Cape Cod Landscaping – Simple and Graceful Garden Design Ideas

by Kremy

What is Cape Cod landscaping? The short answer is that this is a simple garden design reflecting the natural environment. Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is the home to Cape Cod landscaping that gained huge popularity around the world. The style is characterized with a distinctive look which is instantly recognizable for the functionality and restrained minimalism.

Cape Cod Landscaping Simple Garden Design Ideas

Cape Cod gardens contain the necessary minimum of elements that make you feel comfortable in a well-groomed garden plot.

Cape Cod Landscaping History

What is Cape Cod landscaping


When the first settlers arrived at Cape Cod, they had to fight the unwelcoming conditions – harsh winters, ocean winds, lack of agricultural crops so they had to survive on unfamiliar territory. This affected architecture – a typical house has a single story and is built in a way to withstand the weather conditions and highlight the natural beauty of the surroundings. Houses were painted in neutral colors while gardens were bright and vibrant. The classic garden had several functional areas – an orchard, a vegetable garden, a place to rest, a spot for growing herbs. The main task was to create a space where it was pleasant to spend time with family or guests, without unnecessary decorations.

Trees and shrubs for a Cape Cod garden

Nowadays Cape Cod landscaping is widely used in suburban areas but more attention is paid to sophistication and environmental friendliness. Modern Cape Cod garden designs often combine features from the English landscape, the lightness of the Mediterranean and the naturalness and relaxed feel of the Scandinavian style. The color scheme remained the same – light tones and shades, white, blue, beige, cream, and the whole concept is aimed at creating a light, tranquil and natural exterior.

What are the Main Features of Cape Cod Landscaping?

What are the main features of Cape Cod style landscaping

Cape Cod style in landscape design combines natural forms and curves, creating a single harmonious composition based on functionality and necessity. The specifics of the terrain are used to arrange beautiful gardens with winding pathways, connecting different parts of the backyard. The paths are paved with natural stone, typical for the region. These can be polished plates, paving stones, pebbles, brick, slate, blue stone or just fine gravel. A concrete or an asphalt driveway is completely out of style as well as marble, for example, which was never used in the original Cape Cod. Remember that the style is based on simplicity and practicality, reflecting the coastal surroundings and muted tones of houses.

beautiful Cape Cod garden designs

Decorative elements in a Cape Cod garden are simple and kept to minimum. Picket fencing, bird houses, window boxes, pergolas, secluded seating areas – those are typical for the decor of the backyard. Due to the fact that Cape Cod architecture is simple, the task of garden decorations like gates, arbors, lamp posts is to complement the beauty of the house. With just a few elements you can create the perfect ambiance in your garden.

Cape Cod garden design ideas

  • Garden furniture can have both wooden and forged elements, with textiles in discreet tones with the usual geometric and plant motifs.
  • Dining area and outdoor furniture can be placed under a pergola entwined with vines or in the shade of a wide tree.
  • Flowerpots and containers are simple, made of clay, terracotta, stone, wood.
  • A swing suspended from a tree branch or a cart wheel replacing it is one of the most popular decorative elements in a Cape Cod style garden.
  • Birdhouses and bird feeders are also a must-have in the garden.
  • A variety of nautical and farm-themed elements can be used as garden decorations. For example – a small boat or cart in which flowers grow, barrels and boxes with plants and flowers, etc.
  • Lighting also plays a significant role – lanterns on pedestals, string lights, outdoor lamps between the house, veranda, trees, gazebo are placed on stone or brick pillars throughout the garden.

What are the Best Plants for Cape Cod Landscaping?

What are the best plants for Cape Cod landscaping

As we mentioned above, originally Cape Cod gardens were planted with local types of plants and this principle has remained unchained. The unique climate, sandy soil, winds and salty air are best for plants – trees, flowers, shrubs, even grass – native to Cape Cod. Choosing plants that thrive in the local climate will help you create an impressively looking garden. For example, hydrangea is the most quintessentially Cape Cod plant you can find. The climate conditions and soil are ideal for hydrangeas and they thrive.

garden design ideas Cape Cod style main features

Trees and shrubs for a Cape Cod garden

  • Magnolia (Magnolia stellata and virginiana)
  • Maples (Acer rubrum, japonicum, palmatum)
  • River Birch (Betula nigra)
  • Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)
  • Arborvitae
  • Cryptomeria (Cryptomaria japonica)
  • Fir trees (Abies spp)
  • Holly
  • Juniper
  • Boxwood (Buxus ssp.)
  • Rhododendrons (Rhododendron ssp)
  • Beach plum
  • Blueberry
  • Rhododendrons

Flowers for Cape Cod style gardens


  • Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera ssp)
  • Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)
  • Perennials and grasses for Cape Cod gardens:
  • Campanula
  • Peony
  • Lavender
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta and triloba)
  • Fringed Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Purple Lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis)
  • American Beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata)
  • Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis ssp)
  • Fountain grass (Pennisetum ssp)

materials and plants for Cape Cod garden design


  • Begonias
  • Hibiscus
  • Marigolds
  • Zinnias

Cape Cod style garden design ideas plants trees flowers

Flowering plants

  • Bleeding Heart (Dicentra ssp)
  • Campanula (Campanula ssp)
  • Epimedium
  • Geraniums
  • Iris
  • Chrysanthemum

Landscape design Cape Cod garden plants ideas

Experts advise to opt for native plants as they are not only eco-friendly, but they are also drought and salt tolerant. In addition, they will add an authentic charm and character to your garden and reflect the natural beauty of Cape Cod. It is best if you combine plants of varying heights and textures and plants with varied bloom times, which is a guarantee that you’ll enjoy pops of color from early spring to late autumn.


blooming hydrangea garden ideas Cape Cod style

stone path and flowers garden ideas decorative elements

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