The plantings around your properties building perimeter can make a big difference in many ways. Having the right plants to tolerate the cold weather is part of the equation for great foundation plants but plant material that is interfering with window views, walk way and crowding out the others is another factor to consider. Planting the right combination of foliage and plants will ultimately impact your landscaping design one way or the other. The real challenge for most commercial properties is deciding on the right balance of plants that can tolerate the cold and fit into your design.
Why Are Foundation Plantings So Important?
Foundation plantings are the plants closest to your buildings walls and windows. What is there main purpose? To enhance your buildings architectural lines, soften and cover utility fixtures and make it more appealing to the surrounding property view.
Landscaping for Cold Tolerance, Maintenance and Color
Unfortunately, some landscaping designs have not taken things into consideration like for example the cold weather and the plants ability to withstand freezing temperatures. Other factors to consider is the plants maturity size, it may eventually become overgrown encroaching on the adjacent plant material creating a landscape maintenance nightmare. There are many options for foundation plantings, some which will create the perfect combination of aesthetics and low maintenance. Evergreen shrubs provide pleasing greenery throughout the whole year, with that in mind it is best to include groups of flowering deciduous shrubs, accenting grasses and colorful perennials to keep things blooming throughout the year.
Bay Area Landscaping for Building Foundation Spaces
Let’s take a look at a few plants that are appropriate for Bay area temperatures and foundation planting.
Here's Our TOP 10 picks:
Ilex vomitoria Nana- Dwarf Yaupon Holly
Evergreen shrub or tree that is native to the southeastern U.S. Takes extremely alkaline soils better than other hollies. ‘Nana’ (Dwarf Yaupon): Grows to 3–5 ft. tall and slightly wider. Refined, attractive; formal appearance when sheared. Fruit is often hidden among the leaves.‘Stokes’ (‘Stokes Dwarf’, ‘Schillings’): Grows to 3–4 ft. tall and wide, with closely set dark green leaves.
Buxus microphylla var japonica 'Green Beauty' - Japanese Boxwood
Buxus microphylla var japonica 'Green Beauty' (Japanese Boxwood) - Japanese Boxwood is a dense rounded shrub growing only 6 feet tall, easily kept smaller if desired. Green Beauty was selected for its small, lance-shaped leaves which are apple green in summer and turn bronze in winter. Great for shaped hedges in the landscape, edging walks or even as screens. Tolerates heat, humidity, and nematodes better than most boxwoods. Will grow in full sun or shade, with little to moderate water. Also this variety has been reported to do well in rocky soils. Another plus is the deer do not eat it. Very cold hardy, reaching temperatures down to 0-10° F before leaf damage.
Nadina Domestica Gulf Stream
Nandina domestica 'Gulf Stream'(Gulf Stream Heavenly Bamboo) - A beautiful small shrub that differs from its parent, the cultivar Nandina domestica 'Compacta' in its unique ascending growth habit which gives the plant an upward-reaching appearance. The branchlets and foliage are much more dense and compact than the 'Compacta' cultivar which has a more open, descending, willowy appearance. The new variety is dwarf and compact and branches freely from basal and lateral buds giving a full round, erect shape. Moderate to slow growth rate reaching up to 24-30" tall and only 10-14" wide. Perfect for use along walks or used in mass.
Rhaphiolepis umbulata minor
Rhaphiolepis umbellata 'Minor' (Dwarf Yeddo Hawthorn) - A slow growing, compact upright broadleaf evergreen well-branched shrub that grows to 4-7 feet tall by 3-4 feet wide with branches densely covered with 1 inch long leaves that are glossy dark green above and clustered at the end of branches with the coppery-red new growth. Tight clusters of lightly-fragrant white flowers bloom in late spring. Plant is full sun to light shade and irrigate occasionally to little (along coast). Hardy to 10-15° F and plantable in USDA Zones 8 and above - marginal in Zone 7. Drought tolerant. A great shrub for a foundation planting or low hedge and though long been marketed as only growing 2 to 3 feet tall, a 20 year old plant in part sun growing in our nursery garden is now approaching 7 feet tall by 4 feet wide.
If you like variegated foliage on a compact plant, why not showcase them at your front entrance? Agapanthus 'Tinkerbell' (Dwarf Variegated Agapanthus) - A dwarf Agapanthus cultivar that grows 6-12 inches tall in a neat clump and features narrow leaves with a creamy white variegation along the leaf margins and short flower stalks bearing medium blue flowers in early summer. Plant in full sun to light shade (blooms better in sun) and given regular irrigation. Evergreen to about 25 degrees F. This charming little plant is slower growing than most other Agapanthus and is also a bit shyer of bloom, but its attractive foliage makes it a very attractive and useful plant planted in the garden or used in container gardening, where it can be a small potted specimen or used in a mixed planting.
Carex elata 'Bowles Golden' - Golden Variegated Sedge
Carex elata 'Bowles Golden' (Aquatic) (Golden Variegated Sedge) - Clumping semi-evergreen plant with striking yellow grasslike foliage that has green edges. New bright yellow growth lightens the plant during its growing season in spring, however it does fade with maturity. The clumps will grow 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Plant in part sun (better color in brighter light) in or near water. Can tolerate shallow submersion. Hardy to <15 degrees F
Rhaphiolepis indica 'Clara' - Indian Hawthorn
Rhaphiolepis indica 'Clara' (Indian Hawthorn) - This selection of the popular India Hawthorn is an evergreen rounded shrub that grows to 4-5 feet tall (or a bit more) by about as wide with leaves that have finely serrated margins with pointed ends and new growth that is a reddish copper color that ages to a dark green. In spring appear the pink flower buds that open to display pure white flowers. Plant in full sun or light shade. This plant is quite drought tolerant in coastal gardens but appreciates occasional irrigation and seems to tolerate frequent watering as well. It is hardy to 10° F or slightly less
Nepeta x faassenii (Cat Mint) - This is a mounding perennial with soft gray-green aromatic foliage. It reaches 1 to 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Lavender-blue flowers are displayed on spikes in the summer. Shearing off faded flowers to encourage more blooms is recommended. Plant in full sun or part shade and water moderately. It is very hardy - surviving temperatures well below 0 degrees F - recommeded to USDA Zones 3. Protect from frenzied felines first year after planting.
Chondropetalum tectorum - Small Cape Rush
Chondropetalum tectorum (Small Cape Rush) - This South African plant forms dense tufted clumps from which arise 2-3 foot tall dark green unbranched stems. The dark brown sheaths at the joints drop off in summer leaving a dark band. Late in the season the stems arch gracefully from the weight of clusters of small brown flowers at the tips. Plant in full to part sun. It is drought tolerant, and appreciates supplemental water in spring. It is hardy to about 20-25 degrees F. It can be successfully planted in seaside gardens, used in relatively dry landscapes or used as a plant in the shallows of a water garden. Tolerates a wide soil pH range. The plant widely grown in the US as Chondropetalum tectorum has been reclassified as Chondropetalum elephantinum. This true Chondropetalum tectorum is a smaller plant (about 3 feet tall) from the southern Cape. The larger plant Chondropetalum elephantinum which we still grow as well, is a more robust form up to 6 feet tall from the West Coast.
Pennisetum x advena 'Rubrum' - Red Fountain Grass
Pennisetum x advena 'Rubrum' (Red Fountain Grass) - A clumping semi-evergreen grass that grows upright to 4-5+ feet tall with dark burgundy-red foliage that arches gracefully outwards and produces one foot long red plume-like inflorescences that rise above the foliage and arch over nicely toward the tips. This grass seems to be completely evergreen (red) in frost free zones, but goes deciduous with frost and it is root hardy to about 20° F and useful as a perennial in USDA Zones 9-10 and as an annual in colder areas. Plant in full sun and water sparingly to control height. It is both moderately drought and heat resistant but looks its best with occasional summer irrigation. This is a great ornamental grass with dark foliage that works well in mass plantings or mixed with other contrasting colored plants. It looks its best if it is cut back in late winter to cleanly show of its new emerging foliage.
Tips for the Perfect Foundation Planting
A perfect foundation planting begins with best plant for the right place. Consider these tips for your commercial landscaping:
Get into the Mix
You’ll want evergreens to provide a good structural background, deciduous and flowering shrubs to add texture, and perennials of assorted heights and color.
How to Maximize Your Planting Space
Many foundation plantings are too narrow for the area, with a singular row of sparse shrubs that doesn’t extend far enough beyond the edge of your lawn or building. Consider expanding the size of your planter and extending your plants for a more showy display of landscaping.
Planting in Groups
Grouping plants front to rear from smallest to largest is important for many reasons. Verify the growing size for each plant type, and make sure the plants in the frontage will grow smaller and more compact in comparison to the ones in the background.
Right Plant for the Right Place
Choose the right size plants for the right place. Have you ever seen a commercial building with windows blocked by overgrown foliage? Verify the plant’s maturity size prior to starting your project. Look for compact varieties that will grow at a maximum height that reaches just beneath windows and stays within narrow confined areas – this will minimize maintenance enhancing the look of your property.
Looking For a Commercial Landscape Contractor?
Give Us a call. FloraTerra is a commercial landscape maintenance contractor with over 25 years’ experience designing, installing and managing some of the most prestigious commercial bay area properties. Our designers have a great deal of experience, including everything from plant design to choosing the right irrigation for your foundation, building entrance or court yard patio .
Our professional landscape designers at FloraTerra will assess your property and provide you with many options, including grasses, perennials, shrubs, trees and low voltage lighting.
Let’s CHAT about your commercial landscape maintenance service and how you can get the most value from a landscape management company, investing in a solid maintenance program. Give us a call any time at (408) 275.1200 — or click here and we’ll get in touch with you!
FloraTerra is a commercial landscaping company providing Landscape Management services including: Shopping Center Landscaping, Strip Mall Landscaping, R & D Developments, Luxury Apartment Landscaping, Residential Estate Landscaping, Home Owners Association Landscaping, Condominium Developments and Commercial Office Landscaping.
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