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Foundation garden for newly built home

Posted by LauraP0607 none (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 16, 14 at 19:03

I know I'm not in New England, and I have cross-posted this in the Mid-Atlantic forum, but I would really appreciate some advice since I'm no pro when it comes to garden design. We built six months ago and we are just now getting around to the front foundation bed. I've just purchased some plants today (can take back though if I need to) but I am just not sure of placement or whether what I chose will work. I uploaded a picture of our house that was taken in November 2013 when just built. I can take another tomorrow if needed. The area I'm looking to plant in is to the right of the porch, under the windows. I'm looking at an area of 13x8ish which will bring the width of the bed flush to the porch but could also make it wider if needed. Also, I want to extend it past the right edge of the house in order to create a circle where I can plant a specimen tree (crabapple or dogwood maybe?).
Here's what I currently have to work with:

1 cranberry viburnum (back corner by porch?)
3 danica arborvitae (across the front?)
2 Red Satin Coreopsis (not sure where to place)
1 Mercury Rising Coreopsis (thought it was Red Satin and grabbed it accidentally)
2 Bonfire Surge (in between the danica?)

Also considering:

1 Yellow Azalea under the window
1 Potentilla under the window (or anotherAzalea?)
1 Ninebark Diablo (back right corner of house)
And maybe fill in the front corners with some of the following : Catmint, Echinacea (yellow), Heart Attack Sweet William

Thoughts? Are my placement ideas way off? Should I think about different plant options? I'm trying to stick with a maroon, purple, and yellow color scheme with some white thrown in as well.

THANK YOU for any advice!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

The first order of business is to orient your planned garden bed with the compass before selecting things to plant. Next is to consider the hours of full/part sun the bed will get mid-summer. Next up is soil type: is it sandy loam, clay, acidic or alkaline? There also appears to be a slope involved which is another factor to consider. Another is water or irrigation. Is the soil consistently moist (which will affect your plant/shrub choices)?

As an example, my house sits square with the compass and faces due east, the soil is slightly acidic sandy loam. In front of the house the garden beds receive part sun thanks to a mature crabapple tree. This area of the garden is flat. Knowing these conditions allowed me to plant perennials that thrived where I planted them.

Far in advance of choosing a color scheme, there are many more important things to consider. You have a lovely home and will hopefully post a picture once you've planted your foundation bed.

In your list above you note 2 Bonfire Surge. I have a half dozen or so Bonfire Spurges in my garden so am guessing you mean Euphorbia 'Bonfire.' The botanical name is Euphorbia polychroma; common name is cushion spurge; cultivar name is 'Bonfire.' There won't be a test later--just pointing out it's easier for folks to answer your questions when they know specifically what's being asked.

BTW - additional questions are always welcome.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Thanks for your response. Our house sits angled on a hill facing SE. The front bed will get 6+ hours of sunlight per day in the summer. I'm not 100% sure about soil, but my husband says it was tested in May before we planted grass and we did not need to add lyme. I think the ph is pretty balanced. The topsoil we had delivered after building was not really sandy or clay but the soil down deeper than that layer of topsoil will most likely tend toward clay, as I've noticed other parts of the yard have some clay. As far as water goes, the soil does not stay consistently moist, and it drains away from the house since we made sure to slope the grade away from the foundation when we built. Finally, there are no low, overhanging eaves or gutters--they are up pretty high and don't seem to affect the amount of rain the back part of the garden gets.

Does that help?

Sorry about the plant names. I just got lazy and didn't feel like going back to find my plant tag to add in the Euphorbia. I figured people would know what I meant.

Do the plants I have sound like a good match? I did actually look at light requirements, mature heights, etc. when choosing so I hope I picked ones that will work.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Gardenweed has given you some great pointers, I just want to add some ideas from a different perspective.

Your main concern should be the overall effect of this bed on the appearance of the house; the main points to consider when addressing that concern are the size of the bed and the scale of the plants in it.

Your house is lovely, and it looks like it's in a great setting - I garden on a small flat in-town lot, so I really appreciate that hill! The garden to the right of the porch can serve to bring the front porch and door more into the central focus, and even steer foot traffic to the door; to do that, it has to balance the large garage door to the left.

To accomplish this effectively, the garden needs to be substantial. I'd suggest you consider making it AT LEAST as deep as the height of the wall where the garage door is located; measure the height of that piece of white trim, and make sure you're no narrower than that. The length of the garden should be at least the length of that same wall, and maybe more, since it's going to wrap around the side of the house.

Ideally, you'd aim to have about a 3 foot space between the back of the plants and the house - not the center of the plants, by the way! This will make house maintenance easier and avoid rot; it will also help keep the plants out of that rain-shadow area, where there's never enough water for plants to do well.

You'll want some substantial plants in this bed, to avoid a skimpy, afterthought look. IMHO, you'll want to make the house appear to be in a garden, as opposed to a little garden that appears to be tacked onto the front of a house.

Do you know that a cranberry viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum ) can be 8-12 feet high and wide? To accommodate that, your bed will need to be a lot bigger! Not that I'm against big plants in foundation beds, but unless you've picked a dwarf variety, this could be a problem. I'd advise keeping it out of the inner corner by the porch, and putting it at the far end of the garden, where it will have some air circulation and room to grow.

The Thuja occidentalis 'Danica' could be a good choice for the front of the bed, since it's evergreen and the feathery foliage might be a good foil for some broadleaved evergreens further back. I'm not sure if you're thinking of backing those with the perennials, or how that spacing will work - I'd concentrate on some woodies first, and then think about color, perennials and bulbs.

Keep us posted! This looks like a fun project - I envy you your clean slate!


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Diggin--

Thank you! I appreciate your input. I was toying with the idea of going deeper than 8ft anyway. I will measure the height of the garage and use that as my depth.

Also, the cranberry I bought must be a dwarf variety? It says 5-6 ft ht and 5-6 ft spacing. Still too big for the corner or would that work?

I really like the Hardy Lights Azalea too. Would like to put one or two of those under the windows. Yes? No? They are about 4ft high and 3-4 ft wide, I think, at maturity

The Danicas are 2ft ht x 2ft wide (or they will be at maturity anyway) so I thought to make them my 2nd "row" in front of the Cranberry and the Azalea. Should I have more evergreen behind them, though? I'm afraid that it will be too crowded if I do this. Suggestions for other evergreens that might work?

Ninebark on the far corner with the bed extending past the house for a specimen tree?

Thanks again! I want to get good at this since I have a whole foundation, yard, AND huge hill to landscape so I appreciate the advice.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Great ideas and suggestions from diggingthedirt.

I'll offer a word of caution about plant tags--don't take the information on them at face value and assume it's right. If you want to plant it and just enjoy it, do your homework. Google the botanical names and check whether the information available online matches the plant tags. Take out a few books from the library on shrubs & perennials, do more homework. The information is out there and available at your fingertips.

Keep in mind that Dianthus barbatus/sweet William is a biennial, meaning it produces foliage the first year, flowers the second year and then dies (altho' it may self-seed).

I have catmint and Echinacea and love both since I garden for pollinators (bees, butterflies, birds). I don't grow most of the others on your list so can't comment on them. I have catmint and Echinacea growing in full & part sun, along with Platycodon/balloon flower, stokesia, Liatris/gayfeather & perennial geranium. Depending on the space you have, you might want to add Baptisia australis/false indigo.

Here is a link that might be useful: Baptisia australis


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Great responses! Thanks for asking the question. Very good point about distance from house to back of bed. A neighbor had to tear out some beautiful rhododendrons because they were too close to the house and causing rot. I also agree with potential size of the viburnum. We had to remove one that was only supposed to be 6-8 tall. Even after trimming it kept putting out very tall new growth. It's now in a place where it can grow all it wants. But, I replaced it with a halo dogwood that is not doing well. Birds loved to perch in the viburnum since we put winter feeders near the bush in front of our kitchen windows but the branch shape of the dogwood doesn't seem to make a good place for birds. Viburnum is at least 10 feet tall now.

Keep in mind how tall things will get that you plant in front of the window. I think the cranberry viburnum could be your specimen tree at the corner but away from the house.

My favorite low, spreading shrub is a prostrate cotoneaster. I don't think I would put the danicas in front of azaleas because they would hide too much of the azaleas. I think in addition to color, you think about the shapes of each plant and how they go together. The danicas are formal and stiff, the virburum is twiggy (nice contrast) . Catmint can be sprawl and I'm not sure the grayish leaves would look very good with the other foliages. I think the coreopsis would look great near the viburnum.

Have fun. Looks like you have some great ideas, great plants and a beautiful home.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Awesome! Thanks everyone. I love the idea of the Baptisia. Pretty plant. Also drought tolerant, just in case. I also appreciate that the Danicas may hide the azalea. Hmmmm....Not sure how to group things then. I guess I was thinking that since the Danicas only get to 2ft, that the 4ft tall Azaleas would be ok behind them, but maybe not?
I do think I will move the cranberry. Not sure I want it as the specimen tree, but maybe I will put it on the opposite corner? Or maybe on the side of the house instead.
Maybe I need to look for a more upright growing evergreen for that corner by the porch.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

LauraP0607 - a mature Baptisia/false indigo is stunning but looks best supported by a peony ring so it doesn't flop. The image at the link below should give you some idea of what a mature plant looks like. Mine are at least 38" to 44" tall. They please my eyes from early spring until they go dormant in the fall.

Here is a link that might be useful: Baptisia image


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Thanks for the info about the Baptisia, gardenweed. I will look into that plant and the peonies.

I did my "homework" re: the Cranberry Bush and the cultivar (is that the right term?? haha, I'm such a "newb") that I own is a Bailey compact. Online and on the tag it says 3-6 ft for height and 3-6 ft for spacing. Despite this, I am still going to place it somewhere other than the inside corner by the porch. So now I need something for that inside back corner. Anyone have suggestions for a taller, narrower, probably evergreen shrub or tree? I prefer something that is not stiff and formal but I also don't like the extremely "weepy" look either. Mature height should probably be up to the top of the garage, I think, so maybe 10ft? It will get a good deal of sun but it will get the most shade of the plants in that garden based on its location by the porch. Prefer something that is not silvery-blue, either.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Thanks for the info about the Baptisia, gardenweed. I will look into that plant and the peonies.

I did my "homework" re: the Cranberry Bush and the cultivar (is that the right term?? haha, I'm such a "newb") that I own is a Bailey compact. Online and on the tag it says 3-6 ft for height and 3-6 ft for spacing. Despite this, I am still going to place it somewhere other than the inside corner by the porch. So now I need something for that inside back corner. Anyone have suggestions for a taller, narrower, probably evergreen shrub or tree? I prefer something that is not stiff and formal but I also don't like the extremely "weepy" look either. Mature height should probably be up to the top of the garage, I think, so maybe 10ft? It will get a good deal of sun but it will get the most shade of the plants in that garden based on its location by the porch. Prefer something that is not silvery-blue, either.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

I agree with DtD that you want your garden both deeper and wider than the area defined by the front of the porch and the width of the house to balance the large garage. I might also consider changing the garage door color to match the house so that the white front entry stands out more than the garage door.

Perhaps it's a relic of the photo, but it looks a longish distance from the street to the house, so you want plant masses that are large enough to be visible from the street rather than smaller dots of color that won't stand out.

Consider a clematis on a tall obelisk or trellis for that inside corner by the porch. Or a native honeysuckle, one of the yellow flowered Lonicera sempervirens cultivars such as John Clayton or sulphurea on the trellis. It will give you height without crowding either the porch, the house or the other plants. There are a lot of summer blooming clematis (type 3, hard prune) that are purple or a similar color to the Dianthus 'Heart Attack'.

Put perennials in front of the azaleas. That way, the perennials will be small when the azaleas are blooming, and when the perennials are blooming, the azaleas will offer a nice green background. One thing to consider is the height of your windows and the height of the particular type of azalea. You probably don't want a tall variety that may block the windows. I grow both Northern Hi-Lights (yellow and white) and Golden Lights azaleas and like both of them quite a lot. They aren't near a building, though, so I haven't paid much attention to size, but both have a lovely scent as well as the nice flowers and some color to the autumn foliage. They will bloom well without full sun, so they are a good choice for an eastern exposure.

For your specimen tree (as well as your shrubs) keep in mind that typically sizes are given for 10 years. Plants will get larger than that, so plant with that in mind. For your specimen tree off to the right side, look at white Kousa dogwoods or one of the smaller red Japanese maples, both of which will fit your color scheme.

Some comments on your particular plant choices:
Heart Attack Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) should be a perennial for you unlike other D. barbatus varieties. Do a search for it on the perennials forum where there are comments and photos. It's stunning.

I'd give the Potentilla a miss. IMO it's a boring plant, just tiny dots of flowers against a fine-textured green. There are many better plants available.

Euphorbia Bonfire (Spurge) is a great plant for giving long-season color since both the foliage and the flowers are bright.

Check out if Viburnum beetles are a problem in your area. Cranberry viburnums are a favorite of that particular pest and they will leave the leaves looking holey and tattered.

Check out the perennials forum for input on various Echinaceas/coneflowers. Many of the yellow and orange ones have issues as far as longevity and disease. There are some strong and healthy white varieties, however.

There are a range of yellow, white, maroon and purple Baptisias, such as Twighlight Prairie Blues or Carolina Moonlight as well as the usual purple species. All are gorgeous IMO.

Nepeta/catmint is a great plant. Put it where it will get as much sun as possible, and if you can find a variety that is sterile, it will save you having to remove seedlings.

Plan to give your ninebark lots of room since IMO they look best if left to fountain in their natural growth habit. I have Little Devil (new, so no feedback yet) and Coppertina. Coppertina gets about 8' tall and wide with gold tones to the new growth and nice flowers in my garden. I think Diablo is a similar size.

As far as the Danica arborvitae, it seems a more formal plant than most of the other choices, quite small and symmetrical, while most of the others have looser growth patterns. I am not sure how I would combine them with your other plant choices - I might opt for an evergreen that is more similar in style to your other plants and use the Danicas elsewhere.

You may want to add some annuals and biennials for the first few years to fill in between the other plants. In order to plant the woody plants with proper spacing, there will be a lot of space between them initially. Also, consider planting bulbs between the shrubs and perennials. That way the emerging perennials will hide the yellowing foliage of the bulbs, but the flowers from the bulbs will lengthen the season of interest in your garden. Look at crocus, reticulated iris, aliums, and daffodils for long lived bulbs that fit your color scheme.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Thank you for your thoughts, nhbabs! The clematis idea is interesting--I had already planned on doing a plant trellis on the side of the garage to hide the meter, but hadn't considered doing one in front. My concern would be that if I were to move the danicas AND not do a tall evergreen in the foundation bed, then where is my winter interest?

I think I have some awesome ideas for perennials and deciduous shrubs now--I'm just trying to figure out how/where to incorporate evergreens.

BTW- I ended up ordering 3 Sweet William. I knew the 'heart attack" variety was perennial and I loved it so much. I will put them near the front of the bed.

Two other questions/thoughts since you all are so helpful.

1. Our original plan was to use river rock in lieu of mulch around the foundation. However, with such a deep bed and the potential for adding annuals and bulbs, I don't want to have to constantly be moving river rock. So, my idea is to river rock the first 3-5 feet or so from the foundation (drainage, etc) and then mulch the front part of the bed, where most of the plants will be. Not sure whether to curve the line or keep straight but has anyone else done something like this?

2. Weed fabric. Yes/No? My thought is to use it on the river rock part of the bed but not on the mulch part where I will be digging often. If I put bulbs and annuals in, then it may end up being pointless to use it. Thoughts?


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Don't use landscape cloth. Weeds will grow in mulch from seeds and debris blowing in. If you have landscape cloth, the weeds will root into it, making them difficult to remove and it also prevents the soil from interacting with organic mulches so it becomes unhealthy over time. If you do a search on landscape cloth on this forum or the perennials forum you will get a lot of opinions that back this up. I use corrugated cardboard under my mulch which will rot, but prevents seed germination while the mulch settles.

I always just use organic mulches like bark mulch because they enrich the soil over time and because gravel will mix into the soil and is also more difficult to weed than organic mulches. Surface gravel won't help drainage - it's what's under the surface that is important.

With regard to winter interest, the trellis can add some of that since you can trim the old vines of a type 3 clematis off in early winter once it gets cold. I might well look for some looser small coniferous evergreens (you could ask on the conifer forum) and add them along with perhaps some smaller broad-leafed evergreens, such as Rhododendrons, boxwood, winter heath, heather, Leucothoe - you have lots of other choices besides that one variety of Thuja. There are also perennials that are evergreen such as Heuchera (coral bells), some other types of perennial Dianthus, several of the various types of sedges (Carex) just to name a few.

This photo has Rhododendron Olga Mezitt (center) and Dianthus along the front plus a couple of kinds of Thuja/arborvitae and blue spruce, along with a clumping bamboo behind the spruce and a bare trellis.

From December 2010

This has cranberry at the bottom, in the middle the evergreens are a large leaf rhododendron and Carex Ice Dance, and in the background the low-growing plant on the right is Iberis sempervirens (perennial candytuft) and the out-of-focus maroon-foliaged shrub is Rododendron Checkmate, and small member of the PJM group of small-leafed rhododendons.

From November 14, 2012


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Something to watch for is that if your soil has a high enough pH that the lawn does not need lime, then it is probably too high for lime haters like azaleas, rhododendrons, and many other broadleafed evergreens. Boxwood is the only one I can think of that likes a higher pH.

BTW, if you aren't in New England, where are you? My guess is near Pittsburgh.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Strongly urge you to follow nhbabs advice re: landscape fabric. You'll only set yourself up for garden regret down the road. It's nasty stuff that in no way accomplishes the purpose for which it was created. Recycled corrugated cardboard is generally free and, topped with bark mulch, does the job of suppressing/preventing weeds 100 times more effectively plus it has the added advantage of attracting worms to your garden beds. Worms + worm poop = healthy soil.

My garden is just under a full acre and all my garden beds are heavily mulched with cardboard + bark mulch.

My ND neighbor mows my lawn every year. I asked him when I first began designing my beds whether it was easier to mow around curved beds or those with straight edges. With no hesitation, he promptly said, "Curved." All my beds incorporate curves.

For winter interest I have ornamental grasses including Carex 'Ice Dance,' feather reed grass 'Karl Foerster,' and dwarf fountain grass 'Hameln.' Demented witch hazel (a.k.a., Harry Lauter Walkingstick) grows in a loose corkscrew fashion up to 10 ft. tall. Mine is growing at the SE corner of my full sun bed. Alchemilla mollis/lady's mantle retains its form and color through the winter as do coral bells & Hellebore/Lenten rose. Stachys/lamb's ear 'Helen Von Stein' has provided nearly year-round foliage interest in my perennial beds.

Here is a link that might be useful: Harry Lauter Walkingstick tree


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Ok, so maybe no weed fabric then. Noted!
And yes, I am near Pittsburgh. About 30 miles east.

Will post again later re: boxwoods and other winter interest ideas but have to get lunch first. Thanks!

This post was edited by LauraP0607 on Mon, Jul 21, 14 at 12:39


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

So, not sure if husband likes the idea of a trellis out front on the house.......
We are also not crazy about the witch hazel for this purpose (although it's a very interesting plant).

What about a "dee runk" boxwood?

Also, I am drawn to the idea of putting chocolate daisies up front near the porch. Thoughts? They would be next to the 'Heart Attack' sweet william

Here is a link that might be useful: Dee Runk Boxwood


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Or........Fernspray False Cypress? I LOVE the look of this one.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fernspray False Cypress


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

I'm glad I don't have to choose between dee runk boxwood and Fernspray False Cypress since neither appeals to me but that's because when I moved here the only things growing in front of my house were small, pointy, half-dead evergreen shrubs. The Fernspray False Cypress is slightly more interesting than the boxwood.

Sorry to damn with faint praise but evergreens other than euonymus just stopped impressing me 10+ years ago.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Are you looking to put this evergreen in the corner by the porch? If so do you have at least 4 feet in width for this Chamaecyparis AKA false cypress to fit without crowding the porch or growing in front of the window? How is the 8' height of the boxwood going to interact with the porch roofline? You might want to measure how much width is there and ask for suggestions on the conifer forum and the shrubs forum. You can either keep the height of your evergreens below the window and go wider or go tall and skinny. I think I would go for keeping it below the height of the window to prevent a crowded look in the porch corner area, and put the height off to the right of the porch, but you can do what will please you.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Thanks nhbabs,

I was anxious thinking that I "needed" height in that corner, but maybe I don't. I do like the look of the false cypress (sorry gardenweed--eunonymus just isn't my thing) but I was unsure about using it in the corner. I still might try to convince hubby to go for the trellis effect, but maybe place something else that grows lower in that corner.

Cranberry is on the other corner of the house right now, but I still have a spot about 7 feet off the corner of the house for a "specimen" tree. Was going to take the earlier suggestions of either japanese red maple or dogwood. Will this compete with the cranberry or do you think it will work?


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Since I'd want a big tree further out, there may not be room for a specimen tree there.

Also, run through your mind what this is going to look like when the deciduous shrubs have lost their leaves and are hard to see.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Thanks nhbabs,

I was anxious thinking that I "needed" height in that corner, but maybe I don't. I do like the look of the false cypress (sorry gardenweed--eunonymus just isn't my thing) but I was unsure about using it in the corner. I still might try to convince hubby to go for the trellis effect, but maybe place something else that grows lower in that corner.

Cranberry is on the other corner of the house right now, but I still have a spot about 7 feet off the corner of the house for a "specimen" tree. Was going to take the earlier suggestions of either japanese red maple or dogwood. Will this compete with the cranberry or do you think it will work?


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

Sorry for double posts. Not sure why that is happening. Also, I mis-typed. The spot for the specimen tree/shrub is about 10-11 feet off corner of the house, not 7 feet.


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RE: Foundation garden for newly built home

I haven't read all the responses on this thread, since a lot of the age to do with plant choices. But I just wanted to throw out the issue of snow. I don't know how much snow you get in Pittsburg, but take a look at your roof angles and the direction that snow will slide off your roof. And make sure that anything you plant in the snow trajectory dies to the ground in winter. You don't want to plant your specimen trees or shrubs, only to have them broken in half by roof snow.

I can't tell from the photo how deep the gable above your front door is. Or if you were planning foundation plantings on the right side of the house - those are the areas where you should be concerned about roof snow.


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