Ranch houses are an American standard. Their design first appeared in the 1920s and drew heavily from Spanish colonial architecture. They are obvious in their understatement; a single story with overlapping gables, long eaves and an L floor layout with a side garage attached; the type of house shown in government-mandated 1950s television shows with the perfect family. In fitting with the house, landscaping should focus on detail rather than obvious decoration.
Perimeters and Yard
If it's not already there, lay down your sod or plant your seed for a lawn. Use St. Augustine for warm weather areas and Kentucky blue grass for cold weather areas. They both grow quickly and are resistant to extremes of temperature, insects and disease. Thicken it by continuously trimming the edges into a vertical wall, all the way down to the roots. This will produce a lush, well-ordered appearance. Curve the perimeter of the garden beds surrounding the house so they pull in and out loosely rather than presenting straight edges. Dig small, narrow trenches along the perimeters of the yard, separating the grass from the drive, walkways and garden beds surrounding the house and rear patio. Clear, wide lines and delineations are key in the ranch home theme. Bury commercial rolls of plastic edging in the trenches. Create the appearance of the grass and garden beds choosing to stay separated, rather than being kept separated by a visible barrier.
Heap up earth in the garden beds to raise them about 6 inches above the level of the surrounding grass. This will help show off the plants to greater effect and create a tiered appearance leading up to the house. Plant creeping jasmine as a groundcover and trim it frequently to get it to thicken, further enhancing the raised bed effect. Place individual shrubs and bushes symmetrically. What you place on one corner of the house, you place on the other. What you place in front, you place in back. Use Japanese holly and rhododendron bushes spaced well apart so each one presents individually when viewed from the front yard. Plant Canadian holly as the centerpieces, one placed at each corner of the house, ringed by smaller shrubs. Rather than letting them take their normal shape, prune them frequently so that they are all rounded and curved. The overall focus is creating a carefully sculpted, rolling and artificial appearance. Lots of foliage or flowers are not the point, well cut and tended is.
Patio and Walkway
Pull out any pre-existing walkways in the rear, sides and front of the yard, especially the one leading from the drive to the front door. Simple cement is too craggy, dull and straight. Use wide blocks of polished limestone for a smooth, synthetic appearance. Ideally the individual blocks run the whole width of the walkway to create fewer visible seams. Cut the edges of the blocks to match the slow, gentle curve of the garden beds. Place one leading to the front door and another as a replacement for the concrete slab that makes up the rear patio.