There is something good to be said about foundation gardens. From all I have read about foundation gardens, they began as a way to hide unsightly foundation walls many, many years ago. I think as time went on and gardening evolved, foundation gardens then became a way to "marry" the house to the land. Houses just stuck out in the middle of a plot of land with no transition space between the outdoors and the structure can be a little unsettling.
Foundation gardens also add curb appeal to your home. Curb appeal is very important if you want to sell your house for top dollar or even if you want a prospective buyer to take a second look. While at a party this year a neighbor of the hostess had commented she and her husband were at one point trying to sell their very nice custom built house. Every single prospective buyer who came by commented there was no shrubbery near the house, which swayed their opinion negatively when viewing the home. The couple took their home off the market and are waiting until better conditions but will probably add some kind of a foundation garden to it before they re-list it.
Around Clarksville we have many good builders who do try to landscape new homes. Unfortunately, most builder packages include the standard boxwoods or compacta holly, maybe an arborvitae or yew, and a few barberries. Sometimes there is a good mix but the standard package when the house is new is not always the ideal package for long term sustainability in the foundation garden. Boxwoods and arborvitae will outgrow their space, cover up windows and cause maintenance headaches. The homeowner then has no choice but to do nothing or remove the shrubs. Oftentimes, removing the shrubs is where the foundation landscape will stop. Many homeowners feel the expense and time to maintain a foundation garden are just too much and not worth it. I understand this point of view but want to give the homeowner a few options and another side to the coin.
Removing overgrown shrubs and letting nature take its course (usually in the form of grass) is certainly an option. But this option actually can require much more maintenance than a foundation garden. Grass has to be mowed and trimmed. Mowing, trimming and edging take up the most time in my garden. If a homeowner purchased a few ideal shrubs, bulbs or perennials and planted and sited them properly, mulched the bed once a year and occasionally pulled a few weeds then he or she would actually have LESS maintenance than maintaining grass all the way up to the house. The added value to the home would more than compensate for this little bit of maintenance and initial expense.
The key is in choosing the right plants the first time. If a window is only two feet above the ground why would you choose a barberry that will grow to 6 feet or a yew that can top out at 15? There are many good alternatives that grow only two feet tall-like Firepower Nandina or Euonymus microphylla. Each situation will require a different approach and a "one size fits all" approach will not work out in the long-term.
When we moved into our home six years ago we had the requisite boxwood and grass in front of the house. Nothing else. The boxwoods were way overgrown and covered the windows. I removed them and replanted them elsewhere in the landscape and changed out the shrubs. I like the layered and tiered effect and NO grass near the house. I have actually extended the foundation garden all the way around the house and now feel my house is "married" to the surrounding land quite nicely. The two pictures are of the side yard of my home which faces north. Hostas, camelias, hydrangeas, ferns and impatiens all do well on this side. This garden requires a cover of pine mulch every other year, and a yearly trim of the edging, and that is the only maintenance. Weeds don't even grow over here much because it is so shady. You can barely see the brick foundation wall but the best part is the way the house seems to be a part of my garden. Think about your house and your garden and customize the garden to be both functional and beautiful and a welcoming place to come home to each day.
in the garden....