Cut­ting back vines and plan­ning foun­da­tion plant­ing

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - GARDEN - By Ellen Nibali

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.

ELLEN NIBALI/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Mostly in­va­sive vines shown here can stress host trees.

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