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Foundation Planting

A well-dressed house is trimmed with trees and shrubs. Without the structure of woody plants, a house can look exposed and naked. To dress your house, use “foundation planting,” a border of small trees, shrubs or even perennials planted next to the house. Foundation planting softens the hard lines of the architecture, conceals the concrete foundation below the siding and provides visual structure that anchors the house to the lawn. This planting enhances your home and is important in creating “curb appeal” and increasing real estate value.

Unlike other, more private parts of the garden, foundation planting is usually viewed from a distance. The planting style must be bold and simple creating a visually cohesive composition that is easy to see from the street. Make the borders at least four feet wide because the farther away the viewer is, the smaller the planting looks. To check this diminishing effect, lay out the border with a garden hose and stand across the street to see if it is wide enough to be seen from a distance.

When choosing the plants, be sure to consider the soil drainage, moisture and amount of sunlight on each side of the house and match the plants to the growing conditions. It is best to use plants that require little watering so basement walls will stay dry. Also, make sure you know each plant’s mature height and spread and give them room to grow in all directions.

The only exception to the “keep it simple” rule is at the front door landing. Here visitors stand close to the planting and can take in more visual detail of colour, texture and variety. Foundation planting makes a house look established and elegant but it has other benefits too. These include attracting birds close to the windows for easier viewing, reducing lawn area (and lowering garden maintenance) and cooling the house in summer by providing shade. This spring, stand at the street and see if your house is well dressed or needs foundation planting.

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