Framing a House with Plants

Picture your home as – well, a picture. The Mona Lisa is lovely unto itself, but the painting would be less appealing without a frame. Your house may be as pretty as a picture, but without a frame of foundation plants and properly placed trees, it will also look bare.

The purpose of planting a landscape in front of your home is to not only cover any exposed foundation, but to direct the eye towards the building’s outstanding features. By framing the house with plants, you soften it and provide a setting to draw attention to your own work of art.

Homes are rarely viewed straight on. They are usually seen from various angles approaching the house. To determine how best to frame your property, you should consider how the house will look from in front of your neighbor’s property, a more likely viewing angle that directly in front of your own.

From this angle, you will discover which architectural features truly stand out. It may be the front door, a bay window, or a front porch.

To soften the edges of your home, plant trees or shrubs that will not exceed 2/3 the height of the house, and place the center of the plant beyond the corners. Then select other plants for foundation landscape which have heights that follow the sight lines from the tops of these corner plantings to the architectural detail you want to highlight, without obstructing windows of course. This arrangement will then direct the viewer’s eye to what you want to emphasize about your home.

For example, to show off an oak door with brass fixtures, plant shrubs in descending height from the trees at the corner of the house down to the front door.

You can also use slightly taller shrubs than other foundation plants on either side of an architectural element to highlight it. Using different colors and textures (yet not too many) will work well, too. However, try not to divide the overall landscape into separate visual segments.

In most situations, the landscape should be planted in an area 4 ½ to 8 feet wide with the center of the plants three or more feet from the walls of the house. If the plants are in too narrow a bed, they will not have room to grow and will lose their visual value.

By all means, do everything you can to avoid what I call, Toy Soldier Effect. This comes from a few evergreens of the same species, shape and size planted in neat little rows. To create interest, you need to have a few different textures and colors in your landscape.

You also need to continuity and balance. You can achieve this by using only three to five different kinds of plants, but make sure to have enough varieties to lend year round interest. This includes evergreens for winter and flowers for warmer weather.

For more ideas on how to give your home a setting with foundation plants, contact your local nurseryman or landscape designer. You will not only learn proper techniques for highlighting your home, but which plants do the best job as well.

Article by Fred Hower, “The Ohio Nurseryman.”
© The Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association. If you wish to reproduce articles in quantities of 10 or more, use an article in a class or training session, or reprint an article in a publication (print or web), you must obtain explicit permission from the ONLA.

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