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Creating the right landscape can greatly enhance a bungalow’s architecture. It can also extend the home by making attractive outdoor spaces in which to play, party, or just putter.

When Chicago bungalows were being constructed, foundation plantings—plants placed close to the house, masking the seam between wall and ground—were the landscaping style of choice. Evergreen shrubs were usually used. Foundation plantings were often used to good effect. Shrubbery was generally low growing, framing a home’s architectural detail. It added attractive greenery, and the plants were usually easy to maintain. However, this approach also lacked diversity, and today many bungalows are completely hidden by outdated, overgrown shrubs.

In any landscaping effort, good design can be achieved by following a few basic principles

  • Scale

  • Line

  • Balance & Repetition

  • Contrast

  • Color & Seasonality​



The key to landscaping a bungalow is scale. Most bungalows occupy a sizable part of their lots, leaving a disproportionately small amount of land.


This feature imposes clear limits on height and spread which can affect plan selection, location and layout.

In bungalow neighborhoods, scale goes beyond the
boundaries of the individual lot. Consider the effect your front landscaping will have on the streetscape as a whole.

  • Select properly-sized plants and shrubs that will
    accent architectural features of your bungalow

  • Trim or remove overgrown or overcrowded shrubs and trees

  • Consider smaller trees, pergolas or arbors as an
    alternative to large shade trees for the backyard

  • Utilize original concrete window boxes and planters, or replicas that are compatible with the style and period of the house

  • Use plantings that hide the approach to your door

  • Use large plantings that conceal architectural
    features of the bungalow

  • Plant more than one large shade tree in the backyard​​​​​​



Lines in a landscape are created by hardscape or plantings. They can be straight or curved, horizontal or vertical, and each gives a different feel. Straight lines convey a feeling of formality, while curved lines feel more natural.

Strong vertical lines suggest power and dominance, and may overwhelm a small bungalow garden.

  • Use natural or curving lines when creating planting beds

  • Limit hardscape in the front yard to necessary walkways

  • Keep backyard fencing in scale with the yard and house

  • Use only strong, straight lines when planning your beds and walkways

  • Use decorative planting borders such as plastic fencing which is not in character with Arts & Crafts design

  • Remove front lawn and fill the area with concrete or other pavement

  • Use chain link fencing or other uncharacteristic fencing in front yard

Balance & Repetition

Balance & Repetition

Balance refers to the distribution of plants in a landscape. For example, two or three smaller shrubs on one side of a door can balance one medium sized shrub on the other side.

The design of a landscape becomes stronger and more unified when a plant is repeated periodically. In a bungalow landscape this becomes even more important, as too many plants in a small space can quickly look jumbled.

Repetition creates a sense of order and rhythm.

  • Create a natural balance with groupings of large and small plantings

  • Create multiple groupings of a few kinds of plants to create a stronger, more unified effect

  • Make plantings too symmetrical or formal

  • Use too many different kinds of plants, or plant too many varieties in one area

Color & Seasonality

Color & Seasonality

Color in the landscape is usually associated with flowers;
but it also comes from foliage, berries, and even bark.


In small yards, repeating a few colors rather than introducing many tends to be more effective.


Color has a powerful emotional impact. Reds, yellows and oranges (warm colors) tend to be stimulating. Blues, greens and violets (cool colors) can help small spaces seem larger and calmer. Although many homes are planted with only one or two seasons in mind, well chosen plantings can make your landscape as interesting in winter as it is in spring or summer. Evergreens, bark and berries offer winter interest, as do many perennials which, once spent, present attractive silhouettes.

  • Use plant colors to set the mood for your garden
    - cool colors for a calming environment, and warm
    colors for a stimulating one

  • Utilize plants, shrubs and tree with interesting and
    colorful foliage, berries or bark

  • Choose a mixture of plants that will be attractive
    and colorful

  • Use too many colors in a small area

  • Limit your garden to only one type of plant

Same window box, different seasons:


When different forms or colors are placed together, the element of contrast is created, which creates a much more interesting look. An upright evergreen such as a juniper, for example, rising out of a series of low rounded shrubs like spireas creates a pleasing contrast in the landscape.

  • Use tall and short plantings for special accent

  • Place contrasting colored plantings next to each other

  • Consider the bungalow’s brick color when choosing flowering plants

  • Use plantings that are all one height or similarly shaped

  • Use plantings that are all similarly colored or plants with flowers that will be lost against the color of the bungalow’s brick

Sustainable Landscaping

Sustainable Landscaping

There are a number of ways to help make your yard and garden more sustainable

  • Use permeable paving materials—such as natural stone, gravel and repurposed bricks—where possible, as these help to reduce stormwater run-off and replenish groundwater

  • Use plants that are native to the region, as they are well adapted to our soils and climate
    and often require less care and watering to thrive 

  • Incorporate edible plants into a landscape. For example, grapevines can screen outdoor
    seating areas, becoming part of the cooling system, while also providing food

  • Install a rain barrel—these are connected to gutter downspouts to collect and store rain
    water that can be used to water plants

  • Install solar-powered landscape lighting

  • Install a rain garden! The benefits are real:

    • Can be easy and affordable​

    • A natural solution to diverting flood
      water and protecting your home

    • Promotes the growth of native plants

    • Enjoy watching your garden grow as it
      proves to be both functional and beautiful! 


Protecting your home comes first! Soil and/or mulch should never be above your foundation line—remember this to avoid pulling water up through your masonry. 

Install a Rain Garden
Live Rain Garden Install

On August 22, 2015 CBA hosted a free Summer Blocks Party in the 10th Ward that provided flood prevention resources and demonstrations. The most exciting attraction was the live rain garden installation right in this bungalow backyard.

The landscapers at Prairie Godmothers were there to answer questions and explain the benefits of rain gardens. 

Early the next summer, the garden sprang to life! See for yourself!

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