How far/close should the shrubs to the house foundation?

greendale(6B)September 15, 2012

I have post the same question on new england garden and got suggestion to post it here. And keep in mind I am very new to gardening and plants please. Anyway, here it goes

The builder put some shrubs in the front of our colonial style house, weigela, rhododedron and emerald green arbor. I am a little worried that the arbor will grow too tall and too close to the foundation. So the other day I replaced the arbor with pieris. We want some foundation plants but since our main entrance is double sided stairs that paralle to the house foundation, there are little space that we can plant the shrubs. From the foundation to the stair's inner edge is 2 feet only. Normally how close a shrubs can be planted near the foundation to avoid root crack into foundation and insects finds their way to the shingles? What are other candidates that we should look for if those shrubs are not suitable for the foundation? I think I am gonna move the weigela if I found something suitable in side wise. They are not happy here (did not get full sun because it is east and the big tree's shadow).

here are the tags for these plant(understood that they might not accurate):

Scarlett O'Hara Pieris average size (3'X2')

Reseum Elegans Rhododendron average sise (8'X10')

Variegated Weigela average size (6'X6')

And some pictures of the house front and a non-scaled drawing of the lot.

Are they too close to the foundation?

From the main entrance look down, they will block the path when you get down the stair

House Front from street level

Foundation and mudroom entrance

Lot layout (House faces east), I moved the arbor to the south side of backyard, we lack privacy screen on this side of our backyard and the southwest corner.

Thanks for any suggestions


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Your photos are so close up that one can't get grasp the overall scene. Could you please back up a little with the camera and take a picture that explains how these parts fit together? It would be helpful.

Also, the videos don't display, so if you want anyone to see them, I think you will have to link each to a separate post, adding them with the "Optional Link URL" at the bottom of each message.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 11:25AM
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Lots of reponses on the NE forum - if two threads are going in disparate places, helps to have all information on both so the ubiquitous request for endless photos is satisfied.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to NE Grdening forum

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 11:33AM
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Duluth I'm not sure exactly what you're saying. But I think we shouldn't need to bounce back and forth between this and another thread in order to make sense of this one. That's too inconvenient.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 11:49AM
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I'm agreeing with the inconvenience of bouncing between forums. But if the removed photos are restored here, the full picture(s) will make for a better assessment.

As I see it, the double sided stair is the problem. I'd remove the closest shrubs (the variegated weigela?) so I didn't have to constantly trim to get them out of the way.

As for close to the foundation - the potentially large at maturity, and often before, weigela and rhododendron have to be the accommodations. You don't want anything growing up over the foundation and possibly staining and mildewing the siding, or growing up under it. You need air circulation and to be able to get behind them to do maintenance.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 12:38PM
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Whenever I plant a shrub, I check its projected size at maturity. If the shrub is supposed to reach a width of 8 feet at maturity, for example, I typically divide that number by 2 and add 6 to 12 inches to it. This means I would plant the shrub 4 1/2 to 5 feet from the foundation.

Trees are generally a bigger threat to a foundation than shrubs are. All the same, it's important to allow room for the crown and roots of the shrub to grow.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 3:02PM
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I am so sorry. Do not know why the pictures hosted on flickr do not work.(It was working when I previewed). Here are the pictures:

House Front from street level

Foundation and mudroom entrance

Lot layout (House faces east), I moved the arbor to the south side of backyard, we lack privacy screen on this side of our backyard and the southwest corner.

If you need more pictures from other directions, please me know, I will get them and upload.
Thanks a lot

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 9:07PM
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I noticed with the "NEW" GardenWeb photo upload system, that after seeing your photo in "Preview", if you make any changes to the text and preview it again, the photo will have silently disappeared. (That it takes forever for the photos to show up has me wondering if they're running the GW system off first generation Pentium.)

Uumm, why is there no sidewalk? It's a very nice looking house, but when you get to the yard and see no sidewalk, all of the sudden, it looks cheap. Let's speculate that there is no sidewalk forthcoming, then for sure, I'd not plant anything at the bottom of the steps. (I think I'm agreeing with DIB here.) Even without a hard walk, the layout must make sense and the green carpet of grass can serve as a walk way (if it must.) But planting a shrub that encroaches into where a walk should be (at the bottom of steps) will render the scene silly looking. We've all seen homes where a doorway that was never used was abandoned (usually in times long past) and people just blocked it off with something (I guess one sees this more inside the house.) It adds a very odd look to a space... like the architecture was faulty and now we're just making do. A shrub at the bottom of the steps would do the same. But why no walk? The house is begging... screaming for it! I'd keep the foundation planting simple and minimal. There is really nothing to hide. I'd plant for enhancing--decorating--but not covering. I think the foundation stucco could stand to be painted a nice looking color. That would be even more reason not to smother the house with plants. In front of the porch, even the lattice is nice looking and doesn't need to be hidden. (Don't like the big rocks and gravel, though.)

I could definitely see 4 low-hung custom window boxes (not the plastic jokes!) on this house.

But let's deal with walk first.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 10:46PM
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Are you going to add a walkway to the front door? If so, consider moving existing plants away from the house about 10'. This would soften the look of the paving. The foundation is attractive enough, doesn't need hiding. Don't know what in the world you'd do on the other side though - they're kinda steps to nowhere. Lovely home!!


    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 5:12PM
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I have to admit when we choose the double stairs we did not think what the purpose of the stairs or where the stairs lead to. We just liked the look of it. I am sure that violates the rule of landscaping/architecture design. :) But looking back, hmm we still like the double stairs better.

Yardvaark, LOL. Another confession, It was me who put those stones in there (The builder put the shrubs - blue prince holy). There are lots of rock in my yard when I dig and I have nowhere to put them, so there they go - to define the half circle. But I will remove them once I find a corner in my yard to put them. I have more stones I just put them on the other sides of my foundation right now, since I do not want grass grow near the foundation especially where the Air Compressor and Gas pipe are - it is hard to mow and edge - I just use those stones on top of cardboard as mulch. I know it might not a good idea. Any suggestion for this?

We just moved in couple months ago and we are not ready for any hardscaping yet. But we have some rough idea about what we need to do. We wanted privacy in our backyard, so we will either build a fence or plant a straight line of Arbor (another landscaping rule violation - but it such a small yard, wanted to plant different trees but afraid they will look uncared and abandoned). So the other side stair could lead to the gate of the fence. The right side stair will have a path to the drive way. One of the reason we do not want to do any hardscaping now is we want to settle to review what we planned and to get a feeling before we take any actions. Like the path, we wanted to walk on the grass and a path will be shaped on where we walk the most.

Here is another drawing shows what might in our plan. I will remove plant #1, do a landing for the stair, then a curved path (so that I can move shrubs #2 and #3 out more), DO you think I need to plant something in front of the mudroom entrance (like fat alberta spruce), it is very open right now, do we need some block screen right there so the neighbor across the street does not see us when we arrive and leaving? (the red ?? on the picture)

Again, thanks

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 10:41PM
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"I have to admit when we choose the double stairs we did not think what the purpose of the stairs or where the stairs lead to. We just liked the look of it. I am sure that violates the rule of landscaping/architecture design." Liking and having does not violate any rules. But not doing something appropriate with it once you have it would be questionable. I'm tossing out a walkway scheme that shows the staircases connected by semi-circular walkway in a classic manner as you might see in many places in the South. The point of the double staircase is not just to be functional, but to look grand. A connecting walkway develops the point. An alternative method would be a rectangular configuration, but since you're showing a semi-circular bed, I'm building on that scheme. (The position of the walk parallel to the house could be adjusted to be closer or farther from the house, but should not connect to the semi-circle in odd, slanting angles as you show. Its geometry should reflect some element that already exists.) A traditional red brick walk would look nice.

My negative comment about the rock edging is because it looks rustic--like part of Granny Hinckel's Tennessee farm. Your house is much more refined so the rocks seem out of place. The solution would be a permanent walkway as an edging. That would look clean, refined and uncluttered.

"One of the reason we do not want to do any hardscaping now..." There's no concern about when you do it. Your time frame is entirely up to you. We're talking about PLANNING it, which is a "must" before actual money is spent or work is attempted. It's not too early to figure out what to do... before you do any shrub planting.

I look at your idea of having adjacent multiple species of shrubs as a bit like creating a conversation grouping of chairs in the living room, but instead of having a matching pair of chairs, using two that are completely different styles. It seems without purpose. People do this outdoors thinking that they're adding interest. But I think it is going to add busy-for-no-good-reason instead. On top of that, I reaffirm that there seems to be no reason to cover up architectural features, so going minimal instead of maximal seems better. A single fat shrub on each side seems plenty to me. I'd keep other plantings low and have flowers, whether perennial or annual, around the entrance ... including window boxes. They would help reaffirm the importance of the entrance.

I like the lattice face and details of your porch. I wouldn't cover it with shrubs. If you think it needs more interest than a low bed of "groundcover," consider the possibility of a low placed art ornament like a sundial or some such object.

I wouldn't place any type of wall-like screen, hedge or similar in front of the mudroom entrance. Architecturally, it is asking to be displayed, not covered. But a flowering tree would give that area a sense of shelter and help the house to look well-connected to its surroundings. (A matching tree could go on the left side of the house if a mirror image effect is desired.) If multiple-trunk, it would provide a filtered view of the MR entrance so that it would feel a touch more private. But it is the front of the house, so unless you wall it off, there's not going to be running-in-the-yard-naked type of privacy. A fabric awning over the MR steps could look nice.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 8:12AM
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"We just liked the look of it. I am sure that violates the rule of landscaping/architecture design. :) "

It violates the most important principle of any type of functional design including landscape and architecture.

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law
-- Louis Sullivan

There is always some way to make something that functions properly to look appealing. It's not always possible to make something function properly when it was designed primarily based on aesthetics.

I don't understand the appeal of those types of stairs especially in this type of format. They just seem impractical except for a few situations. Anytime you have to turn once you exit the door I find impractical. Especially when there's so much room in front of the door as is your case.

You and your family (and informal guests) will be parking in the garage/driveway and using the mudroom entrance and/or door in the garage if you have one.

Your other guests/visitors will be using the front entrance. A walkway should create a nice path from where they will park to your front door. Most of these types of people will be parking on the street. The walkway should provide them easy access from that area to your front door.

Additionally some of your guests may head directly to your backyard if you're having a party back there or something and others might need easy access to your bulkhead doors from time to time. Maybe you'll even need an easy route to transfer bulky seasonal items from your garage to the basement.

You didn't show any of the back doors so I can't say where but somehow you need another path from the garage to the other side of the deck. Possibly through the mudroom?

To get a good flow with the side stairs your walkway will need to would need to be almost right next to your house in the front which will leave you little room for any sizable foundation plantings unless you put in some curves to disrupt the flow.

If you had something like a half circle entrance you'd have a much more natural flow where the path isn't obstructed by sharp turns or shrubs and have more options for beds. You'd also have an entrance that I think is more appropriate for the scale of your home.

Your shrubs even at their existing size are a hazzard.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 3:10PM
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