Window boxes can become a definite part of a foundation planting as can soil wells or raised beds (also called “planters”) that some architects include in their building designs.
It is wise to avoid soil wells if possible; they usually require artificial watering. The drainage problem in some instances may also become serious. In regions where the winters get quite cold, the plants growing in soil wells are likely to freeze and will have to be replaced each spring.
If you do use flowers or plants in window boxes or soil wells, try to limit them to a few very soft-colored flowers, and mainly to foliage plants such as English Ivy, the trailing Asparagus Fern, etc.
Winter Care of Window Boxes
Each fall you should remove plants and soil from window boxes for several reasons. One is that this will avoid having the box break away at the joints due to frozen earth expanding. Also by doing this you can change the soil in the box. Growing flowers in a box robs the soil of its natural nutrients and new soil should be added or the old should be wholly replaced. Still another reason is that emptying the box gives you an opportunity to make necessary repairs on the box. Most boxes would last much longer if given a little repair and a new coat of paint each winter.
Grass in Foundation Planting
The question of where to have grass around the foundation planting has not been given much consideration in America. Picture a walk running parallel to the house between the driveway and the front door, and 6 feet away from the house as already suggested. Now visualize a foundation planting requiring 5 feet of this space; that leaves a 1-foot strip for grass between the foundation planting and the walk. It is hopeless to try to maintain such a narrow strip as decent turf. Lawn mowers are simply not made for it; the blades grind into the soil and make raw, bare spots. This dulls your lawnmower blades while it sharpens your temper.
The usual alternative is to get down on your hands and knees with a pair of grass clippers and spend valuable minutes and hours trimming the strip by hand. Now think how simple it would be to continue the ground cover all the way out to the walk and eliminate the grass strip altogether, thereby saving much laborious cutting and trimming. This is another instance where you can exercise judgment in making your own landscape plans.