Probably no feature on the average American home grounds is more abused by being over-planted than the so called “foundation planting.” There is one reason, and only one, for such a planting: to soften the architectural features of the building by using plant material at strategic locations and thus help blend the house into its natural surroundings.
There is one fundamental guiding rule for every foundation planting, whether for a small cottage, a large pretentious home, or a huge industrial building. That rule is:
“Plant material shall be placed at those points where the strong vertical architectural lines meet the ground. Of course this broad statement is subject to minor qualifications under certain conditions. Put in still simpler language, it says, “Use plants at the corners of the building and at either side of doorways.”
Causes of Over-Planting
The owner of a home or of a large industrial building, or the authorities in charge of civic buildings and their grounds, are naturally tempted to seek an immediate effect when planning the landscape planting around the foundation of the building they control. That is probably the main reason for extensive over-planting.
Another reason is the fact that in millions of homes of all kinds, in every section of our country, the foundation planting problem has been handled in much the same manner. So it is only natural that a new homeowner will look around, see what so many others have done, and reason that that is the correct and only way to handle the foundation planting. Actually, only one house in a hundred, or in certain areas one in a thousand, has its foundation planting handled correctly!
The Long View
As it may help you to consider this problem first from the psychological angle, try to convince yourself that anything really good is worth waiting for. Have a stout heart if, after putting in your foundation planting in accordance with the suggestions offered in this book, you find your neighbors looking askance at you as if they thought you just a little off balance because you have planted specimens no more than 12 inches high, and have spaced them 6 or 7 feet apart. Of course that looks scanty; and it is easy to see how the uninitiated might consider it ridiculous. But if the sketches succeed in showing you what your planting will eventually look like, then you can face your critics with a smile of contentment, safe in your knowledge that, in four to six years, the foundation planting around your home will very likely be the finest in the neighborhood. You may even point out to them how much money you have saved by planting the foundation according to good landscape principles.
Location of Vertical Lines
Referring again to the placing of plants where the strong vertical lines of the architecture meet the ground, we find that both sides of any door fit this description, thus giving us two points where plants should be used. Other strong vertical lines are at inside or outside corners of buildings. Even a small break in the wall of a building can be considered a corner, and these locations should also be treated as points that call for planting. It is not vitally essential but it will look better in the long run.