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Foundation garden dos and don’ts

By: Garden Gate staff
Use our guide to design a better-looking foundation garden.

The plantings around the foundation of your home can accentuate, or distract from, its beauty. That’s because the best plant habits and arrangements can frame the house, tie the garden to the home and enhance style. Find out more in the illustrations below, no matter what your house style, shape or color may be.

di-dos-and-donts-1 DO soften corners and other upright lines of a house with round, spreading trees and shrubs. These draw the line of the ground “up” so the house looks like it’s nestled among small knolls, not pushing through the ground. The width of the planting also makes a difference. For example, the house would still look stuck in with only one round shrub at each corner.

DON’T plant upright or columnar trees and shrubs at corners and doorways. These lead the eye directly skyward. Instead of softening corners, they make the edges seem even harder. Yes, they repeat some lines of the house, but when you’re working with strong vertical lines only, it becomes very difficult to blend the structure in with its surroundings.

di-dos-and-donts-2 DO think about ways to balance your home. Pretend the house is sitting on a teeter totter with the fulcrum under the front door. Put the largest, heaviest plantings on the “light” side. To be sure plants are in proportion with the house, draw a line from the doorway to a point on each corner two-thirds up from the ground. Plants directly in front of the house should fit under that line.

DON’T divide the house into small segments by planting shrubs every few feet around the perimeter. This breaks up proportions. It also tends to hide the house, not emphasize its good points. And if you use conifers and other upright shrubs, you further enhance the vertical lines. Remember, you want to anchor the house to its surroundings while enhancing its style.

di-dos-and-donts-3 DO plant trees and shrubs that will be no taller at maturity than the line you drew in the example above. Before buying, check plant tags for the maximum mature heights. As a rule, plants in front of the house should be no taller than the bottoms of windows. Nor should they spread so wide they block access to the door or sidewalk.

DON’T ring your home with plants that grow too large. Your house will disappear behind the mass of foliage, and you won’t want to keep pruning branches back. Not only will it be difficult for visitors to spot the house number, maintenance will become a dreaded chore.

di-dos-and-donts-4 DO allow room for the plants to spread. Measure out from the house half the maximum mature spread of the largest plants. Then add at least 2 more feet to the measurement. This gives you enough room to walk behind the planting, set up a ladder and work comfortably. And plants will have enough space to healthily develop to their full potential.

DON’T plant right next to the house. You’ll only make it difficult to turn on the water, paint or repair, read the meter and so on. Besides that, a dense planting can hold in moisture so siding rots. Close planting also provides a home for a multitude of insects that then find it easy to get inside the house.

Published: Feb. 28, 2018
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