We are starting to landscape our property and I’m having trouble finding examples of foundation plantings that I like. They all seem to be overgrown, too busy to the eye, or too sparse. Is there such a thing as a great foundation planting and if so, what are the elements? Thanks! Diane
The objective of a foundation garden is to accent the main entrance, complement the architectural style of the house, and draw attention away from irregularities, while keeping the plantings in the background. In a sense, foundation plants act as the backbone of the landscape design.
When designing any area of the garden the best way to start is on paper. Draw out everything that will not be changed or moved; the house, sidewalks, driveways and existing trees and shrubs. Based on traffic demands are there any additional paths or drives that need to be considered? Make a list of the plants you like and write in the heights, colors and bloom times. Choose your plants carefully making sure you have allowed for seasonal interest in all four seasons, your favorite color schemes and whether you will be planting in sun or shade.
Focus on the main entryway first. This area should be welcoming and be transitional from the outside to the inside. There should be no doubt where the entrance is and most importantly it should reflect the style of the house. This is also a good area to consider containers, especially on the steps or by the front door. If there is a walk leading to the entryway, use a mix of colors and texture to direct the eye toward the door. A sidewalk lined with border plants only draws attention to the walk. Vary the planting to draw the eye forward.
Next, consider the corners. Corner plantings frame the house and techniques can be used to soften the hard, architectural lines. If your house seems long and horizontal, add plantings that are tall and slim at the corners can make the house appear narrower. If the house has more than one story and a steep roofline, plants that are short and broad at the corners will soften the vertical lines. Give these plantings enough room so they won’t‚¬ crowd the corners at maturity.
Now, plan for what I call the connectors. This is the part of the foundation landscape that draws everything together and gets the corners working in harmony with the entryway. Here is where you need to make some additional considerations. If you want to include energy efficiency, evergreens will probably be the best choice, but choose dwarf varieties as opposed to something that would need to be pruned. Work with graceful curves rather than straight lines. There are very few straight lines in nature. Make sure you plant a minimum of 6 feet away from the foundation. Anything less and the plants will have a tendency to grow out and away from the structure. Be sure to take overhangs and drip lines into consideration as well as needing room for doing any maintenance to the foundation.
Using the list of plants you made earlier, draw them into your design using circles, allowing for the mature size of the plant. Plant in odd numbers; 1 for the focal points or larger shrubs, and then groupings of 3, 5 or 7 for small shrubs and flowers. Coloring in these circles with the color the plant blooms or the foliage color will help you determine if you like the color scheme or not. Once the foundation is designed and planted, you can echo these plants and color combinations throughout the rest of your garden for a sense of unity.