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Foundation Planting Dos & Don’ts

Foundation planting is, arguably, the most discussed question in landscaping. Should you? Shouldn’t you? Why not? Why? How do you make it look like the house is on a permanent foundation? These questions have been debated for decades.

Shrubs were originally planted to hide Victorian houses’ foundations, which weren’t the most attractive part of the house. Like so many other things in our society, foundation plantings fall out and then back into favor. In our conservative community, they never fell completely out of favor.

Many landscape designers are moving away from foundation plantings, but they aren’t leaving this area naked. Instead, they are extending the plantings out from the foundation and incorporating them into gardens, called entry gardens, some of which include the whole front yard. Be assured, however, that you can have a very attractive entry garden without it covering your whole front yard.

Building an entry garden at the approach to the house is preferred, increasingly, as an alternative to a straight row of manicured shrubs in front of the house. As a bulletin from Clemson Cooperative Extension in South Carolina says, “Many designers now like to refer to the area in front of the house as the entry garden to emphasize that the purpose of this area is to complement, not camouflage, the house. The entry garden can incorporate any of the areas that are in the public view.”

While the entry garden enhances the approach to the house, the rest of the front foundation area doesn’t have to be completely bare. Consider another planting at the far corner of the house with a transition planting, consisting of low growing plant in between. Low growing plants will reduce, or eliminate, the need for shearing. Shearing is the practice of pruning yews and other plants so they are rectangular in shape – definitely unnatural. In fact, these transition plants should be dwarf varieties that seldom, if ever, need pruning.

Low growing plants also provide added security. Large foundation plants provide criminals with hiding places as they prepare to commit their crimes. Besides the potential for harboring criminals, large growing foundation plantings also give the house a hemmed-in feeling. Approaching it is like going through a tunnel.

Whatever you do, your entry garden/foundation planting should be one element in your home’s total landscape, rather than a standalone piece. If all of this sounds confusing and beyond most do it yourselfers, may we suggest calling in one of our professional landscape designers. This is what they do every day. Landscaping is a major investment and it is an investment that grows – in size and in value. Curb appeal, in addition to your own enjoyment, is the reason for making this major investment, so why not start out on the right foot?

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