I taught a Landscape Design class for quite a few years.
We always spent a good bit of time discussing the foundation planting.
I still remember the first time I heard that term. A “foundation planting” must be the basis of all landscaping, I thought. It sounded important and mysterious…
But actually the term just referred to a planting that bordered the foundation of a house.
On older houses, the foundation planting served the purpose of hiding the unsightly things that might accumulate in the crawl space under a house – much like the skirt on a trailer.
A couple of years before I moved into my present residence, I decided that my then rental house needed a foundation planting redo.
For inspiration – I reviewed all the “rules” that I once taught all my eager design students.
Rule #1 – Always accent the front door using a plant with striking form, texture or color or an attractive hard feature.
Rule #2 – Clearly define the edges of the bed.
Rule #3 – Plan for interest in all seasons since you will be likely enter the house in this area almost every day of the year.
Rule #4 – Repeat plants arranging them in masses or small groups.
Then – I modified the list and added a few new rules.
Rule #5 – Incorporate native plants.
Rule # 6 – Paint your house a color that will serve as a nice backdrop for the plants.
Rule #7 – Use plants or yard art that has sentimental value.
And last but not least, Rule #8 – use the plants that have been sitting around in your nursery instead of going out to buy new ones.
So I followed the Eight Rules and have been pleased with the results.
The plants closest to the front sidewalk have strong features. The giant leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum ‘Giganteum’) has large glossy leaves 24-7. I also appreciate the fact that it blooms in early winter when little else is in flower. The ‘Tameukeyama’ Japanese maple has extremely fine textured foliage, intense red-purple fall color and a striking growth habit.
Just in case two accents weren’t enough, I perched my favorite purple gazing ball on top of my husband’s grandmother’s bird bath pedestal to serve as a third.
Next to the maple, I grouped a trio of fruiting plants. Darrow’s dwarf blueberry (Vaccinium darrowii ‘Rosa’s Blush’) is a lovely shade of gray green with pastel pink growing tips. Dangling white blossoms are precursors to a crop of tiny blueberries. My two hollies – ‘Miss Patricia’ and ‘Taylor’s Rudolph’ are not quite so precocious. I’m hoping they will begin to produce red holly berries in the next year or so. Right now I have to be content with the deep green foliage they offer.
The bed is bordered with small pieces of petrified wood gifted by my friend, Peter Loos and carpeted with a planting of native Louisiana phlox. I think that the plants are quite striking in front of the background colors I have chosen for the house.
And 99% of this planting originated in my little backyard nursery. Many of the plants were gifts from nursery friends or souvenirs of vacations. Others were propagated from cuttings or seed. Many had sentimental value.
It was wonderfully liberating to get them all in the ground so that I could really live with them as landscape plants.
And so that I had enough space in the nursery to start a new plant collection!