Softening The Corners


The hard edges of a house usually need to be softened by foundation plantings, but are tall, straight evergreens the best choice?

Have you ever seen those magazine articles that show how to determine the shape of your face? They’re illustrated with outlines of oval, square, or heart-shaped heads. The magazine piece usually advises the reader to determine face shape by standing in front of a mirror and tracing the outline of your face with soap. Now you men may not know what I’m talking about, but I bet that most of the women who read this are nodding their heads right now.


Most people choose thin evergreens such as arborvitaes for the corners of their house, but these only accentuate the hard edges.

These articles explain which hairstyles look best with each shape of face. They show how you can make a short face seem longer, for example, or how to soften a square head with the right hairdo.

I thought of these articles the other day when helping a customer choose some shrubs for his foundation planting. He came into the nursery intending to purchase two tall, thin evergreens. His neighbors had upright plants on the ends of their houses, and so my customer thought he would do the same. His first words to me were “Where are the arborvitaes?”

I picked up my pad and pencil and drew two rectangles to represent houses. At each end of one rectangle I drew the typical thin, upright evergreens. Arborvitae and junipers are popular choices, but no matter which shrub is chosen, tall and thin accentuates the box-shape of the house. It’s a linear hairdo for a linear façade.


A shrub that is rounded in form makes a gradual line from the roof the ground, softening the corners of the house.

As an alternative, I drew two round and billowy-shaped plants on each side of the second rectangle. These plants could grow just as tall, but they would grow wide as well. My customer immediately found this more pleasing to the eye. That’s because the rounder bushes softened the transition from the house to the land; they bring the eye down gradually.

So when you are looking for new corner foundation plants, draw a simple outline of your house, and try it for yourself. Thin and upright on the corners, or round and bushy? You might agree that the tall and narrow plants aren’t the best way to compliment the face of your home.

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