Landscaping a home requires addressing many site, aesthetic, and functional needs. Every building has a historic visual reference, whether it is an original of its type or one in a long tradition. To provide historic landscape design background, the following is an overview of domestic American architecture, three historically based garden layouts, and a list of plants used in different eras and suitable for gardens in the Upper Midwest. Many of the old styles such as the Colonial, the International, and ranch, are still popular, while others like the Arts and Crafts, and the farmhouse are enjoying a revival. While there is a favored, (sustainable) garden style for the late 20c and early 21c, the continued variety of house styles also extends to the garden, encompassing all past styles.
Garden styles are affected by changing attitudes toward nature. In the 1600s superstition and natural dangers, including wild animals, result in gardens that are enclosed and rectilinear. In the 19c, the machines and smokestacks of industrialization, give people a sense of greater power, but also an appreciation for the awesome beauty of nature and its vulnerability. This awareness is fostered by the landscape painters of the day, producing gardens that are idealized versions of nature. The mind-set of the early to mid 20c to attempt to harness and tame Nature produces the elaborate bedding of Victorian gardens and geometric pruning of shrubs. With recent concerns about climate change, there again is a change in attitude toward conservation of water, soil, and wildlife. This change in concern for the land and environment is made visible in prairie restoration, rain and butterfly gardens, use of native species, rain barrels, and water management practices.