Between Some Rocks and a Hard Place

Dear Homework, I have no curb appeal. The previous homeowners tried to protect the basement by putting 10 inches of gravel around the house. The basement is dry, but I can’t plant anything within 9 feet of my house. Can I create curb appeal with this huge constraint?
Sincerely, —Between Some Rocks and a Hard Place

Dear Between Some Rocks and a Hard Place,
This is certainly an interesting and unique problem. I think we can use a couple of tricks to pull off an attractive result.

First, foundation planting doesn’t have to be adjacent to the façade. Frankly, it is usually more practical to leave a couple of feet between the house and the plantings at their base. In your situation, I would suggest edging the rock bed with a sweep of ornamental grasses. They will grow tall enough to completely hide the sea of rock from the street and will create a soft, billowing contrast to it when you are closer to the house and see the two together. The next trick would be to allow new plantings to ‘overlap’ the rocks. An upright evergreen at one corner of the bed will grow to cover and hide the rocks by the house. Planting red perennials at its base will establish an accent color scheme.

You also can also place plants on the rocks. A window box and trellis allow the chimney to be a location for flowering vegetation. A large black urn holds a pyramidal evergreen, and long flower boxes soften the retaining wall in front of the porch columns. The final trick is to paint the shutters a dark green to place the landscape color directly on the façade. The house now has a charming, lush presence and should still have a dry basement … not a bad compromise.

Thanks for asking,

Homework is penned by Paul Doerner, founding partner of the Lawrence Group. if you would like your home critiqued, contact us at homework@townandstyle.com.