Tuesday, February 28, 2012

21st Century Foundation Planting

A beautiful mixed foundation planting with dwarf evergreens, flowering deciduous shrubs, and easy care perennials. This has interest in every season.
A typical overgrown foundation planting that completely hides the windows AND the nice stone foundation. Rip it out!
Day 41
The Daily DuBrule

I just got home from speaking to a really nice garden club in Simsbury about renovating foundation plantings. It never ceases to amaze me how many people need to call in (and pay) an expert to be told to RIP OUT ridiculously overgrown, post-mature, tortured and pruned to death plantings. Get with the program people! This is the 21st century. There is no excuse for this madness.

Foundation plantings were put on this planet to do two main things. First they anchor the home to the surrounding landscape. Second, they mask an ugly concrete foundation if you have one. My goal in foundation planting redesign is to add lots of color in every season, have the plants be in proportion, and to make the beds as wide and curvaceous as possible in order to layer the plants. I made up 12 rules. Here they are:
Nancy’s Suggestions for Creative Foundation Planting Design

  1. Do you need to hide your foundation? Brick or stone foundations are nice to look at. 3 feet of concrete is not. If you don’t need to hide it, you don’t need lots of evergreens.

  1. If you have a lot of concrete showing, can you add soil and build a low retaining wall to make the foundation disappear? Can you paint and texturize the concrete?

  1. If at all possible, avoid a narrow bed all along the house. Wider beds are better and allow for layering of plants.

  1. If a walkway leading to the front door forces you to have a narrow bed, consider a bed on the outside of the walkway. Tie the curve of this bed into other curves in the front yard.

  1. If your house is tall, sweep the bed lines outward on one corner so you can use tall plants to reduce the scale of the house.

  1. Never put large trees right next to the house. Keep them out far enough so that won’t harm the siding. Watch out for the dripline if you don’t have gutters.

  1. KNOW THE MATURE SIZE OF THE PLANTS YOU ARE ADDING. Dwarf is a relative term. A dwarf spruce simply means it doesn’t get 30-40’ tall.

  1. Try to use colorful and variegated foliages to add interest in different seasons. Consider using a blue, burgundy, or gold foliage theme to connect the design together.

  1. Do a SUCCESSION OF BLOOM chart for the plants you are using. The old paradigm was rhododendrons, azaleas, andromedas, mountain laurels… they all bloom in the spring, leaving the planting boring and green the rest of the year.

  1. Intersperse deciduous flowering shrubs that will bloom in the summer and fall between the evergreens.

  1. Layer perennials in front of the flowering shrubs. Use only perennials that
    1. Have a long season of bloom
    2. Have excellent foliage all season

  1. Never use perennials that go summer dormant or get ratty looking in late summer. Save them for the perennial borders in the back yard.

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