Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Shrub Blog Series - Part Two - Foundation Plantings

If you want a stunning presentation, you need a solid foundation! Welcome to part three of our shrub series: Foundation Plantings! We go over how to design your perfect New England landscape in a previous blog entry. With foundation plantings, you want to be thinking about the structure of your home. Is there anything you want to cover up? Does a corner look too harsh? Think of the big picture in terms of what you want to accomplish with your yard. Here are some of our top picks, chosen for interest and hardiness during the four dramatic seasons of New England weather.

1. The Boxwood 
A versatile plant with a number of variations (over 200, to be precise), this is a top pick for many landscapers as a foundation planting, and can function for multiple purposes around your yard. Each variety boasts a different height and spread, so be mindful of what you are looking for in terms of dimension. One of our favorites is the “Winter Gem” variety, which grows up to six feet tall and six feet wide. Not only is it one of the hardiest options, which makes it ideal for New England’s wild seasons, but it can gain a bronze hue during the winter and is the first to change green again in spring. Does well in partial to full sun and requires regular watering.

2. The Holly
There are between 400 and 600 species of holly to choose from. For our purposes, we really like the “Carissa” variety for its dark and dense glossy green leaves. This is a low-maintenance shrub which will tolerate drought, extreme heat, and extreme cold. It grows up to three feet high and spreads up to four. Once established, it will not require any pruning. Carissa is a great foundation planting because of how lush and green it stays year-round, offering a wonderful backdrop to any planted perennials and in the winter tipped with snow.

3. Knock Out Roses
Knock Out Roses started trending in the year 2000 and remain a staple amongst landscapers for foundation plantings. Roses are notoriously difficult to grow and high maintenance at that. Luckily, these shrub roses were created so you can have low-maintenance roses from the first thaw to the first frost. There are over 10 varieties to choose from, so be thinking about what colors compliment your home and what types of flowers you would like to see. At maturity, these rose bushes can grow up to four feet high and four feet deep. With dark foliage, the blooms stand out quite nicely in any landscape. They will need full sun with fertile, well-drained soil. Fertilize every so often to keep the blooms cycling throughout the growing season. (Featured Right: Sunny Knock Out Roses).

4. Rhododendrons and Azaleas
There are over 1,024 species of Rhododendrons and over 20,000 named hybrids of Rhododendrons and Azaleas worldwide. Visit to see some of the best choices for your New England landscape. One of our favorites is the “Gibraltar” variety. This mid-sized deciduous azalea is award-winning for its stunning display of orange funnel-shaped blooms which light up the landscape in trusses of 10-12 flowers over dark green foliage. Growing up to five feet high and five feet wide, these are an exceptional and bold choice for a foundation planting. Requires full or partial sun and good drainage.

5. Ornamental Grasses
Ornamental grasses will offer a nice texture to supplement your palette of deciduous and evergreen selections. Popular for New England is the “Karl Foerster” Feather Reed Grass. We recommend reading our article on winter care to prepare yourself for proper maintenance of ornamental grasses. The Karl Foerster variety is a cool season grass which grows rapidly in the spring. It is highly tolerant of partial shade, salt, and humidity which makes it a low-maintenance addition to your landscape. It grows up to five feet tall and three feet in spread, boasting feathery plumes of a shifting bronze color throughout the growing seasons.

6. The Dwarf Spruce
There are many evergreens and especially spruce varieties to pick from when selecting foundation plantings. We like the Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce for its unusual shape and color. It is flat-topped unlike many other spruce plants and densely branched, but bright silver-blue in color. This spruce will grow up to five feet tall and six feet wide. Needs full to partial sun and an even watering schedule, especially in extreme heat, but is extremely hardy during the winter months.

Stay tuned! In part three, we will talk about our favorite privacy plantings.

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