The usual banal foundation planting consists of a line of stiffly pointed or globular evergreens swaddling the house at ground level. The problem of simplifying this procedure depends on organizing the material into groups located only where they are needed, as at the front entrance to emphasize its importance.
A symmetrical formal treatment is effective if the door is situated with equal space at each side for an evergreen such as Hick’s yew. It has dignity, dark green foliage and red berries all winter, and can have new growth clipped back to maintain a width of about three feet and height of six feet to ten feet. Korean box, Euonymus patens, and the erect Hetzi or Meyers junipers can be used in the same way. If you need at each side of the front door a compact columnar juniper that will not exceed seven feet in its ultimate height and one foot in its future spread, select fastigiata juniper, a very-slender variety developed from the Irish juniper. If the door is reached by steps, you may want to supplement the higher shrubs with lower ones in front such as mahonia, and abelia, both broadleaf evergreens with blossoms and graceful forms. Japanese holly, Ilex convexa, is also excellent in entrance groups; it is of a medium height, bushy, hardy and has black berries in winter.
For a lovely little low mat at each side of the lowest door step plant Daphne cneorum, and enjoy its pink blooms spring and fall.
In contrast to a symmetrical formal doorway, the owner of a modern split level or ranch style house may find an informal entrance planting a necessity, because there may be room at one side of the door for only a trellis with a vine on it, and at the opposite side there may be a window calling for a spreading shrub below it that will not grow tall.
There is a small group of informal, blooming broadleaf evergreens, ideal for such use if their need for sun or shade and for acid soil can be met. I refer to hardy English laurel; azalea Hinocrimson, hybrid rhododendron Wilsoni, leucothoe noted for its white spring bloom, and bronzy winter foliage color, and two others that thrive in semi-shade. One is Japanese andromeda (pieris) as high as it is wide, attractive even in winter for its waxy drooping white flower buds that open in May. The other is the new sasanqua camellia, hardy as far north as St. Louis and Cape Cod, breathtaking for its large white or pink or red flowers in October and November. All these charmers need liberal watering during summers and a mulch of acid peat around them to preserve moisture. The camellias require well rotted cow manure in the mulch.
While it is at doorways that evergreens are most needed for their year around greenery, you may find you need to balance them by planting a few of those mentioned, with deciduous shrubs under some high window, or by selecting very low growing ones to plant under a low bay or picture window. For the latter purpose consult the chart for data on dwarf yew, (Taxus cuspidala nana), Mugho pine, cotoneaster with its arching sprays, and spreading Andorra juniper.
These same evergreens are useful along the edge of a low porch or at the corners of a terrace behind a house and along the side of a split level house where the ground begins to slope down toward the garage level. Midway down such a slope a Spirea Vanhoultei bush would fill in, next to a planting of winter creeper Euonymus radicans, an evergreen vine that clings to cement). Down at the bottom of the slope Laland firethorn and hemlock tree would give needed height.