Help me design foundation planting

maryann_mApril 20, 2011


I am looking for ideas of what to plant under the front window of our house. The evergreen yews have been there since we bought the house in the early 80s and it's definitely time to do something about them. I would like to tear them out and replace them with something more interesting.

The window has an eastern exposure, receiving morning sun and shade in the afternoon. We are in zone 6. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

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my suggests:

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 1:40AM
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Thanks for the idea, but we're not looking to redo the entire front yard--just a section under the front window where the yews are. We already have a lot of hardscaping, perennials, planted areas, etc. at other places on the property. Also, the land slopes up at a steep incline to the left side of the house as you face it. Hardscaping at that area might cause drainage issues.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 11:26AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I don't have any suggestion for shrubs for that location -- the ones I'm thinking of aren't zone 6 friendly -- but I'd like to suggest that if you do plant shrubs along that wall, you center the new planting under the window and not extend it to the left toward the tall conifer, as the current yews do. The centering will look better, and leaving a gap will allow room for the conifer to do its thing. If you already have a dead spot along that side of the conifer, you'll need to ask someone who knows whether the conifer is likely to grow back or not.

If the conifer proves to have a dead zone on that side, I'd still not plant a shrub between it and the window shrubs. If you need to hide a dead zone, you could do so by planting a shrub in front of the gap between the tall conifer and the window shrubs -- but I'd make that shrub noticeably different from the window shrubs in color, leaf texture, and/or growing habit.

Dead zone or not, I'd probably put a shrub in front of the gap between the tall conifer and the window shrubs, as well as deepen the entire bed and add something low and flowering in front of the shrubs and corner conifer.

Would it be possible to post a photo showing the entire front of the house? You might get more responses if people could see the rest of the front landscaping.


designshare, aka ideasshare, enjoys doing these disconcerting, usually Asian-themed, often downright surrealistic Photoshops (at least you were spared the miniature mountains and the rather menacing "giant broccoli"). We all do what we enjoy ... and we all at times disconcert.... 8-)

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 1:16PM
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Thanks for the constructive advice. I agree about the placement of the shrubs. They used to have a more 'centered' appearance years ago before the rock wall on the right side was built. And, I'm in agreement about adding some lower flowering plants in front. I'll look for a photo that shows more of the front of the house. In the meantime, I'm hoping for suggestions of types of plants or shrubs. Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 3:37PM
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Here's a long shot of the front of the house. We haven't mowed the grass yet this season. The lawn doesn't usually look this bad.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 9:24PM
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I always design 12 pics everytime,they are different style.some people don't agree me post all here.but I can email these pics.some designing is easy,don't worry drainage issues.
disconcerting?why?here is design forum.designing isn't just, draw,blueprint,pics are important.
Asian,Greece gardening have 5ooo years old history,is often some garden style root.some people always tell me here don't like Hiteler,Mao,Staling,or other leader.
my pics is 3ds than 2ds.eye is sphere.close broccoli it is giant.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 9:14AM
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How about some hydrangeas, which will bloom after your tree loses its flowers? There are so many varieties now, from white to blue.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 11:18AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

This forum often doesn't do specific plant suggestions because we are all in different zones and don't know what you even have available locally. We tend more to discussing questions that can cross zonal boundaries such as: why do you want to have shrubs there at all? The brick is attractive, and the mass of shrubbery seems to accentuate that that section of the house is shorter than the rest. Not that it looks bad to have them, just that I'd be curious whether the shrubs actually enhance the house.

Since you're going to remove them anyway, why not take them down and then see how you feel about what you see. Then visit your local nursery to see what they have - perhaps a spreading rather than upright shrub would work, something low that could extend along the top of the rock wall and overhang it a bit?

If that's ivy down below the wall I'd be for taking that out and replacing it with carpeting juniper.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 2:11PM
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It looks more like pachysandra.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 2:20PM
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I apologize karinl if I've asked an inappropriate question. I can see what you mean about the shrubbery covering the brick. Below the brick is sort of a white stucco foundation, which I would want to cover. So, I'm gathering that you're suggesting that a new planting would not need to be as high as the obviously terribly overgrown yews. Agreed.

Eblin, I like hydrangeas. I had been thinking about that as a possibility. I wasn't sure if another type of evergreen would be preferable.

Yes, tanowicki, you're right. It's pachysandra down below the wall.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 9:19PM
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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

If it were my house, I think I'd take out the tall conifer (arborvitae?) along with the yews. It doesn't seem to me to quite fit in with the rest of your landscape, and I just don't see what purpose it's serving. But I admit I may be biased by my personal grudge against arborvitae (I think they're ridiculously overused, at least in my area), so . . . what do the other people here think?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 2:30AM
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You know those yews have to go. Why not yank them out and then take another look and figure out what to put there? Instead of rushing to fill in the blank spot immediately, take a breather. Right now they're acting as a mental block for me to think of anything to do with that spot.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 2:58AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Does it have to be a new evergreen shrub? I could see a grouping of some arching flowering shrub to 5 foot tall by across such as Berberis thunbergeri atropurpurea, Weigelia, Spirea, Hydrangea paniculata, Viburnum plicatilis, etc. Probably 3 across, with the center one pulled out further away from the house to make the planting more of an arc. You could lose some of that small lawn area at the top of the wall, and face down these taller shrubs with a lower loose border of something herbaceous or ferns. If evergreens perhaps shrubs such as Kalmia, Pieris, Rhododendrons, some of the dwarfer Ilex species or something similar to Osmanthus heterophyllis 'Goshiki', which probably isn't hardy enough for you. I'd suggest only those shrubs that have a naturally arching habit that don't need to be sheared formally would be a nice contrast to the evergreen at left, and complement the whole house elevation.

I'd suggest visiting nurseries, driving around the neighborhood, or visiting your local botanic garden to get ideas of plant choices for your area. I am a USDA zone 9/10 person, don't deal much with your cold...

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 12:10PM
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Queerbychoice, I'm not adverse to removing the tall conifer. As I look at the photos, I see how much it has grown and now blocks up the corner behind the weeping cherry. In addition, there are rhododendrons just behind the conifer on the side of the house. We might be able to see their flowers from the front if the arborvitae was gone.

Bahia, thank you so much for the shrub suggestions. Evergreen is not necessarily a requirement. I especially appreciate your suggestion regarding placement of shrubs, looking for something with an arching habit, and adding a lower loose border. We already have some weigelia and spirea on other parts of the property. I like hydrangeas, too. Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 3:21PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

The evergreens balance out the house. Without them, the addition may look too heavy, so I'd keep the yews. They won't be overgrown after a hard pruning, and that will also ever up the snaggle-tooth look. It would be nicer if they spread out a bit more to the right. Then the hydrangeas or whatever can be put in front of them. Hydrangeas are not attractive shrubs during the winter, and are more likely to disappear into the dark green backdrop than into the brick.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 6:58AM
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My thoughts are to remove both the yew and arborvitae. Also remove the timbers that are under the yew. Curve the bed so it is at least 6-7 feet deep at the center. Plant a layered garden - medium shrubs in the back, small shrubs such as, perhaps, goldmound spirea in the front and a few perennials.

Its more than you are asking about, but what is interesting to me is the odd landscape area on the bank there with the lambs ears. I think it would be attractive to tie that area into the "foundation planting" to anchor it to something. It would require a substantial amount of lawn to be removed, but it would echo the existing landscaping on the lower side of the house. It would be a much more attractive style of landscaping than the foundation planting style.

What is the tree in front of the house by the front door? Magnolia?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 4:43PM
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Hi drtygrl, thanks for the comments. I didn't fully explain my intentions in my first post. I intend to remove the timbers below the yews and extend the foundation planting to be deeper and layered. Perhaps I gave the impression that I simply wanted to plant a row of 'something' against the foundation.

The odd landscape area on the bank is part of a section of the landscape that's not visible in the photos. There are wooden/brick steps that lead from the upper level of the yard to the level where the front door is located. (It currently needs some repair work--we put it in over twenty years ago.) There is a bed to the left of the steps that includes pink spirea, iris, day lilies, phlox,... It extends out to the left to include and camoflauge the location of our well cap, which is oddly placed at the top of the slope (in the lamb's ear area). That area also extends on the right side of the steps, where there is another pink spirea down in front of the wall, the pachysandra which you see peeking out in the photo, and other perennials, which extend along the edge of our weirdly shaped driveway to the sidewalk.

When we built the stone wall we removed a cureved area of landscaping that we used to have on the upper level that softened the look of the timbers under the yews and curved toward the planting I just described. We also removed one or two yews that were to the right side of the front window at that time. We never got around to putting anything back in that space. I guess that's part of what I'm asking about now.

The tree in front of the house is a small variety of magnolia.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 8:27AM
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