Gardening is fun. Furthermore, gardens are pretty. Some gardens also produce fruits and vegetables. Not very long ago, production of fruits and vegetables was more of a priority for more gardens. Some big gardens generated firewood and a bit of forage for livestock. Contemporary abundances allowed gardening to become more aesthetic than utilitarian.
Such abundance may not seem so apparent while so many of society could benefit from a bit more. People work more than ever to earn resources to purchase produce that they can not grow in their gardens while working so much. It has become more feasible to do so. Landscape maintenance is just another expense that many would prefer to eliminate.
Nonetheless, some popular features within modern home gardens evolved from formerly utilitarian features. Many such utilitarian features were common within the infrastructures of home gardens prior to the development of any modern technology that replaced them. Some were popular only because such technology was either expensive or uncommon.
Shade trees are among the most traditional and perhaps more recognizably utilitarian of landscape features. Although, even they have evolved. With modern air conditioning and insulation, their shade is less important than their aesthetic appeal. Window screens and rain gutters are also modern technologies that made particular garden features obsolete.
Window boxes, which are now mere ornamental features, were originally popularized for aromatic vegetation, to repel insects from windows. Rosemary, nasturtium, ivy geranium and petunia had always been some of the more popular repellent plants for this purpose. They do not obscure much sunlight as they cascade delightfully outward and downward.
Foundation plantings, which now merely soften the perpendicularity of vertical walls and horizontal garden spaces, were also utilitarian features. Compact and resilient shrubbery or perennials inhibited erosion caused by rain falling from eaves above. They obstructed splattering mud from below also. Indian hawthorn and lily of the Nile were quite effective. They could survive through summer without much irrigation, but then survive excessive moisture through winter.