Spring is just around the corner, and this is the time to make plans for landscape projects. We all have spent most of the last year safely at home. We have finished projects inside our homes, but now is the time to address our green space. The first place anyone sees as they come to your home, including you, is your foundation planting. Is your front garden welcoming? Does it complement your home? Or is it the same overgrown evergreen bushes that were there when you moved in? Spring is the perfect time to start a new garden, plant trees and sow flower seeds.
So how do you start? Take a look at what is already there. Is your home a formal style home with a center entrance and symmetrical window placement? You may want to have a more formal foundation planting that is identical on either side of the entrance. Is your home a cottage or bungalow design with an entrance off-center? You may choose to have a less formal foundation planting. Do you own a two-story home or a ranch style? Is there a sidewalk to the front entrance? If most visitors pull into the driveway and enter from there, the sidewalk to your front entrance should also come from the drive rather than the street. Lastly, decide what current plantings you wish to keep and what will be removed or transplanted to a different location.
Here are four things to consider when planning your project:
1. Size of the garden. The biggest mistake when planning a front garden bed is having too small a space for your foundation garden. A two-foot-wide strip across the front of your house ending at the corner will be inadequate for any planting and look disconnected from the rest of the landscape. Ideally, you want a deep enough space to allow room between the house and the full-size plants for air circulation and home maintenance like washing windows. You also need enough space along the front edge to allow for mowing the lawn without chopping the lower branches of your shrubs. If you have a walkway between the foundation planting and your lawn, the plantings should not be a hazard because they are growing over the sidewalk. By extending the plantings beyond the corner of the house, the garden will embrace your home. A beautiful shrub or small tree can soften the vertical edge of your house and draw the eye across the entire garden.
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2. Size of the plants. The second biggest foundation garden mistake is planting trees or shrubs that will be too large when mature. This is so easy to do when you are looking at plants in a one-gallon pot. Make sure to read your plant label. The size of the plant when it’s mature is critical. An oversized plant will quickly be blocking your windows and encroaching on the neighboring shrubs. If you really love this shrub, ask if it comes in a miniature version. A lot of advances have been made in developing smaller versions of popular large shrubs, especially evergreens. There are also some plants that will tolerate regular pruning to keep them a smaller size. Be realistic about the time and effort you are willing to give to this plant. A last alternative would be to use the larger plant as your specimen plant at the corner of your home.
3. Types of plants. When choosing your plants, try to provide four-season interest. Include some evergreens for winter, plants with curly branches or plants with colorful stems or bark. Have plants that flower in the different seasons or the leaves will be spectacular colors in the fall. Look for different shapes and textures to give more interest. If you have a bare wall between your windows, choose a feature plant like a weeping cherry or Japanese maple to be framed against it, or consider a vine on a beautiful trellis. You can also use your plants to disguise or hide undesirable features on the front of your house, like the garden faucet or air conditioner unit.
4. Plant colors. The shrubs and trees in your front garden will provide structure to your garden, but don’t be limited to only them. Add flowers and grasses to your foundation planting. Mix it up. It will add more color and interest to your garden. Plant annual flower seeds to fill the space that will eventually be filled by maturing shrubs. Plant scented flowers near the front entry or alongside the walkway where family and visitors can best enjoy them.
Redoing your foundation planting is a labor-intensive project that the average homeowner can accomplish. By summer, your home will have updated curb appeal that will provide years of beauty.