foundation planting -- size advice

roclibrarianAugust 27, 2010

I've just had a line of very tall leggy looking arborvitaes removed from the front of my house because the roots were invasive and were eating into our pipe system on the side of the house.

I'm sort of in shock at how bare the house looks now. And as you can see we need to paint the window frame since it has been hiding unloved behind the bushes for so long. Now that I can actually see the bottom window, I also plan to put shutters on it that match the top ones.

I'd love to plant flowers in the front (purple coneflowers in particular are really lovely in the summers here) because it is one of the only spots in my yard that gets sun. However, I also want to plant something that will stay green in the winter since our upstate winters are just so intensely white.

This is my first house, so I'm still a bit of a newbie at landcape. I love to garden though and have filled my back yard with rhodies and peonies and all sorts of goodies.

For the front, I am interested in pee wee oak leaf hydrangeas and also red sprite winterberry bushes for color. However, I'm not totally sure how much space they need. I would like for our new bushes not to cover and block the front windows the way the old ones did. I'm also concerned about the winterberry because I know I would need a male bush but can't find any decent pictures of the male bushes and don't know how big they would get.

Anyhow, here are a few of my ideas. Do any of them seem plausible?

In this photo: coneflowers, red twig dogwood, hydrangea, red twig dogwood, coneflowers

In this photo: coneflowers, winterberry, hydrangea, winterberry, coneflowers

Feel free to suggest other plants and ideas I might not have thought of yet.

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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Well, none of those are evergreen. You could start with something like a mounding juniper in the back, then the dogwoods and winterberry, and then some perennials in front of that. It will eat up a fair amount of space, but it looks like you have it.

Oak leaf hydrangeas are marginally hardy here. Paniculatas do well, but aren't as interesting during the winter.

I'd avoid the symmetry because the trees on the left side will affect the plants growth assymetrically. It's better to plan for that from the start.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 3:15PM
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Thanks for the feedback. I think I will go back to the drawing board to think of an asymmetrical design because I can see you are right about that. And you're right of course too that I didn't mention any evergreens. I think in my mind I meant winter interest -- so the red berries, twigs etc. appeal to me. :)

The reason I thought of an oakleaf is because I've seen them here in Rochester. I'm from the West Coast originally and don't recall seeing them there at all -- so it's interesting that they are marginally hearty. What do you mean by that? That they are picky about soil? Won't grow very tall?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 5:21PM
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So here's another try using mad_gallica's asymmetrical idea. I like it better. The red bushes are burning bush and the lighter smaller bush is a variegated dwarf red twig.

Same idea, two angles:

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 6:41PM
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Burning bush have beautiful fall color, but are boring as heck in the summer and even winter. I may be biased, we just tore out 6 massive specimens that had overgrown (they were the size of VW Beetles).

I also think the assymetry idea is good. What if you took the bed on the left side of the window and made it deeper than the area near the door? That would let you do more layering of taller stuff toward the back & narrower plants near the front. You could have a dogwood toward the back, some birds-nest spruces in front (they grow really slowly, so they won't take over like the arborvitae did). And interplant with perennials and other stuff.

I love winterberry holly for many, many reasons. But it does tend to like wet soil, or at least plenty of moisture. Is this a dry area? If so you might want to choose something else for winter interest there (rosa rugosa? But it's crazy-thorny).

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 9:25AM
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One more idea. Is this better?

Left to right: birds-nest spruce, viburnum carlesii, red trig dogwood, azaela, birds-nest spruce, viburnum carlesii,

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 1:22PM
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    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 1:25PM
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