The original purpose of foundation plantings were to hide the gray concrete foundation that was thought to distract from the beauty of the house. Today, foundation plantings have evolved into much more. They range from a few flowers to hide the foundation to elaborate gardens at the front of the house. Meanwhile, some landscape designers argue that foundation plantings are unnecessary. They say that we all know houses rest on foundations, so why hide them with foliage and flowers?
No matter which camp you reside in, the bottom line is to enhance your house, not hide it. The first thing to remember is that the front door should be the focal point of the house. To be welcoming, it has to be visible from the street, as well as close up. This means choosing plants that will keep the door visible and welcoming.
To be sure your front door is visible, choose your front yard plants wisely. That includes the giant tree in the front yard as well as the tall foundation shrubs. Smaller growing ornamentals are more appropriate for the front yard than large shade or conifer trees.
The best path to satisfaction is to learn how each plant you buy grows. For example, a shrub that may be the ideal plant for your foundation planting may also be available in tree form that could grow too big for the space, and even block the view from your front windows. Actually, some shrubs can also grow so tall that they block the windows and require constant pruning, So if less maintenance is one of your goals, be sure you plant shrubs that don’t grow up to window level.
If you find you, or the previous owner, chose plants that grew too large for the space or don’t fit the image you’re trying to create, don’t be afraid to pull them out and replace them with plants that do meet your requirements. If the plants you remove can be transplanted, don’t compost them. Try finding an appropriate spot for them in your landscape or give them away to neighbors or friends…or donate them to a non-profit plant exchange.
If you are renovating your front yard to enhance the foundation planting, this might also be an excellent opportunity to get rid of some of your lawn and replace it with plants like groundcover. Besides making your house the focal point of your yard, you will also reduce your lawn maintenance time and expenses.
Law enforcement officials also give us a good reason to minimize foundation and other plantings near the house. Thick foliage provides burglars with good cover behind which to do their nefarious deeds..
If you think this advice makes sense but you don’t know where to begin, our landscape professionals can work with you to create the landscape that best fits your taste and lifestyle.
When I designed my home with Early American architecture, I designed it without roof gutters. Half of the rain would have drained to the two back corners, where it could have been collected or diverted away after draining to the ground. The other half would have drained to the front into a row of lily-of-the-Nile directly below. The foliage would have prevented the water from splashing up and causing rot in the lower part of the wall.