Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
January, 2009
Regional Report

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Properly designed and sited, a shady area near the foundation can come alive with color and interest.

Planting Around and Near the Foundation

Carefully chosen and placed, landscape plants around the foundation will bring out the best in your house. Just like the finishing touches inside your home, foundation plantings help to complete the outside by adding curb appeal.

Properly chosen landscape plants will provide scale and balance as they integrate your house with its surroundings, and they'll draw attention where you want it. They can also prevent soil erosion and provide a habitat for birds. A shady area can come alive with color and interest.

Your road map to success with foundation plantings begins by developing a master plan. Make a scaled plan of your house and landscape on graph paper. Winter is an ideal time to take an inventory of trees, shrubs, and other landscape features. Then, make several copies of this plan so you can experiment with different ideas, garden themes, and whimsical combinations.

Ask yourself some questions:

What are your goals? Observe your house from a distance or across the street. Look at the structure from various angles. Are there features that you'd like to hide, maybe others that you'd like to highlight? There may be some areas around the house where you won't want to plant anything at all. Jot these ideas down and be as specific as you can. It is helpful to take photos from different angles to help you remember what you want to accomplish.

What about the view from the inside of your home? What do want to see, or not see? Windows on the south and west sides might benefit from summer shade offered by a tall deciduous shrub. Views from other windows might be improved by adding a flowering shrub or window box.

How large do you want your plantings to be? As you develop your master plan, keep mature size in mind. Though it might look cute when young, an evergreen can soon overwhelm an area after several years of growth. Avoid the temptation to set plants close together to give a sense of fullness. Plants will fill in soon enough and will look better in the designated space in a few years.

What color combinations do you want? Some perennial flowers have showy flowers; others have more interesting foliage. Don't forget to plant small ornamental trees and shrubs for autumn colors to accent your foundation in that season. Dwarf evergreens provide form and structure in the winter. Combine evergreens and deciduous shrubs for all-season interest. Red twig dogwood has handsome red branches in winter; winged euonymous has sculpted branches that become visible as the foliage drops in late autumn; low-growing junipers are attractive and green year-round.

Once you've developed a final plan, it's time to figure out how much your foundation planting project will cost. If it seems too costly to accomplish all at once, set priorities and break your plan down into manageable phases. Just stick with your master plan to help you stay on track. When you've planted your last plant, you can sit back and enjoy a foundation planting you've always dreamed of.

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