|19th c. home of George W. Cable, The Amateur Garden|
|Side view of George W. Cable's home in 1914|
After World War II, houses became less expensive and landscape packages adjusted to budgets of veteran first-time home buyers. The next generation — baby-boomers— jumped into the middle class. The housing boom continued with smaller yards, less money for landscape budgets becoming the norm. Today with savvy builders and 21st century science of water and energy conservation leads the way in offering ‘green’ landscapes with their showcase homes. But for others, the Victorian trend of installing foundation plants continues with the 20th century artificial reality of zero-lot lines and instant landscapes. You can easily tell the age of an instant landscaped community by the large trees, scantily grassed front yards from the lack of sunlight, and overgrown shrubs blocking the view of the doors and windows. Its five to ten years old.
|Example of instant landscaping after one year.|
- Use landscape plantings that allow for mature growth. Take the full width of a plant and divide it by half. If a tree grows 30 feet wide, plant it at least 20 feet away from house or overhead wires. Hedge shrubs that will reach 6 feet wide within two years, plant three feet apart.
- Do not cram perennials and ornamental shrubs together for the instant look. Instead, plant more perennials and ornamentals appropriately, and then use seasonal annuals, containers, and hanging baskets to provide more color.
- Pruning foundation plants should not be necessary. We shouldn’t put plants in to cut them unless it’s a formal landscape, a standard specimen, or a formal topiary. If a window ledge is three feet up from the ground, then use a shrub that will only grow to three feet or grow very slowly, so that pruning is an annual landscape chore.
- Install foundation plants at least two feet away from the foundation or outside of the roof line. This will allow the foundation plants to receive rainfall, and therefore cut supplemental irrigation, but also keep the soil at the foundation dry. Keeping the rootball moisture away around the home will also maintain the integrity of termiticide barrier, reducing susceptibility to termites.
- Shrubs should have three to four inches of mulch on top of the root ball, leaving the trunk flare visible but only use one to two inches of mulch around the foundation of the home. This will allow the moisture to dry around the house, again providing more termite protection.
|Correct landscape installation 2008|
|Same landscape 3 years later.|
 My label for shrubs that have no foliage at their base due to being pruned incorrectly.
Teresa Watkins, horticulturist, landscape designer, and environmental consultant is a Florida Water Star certifier, and a member of the USGBC-LEED Technical Advisory Group. Watkins is also host of the award-winning gardening radio show “In Your Backyard” heard on www.My790am.com every Tuesday at 1:00pm. You can contact or send questions to Teresa at www.she-consulting.com.