Two landscape design items needing proper placement in any public landscape area are vines and window boxes. Both should be used with restraint, but when used correctly, they are effective additions to the public picture of your house.
Breaking Vertical Lines
Vines can become extremely useful in landscaping under two particular conditions. The first is in the case of a somewhat awkward house because it is too tall for its width.
This is most common among older homes built at a time when home architecture was, to a great extent, a hit-or-miss affair.
In such instances, vines can be used to make conspicuous horizontal lines across part or all of the front of the building. This will keep the observer’s eye from running all the way to the top of the gawky building.
Instead, the eye will be directed across the front of the building. You could use a similar horizontal line across the edge of a porch, pergola, a veranda, or some lattice work.
You may not be able to change the architectural style itself, but through creative landscaping, you can create an illusion that improves the picture.
When vines are appropriate for public areas, the other circumstance is found in places where the public sidewalk comes right up to the front of the house, leaving no front lawn at all, or perhaps would typically be considered the public area of the dwelling.
Here, there is no room for a lawn, trees, or even small shrubs. However, rather than leave the house completely unlandscaped, you might consider removing a small section of the cement pavement from one, or possibly all of the front corners.
Then excavate (it will be a hard job but well worth it) a relatively large area underneath the pavement and fill it in with good soil. Here you can plant a vine and then erect support like a trellis so the growth will go precisely where you want it.
The adoption of this one idea could improve countless blocks in American cities!
A word of warning is necessary: Vines require constant maintenance. Otherwise, they quickly become overgrown.
A professional is often distressed to see how few people take the time to keep their vines pruned to proper size and shape. Perhaps this is why vines are not so popular in the United States as they should be.
Window Boxes for Tall Houses
Some landscape architects feel that you should never use window boxes in the public area. While that may be going too far, it is safe to say they should never be used if a house is attractive without them.
One of their main functions, like that of vines, is to call the observer’s attention to the first floor of a house that is too tall. Window boxes across the first floor prevent eyes from wandering upward over the entire building.
Window Boxes in New England
Window boxes are most at home along our Atlantic coastal areas and up through New England where the Cape Cod style of architecture is most common.
Improving Window Proportions
A second functional use of window boxes occurs when the windows of a house are comparatively small or appear to be too tall for the rest of the house front.
By constructing window boxes that reach well beyond each side of such windows, you can make them appear to be in better proportion to the house. This is another example of the effectiveness of horizontal lines in the landscape picture.
Horizontal lines are invariably more pleasant and soothing to the observer than vertical lines. This can be proved in the course of an ocean trip.
One of the best ways to prevent seasickness is to go up to the bow of the boat and keep your eye constantly on the horizon. For some reason, the horizon line has a soothing effect on the nervous system.
Secondly, our heads are so attached to the spinal column that it is far easier for us to turn our heads along a horizontal plain than to turn them vertically. Remote as such factors may seem at first glance; they play an important part in designing any landscape.
Before you plant vines or add a window box planter consider how it plays into the overall landscape design.