Caution for Landscape Corners

Some DOs and DON’Ts to observe when planting shrubs or trees at the corner of a house…

It was Frank Lloyd Wright said “No house should ever be on any hill or on anything. It should be of the hill, belong to it, so hill and house could live together, each the happier for the other.”

The feeling, as expressed, means the fusing of the house and property into one coordinated unit. The successful outcome of this fusing is dependent on many factors, not the least of which is the corner planting treatment.

While there is no particular attempt to screen or hide the architecture, in most cases, a corner being just that, a semi-screening at least is necessary. Perhaps a better phrasing would be that we are enhancing the architecture of the house with the corner treatment.

Vertical lines, generally, are not to be emphasized in present day home plantings. Rather, there should be a feeling of informality and roominess gained from the choice of plant materials as well as the locating of those plants.

frank lloyd wright studio and home

It all adds up to the valuable effect which corner plants can have in softening and broadening the appearance of the house and its natural aspect with regard to the lot.

A commonly expressed concern lies in the expected size of plants and whether or not they will grow higher than the one-story eave line. Again, with respect to the fusing of house and lot, a well chosen plant of informal habit growing above the long eave line can do a lot to enhance the “built-in” feeling of house and property.

There are so many possibilities of treatment with respect to corner plantings.

The myriad of seasonal combinations and interest features can cause all of us to ask the question, “Have I done a good job on the corners, or is my corner planting scheme too stereotyped?”

In a commonly used informal planting – often not a low maintenance landscape – can offer a wealth of colorful combinations the main plant should be both informal and interesting since it is seen from a wide portion of the yard or approaches. Some of the more successful plants for this use are Washington hawthorn, redbud, flowering dogwood, star magnolia, blackhaw viburnum and sweetbay magnolia.

The base plants should be contrasting in seasonal effect, i.e., evergreen if a deciduous main plant is used. Good choices would include English yew, improved Japanese yew, Andorra juniper and Green Island holly.

With a two-story house and on some of the older style houses where a renovated planting is in order.

The suggested larger tree type main plant should be farther from the corner and could, be backed up with a secondary plant such as leather leaf viburnum or large growing Japanese yew.

An interesting effect can be gained by using floribunda or grandiflora roses on either side of the secondary plant.

The main purpose of the tree type plant is to soften the corner, while an excellent opportunity for shade is afforded by the proper selection and placement of this plant. Possible choices would include Eleyi crab, Danube ash and Japanese pagoda tree.

The suggested use of ground cover under the tree offers a chance to display spring daffodils and also eliminates grass problems.

To add a more broadening effect with screen or separation and a more formalized treatment the use of hedge plants or fencing provides an attractive back-drop for a colorful display of roses, annuals or perennials, while the informal growth of the end plant serves to anchor the scheme at the free end.


Possible choices for the hedge would be Keteleer or Hetz’s Chinese juniper, upright Japanese yew, hedge holly, or American arbor-vitae.

Fence materials should be in keeping with the architecture of the house and could include stockade, woven redwood or even a brick wall to match the house material.

Plant materials are practically limitless and offer so much room for experimentation that the fun of working out satisfying solutions to our planting problems is always rewarding. We are fortunate to have such a wealth of materials available to construct our customized plantings!

Use caution on the corners, and the straightaways will become more attractive too!

by J Stiewalt

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