This article was written by Todd Phillippi and first appeared on Fine Gardening It was love and frustration that propelled me into landscape design. My love of gardening is a legacy from my grandparents. My frustration came about as a practicing architect when I observed many landscape plantings that were insensitive to a site's natural features, conflicted with architectural designs, or showcased only a limited repertoire of plants, often incorrectly placed on a site.
I decided to incorporate my knowledge and love of gardening into my architectural work. At first, I experimented with garden design at my home in Philadelphia, and eventually pursued formal training in horticulture. The focus of my work has since shifted to what I call "integrated design"—where a building, site layout, and plantings are designed as a unified entity. Perhaps the most visible aspect of this concept is the design of foundation plantings—the trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, and ground covers around a house that create a transition from the built environment to the terrain of the earth.
Foundation plants help to frame a house and anchor it to the site. With imaginative and harmonious planting schemes, the front yard of any home can become a dynamic garden space to be enjoyed rather than merely a static view to be observed.
When plantings are unified with a home, they create more than an attractive picture. They convey a welcoming impression to visitors, and an air of permanence and harmony.
WORK WITH EXISTING ELEMENTS IN THE SITE
A front garden is usually created within the framework of existing architectural and landscape features. To design foundation plantings that are appropriate for a house and its site, I begin by evaluating these elements. They include driveways, walks, streets, large trees, adjacent woodlands, fences, and hedges as well as the house itself. I also look for any areas that are undefined, such as an expanse of lawn on the side of the house that runs into a neighboring property. These open spaces might be ideal areas for new plantings...