Cutting back vines and planning foundation planting
My neighbor’s trees are covered with so many heavy vines, we’re afraid they will fall on our house. (Not to mention the vines are slowly shading the trees to death.) He has agreed to cut the non-native vines, as he is a big wildlife buff. Can you tell which vines we should cut?
Except for the grape vine on the far right (with long bark cracks), the rest appear to be foreign invasive vines, primarily oriental bittersweet. There are a few thin light-colored Asian honeysuckle (also on the right.) We do not see any English ivy, which would be evergreen, or wisteria, which usually closely wraps around the trunk.
We would recommend cutting all invasive vines at ground level and again about 5 feet high, to give a clear visual of what has been cut. Later this year, cut out any bittersweet suckers that appear and quickly treat the fresh cut with glyphosate. Though grape vines produce a lot of wildlife benefits, they are hefty. Monitor the tree so be sure it is co-existing well with the grape vine.
I have been trying to find, without luck, basic foundation planting principles for the front of my house. I am specifically looking for shrub layouts.
Foundation planting typically follows this structure: evergreen shrubs closest to the home to provide year-round interest; flowering or deciduous shrubs, perennials, bulbs, or annuals in front of them for seasonal color. Groundcovers can tie the bed together. Observe or collect photos of designs that appeal to you. Give plants proper spacing to allow mature growth, avoid overcrowding and blocking windows and doors. (A very common problem!) Read labels carefully and cross-check online for proper spacing of each plant species and variety.
Use the tallest plants in the back, with heights getting shorter as you move away from the foundation. Also, anchor house corners with taller plants, placing lower ones near the door. Limit the number of species used to a half dozen or so. Limit foliage colors to avoid an artificial look.
Symmetry, for instance with the same plants on either side of a doorway, or rows of the same plant seem desirable but, if one plant fails, the whole design falls apart and is not easily fixed. A diverse plan is actually healthier, as far as disease and insect pests go. Balance can be achieved using plants of equal visual weight.
Base your foundation plant design on site conditions and your goals and preferences. Conditions include sun exposure, moisture levels (such as possible moisture deprivation from an overhanging roof ), soil type, size limitations and deer browsing pressure. What function do you want the plantings to serve — screening, yearround interest, wildlife value, fragrance? Good garden centers know what plants are available and perform reliably.
University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.
Mostly invasive vines shown here can stress host trees.