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

Posted by greendale 6B (My Page) on
Sun, Sep 2, 12 at 19:37

The builder put some shrubs in the front of our house, weigela, rhodo and emerald green arbor. I have replaced the emerald green arbor with pieris. And moved the arbor to my sideyard. Thought the arbor might grow too tall and too close to the foundation. Is the replacement a good idea? (see pictures, please ignore the mess around the shrubs). Normally how close a shrubs can be planted near the foundation to avoid root crack into foundation and insects?

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And two more questions:
The builder did put a lawn in, but now the lawn is full of crab grass, what is the best way to address this problem (kill the crab grass and plant new lawn)? To kill the crab grass do we have to use round up? Is there any organic way to do it. Also, out back yard is face west - are there any trees that are fast grow to give us shade soon?

Thanks a lot

Thanks


Follow-Up Postings:

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

I won't try to address the lawn question, since I really don't deal with our lawn, but those shrubs are much too close to the foundation. Look up how wide each kind of shrub is supposed to get and then add about 2 feet so that you can get behind the shrub to paint or stain, wash windows, and do any other maintenance. Two more reasons not to plant so close are that new concrete may leach and change the pH of the soil, making it much more alkaline, and the edge of the roof may make a rain shadow which leaves a strip of soil too dry to grow most plants well. While you are doing modifications, the shrubs will do better if you mulch around them to hold moisture and reduce competition from weeds and grass. I usually put down overlapping pieces of cardboard (cartons from the grocery store work well) to smother the weeds and then put wood or bark mulch on top of them to make it look tidier and keep the moisture more even. Edging the bed with a cut in V shaped ditch or a physical barrier like bricks or a metal, wood, or plastic strip buried 4 inches or so deep will help keep the grass from creeping in.


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

I agree with nhbabs about the shrubs - much more pleasing to look at too, if the foundation bed is a lot deeper, otherwise the effect is just too skimpy.

With regards to the lawn - I'm sure there are members here who are far more expert than I am. I think of lawn as the space between garden beds, so I'm not particularly fussy about my grass.

The big questions about your lawn: is it all crabgrass, or is it a mix, and if a mix, how much real perennial grass is there? If it's more than 1/3 pure crabgrass, you might want to start over, in which case you probably should have your soil tested to see if grass will grow there - crabgrass can grow almost anywhere, in my experience, and perennial grass has somewhat more restrictive needs. Either way, NOW is the time to deal with this, because this is when turf grasses grow best - annual weeds are not wanting to sprout and grow in the fall.

If you just want to rehab what's there, say there's only 25% weeds and the rest is good turf grass ,... then it gets sticky. If the crabgrass hasn't set seed, you could pull it; if it's already setting seed, you may need to consider chemical options - but there's nothing that will kill the crabgrass and leave the turf grasses, as far as I know.

I'm halfway through pulling the patches of crabgrass in my lawn, which I do every year (or 2, if I forget), before they set seed but when they're big enough to see. At this time of year, if you have decent perennial grass mixed in with the crabgrass, you can pull the weeds, feed the lawn, if needed, and make sure it gets enough water (rain or otherwise) and the good grasses should fill in.

In the spring you'd want to apply a pre-emergent, either organic or chemical, to prevent the crab grass from re-sprouting - it only affects newly sprouted seed, like crabgrass, and not overwintered turf grass.

This is the time of year when grass does its best growth - a healthy grass plant can recover quickly and spread if it's given good conditions. Crabgrass won't germinate until next spring, and if you can get the perennial grasses to fill in enough, you have a shot at rehabbing the lawn without starting over.

Looking forward to seeing what others have to say, and to seeing what you come up with in your new garden!

- DtD


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

Agree with the above, regarding the shrubs.

For what it's worth, pieris can grow much too large for a foundation plant, IMO, depending on variety and the height of your windows, etc.

I have two beautiful pieris planted (by the original owner) smack in front of windows, and I am constantly whacking them back. They are easily 8 feet tall (and still growing, covered with new growth) when I cut them back (my windows are high up, almost 6 feet, and the pieris still block them). I have finally decided that I will remove them. Breaks my heart, but it's just the wrong plant in the wrong place. Looked into getting them moved but it was thousands of dollars.

Mine (plus a 15-ft-plus rhodie and yews) were also planted way too close to the foundation, and I worry about foundation damage from these large shrubs. Cinderblock foundation + presure from 10-foot-tall or more shrubs = me being worried, lol!

So please think carefully and research carefully before planting in front of a house. Unfortunately, IMO, the height and width descriptions for many plants are just all over the map, and it really bugs me.

I'm far from expert with shrubs, but I can't help but wonder if your arborvitae should be planted more deeply...? From the photo it looks like they were raised up a bit and soil mounded around them, as opposed to being planted with all roots in the ground. Never mind if I'm wrong about that!

Sorry, can't help with grass. Like nhbabs, to me, it's just a coincidental filler between the garden beds!

Good luck!
Dee


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

  • Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA (My Page) on
    Mon, Sep 3, 12 at 14:03

nhbabs and DtD, as always, give great advice. I'd like to add that it looks like you have too much mulch piled up too close to those arborvitae. The term often used is "Mulch Volcanoes".

I'd pull the mulch away from the trunks and level it off so the bark doesn't rot or get insect infestation.

Like DtD, I'm in the throes of pulling crabgrass (or thinning it, depending on my success). It's easier to pull when the ground is damp, like after a rain or watering. I pretty much let anything that's not crabgrass grow so long as it looks decent and you can walk on it, but I'm in a rural area and lawn standards are lower here.

Claire


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

  • Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA (My Page) on
    Mon, Sep 3, 12 at 14:07

Dee posted while I was writing my post - I agree with her general comments too, and we both think there's something wrong with the arborvitae.

Claire


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

I don't worry about shrubs or trees and basements. Having spent many years around all sorts of crazy DIY sorts, and having yet to hear that particular horror story, I'm very skeptical. If the tree roots are really that interested in my basement junk, maybe we can work out a deal. They get the junk, and I get the money they make doing TV interviews. That doesn't mean the shrubs shouldn't be a decent distance from the house, just established shrubs aren't a reason for panic.

First thing about the yard is to raise the mower blades. As high as they will go is usually about right. If you don't do that, you will be fighting crabgrass for the rest of your life. Trust me, it has you outnumbered. Northern turf grass likes being fairly long. Crabgrass likes it when the other plants are very short. and don't shade it out.

Anything else is going to depend on your time frame, and amount of effort. If the primary problem is crabgrass, remember it is an annual. It is all going to die off naturally in a couple of months. Next years infestation is going to be all new plants. So the trick is to not let those get started.


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

Sorry, I'm standing by my foundation worries. I've got a cinderblock foundation built by the owner and his 4 brothers, and I have no idea if there was a professional amongst them. I've also got shrubs that are 10 to 15 feet tall (and which would go higher, possibly, if allowed) that are planted literally one foot away from said cinderblocks. These guys have got to have some pretty substantial roots.

And if you are inside the basement, you can see where the upper rows of cinderblocks, along the front where these shrubs are planted, are not flush with the lower blocks. Each row of blocks hangs over the row beneath by at least a few centimeters, and possibly can be measured in quarter inches. This occurs for about 4 or 5 rows of cinder blocks, from the top on down. I can't be sure of the reason for this overhang, but the shrubs don't reassure me, that's for sure.

I don't give a hoot about the junk in my basement, but I do worry about the stability of the foundation and therefore the house. And so once again, I would recommend against planting any large shrubs too close to the foundation. Not an expert opinion by any stretch, of course, but just my two cents!

Dee


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

Re: lawn
If you are going to hand pull weeds, carry around a little container of grass seed. Each time you pull a weed, pop a couple grass seeds in the whole. This way you are filling the empty spot with grass you want to grow and it gives you a head start on crowding out the weeds next year.

I do this in the spring when I'm pulling dandelions and buttercups and plantain. I use an old fashioned sugar jar - the kind you see at old diners with the flap top spout.

Re: shrubs next to the foundation. You also need to be concerned about damage to your siding. We had to replace the wood siding when we bought our house. It was all rotten behind the shrubs and trees. The areas that were shaded by shrubs were all covered in green mildew.


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

  • Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA (My Page) on
    Tue, Sep 4, 12 at 11:12

Nice tip, pixie_lou, about the grass seed - much easier than doing the formal reseeding operation, which I probably wouldn't get around to.

Claire


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

Hi, All:

Thanks for all the replies. They are really helpful. I will spread the mulch under the Arbor asap.

So you think the shrubs by the foundation are bad idea? Almost every house that I saw in south new england has shrubs in front of the foundation. Should I pull all the shrubs and put them somewhere else? The distance bewteen the center of the shrubs and the foundation is 2 feet. The tag on the pieris is (Scarlett O'Hara Pieris - Pieris japonica ) and average size is 3' by 2' (but a google search turns out (10'X8'). I have not really check the other two shrubs yet (the weigela and rhodo). I can not
plant the shrubs further since it will block the stair steps. THe main entrance of the house has two side stairs go down towards the side.

The lawn pretty much all crab grasses. So I think we need to re-seed the whole lawn. As you knew already - I am pretty much a newbie - should we have somebody to do the whole thing for us (kill the crab grass and re-seed). Or is it a DIY project even for somebody like me that has no experience in gardening at all?

And last question, any fast growing tree to recommend to plant on the west faced back yard for shade?

Thanks a lot


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

Greendale, there's absolutely nothing wrong with planting shrubs in front of the foundation. You just have to pick the right shrub. And as you see from your experience with the tag, the accurate size is sometimes hard to find!

I just did a quick search on Scarlett and I found a height of 4 feet after 10-15 years, and a mature height of 12 feet. They don't say what mature is, but that always seems to be the discrepancy. Most heights given are the height after 10 years; I don't know what they think you are supposed to do after that, lol!

I guess the trick would be to plant a shrub that is slow(er) growing, and one that lends itself to pruning. I think your Scarlett would fit that bill, if you didn't want to look around more or had your heart set on that. Maybe others can help out more on that - I have a much bigger, faster-growing pieris and I really whack it back and it recovers well, but I'm not familiar with Scarlett O'Hara.

I can't really tell from your photo, but can you put a landing in at the bottom of the stairs, and then bring the pathway out further, in front of the shrubs, to give them more room? Which reminds me of one more thing - you should not just check height but width. One site says that Scarlett gets 8 to 10 feet in width....

And this, you see, is why I STILL haven't picked out foundation shrubs to replace the overgrown ones I have!

:)
Dee


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

Greendale, can you take a photo of the entire front of the house from out by the street or across the street? Then perhaps we can help you find a more appropriate spot for that Pieris and the other shrubs if needed. I still think that the Pieris will cause issues down the road for your siding and walking along the walkway. If you can also tell us what direction the house faces, that would help since IME Pieris won't be happy if they are in full sun without adequate moisture.

Builders often put the entry path too close to the house for shrubs to grow well. You have a few choices to deal with this: plant something other than shrubs between the house and the entry path, move the entry path as Dee suggested, or spend too much of your time trimming shrubs to keep them within the space allotted and eventually have to remove overgrown shrubs. Once you've posted a larger view of the house, you will probably get some constructive suggestions of where shrubs can be happily placed and what you can do with the area where your shrubs are that will look nice.

By the way, you are doing the right thing in thinking about your plantings and lawn now when the soil temperatures are warm and good for root growth while the air is cooling and offering less stress to plants. DH always does lawn repair and plantings in the fall so the grass has a good start on the weeds. I do quite a bit of fall planting also.

I will offer you options for the lawn since I agree that it looks like it needs replacing. You can rent a tiller from somewhere like Home Depot if you don't own one and can't borrow one. Now might be a good time to do the tilling before the grass sets seed. You can put down sod, get it hydroseeded (sprayed on seed with fertilizer and a light mulch to help hold soil in place and retain moisture) or you can seed it yourself. I think I have listed the options from most to least expensive. If you seed it yourself, between now and mid-September (or maybe late September for you since you are warmer than NH) is ideal to get good growth before winter. Put down straw (not hay which has weed seeds) to help retain moisture. In spring, spread a preemergent, preferrably one like corn gluten which is harmless to soil and water or plan on spending some time every day weeding for 20 minutes to keep the weeds from taking over until the grass has spread well.


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

Greendale, You may want to put your question about quick growing trees as a new post. I think it got over shadowed by responses to your questions about shrubs and grass. People will see that specific topic listed and those with advice/experience will be more likely to answer.

One piece of advice from personal experience. Take these projects one at a time if possible. Often they take longer than planned for.


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

@diggerdee:
>I just did a quick search on Scarlett and I found a height of 4 feet after 10-15 years, and a mature height of 12 feet. They don't say what mature is, but that always seems to be the discrepancy.

I could be wrong, but I believe the technical definition of 'mature height' is the height at which the owner normally gets fed up with constant pruning and removes the shrub.

Greendale - there are lots of quick growing trees, and many of them are considered trash trees. I agree with asarum that this needs a separate post. You might also peruse the tree forum, as it's been discussed there many times - of course we on the NE forum have our own ideas, so post here by all means too.


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

"...I could be wrong, but I believe the technical definition of 'mature height' is the height at which the owner normally gets fed up with constant pruning and removes the shrub..."

LOL! Too funny. But sadly, probably too true also!

Dee


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

Sorry we had rains last 2 days and could not take new pictures. I took some picture after get home today, it is not the best light but you should get a good look. The house is facing east. Our major concerns are a) the root founds a way into the foundation (It is cement foundation). b) like pixie_lou said the damage to the siding. (mildew, ants...etc)

I also re-read all the replies. Thanks nhbabs for the lawn advice. After read it I am not that confident about DIY now. Never heard about couple things in your post and need to do a google search to know what it is (tiller, still what is sod and hydroseeded). The lot is about 1/3 acre. What the cost looks like(roughly) if I had somebody to do the whole lawn for me?

This is the front of the house from the street:

SouthEast direction
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Main entrance north stair
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Main entrance south stair
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I also checked the tags on the weigela and rhodo, the mature size are all 10'X10'.

The house also has a side entry, which I wanted to plant some dwarf conifer in front of the entry, of course this will be far from the foundation, is that a good idea? like Dwarf Alberta Spruce (but want something fat than that)
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Again, thanks a lot
GD


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

Lovely house!

Your photos make it clear that those shrubs will totally block access to the center entry stairs and are much too close to the house. For a 10 foot wide shrub, you'd want the center to be at least 7 feet from the house - half the width of the plant plus a couple of feet so you can get to the house for maintenance and so the shrubs won't rub against the cedar shakes. I would advise taking all those shrubs out along the foundation and not planning on planting anything there, just eventually having a walkway that hooks up with the side entry walkway or that loops around the front of the center steps to make a walkway out to the road. If you have your heart set on foundation plantings, you will have to redo that center stair so that it comes straight out rather than having the stairs parallel to the front wall of the house.

If you want to hide the concrete, check with a mason on options for applying a veneer (thin layer) facing of brick or granite, perhaps 1/4 or 1/2" thick. If the budget or the house construction doesn't allow this, you can parge the foundation, essentially paint a mortar-like material over it to make it more even in color and texture so that it isn't so obviously a poured concrete foundation. Alternatively, you can move out beyond the outer limit of the center steps and put in a planting bed that goes from the steps to the left edge of the house and to the mudroom steps on the right, leaving room for the walkway along the house, preferably a minimum of 6 feet so two people can walk abreast. A row of shrubs (make sure the center of the shrub is at least half the total ultimate width of the plant away from the walking space from the bottom of the stairs so that it doesn't block the walking space) set away from the house like that will hide the foundation from the road, and anyone walking up to the house won't be looking down at the foundation. I'm not sure I would use your 10 foot shrubs, since I can't imagine that you really want to hide your beautiful home. Instead I'd plant your current shrubs in a mixed hedgerow along the road or drive that goes along the left side of your property, planting far enough away from the road so that there won't be damage from the snow that the plow pushes back, even when they are large (so maybe 10-12 feet away from the road.) This will give you some privacy in your side or back yard. I'd probably incorporate the builder's original arbor vitae in that row also.

From these photos the lawn looks much better, like there is more regular grass than crabgrass, so I would overseed with more grass seed this fall and use a preemergent next spring, corn gluten being the organic option. This will be way more economic than redoing the lawn completely. Just use the corn gluten in spring and then in midsummer. If you also do a bit of hand weeding, things should look much better next year, especially if you follow Mad Gallica's advice to set the mower blades as high as possible. A mulching lawn mower is a plus also since it will chop up the grass clippings and any leaves on the lawn to add organic matter to the soil, leading to healthier lawn.


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

Nice house! And an interesting entryway! Although it looks nice, I'm a bit stymied by the reasoning for the double stairs - am I right in assuming that the driveway to the left is your neighbor's? 'Cause I'm thinking you need pathways, but I'm not sure where the pathway on the left would lead to, unless you bring it around the back of the house to the backyard.

I'm not sure what your budget is, but if this were my house, I think the first thing I would do is put a path in from your driveway to the stairs. I'm envisioning a landing at the base of each staircase, perhaps with something like a half circle patio in front of that porch, connecting the two landings. Pavers could be beautiful, but even a pea gravel path would work to define the space.

The landings should be generously sized, IMO. I think you will need to lose the shrubs under the windows closest to the stairs. Depending on the arc of the pathway, you can then choose your shrubs. You are going to have to take that other doorway and therefore pathway into account as well. It looks like there is a small path there already; would you consider keeping it or re-doing it?

I'm not a designer by ANY stretch of the imagination (I can't even believe I'm attempting to give advice on this, lol!) but I think the scale of the house calls for a nice wide, arcing pathway from the driveway, to give the foundation bed some depth, even though by necessity of the doors it can't be that wide. I personally would get rid of that existing pathway, and incorporate a pathway to the side door off the main pathway, which I would bring out farther from the house.

Another option is to put the pathway(s) directly next to the house and have your shrubs on the other side, toward the yard. Of course, they would need to be *much* smaller plantings, but just another alternative.

Of course, it's a lot easier for me to do all this from the comfort of my computer chair, lol. I'm sure you'll get much better ideas from others here! Please keep us posted. Its always fun and educational to see how others handle their situations!

Best of luck!
Dee


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

Oops. nhbabs posted while I was thinking, lol! I too first thought that the stairs should be redone to have one central staircase, but didn't say so because I figured you had the house built that way. But a center stair on that house could be beautiful and eye-catching, and then the foundation bed could be planted with size-appropriate shrubs.

This is a toughy. It's difficult, I think, to plant anything as things are now, but by the same token I feel that the house needs *something* in front...

Dee


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

Greendale, thanks for the pictures, but I'm also puzzled by the double stairs and the reason for them. Is that a one-family home or a dual residence? I'd really to know the answer before I offer any suggestions.

Molie


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

Just looking at your photos again and I had a great (I think) idea (here I go spending your money again, lol!) If you keep the double stairs, a curving walkway from sidewalk to the center of the stairs (with an appropiate landing area surrounding the entire staircase) and then curving back out to the sidewalk again would look great! Like a curving driveway but only a sidewalk. With several different options of planting along and/or in between the curves. That doesn't really address the foundation planting situation, but I bet it would help make quite an eyecatching front yard.

Ah, so much easier said than done... especially when I don't have to do it, lol!

:)
Dee


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

My first house had a similar set up. We had a large concrete landing - maybe 15' x 6' - with steps off each side. We then had a walkway that made a seme-circle, which met in the center and continued down to the road. Which meant that I had a 15" diameter half circle garden in front.

I don't remember how high the landing was - it was 4 steps up on each side. And the foundation of the landing was concrete block. I bought lattice at the hardware store, painted it white and leaned it at an angle against the landing. It blocked the view of the concrete block, but since it was at an angle, and was open lattice, there was still air circulation. In the center of the semi-circle, I planted a dwarf apple tree. Towards the back I had holly hocks. And then I had all sorts of other perennials mixed in around it. I declined other shrubs since we had a slate roof and heavy snow would fall off the roof, which we would then push off the landing onto the garden area. This center area was huge snow pile in winter.

My stairs on either side of the landing were far enough forward that I had about 2' of garden area for foundation plantings that wouldn't interfere with the stairs. Again I did the lattice thing to block the concrete, but I only had 12-18 inches of foundation to hide. It I recall I kept it mainly ground cover with some spring bulbs.


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

You have a very nice house! I wanted to mention that the landscape company that takes care of the campus where I work just hydroseeded right over the crabgrass, in several areas where they had done some half-hearted grass seed earlier in the summer. I was surprised, since I assume that the existing crab grass will be sucking up every bit of water they apply for the next couple of weeks (that is, if they bother to water).


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

THanks for all the replies. I just want to do a quick reply as I need to re-read all the comment.

The house is a single family Colonial. all the picture shows the house only, there is no neighbor's house in the pictures.

It has a main entrance with double side stairs and a side entrance to the mudroom. to the left of the side entrance is our garage. We actually asked for the double side stairs for the main entrance. Because the front yard is a little slope and we do not want a center stair come straight from the house. (Seems like a bad idea since many of you think we have to redo the double stairs. BUT we are not gonna redo the stair - we liked it that way :)). We have looked the builder's other houses and liked the double stairs. Also, all those houses the builder built come with the shrubs in front of the house (Single or double stairs). We rarely use the main entrance though. Yes a curved pathway from the side(mudroom) entrance to the right stair is in our consideration, that's the reason I asked the question we want to plant dwarf Alberta spruce in front of the mudroom entrance.

If we need to move those shrubs, what shrub can be plant on the front of the house? The reason I remove the Arbor that builder planted is I do not want it to block the window, we like to have as many light in the house as possible. And as you said the maintenance of the siding. I replaced with Pieris and thought I can always prune it (as the weigela and rhodo).

Now, it gets me wondering, why all the house has shrubs in front of the foundation, in some extreme case, the conifer is hugging the wall. But mostly they are all short shrubs - might because they keeping prune it or the shrubs are slow grower and once the owner move out it become somebody's headache? But we still see a lot of old house with shrubs in front of the foundation.
Yes, indeed, the arbor I removed is planted on the left side of side yard along the road - but it is in the back yard.


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

Here is a "blueprint" of the layout I just draw, hope it can be any help for the whole picture.

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I would say we might use the main entrance once in a year (maybe less?) So we might not even do the pathway at all. Since if you do the right side pathway which connect the main entrance and the mudroom entrance. But do you need to do the left side too? then where it connects to? if we do right side only, it a little off symmetry then.

The Arbor I planted. You can also see 2 cherry trees I planted closer to you. And the lawn are all crab grasses in the side and back yard. (the side yard is south and back yard is west so it gets a lot of sun)
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I also planted 2 hibiscus in the same side yard but closer to the house. Is it too close?
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Again, thanks a lot


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

Oops, just found out the 2nd and 3rd pictures are reversed. The 3rd one is the Arbor and the 2nd one is the Hibiscus


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

GD, thanks for adding more information about your home and the fact that you want to keep the double stairs. That really helps when giving you advice.

So --- to answer your original concern, here's a photo of our variegated Weigla, which looks very much like the ones you have. It's a beautiful plant, but a monster! I've already cut back ours 2/3 feet all around twice this summer. We planted it underneath our bedroom windows, much too close to the house. To give you an idea of scale, our bedroom is over 12 feet wide and it's about 9 feet from the ground to the windows. Frankly, you will never be able to manage the size of the Weigla, Pieris or Rhododendron at your foundation by pruning. In time these will not only cover the front of your house above the windows, but they'll also overwhelm your stairs.

You've been given such great advice that I agree with completely. Definitely, foundation beds need careful preparation as nhbabs said. You can see from my photo that weeds and grass have grown underneath the Weigla. Besides looking messy, weeds near the foundation can often grown up and into the shingles.

Another great tip was to consider the width of your plant as well as the height. Years ago when I planted the Weigla in a 7 foot deep bed, I though there was plenty of room--- lol! But I was wrong. From all the hacking I've given it over the years and the lack of spacing behind it, the shrub keeps growing taller rather than "out". From the side it's kind of cut in half instead of having a rounded shape like a forsythia, etc. All shrubs need to be planted with enough room to grow properly and maintain their shape.

I also agree that the shrubs should be removed and that some sort of path or walkway is needed. Stairs are meant to lead somewheres, but as they look now yours don't have a purpose. I second (third?) the suggestion of creating a hardscape area that gives purpose to these stairs, perhaps, as others have suggested, a walkway that goes from the left side all the way around the front and then to the right side where it can connect with your back entry and driveway. This could become a front patio area that will add to the formal symmetry of your beautiful house. On the street side of the pathway you could create a substantial bermed area of shrubs, trees or other plantings.

You might want to post your photos on the Design Forum. The folks there would have lots of suggestions and actual designs for hardscape areas that I think your front needs.

Molie


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

Ah, so what I thought was a driveway to the left of your house is a road? Okay (but, wow, what a rather narrow road, lol!)

I still feel you need pathways to define the area, something substantial to fit in with the scale of the house. I also still think you need pathways from BOTH staircases. The one on the left can lead in various directions - curving out to the front sidewalk, meandering (not straight!) out to the road to the left to give another point of entry to your yard/house, or off to the left and along the side of your house (again, not a completely straight pathway, IMO). Or they can go in any combination of the three! You've got a great space there on the side of the house, and with the southern exposure can have a great garden to walk through while going from front to back -even, as Molie said, a nice sitting area there.

But personally I just don't think you can pull off the shrubs in front of the house, at least not under the windows closest to the stairs. I think you really need some kind of landing area here to give safe and easy access to the stairs. Maybe some small low shrubs like boxwoods or spireas might work, but your space is so limited with the layout of the stairs that I'm just not sure about any shrubs unless you bring the pathway quite far out from the house.

Personally, I would not put a large/tall shrub in front of the right entryway, for security purposes.

And again, I would not keep the small pathway from the driveway to the right entryway. For me, it is too small, too close to the house, too...mundane, lol. You've got a grand house and it needs a grand walkway.

Again, it's easy for me to say this stuff! You're the one who has to do the work and spend the money, and most importantly you have to like it! I second Molie's suggestion of going to the Design Forum and getting some ideas there.

Keep us posted and let us know what you end up doing!

Dee


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

I haven't read through all the discussion yet (we have house guests, so I'm tied up) but wanted to put in a word in favor of straight paths!

The house is quite formal, and a formal structure to the garden would compliment that. The plants themselves can lend informality, spilling over the edges of the paths, but IMHO, a nearly symmetrical colonial calls for a garden with a more formal layout. Yes there can be meandering secondary paths, but the main path, to the main entrance, should be broad and straight.

Just my 2 cents - my house is a cape, so could take an informal layout, but the paths are almost all straight. I like the way that lends a sense of order to an otherwise out of control garden.

Whatever you decide, don't just add curlicues to the paths and the garden edges - it not only looks jarring, it's downright annoying to have to follow a bend in a path that has no apparent purpose. Ditto for mowing around tightly curled garden edges.


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

i think the house is very pretty and I like the stairs, even if they aren't the most popular here. But I think you have to have shrubs right next to the front stairs, under the two windows, that do not get any larger than what you have now. Maybe even just some big hostas. Then something that doesn't get too large under the outer of the front windows. Of research something that stands up to heavy pruning so you can keep the size in check. I would probably also go for just one shrub in the front, center of the steps, with two smaller things (think hosta size) on either side of that, and keep the option for annual flowers around the base of those.

I have also read that those tags on the plants with the size are an average of how big the plant can get, but the longer the plant lives, the larger it can grow! So ultimately if a bush is planted in a spot where it is really thriving, it can get much larger than the tag suggests.


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

I am in total agreement with DtD that entry walkways should take the most direct path between two points - a straight line. Given the architectural logic of the house, a path the same width as the stairs should run straight from the stairs to the driveway and connect with the paving in front of the other door. Anything else is going to look like nobody is ever, ever going to use the front door. If it was something like bluestone slabs, then one or two put down at the bottom of the steps on the other side for a landing would be nice. However, as everybody is pointing out, this gives you a very tiny planting bed between the walk and the house. It's common in urban lots to have this kind of very narrow bed between the side of the house and either a walkway or a driveway, so there are plenty of examples. There is room here for a bed of low growing plants on the other side of the walk.

This is a good example of making one decision - to go for the double staircase - that seems harmless at the time, but puts you in a corner for the next step.


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

Hmm, I"m still not seeing the straight lines.

Okay, at the very real risk of completely embarrassing myself, I am going to include some extremely rough sketches of what I was thinking, using your layout as a basis. I only have Paint to use, and can't even figure out very well how to use it, so bear with me. Everything is in green because that's the only color I could seem to use, so any color-coding went out the window. But hopefully you can see what I was thinking, if my opinion even matters, lol.

I'm trying the new uploading feature - Here goes...

Layout number one:

The landings at the base of each staircase, with a nice wide curved path from the driveway, connecting to both stairs in front, the entry near the driveway, and then continuing around the back.


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RE: number 2

Hey, that worked! Well, the uploading worked; my drawing still looks yucky, but hopefully you get the idea.

Layout #2: A curved walkway going out from each front stair to the front sidewalk (still with generous landings at the foot of each stair). You can or cannot have this curved walkway connected to the side entry, or to the back. you could keep your present side entry walkway and just do a curved one.


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RE: number 3 with variations

Okay, and here's another variation. You could do either of the above in front, and then have fun with the side yard. You could split the pathway to go around a small bed, or a fountain or statuary, with plantings on both sides of the path, or you could make a seating area in the center, surrounded by a garden.

Please realize I'm posting these sketches not to force my ideas upon you, but I know I'm a very visual person, and sometimes people recommend things to me here and I just can't see what they are proposing, but as they say, a picture equals a thousand words, and I often understand what someone is suggesting when I see a visual. Not that I always like their suggestions, but at least I can then understand it. Plus, I have no idea if I am explaining myself clearly either!

I really wish you luck (and fun!) in figuring out what you will do, and hope you will share the results with us!

Dee


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

Sorry, have not got a chance to get back here last couple days.

Molie, how many years do you have the weigela, we actually need something like that to block our deck in the back yard from the road. (one of the reason I moved the Arbor to there) if our weigela is a faster grower like yours, I think it will fit in the back yard.

Diggerdee, thanks for the extra effort to show me your design, very appreciated. That's a lot of path in front the house. LOL. Frankly, we are not ready for that many path yet. But I think I got what you trying to say, actually we are thinking about put a fence around the side yard and back yard for privacy - so the left stair could connect to the path to a door on the fence.

What other shrubs you have in mind to put there if I move the weigela and rhodo? The depth from the inside of the stair to then foundation is 2 feet and the height of the window bottom is 5 feet, with a curved out path and landing area, there must be something I can put in there that slow grower and keep it small? I kind of wondering because when we see the builder's other house, one house is like 10 years old and the front is exactly like ours (double stairs) and the house also have shrubs planted on the front foundation, wondering how they do it. There is no path on both side (actually most houses I saw has no path on both side if the stairs). Is that normal or just the owner does not care?

Again, thanks


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

I wrote out a whole long response and then lost it when my browser crashed . . . here's the main essence of my suggestions, although I still would vote for no foundation plantings.

I would suggest that you map out any paths with flour, not just as a single line, but the actual width and location of the path and try walking it to see if it is comfortable, even if they are paths you won't use much. You don't want to leave so little width that anyone walking the path has to brush up against your plants.

You will want your plantings to stay low as well as narrow. If you grow them up to the bottom of your window, they will be against the shingles and you will have discoloration and rot issues.

I'm making some general suggestions of shrubs that stay low, but I don't know how much sun this area gets, which will influence what does well. For instance, the red color on the Midnight Wine weigela will be better in more sun, while the variegated leaves on My Monet weigela will do better with some shade. Also, there may be some lime leaching from the foundation, so you may want to do a soil test in that area to see how acidic or alkaline your soil is. I'll let you look up requirements of plants that appeal to you.

Here are some low bushes to look into:
-Small weigelas include 'My Monet' and 'Midnight Wine', both of which will stay under 2' height and width.
-Rhododendron 'Checkmate' is a PJM type of rhodie, but unlike regular PJMs my Checkmate, which is probably 6 years old and went in as a 2' high plant is now only 3' tall. It might be a bit wider than you want, but should be easy to keep in check with light pruning. Some other rhodies with shorter stature can be found on the site linked below, which allows you to search by height, and then the database entries will include width. Not all of these will be easily found, however.
-There are some small boxwood varieties, like 'Morris Midget' and 'Morris Dwarf'.
-There are several varieties of short, golden leaved spireas, though I am not sure how wide they get.
-Some of the new varieties of Hydrangea macrophylla are quite short, such as the Cityline series (Berlin, Venice, Rio, Paris, etc.) though they aren't hardy enough for me to have any experience with them.

Another option would be to have plants that stay skinny enough so that they won't be against the foundation. A trellis with one of the smaller clematis might work for you. 'Piilu' is one that is fairly restrained (usually 4-5 feet) but still flowers well. 'Bijou' stays under 2 feet. You could ask on the clematis forum for other suggestions. If you put the trellis between the windows, it would have the decorative metal work for winter interest, and the flowers in the summer without blocking the window.

Here is a link that might be useful: American Rhododendron Society database search


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

Greendale, sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. I've been busy because I'm heading overseas in a few days to see my new grandson! The one thing you should keep in mind is that the weigela is deciduous, which means it loses its leaves in the winter and so won't give year round screening for your deck. You might want to consider transplanting it into a bed that also contains taller, narrow evergreens for the privacy you want.

To answer your question ---we put in the Wiegela about 6-7 years ago. It was purchased as a very, very small mail-order shrub from someplace like Wayside Gardens (truthfully I can't remember) and because of its tiny size, I thought 7 feet would be enough room. In our yard it faces west and it gets full sun from noon on. I don't know the varietal name --- tag is long gone.

Back to other question about what to put in the front --- since your front faces east it only gets morning sun, which could be why the weigela isn't too lush. You'll need to look for dwarf, low growing shade plants. Something like Dwarf English Boxwood might do well in that spot--- maybe someone else has had experience with boxwoods? We have a Kalmia 'Minuet' (Mt. Laurel) that stays fairly low and does well in part shade. It would definitely be worth it to visit a reputable garden center armed with photos of your front. We've gone to Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden, CT, and they're wonderful with advice. The owner, Mr. Dick Jaynes, is known for his Mt. Laurels.

Molie


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

nhbabs and molie, thank you!

I think I will move the weigela to backyard as it is not evergreen (I did not even know that) and it will get too big when I finds something more appropriate.

I think I saw Mt. Laurel when I purchased the pieris, but not sure if it is evergreen, and the staff in lowe's was not very helpful. Anyway I will write down the mentioned plants and looking for them.

Again, thanks a lot.


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

Just so that you know . . . most Mt. Laurels are large plants, but there are a few little ones. Like Molie, I have Minuet which has stayed small, but most won't. (By the way my Minuet hasn't dealt well with snow being dumped on it from the walk being shoveled and the snow from the roof being raked.)

Of the plants I mentioned, just the Checkmate rhodie and the boxwoods are evergreen.


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

I wanted to upload a picture of a listed house that I find on a real estate website. The house has the same layout as our house (might built by the same builder too). It is 10 years older, look at these foundation shrubs. I am not saying I liked what the front house looks like - especially the tall shrubs reach to the window level. But that's the most front view of houses I saw in these area. What do you think? I am sorry for the small size of picture, that's the only picture for the house and hope the owner does not mind I used the picture here. I could not even see what those shrubs are.

Another question I wanted to ask is what should I do with the area around the air compressor. I do not want to grow grass there. It is hard to mow and hard to edge. My friend had crushed stone all around his foundation about 2' deep and then garden bed outside the crushed stone. But from GW that's not a good idea? I am concerned using wood mulch would actually keep moisture around the foundation - that's not want we wanted for the foundation, right?

thanks again
-Greendale


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

Actually the front of that house is very different from the front of yours. It looks like it has the more usual front stoop that leads to a front walkway to the driveway. The shrubs are behind the walk.

This is more what you are dealing with.


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

What did you end up doing? I found this through a search ...my recommendation would have been to plant boxwoods along the front and for the height you need to hide foundation - green mountain
I LOVE boxwoods though so it's a personal thing but they do have a shallow root system and are hardy!


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