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How to Landscape a Garden in 1930s Style

By Janet Bayers ; Updated September 21, 2017
Roses and hydrangeas were popular in the 1930s.

Creating a 1930s garden will take some digging to see examples, but it's not too difficult to find photographs of period homes that include the gardens surrounding them. Take the photos to your local nursery for help identifying the plants, or hire a landscape designer who specializes in period gardens. Vestiges of the 1930s may still exist in the garden, such as paths, patios, fences or outbuildings, as well as mature trees and shrubs. Use these as a basis for re-landscaping.

Step 1

Find photos at your historical society, historical museum or library. Locally written books may feature classic older homes in your city and will include views of their gardens. Visit those historic homes with gardens that have been maintained in period style.

Step 2

Consult books published during the 1930s. “The Fragrant Path” by Louise Beebe Wilder came out in 1932, and was republished in 1974 under the title “The Fragrant Garden.”

Step 3

Read books about period gardens. The famous gardens at Sissinghurst Castle in England were created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson during the 1930s. Their garden is the subject of many books, and Sackville-West wrote about gardening during that period. “The 1930s Home” by Greg Stevenson (2008) and "The 1930s House Manual" by Ian Rock (2005) are other good sources.

Step 4

Search the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Gardens, which includes thousands of slides from the 1920s and 1930s.

Step 5

Choose plants that have been in cultivation since the mid-1920s. Large rose gardens were popular during the 1930s, as were plants such as hydrangeas, lilacs and hostas. Heirloom rose growers provide the year that a rose came into cultivation, as do heirloom bulb growers, so it is easy to tell what kinds of roses or daffodils a 1930s garden held. Search for plants labeled “heirloom” and “antique.”


Things You Will Need

  • Library
  • Historical photos
  • Internet connection

About the Author


Since 1981 Janet Bayers has written on travel, real estate trends and gardening for "The Oregonian" newspaper in Portland. Her work also has appeared in “Better Homes & Gardens,” “Traditional Home,” “Outdoor Living” and other shelter magazines. She holds a Master of Arts in linguistics from Michigan State University.