MOD Society Magazine Triangle Triangle: Dec/Jan 2021 - Page 28


Jeff Allen Landscape Architecture LLC
When I was invited to speak to the NC State Extension services on foundation plantings I was reluctant at first , as I thought it to be a small subject . But as I delved into it , I found it refreshing to discover the delight and the relevance of this design element .
Early in my practice , I remember focusing much of my energy on this aspect of design . It was challenging at the time as I thought I should include a vast array of plantings composed in a magazine-worthy photograph . Based on my observations and what I was studying at the time , I realized this was an accepted practice .
Later in my studies , I confirmed this theory from reading Charles Eliot . In his book , Eliot noted , “ Most American suburban houses stand in naked enclosures .” His philosophy to hide the nakedness was to use a variety of shrubs composed to look like a lush garden that required minimal care .
As my practice evolved , I found that when I approached the foundation as part of a larger composition , the design became intuitive and fluid .
Foundation planting should create an arrival sequence that evokes an atmosphere dotted with a few unexpected , delightful surprises . The design should guide visitors to where they should go intuitively , primarily to the front door . The journey to the front door is for old friends , dinner guests , deliveries and new acquaintances . It sets the stage for what is behind the front door and who the homeowners are inside . It should be welcoming , harmonious and inspiring .
These days , I use a minimal variety of plants for ease of maintenance and simplicity . I primarily use evergreens in my foundation plantings . However , I like to use deciduous varieties for a splash of color where appropriate .
I prefer low plantings that do not grow over windows , and accent , rather than hide , architecture . I use boxwoods or hollies to soften corners like drapes on a window . Broad brush strokes of ground cover massings lead your eye to the architecture of the house and celebrate it . Eye-catching planters filled with colorful displays define entryways and draw you to your destination .
– Jeff Allen , Landscape Architect