Boosting Curb Appeal

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

May 2, 2008 4 min read

BOOSTING CURB APPEAL

Designing a landscape to add value to your home

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

Copley News Service

That fresh dab of paint on the shutters, new front walk and revived driveway blacktop may not be enough to give your the home curb appeal it needs to boost its value in today's housing market.

The solution? Revise and refresh the landscaping.

But ripping out existing greenery and choosing what, when and where to plant new shrubs, trees and flowers can be a challenge - even for experienced do-it-yourselfers. That's why many homeowners consult professional landscape planners, buy landscaping books and software, or go to Web sites that give them tools to develop their own design.

If you don't know enough about plants, design basics, materials and workmanship, your best bet may be to turn to a professional, says Patrick Bones, immediate past-president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and president of its Oklahoma chapter.

"People that want the best for their dollar seem to contact professionals for advice, whether it be in landscape/horticulture or some other field," Bones says.

He's done it himself. Several years ago he went to a colleague for help in redoing his own landscaping. "I knew I was too close to my property to look at it with a fresh eye. I just know the value of professional advice."

Landscape design is fraught with fads and filled with opportunities to make major mistakes, Bones adds. Some trees and shrubs can lose their luster and for good reason, he says, pointing to the once popular Bradford pear tree.

"Everyone wanted them because they were so beautiful in the spring when they bloomed. Now they're out because we know their wood is weak and they are susceptible to breaking up in winds and ice and snow storms," he says.

Also on the outs - white rock.

"People used to use it in their landscapes and most never do now," he says, a reflection of an expanded marketplace that gives homeowners and landscapers a wide range of choices in colors and styles.

Another danger zone for the do-it-yourself designer lies in choosing a style of landscaping that doesn't suit the architectural style of the home. An Asian-style garden would work better around a contemporary home than one with a traditional design, he says.

Even if you decide to tackle the job yourself, it may pay to talk to a landscape designer first.

"Most consumers do not know what is actually available unless they speak with a professional who keeps up with the latest releases, journals, trade magazines and attends continuing education seminars," Bones points out. Instead, average homeowners usually glean information only from what they see at the store, in neighbor's yards or in gardening magazines.

If you're bent on coming up with your own design, you might want to check out any of several software packages that can help you create a new look for your landscape with the aid of your computer. You can also sign up to use a free online landscape and garden planner at www.lowes.com. Simple to use, it lets you show your home's footprint, add or subtract plants, trees, sidewalks, fencing and decking and print out your design and shopping list. Several other Web sites, such as http://landscaping.about.com/, offer step-by-step video instructions.

In addition, many do-it-yourself books cover landscape design while others, like Judith Adam's popular "Landscape Planning" (Firefly Books, $39.95), now in its second edition, provide practical advice on how to plan and execute your design. These and others that focus on specific landscaping needs are available at local libraries and booksellers.

? Copley News Service

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