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Did you know that a well thought out front yard landscape is worth more in terms of value of your house than kitchen or bathroom remodeling?  Or that the an attractive front yard landscape design will net you up to four times your initial investment when you sell?  These alone are two compelling reasons to start today on a comprehensive plan to fix what's wrong in your front yard landscape today!  Pursuant to that, I have scoured the net and my large cache of gardening books and compiled a list of the top 5 things we can all do that are inexpensive, relatively easy, and  will improve the looks and hopefully the functionality of our properties practically overnight! 

FIX-UP #1 - CLEAN IT UP!  And I mean, really clean it up.  Look at your house and yard.  Unless you have the mow and blow guys in there every week, and a maid that does windows, I bet there's something you can do out there.  Rake and dethatch the lawn, sweep the walks and driveway, clean the siding, wash the windows, fix or replace torn screens, trim the hedges, sweep the roof, clean the gutters, mulch the flower beds, throw away junk.....all this requires labor, but very little cash, and who couldn't do with more exercise?  If the house needs painting and you can't afford it right now, paint the trim only - even that will make a big difference.

FIX-UP #2 - INVEST IN SOME DETAILING:  Here you will have to do some spending, but nothing extraordinary.  Get a hose reel if you don't already have one so that the water hose is not always tangled up in a heap in the yard.  Replace that ragged water spigot with a nice, new shiny one.  Buy or make a unique address marker to hang on the house.  Put inexpensive hose guides in strategic places so you won't squash your new landscape with the hose when watering.  Replace the mailbox if it is worn or crooked or outdated. Details, details, details - every little thing you do to make the outdoors convenient and attractive will enhance the value of your house, and people will notice!

FIX-UP #3 - THE FRONT DOOR:   The front door is the focal point for the entire front part of the house, and as such it gets it's own space in the top 5.  Take a good look at your front door.  If it needs paint, absolutely paint it.  Install a peephole if you don't already have one.  Thoroughly clean any glass on or around the door.  Clean the stoop or porch or whatever your entry way is completely and do any repairs, cleaning, painting or caulking needed.  Add a doorbell or attractive door knocker if you don't already have that, or find yourself an attractive season-appropriate wreath to hang on the door. Polish or replace the door hardware if it looks worn or dirty.  Buy a new door mat in an attractive style.  The object is to make that door the most attractive and delightful door that it can be!  Don't forget the immediate area just outside the door, either.  Put a couple of attractive inexpensive pots with bright flowers in them just outside the front door, and keep them watered and in good condition to make the entryway look attractive and well-kept. If the door configuration doesn't allow that, maybe a hanging fern somewhere nearby. Tall wrought iron hanging plant holders are available at any home improvement center that can be very attractive when hung with beautiful plant specimens for those with limited space or small stoops.   

FIX-UP #4 - THE BONES OF THE GARDEN:  Once you are done with the first three steps, your front yard might look so much better that you don't need much else, but if you do feel the urge to do more, the next step is to analyze the bones, or permanent structures in the yard.  These are the trees, larger shrubs, driveway, and walkways that would be left if everything else was stripped away.  Designing a cohesive structure in the yard is not horribly difficult if you follow a few simple rules. Well done stone or brick walls and well-placed trees can add 5% to the selling price of a home, and strategically-placed trees and large shrubs can cut utility costs, reduce noise, and prevent erosion.  Plantings should frame the home, not overwhelm it.  If the home is a formal, symmetrical design with the door in the middle, then plantings should be symmetric on either side of the door.  If the door is off center, then a large plant on one side with smaller plants of about the same visual weight on the other side works well.  Regardless of the style, tie it all in together with the same type of mulch, and border each side with the same type of plant, or repeat different plants on both sides.  All plantings should visually lead the visitor to the front door.  A rule of thumb as far as this is to draw an imaginary line from a few feet under the roof line diagonally down to the stoop in the middle of the front door, and don't plant anything higher than that imaginary line in any given place.  This creates a visual that points the visitor right to the front door and also hopefully prevents the gardener from planting varieties that will grow too big and overwhelm the door.  Don't forget lighting, which should also gently guide towards the front door.  Although lighting will be covered in depth in a separate page later, check your options and try to avoid the runway look when choosing lighting.  Landscape lighting should be subtle and inviting, not glaring and overpowering.  In any event, use your creativity and individual style, but keep your yard design as maintenance friendly as possible because you don't want to end up with too much garden to maintain properly or you could actually run the risk of reducing the value of the house. 

FIX-UP #5 - THE PLANTS:  You now have a blank canvas with the skeleton in place.  Choosing and placing the plants is the fun part, but beware, there are pitfalls to consider.  Specific plants and their growing requirements are spread out all over this site, so for the purposes of this page we will just do general guidelines here. Keep in mind that the main function of your front yard landscape should be to frame the house and to guide people to the door in a pleasing way.  It's that simple.  You can choose formal or informal as described above, or you can go with a natural or wildlife landscape, but be aware that these are not always the most well-kept looking gardens around unless done really well.  With a big yard, English style gardens are wonderful, and if you are a real yard lover with a house with a Japanese bent,  a Japanese Garden would be a nice choice for you.  Choose shrubs and flowers with varying textures and colors, but don't go crazy with it.  Dark colors like blue and purple make a small space look larger, and bright colors like yellow and red make the space look closer.  Use uniform borders for beds bordering the house and for any island plantings in only a few choice colors, and repeat those colors wherever appropriate throughout the yard.  Don't do your plant shopping at the nursery, but rather do your homework first and go to the nursery informed and looking for specific plants.  Don't forget perennials and bulbs in your plan, as many are low-maintenance and provide excellent color and form year after year.  Similarly, climbers are almost a must for smaller spaces to provide vertical interest and screening for unsightly areas.  Also consider the winter scene when choosing plants for the landscape.  You may have a beautiful Hosta garden with Hydrangeas and Impatiens in the spring and summer, but when winter comes, there won't be a single stick of winter interest in that bed.  Also consider one fabulous focal point such as a great birdbath or an ornamental tree with interesting bark or winter form to set your yard apart from the rest. 

So that's it folks - Good Luck, and do visit the individual plant profiles already provided all over this site.  There's more to come, so do bookmark and come back soon!



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