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Curb appeal and a Slab foundation

I bought a house with a slab foundation; I’m looking for ways to spruce up the front of my house with some landscaping. Unfortunately the house is a little below grade in relation to the street, but I have lived in this house for 2 years and have not noticed any pooling or pudding around the foundation. I live in Massachusetts, and have weathered some pretty bad storms in this house with no damage. The previous owners put down some rocks in the front, the inspector explained to me they probably did that to help with drainage if any water was get to the foundation. The rocks are a pain to keep neat, getting the leaves and pine needles out is a hassle and they don’t really look all that great. I was thinking mulch but I don’t want to put mulch right up against the wooden siding of the house, correct? If I haven’t seen any evidence of a water/draining problems, should I be concerned about removing the rocks completely, planting or just letting the grass grow and may be just putting some potted flowers down? Would it be ok to plant flowers or any type of plant directly into the ground that close to the house foundation? The previous owners “installed” wooden boards around the bottom of the house to hide the cement. Should I be concerned with rot or bug infestation if I put anything that might retain moister to close?
Any advice or ideas would be a huge help. I can’t find anything on the web.

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