Greetings Friends!

Spring is in the air and Memorial Day is just over the horizon. Thankfully, the weather is finally starting to feel more like spring, so we can spend more time outside in our yards. We look forward to seeing you this season! Enjoy our monthly newsletter for May.

Foundation plants play a crucial role in enhancing curb appeal. Fundamentally they should disguise the concrete underpinnings of a house while keeping the window views open. These house-hugging plants usually consist of a creative mix of small scale plants like stiff shrubs, evergreens, and other small scale (or dwarf) deciduous plants. In the feature article, we share our favorite alternatives to using the plants that you most often see.

The plant of the month is the beautiful and special Pink-a-licious Fritsch Spirea. Speaking of pink, have you ever wondered why we associate the color pink for girls and blue for boys? Stop by the Leaf Lore section and find out. Also, there are several videos for you to watch and learn about landscaping in spring.
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Alternatives to Foundation ShrubsFA
by Monika Sancho, Horticulturist/Retail Sales 
Foundation plantings are a great addition to the landscape, enhancing the aesthetic value and the beauty of any structure. Many different plants will thrive in this setting-but usually we see a common list of several shrubs that are used (Yew, Spirea, Potentilla, Barberry, Burning Bush) which have many useful features, but some disadvantages as well. It's important to know that there are other options that offer similar, but unique characteristics too.    

Boxwood Instead of Yews
Taxus x media 'Spp' are a commonly used evergreen shrub because they grow fast and maintain their dense structured hedge shape. The rapid growth habit means that in order to keep them structured, they will need consistent maintenance and pruning. A disadvantage though is their susceptibility to winter burn, and the deer absolutely love to eat them. A great alternative is boxwood- Buxus x 'Spp'; a broadleaf evergreen that will similarly hold their shape in a hedge planting but don't require as much maintenance. Boxwood also has an interesting green foliage that remains through the winter.

Rather than Goldmound Spirea
Spiraea japonica 'Goldmound' is another commonly seen foundation plant. A good substitution, that offers a beautiful fall color not typical of spirea, is the Tor spirea- Spiraea betulifolia 'Tor' . Or mix it up even more with some other options like Glow Girl, Pink Sparkle- Spiraea betulifolia 'Spp', or Pink-a-licious Fritsch Spirea (the plant of the month--below). All of these offer different flower color, fall color, and foliage color during the season.

Ames St. John's Wort Instead of Potentilla
Hypericum kalmianum 'Ames' is a great, low maintenance shrub with yellow flowers making it a perfect substitution for Potentilla- Potentilla fruticosa. Potentilla is still a great option for a foundation plant in hot dry locations, but commonly do not thrive due to poor pruning practices. Ames requires less shaping.

Weigela/Ninebark Instead of Barberry
Berberis thunbergii quickly grows to provide a dense hedge but can quickly take over a bed. Also, the sharp thorns are a nuisance to people and pets. A great substitution would be any cultivar of Weigela- Weigela florida, which have striking foliage and showy flowers that provide dense coverage. Another is Little Devil Ninebark- Physocarpus opulifolius 'Donna May'PPAF which is a compact form of ninebark and has deep burgundy foliage with white flowers in June.

Chokeberry/Viburnum Instead of Burning Bush
Finally, a shrub with aggressive growth habits commonly seen in foundation plantings is compact burning bush- Euonymus alata 'Compactus', which has nice dense coverage, but can crowd out other plants in a bed. The Iroquois Beauty black chokeberry- Aronia melanocarpa 'Morton' is a great substitution. Iroquois Beauty is a compact rounded shrub with white flower clusters in late spring and a beautiful purple red fall color. Compact Koreanspice Viburnum- Viburnum carlesii 'Compactum' also has a rounded dense shape like the chokeberry and a wine red fall color, but the white flower clusters which appear in spring are very fragrant and attract butterflies.

All of these new options provide a great way to diversify your foundation beds with unique, low maintenance, beautiful shrubs that characteristically aren't seen in front of house beds.
PLANT OF THE MONTH: Pink-a-licious Fritsch SpireaPOM
Pink-a-licious™  Fritsch Spirea
Spiraea fritschiana 'J.N. Select A'

It's rare that a Spirea shrub can get one excited, but Pink-a-licious™ is pretty special, if we do say so ourselves.  A pink-flowering form of S. fritschiana (Fritsch Spirea usually has creamy white flowers), Pink-a-licious™ was selected by Mike Yanny (owner of J.N. Plant Selections, LLC) in 2000.  Besides the interesting flower color, the fall foliage on this plant can be an outstanding array of pineapple yellow to watermelon pink to cantaloupe orange.  Easy to prune in spring or fall, it's the perfect plant for massing under an ornamental tree (it tolerates light shade) or in a line on the front of a foundation. 
1918 - "The generally accepted rule is
pink for the boys, and blue for the girls."

1925 - "An Oxford man!...Like hell he is!
He wears a pink suit".

1940 - The baby boomer generation
defines pink and blue gender lines.

Pink-a-licious™ is such a whimsical, feminine-sounding name right? Ever wonder why we associate pink with girly things? It wasn't always this way. Back in the 19th century it was common place that babies and toddlers were dressed in frilly gender neutral dresses and ruffles. No one thought it necessary to define a baby's sex with a pink or blue headband, especially in a black and white photograph. White as a broad color choice was very practical, too. Children are little stain-monsters, and it was easier to remove stains on white clothing with bleach.

In the mid-19th century, colors, specifically pastels, were introduced into the infant wardrobe. Around World War I, publications and department stores began promoting specific colors for genders. has an article with a June 1918 quote from Earnshaw's Infants' Department publication, "The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl". In the classic book of 1925, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan's boorish husband, Tom, scoffs at Gatsby's supposed credentials, "An Oxford man!...Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit". (Though in a literary sense, pink is used to symbolize Jay Gatsby's tainted American dream.)

We can thank the baby boomers generation of the 1940's for dictating today's pink and blue gender lines. After the shortages and rationing of war, America went to extremes to redefine the sexes. Men once again donned their factory blues, Rosie the Riveter traded in hers for a pink dress and the life of a homemaker. Boys were dressed like their fathers, girls like their mothers. The feminist movement of the 1970's sparked a period of rejecting feminine baby clothes, the thought being that frilly and soft clothing encouraged submissiveness later in adulthood. Wide access to prenatal ultrasounds later in the 20th century suddenly allowed parents to predetermine sex of their baby and they could stock up on girl and boy outfits before arrival. Gender lines were once again drawn. For more information on this topic, check out the book Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America by Jo B. Paoletti.

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Watch all of our plant and landscape videos on our YouTube channel. 
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