Lauren Dunec Hoang
With white picket fences, lush green foliage and banks of flowering shrubs, traditional New England gardens have a classic, timeless style. These gardens of the Northeast look for ways to celebrate seasonal change — beds of bulbs in spring, exuberant summer perennial borders, and shrubs and trees for vivid fall foliage. If you live in New England or just love the region’s traditional garden style, here are a few ideas that will help you get the look in your own yard.
New England gardens with limited color palettes have a stately, sophisticated feel. To get the look, maintain shrubs as neatly clipped spheres and hedges, and keep colors limited primarily to crisp white and green. For flowering shrubs and perennials, choose plants with fresh white blooms, such as ‘Iceberg’ roses (Rosa ‘Iceberg’, USDA zones 5 to 9; find your zone) and ‘Annabelle’ wild hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, zones 4 to 9).
For a traditional New England look, turn to the classic building materials of the Northeast, including local stone, brick and gravel, and paint wooden fences, gates and outbuildings with crisp white paint. For walkways, use warm brick, crunchy pea gravel and flagstone of the region. Look for cool-toned stones, such as Connecticut bluestone pavers for patios, and granite for wall rock.
White picket fences. As classically American as apple pie, white picket fences look right at home with traditional homes and New England gardens. Set the fence back a few feet from the curb to make room for planting beds of cheery daisies or neat and tidy shrubs.
This rose garden outside Winnetka, Illinois, was designed in traditional English style with a New England garden theme.
Rose gardens, knot gardens and parterres. New England gardens frequently borrow design techniques from classic European and British gardens. For a formal look, lay out beds symmetrically along a center axis with a circular center bed. Edge with clipped hedges, such as boxwood (Buxus spp.), and fill beds with fragrant blooms, culinary herbsand other clipped shrubs with various foliage colors.
Covered garden gates. Garden gates with arbors, often draped with rambling vines, are another classic New England detail. Consider adding a covered garden gate to your front walkway or to connect two garden rooms. Plant wisteria, clematis or fragrant climbing roses for charm.
Driveways. Gravel and crushed shell are natural choices for Northeastern driveways because the permeable surfaces absorb rainwater and don’t risk cracking in extreme winters. For gravel, look for locking gravels and those with stone pieces larger than about one-fifth inch (5 millimeters) to reduce tracking the gravel to garden walkways and into the home. In regions that receive heavy snow and require frequent plowing, avoid gravel and crushed shell since snowplows can cause gouges in driveways made of permeable materials. Instead, opt for asphalt or cut stone.
Border driveways with evergreen conifers and cold-hardy shrubs for year-round interest. Plant billowing perennials like catmint (Nepeta spp.), evening primrose (Oenothera spp.) and lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina, zones 4 to 10) to soften the border between drive and garden bed.
Swaths of blooms. Towering deciduous trees, hydrangeas billowing over stone walls, and expanses of lush lawn are about as New England garden as it gets. This example on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, features a lush hedge of blooming hydrangeas. To adopt the look, plant banks of flowering shrubs like astilbe, hydrangea or lilac behind a wooden fence or stone wall.
Planted side yards. Wrap your lawn around from the front garden to the backyard, leaving wide borders with plenty of room to plant shrubs and perennials. In this garden on Nantucket, Massachusetts, the designer planted abundant hydrangeas and other flowering shrubs.
Spring gardens. After a long, cold winter, New England gardens burst into life. Celebrate the season with beds packed to the brim with flowering bulbs and soft spring perennials. For the most interest, mix a variety of bloom types, such as the tall spikes of common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea, zones 4 to 10), shown here; the lacy umbels of white lace flower (Orlaya grandiflora, zones 4 to 11); and the delicate tubular blooms of nemesia (Nemesia caerulea, zones 9 to 10).
Fall foliage. New England gardens, and the surrounding hills and valleys, put on a fiery autumn show. Choose trees with brilliant fall color, such as sugar maple (Acer saccharum, zones 3 to 8), or shrubs that turn from green to bronze, like oakleaf hydrangea(Hydrangea quercifolia, zones 5 to 9).
Window boxes. Get bonus points for curb appeal by coordinating your planting beds with seasonal window boxes for picture-perfect New England charm. Painting the window boxes in a contrasting color to the house — such as a crisp white against blue siding — makes them stand out more as a design feature.