Landscaping Cape Cod style homes

Picket fence and geraniums, a part of Cape Cod design

The Pilgrim Hall Museum of Plymouth, MA, describes a Cape Cod house as a one and one-half story design first built in New England in the late 1600’s. The house typically has windows on each side of the front door, a centered chimney, and may have dormers and shutters. A true Cape Cod house will have wood-shake siding and no porch. With just a few landscaping design techniques, the yard of your Cape Cod design house can emulate the quaint houses around Cape Cod, MA.

Picket Fence

In colonial times, the picket fence in front of a Cape Cod style house kept children and chickens near the house. A modern picket fence may be just for show or functional to keep children or pets in the yard. Made of wood or vinyl, the pickets should be white and include a swinging gate at the walkway. Try a fence with graduated height of pickets to offer a wavy appearance.
Dame's rocket
Plant tall flowers like phlox, purple coneflower, Russian sage, foxglove or dame’s rocket to partially cover the length of the fence. Masses of pink or yellow roses can be a great scene-stealer too.


Straight or curving, the walkway leading to the front door of a Cape Cod style house may be brick, cobblestone or flagstone. In a small yard, keep the walkway free of vegetation. In a large sunny yard with a wide walkway (at least wide enough for two people to comfortably walk side-by-side), plant small shrubs like boxwood or carpet rose. Hosta, astilbe, foam flower or impatiens can be used along a shady walkway.

Foundation Plants

Low shrubs like boxwood or bird’s nest spruce can be used as foundation plants. A large Cape Cod house or one with a high foundation can handle large shrubs, like hydrangea, beneath the windows. Set dwarf blue spruce or dragon lady holly at the front corners of the house. Pansies, daylilies, geraniums and peonies are also options.


Extend the foundation plants to the sides of the house. Grow climbing roses or clematis, like Nelly Moses, on a trellis attached to the side of the house. Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch, like pine bark, around all plants. A gazebo or arbor adds visual interest to a large yard. 

Flower boxes can be added under the windows. Choose flower boxes that match the width of the window. The boxes can be brightly colored, and should complement the color of the house. If in doubt about the best color, paint the boxes black or the same color as the shutters or house trim.

Final touch: two or more Adirondack chairs painted to stand out in the landscape. The chairs may be sea blue, yellow or bright green. Place them facing the house or other nice view, like a beach, lake, flower garden  or meadow. Image above  courtesy of Bbadgett, Wikipedia Commons.