Foundation landscaping refers to the area extending 6 to 10 feet from the house. Foundation landscaping should neither overwhelm a house nor isolate it from the yard; it should make the house the focal point. The plants you choose should complement the architectural style of your home. Use formal plantings around colonials and informal arrangements for contemporary homes.
When designing a foundation landscape, consider security, mature plant size and scale.
Safety in landscaping means you should not obscure or block windows or doors with shrubs or trees. People breaking into houses use shrubs and trees to hide their actions; people inside need to exit windows in case of a fire or other emergency. In states prone to wildfires, do not use highly flammable plants as foundation plantings. Instead, use plants like succulents or cacti that will not burst into flame if sparks land on them.
Always take the mature size of a plant into consideration before planting. Never plant against the foundation but rather 3 or 4 feet away. As the plant matures, the gap between the house and plant will not be noticeable.
Scale is the size of individual plants compared to the size of your house. Always err on the size of smaller plants--you can add height later by growing plants on trellises. A house huddled under trees never looks as welcoming as a house in balance with its landscape.
Your front door and porch are part of your home's foundation plantings. Frame your entranceway clearly--visitors should not have to guess where your front door is. Use brightly colored containers on steps, columnar evergreens like cypress or plants with brightly colored or variegated foliage to mark entryways.
Balance plantings on either side of your entryway. The exception to this is if you use a specimen shrub or tree on one side. If you do this, on the other side use plants that match the foliage or flowers of the specimen. An example would be a white variegated Japanese maple on one side of your entryway and on the other side several white variegated perennials.
Keep the color scheme around the entryway conservative. Use two or three different colors (this includes foliage and flowers) with white to tie everything together. Tie the plantings with lamb's ear (whitish foliage, blue flowers), Shasta daisies (white flowers) and white irises.
Extend plantings around your entryway into the lawn or walkway borders using curving lines. Curving lines are friendly, easy to maintain and work in both formal and informal gardens. Doing this allows your foundation landscape to escort visitors to the front door.
Avoid plants with thorns or stiff branches--these can catch on clothing and scratch visitors. Also avoid plants like rue which can cause a rash if touched.
Side and Backyard Foundations
Most gardeners have foundation plantings in the front of their house and forget about the sides. Not easily seen from the road, side gardens allow you to go wild with unusual colors and plant combinations, or use side yards to showcase a plant collection.
Most side yard foundations are in dry shade and can be hard to plant. Combine bulbs like day lilies, tubers like dahlias or begonias and perennials like hosta, daphne, geraniums and ferns. Rhododendrons, azaleas and twig dogwoods thrive in the dry shade of side yards.
At the very least, you should use the same plants along the side yard foundations as you do in the front. Doing this gives your house a finished look. The backyard foundation is usually co-opted by patios and play areas.
Evergreens are extensively used in foundation plantings. If you like the look of clipped evergreens but want a low-maintenance planting, use evergreens with naturally mounding, weeping or pyramidal shapes.
If you want clipped evergreens to frame your house, mix perennials or annuals with the evergreens, or use large containers planted with bright annual flowers. If you don't want flowering plants next to your house, consider evergreens with variegated foliage. All of these, combined with traditional dark-leafed evergreens, brighten foundation plantings.
You don't have to use clipped evergreen hedges in your foundation landscape. Any plant, perennial or annual, including ground covers, can be used in a foundation landscape.
Use flower and leaf hue to enhance your home's color. Blue, purple and red flowers, along with plants with purple and dark green foliage, pop against pale siding. Use bright orange, yellow, pink and white against dark siding.
If you are hesitant to show a bare foundation in winter but don't want to use evergreens, plant deciduous shrubs and small trees with interesting bark color or texture. Twig dogwoods and willows have red or yellow bark and amur maples have exquisitely textured bark. Both draw attention from the concrete foundation.
You can also use specialty gardens for your foundation landscape. Bog gardens do well in places were water drains away from the house, or use interesting pebbles and rocks to create a rock garden. In dry areas, plant succulents and cacti for xeriscaped foundation landscaping.
Tying It All Together
Foundation landscaping is not designed to stand alone. It's purpose is to tie your home into the surrounding landscape not turn it into an island amid your other gardens.
Repeat flower and foliage colors from other parts of your yard in the foundation landscape. Extend part of the foundation landscape into flower beds farther from the house. Choose one or two plants used in other areas of your yard and work them into the foundation planting. The goal is to move the eye around the yard; repeating colors, textures and plants will do this.
Use the same mulch throughout your yard. Different-colored mulches can be jarring and, unless you are trying to make a statement by using gravel mulch in one area and shredded bark everywhere else, pick a mulch and stick with it.
- "Taylor's Master Guide to Gardening;" Houghton Mifflin Company; 1994
- Fine Gardening; Todd Phillippi; Fundamentals of Foundation Plantings
- Mississippi State University Extension; Foundation Landscaping Plans
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