasm. However, American gardeners soon found that English garden books do not translate very well in our climate.

A whole new garden literature, most of it written by women gardeners, arose. These books were, I believe, the largest influence on American gardens from 1900 til WW2. They generally showed naturalistic groups of perennials in geometric beds. Borders were hugely popular, as well as the style described above, so often with a sundial at the center.

Sorry for the long post!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 11:52AM
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xantippe(8 Portland OR)

I agree with the person who recommended looking at used bookshops for 1920's gardening books. I also have had good luck at antique stores and shows.

My specialty was 1860's gardening, but when I bought my 1920's house, I started purchasing early to mid twentieth century gardening books. They've been SO helpful. Eventually, I plan to publish something on the topic. It's amazing how many different styles are period appropriate!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 12:34PM
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I found what I was looking for!

Here is a wonderful website that I just found on the Craftsman homes and period landscaping. I am going to print this out and keep it handy.

It is awesome!
Going back to read more now.
Hope this helps you.


Here is a link that might be useful: The Craftsman Perspective - Landscaping & Garden

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 5:24PM
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Annie- Great link! I got so interested in it, I forgot to post a thank you. I didn't notice, until I came back to check on it again, tonight :)

Does anyone have pictures of their gardens? I'd love to see them!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 10:10PM
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holleygarden Zone 8, East Texas

LL - thanks for directing me to this thread. This is more my style - abundance behind edgings with a formal/geometric design. I love this style, no matter what it's called or when it started, and one of the reasons I quit coming to the cottage garden forum. Thought it was too formal for 'cottage gardening'. I am surprised so many others posted they had more formal gardens, too. I would love to see others' garden pictures.

Here's a pic of one of my beds:

They are small, but you can see the boxwoods in front of the individual beds. They are slowly growing, but are not quite a hedge yet.

And - other posters may not understand this, but - the roses in front are 'Souvenir de St. Anne'. :)

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 7:03PM
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Holleygarden- Your gardens are beautiful and I love your roses. Is that a sundial? I think the boxwoods are just perfect for your space...and they're so cute, when they're little :)

I hope you'll post your other pictures, from the antique rose forum with the birdbath, etc. for those people who don't visit that forum.

Here'a a picture of my kitchen garden (it's on another thread, but just in case you didn't see it).

I'm still trying to decide what to do with the middle area. I moved the birdbath into the bed closer to the horses (where I think I'll have some flowers for the butterflies) so maybe four small 3'x5' beds in that open space...for my Peter Rabbit potager! LOL

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 10:47PM
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I am so pleased to have found these threads. I live in England and have a house whcih was built in 1928, the garden structure remains very similar now to how it was when the garden was first established but I have been trying to find more info on what other plants there would have been.

Initially I didn't take notice of american info on 20s/30s gardens because I thought it would be very different however having failed to find much online for England gardens in this period I started to read more on sites like this which have lots of info from the US and WOWEE some of the pictures are very similar to the design of my garden and so much about the types of flowers and plants are what I have in mine. Very keen to hear about the structure of gardens in this period in terms of the vege, flower and herb area, were they all separate or joined?
Were herb gardens big at this time, I'm also keen to hear ideas for front gardens. We have to change our so we can drive in with the car - the people who lived here before us never had a car! Thanks for the great info you have all provided x

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 4:59PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

emmat, it really depends what kind of 20's garden you want? I have a friend who gardens his mama's rural garden in Louisianna and it's full of herbs mixed with roses, mixed with all kinds of crazy things. It was never formal and everything was pass along. It looks pretty much exactly the same he says as to when it was started. I think his grandmother actually started it a bit, but when his mama inherited the property she took out all the grass and it's just all plants.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 8:50PM
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gardenbear1(6 Ma.)

I live in a 1922 Craftsman style 1 1/2 story bunglow, the house is a mail order. The gardens for this house was a big black lawn with a bad mitten net across the back yard and a small vegies garden by the kitchen door, other than that there was no garden, so I put in a garden using plants that would have been gardens of the 20s, after talking to the old timers on the street I'm as close as I can get to a garden for the age of the home, now its time to do more work on the house to put it back to what it did when it was new and do away with the 50s look of it. this is what the house looked like in 1935 all most the same as it did in 1922

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 10, 2011 at 10:21PM
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I thought I'd bump this thread up, since it has the links to the 1920s garden pictures, from the GW Garden Restoration forum, even though some of the other links no longer work. Holleygarden's picture is beautiful and Annie's link still works...very interesting :)

So, I'm back to thinking about a circle garden...they're just so neat and you don't see them that often, at least around our area. I found a few pictures (one is a Lowe's diagram) and I really like the bricks in the last one. We have some old bricks like that, so I'm wondering if that would be better than grass for the pathways.

The bed would be about 10' across and I found a plastic 'urn' which looks similar to the one in this picture, although a bit smaller. Anyone else thinking about circle beds or 1920's gardens?

Urn 'inspiration photo' From Lavender's Garden

Round bed in 1920s garden From Lavender's Garden

I love this arbor! From Lavender's Garden

Another round bed... From Lavender's Garden

Idea picture from Lowe's From Lavender's Garden

Antique brick From Lavender's Garden

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 7:14PM
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