01: Impressions — published on November 5, 2010

Toronto MLS for Free

Realtysellers Real Estate offers MLS for Free

For almost a decade, Toronto lawyer and businessman Lawrence Dale has been embroiled in a struggle to bring innovative and affordable real estate agency and marketing services to homeowners. After years of persistence, Mr. Dale finally persuaded the Competition Bureau to take action which resulted in a Consent Agreement being filed with the Competition Tribunal earlier this week.

With the industry finally open for business for lower cost innovative models, Mr. Dale is re-entering the real estate marketplace as founder of Realtysellers Real Estate Inc. Realtysellers Real Estate Inc. is a licensed real estate brokerage in the Province of Ontario and is a member in good standing of the Toronto Real Estate Board.

Mr. Dale has assembled an experienced team for his new venture including a new investment group from his previous real estate ventures which have included the purchase of SkyDome in 1999, Realtysellers (Ontario) Limited which was forced out of business by industry restrictions in 2006/2007 (which is unrelated to Realtysellers Real Estate Inc.) and his involvement in the purchase of an 80% interest in Chestnut Park Real Estate in 2007.

Realtysellers Real Estate Inc. will initially be offering programs for sellers and buyers in the Greater Toronto Area.

For the first time ever in Canada, Realtysellers Real Estate Inc. will list a seller’s property on the Multiple Listing System (MLS) for free. “If the seller does not want any additional services other than to list on the MLS, we will do it for free” Mr. Dale stated. “If a sellers wants our professional assistance throughout the process, we do provide a more traditional service for the low fee of 0.5%”.

Buyer’s will receive a buyer’s bonus equal to up to 75% of the fee received. “If we receive a fee of $50,000, our buyer would be sent a cheque for $37,500 the day we receive our fee.” Dale stated.

Dale commented that his new venture is a work in progress. “We are committed to providing real estate consumers with the services they want at exceptional value. The programs that we will offer will continue to develop over time to fulfill the ever changing consumer objectives. We are committed to be at the forefront of innovative real estate brokerage”.

About Realtysellers Real Estate Inc.

Realtysellers Real Estate Inc. is a licensed real estate brokerage in the Province of Ontario and member in good standing with the Toronto Real Estate and Canadian Real Estate Association. Realtysellers Real Estate Inc. takes advantage of developments in technology and its team’s experience in the industry to make the process of buying and selling a home a better and more cost effective experience. Services include a free on MLS posting program for sellers who do not want any other services to programs that offer complete assistance for buyers and sellers looking for help throughout the entire process but who are also wanting to receive better value.

See the Realtysellers website located at realtysellers.ca or realtysellersrealestate.com

01: Impressions — published on May 16, 2009

The Power of Curb Appeal

Improve your home’s value with these tips

When putting a house up for sale, one of the most important factors you should consider is your home’s exterior as this is the first step to draw potential buyers. It’s what is known as curb appeal. Here are some changes that will make your home more attractive and functional, and they’re also the ones that will give you the most impact for your resources.

First, create an inviting walkway for your guests and potential buyers. Lay bluestone or any other type of slate over the typical concrete steps or walkways to add warmth to an otherwise cold entry.

Replace old columns

Most front porches have columns that are visually too small to support the roofs. Replace all columns that are 4″x4″ with larger ones. It will look and feel better if you do.

Change out your light fixtures

For some reason, porch lights are often hung at the wrong height and are not in good scale with the entry. When hanging sconces, put them a bit higher than your eye level to reduce glare. For those of you with unusually high entryways, try independent lights. It’s an easy way to add elegance to your home.

Consider replacing the front door and windows

Make sure your entry door does not clash with the style of your home. If you have an arts and crafts bungalow, stick with a door appropriate to that style. If you have a contemporary home, your door should be contemporary. Don’t get caught up in the fads of the time. Consider, too, the style of the interior. This is also true of windows.

Replace your windows

If you have an older home, it will probably benefit greatly from the energy saved with new windows. Keep the style of the windows the same as the home’s architecture for the best outcome. Replacement windows are less expensive because they are made to sit inside the present frame. Most window companies can replace the windows in this manner in a single day.

Add dormers

Dormers break up a large growth expanse and provide depth and balance to the front of the home.

If repairing or redoing stucco, consider getting some of the foam core crown molding made for exteriors. A little goes a long way to dress up your home. You have your stucco man cover right over the crown molding for a plush look.

Add or replace shutters

Make sure your shutters are not too small for the window. They technically should be wide enough to cover the window opening when closed. Mount operable shutters slightly away from the home. Shutters will provide a decorative element that further defines the character of your home and gives it a custom look.

Add flower boxes to windows

Flower boxes help add color to a home’s exterior and make the windows appear taller from the street.

Replace older shrubbery that has grown too large for your home. If you want to make your home appear taller, use smaller shrubs. Watch out for shrubs that are overgrown as they can easily “swallow up” a small home.

Landscape all the way out to the street

For goodness sake, understand that the days of a straight hedge at the front wall of the house to the street are over. The same goes for lawn that stretches from the home to the street with practically nothing of interest. Remember that the exterior decor should utilize focal points and group your plants together. Don’t string them out, soldier fashion, along the front of your house or the sidewalk leaving the in between areas bare or endless grass.

Exterior lighting is important

Exterior lighting can warm the look of a home without creating distinct points of light. Where space is limited, well-placed exterior lighting can replace pendants or sconces at the entryways. The home will be further enhanced if the materials and lighting are of the same style as the home.

Improve your driveway and make it more appealing

Use saw cut, apron pavers or stamped concrete in place of regular concrete for the driveway itself. Try changing the location of the driveway so that it sweeps across the front yard, but is still functional. You want the view from the driveway to be of the home instead of the garage door.

To disguise the garage door, build a 2 ft. trellis or arbor with vines over the garage; it will give the garage a softer cottage look and feel.

For a side entry garage, plant evergreen trees to hide the turn around area next to the garage, putting the focus on the front of the house.

Frame a doorway with plants

Try using boxwoods, steeds holly, dwarf Alberta spruce, smaller holly trees or arborvitae. Potted plants can be moved around and taken with you when you move away.

Plant the right things in the right places

If low sunlight is a problem, don’t fight it. Low maintenance plants that can grow with little sunlight are azaleas, dwarfs and regular mondo grass, weeping Japanese maples, autumn ferns and hydrangeas. Your nursery can guide you on the varying needs of sunlight and water for each plant you buy.

For big results, think small

Trench the edges of your flower beds to create smooth sweeping lines. Freshen your mulch or pine straw. Get your lawn on a regular fertilizer program.

Simple low voltage lighting at entry points and specimen trees can add a lot of flair to the yard. Highlight and accentuate entryways with annuals.

Keep it simple

Don’t confuse guests. Have a clear and defined path from a parking area to the home’s entrance. Create paths out of stone or other materials that complement the house.

Study the color palette of your home

Determine the most complementary color for both body and trim of your home. Some houses look better with muted color schemes rather than the standard white trim. Consider an off white trim with a complementary color for the body of the house. I just passed a home with a white garage door, some white trim here and there, a fairly dark olive green body and a large black front door. The shutters on the windows and window trim was also black. Very stunning and quite unique.

Assess your roofs

Asphalt roofs look best in either black or slate gray. For more informal homes, pressure treated cedar shake roofs have wonderful color and texture. Slate roofs give a premium look to any home. Raised-seam metal roofs are a great option for homes that seek to achieve a distinctive older look.

Enhance the trim

Add wood pediments over the windows or over the front door. There are several sources for ready-made trim that is designed for standard sized openings.

Upgrade your door’s hardware

Go to premium hardware companies and look at the options for door latches. Georgian-style homes should have polished brass fixtures, while country French and many cottage-style homes can use fixtures with darker finishes, such as oil-rubbed bronze or pewter gray.

Do your research

For older houses, look for lighting fixtures that look like old carriage lanterns or gas lanterns. Finishes should be black or aged copper. For an extra special look, replace the glass with seedy glass and use lower wattage bulbs. If you have a larger budget, consider installing a gas line to make the fixture a real gas lantern.

Avoid clutter

Stay away from helter-skelter objects in your yard. Pick a focal point or two for the art and leave the rest to more clean and understated design.

Think about function

If you want to use your yard for entertaining or just lazy days sipping sweet tea, make sure you have nice, clean seating and an easy to grow garden.

Keep it clean

Periodic pressure washing will remove molten debris off siding, decks, driveways and walkways leaving a pristine facade on your home

Add planters

Put seasonal plants in pots that will spill over with color and make the front door a focal point.

Make it Low maintenance

Hardier plants will continue to look attractive in the colder months of the year, giving your yard year-round appeal.

01: Impressions — published on March 26, 2009

Dogwood Trees: Spring Blooms, Fall Foliage

Landscaping with Dogwoods gives you “2 for the price of 1.” Best known for their spring blooms, they also provide fine fall foliage.

Kousa Dogwood Trees (Japanese Dogwood Trees)

Japanese, or “kousa” dogwood trees (Cornus kousa) can be grown in zones 5-8. Their usually white, star-shaped blooms appear later in spring than do the flowers on other dogwoods. Fall foliage is purplish-red. The red berries of kousa dogwood trees persist into winter and are eaten by wild birds. Average height and spread of 15′-30′. dogwood

A variation is provided by the “Satomi” kousa dogwood tree (Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’), which bears deep pink blossoms in spring. Height 25′.

Flowering Dogwood Trees

Cornus florida is the indigenous flowering dogwood tree in the U.S., where it is commonly referred to simply as, “flowering dogwood tree,” as if there were no other. Such is the fondness for this fall foliage standout among landscaping enthusiasts in the U.S.

“Cherokee Chief” flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Chief’) offer an impressive array of landscaping benefits. The lower branches of this “bird magnet” have a horizontal branching pattern, which in itself lends interest to the landscape. “Cherokee Chief” dogwoods grow to a height of 20′-25′ and a spread of 12′-15′. This dogwood tree puts out red blooms in spring, while its fall foliage ranges from reddish-bronze to purplish. Zones 5-9.

01: Impressions — published on March 20, 2009

Landscaping for Curb Appeal

Maintaining and improving property values is essential for every homeowner. Knowing tips and secrets about landscaping to improve values can make a big difference.

Economic turmoil and the declining value of houses has a lot of people worrying about their personal property values. We continue to experience uncertainty as we look at the current status of our country’s economic health. Instead of worrying and obsessing over what’s happening to property values, it’s time to take active steps towards improving value today and for the future.

Adding attractive landscapes and improving the curb appeal of property can enhance the property’s value overnight. It may not fetch the optimal asking price right now, but landscaping can be a valuable asset today and tomorrow. The great thing about landscaping is that a large space is not necessary to enhance property value. A small garden area or several small areas are just as good as one big open area.

How to Maximize Curb Appeal of Your Home

Curb appeal is what attracts visitors and potential buyers to your home. They are interested in what they see and the landscape makes a big difference in their opinions. When a home has attractive curb appeal, it draws visitors and potential buyers inside if a home is on the market. If the home is not for sale, the curb appeal still adds tremendous value to the home and creates a welcome message for visitors and family members. Either way, it’s a great way to enhance property values.

Some ways to optimize curb appeal for personal property include:

  1. Aerate soil at least annually to allow fresh water and nutrients to reach deep down into the roots of your grass. You’ll have healthier, green grass.
    De-thatch the lawn to remove those dead grass clippings and other debris that create a barrier between thirsty roots and fresh water and oxygen from the air and sky above.
  2. Don’t water too frequently. Instead, consider watering less frequently but allow the water to flow slowly for a longer period of time. This allows the roots to absorb the water better and leads to healthier growth.
  3. Make sure to fertilize twice each year – in the spring and again in the fall. Depending on the geographic location and type of soil, there are different types of fertilizer from which to choose. Check with a local nursery, home and garden stores, home improvement store, or other experts to help determine the best type to use.
  4. Assess the lawn and determine a plan for spots where grass refuses to thrive such as shady areas or places with lots of tree roots. Constantly replanting and working an area only to find the grass dead again is no fun. Instead of grass, consider other decorative types of plants, pots, or garden elements and avoid the hassles of stubborn spots.
  5. Compost is a good product to help improve the nutrient levels in the soil and will help grass grow healthier and greener.

Once a plan is in place to prepare soil and the lawn for better curb appeal, it’s time to think about getting started with some plants and other things as points of interest.Consider the following tips for added curb appeal that also increases property value:

  1. Plant trees where it makes sense – but not too close to the house. Over time, a tree can add tens of thousands of value to property! Although it may not seem very worthwhile today, young trees planted today will be extremely valuable in years to come.
  2. Create focal points of interest that fit the size of the lawn. Don’t overdo it with over-bearing plants, hanging vines, and shrubbery. The focal points should always be appropriate for the space.
  3. Use potted plants for variety and to spice up smaller areas of the lawn, or use them on porches, decks, steps, and other places throughout the yard. Plants nestled in mulch, wooded areas, or around steps and patios can be very attractive.
  4. Consider plants that come back each year so you don’t have to replant. Then use them as the backdrop for annual plants and potted plants added to the area.
  5. Don’t forget about the value of rocks, stones, pebbles, bricks, arbors, and other elements that add interest and can be used as a focal point in a small or large area. Stepping stones add a quaint, welcoming feel to most any yard.
  6. Paths throughout a wooded area or around a yard can be quite inviting. They are alluring and add a sense of mystique and calm to an outdoor space.
  7. Unique elements such as bird feeders, hummingbird feeders, wind chimes, ornamental garden statues, benches, and other things can heighten the welcoming effect of a home.

Bring the outdoors inside too – when it comes to curb appeal, make sure to take advantage of indoor spaces where gardens and lawns can be viewed. Create conversation spaces indoors around windows and areas that expose the outdoors and draw it inward.
Before deciding nothing can be done to improve curb appeal, increase property values, and enhance a home’s existence, take a look around at the landscape. Consider how small areas can be enhanced and create focal points that create a welcoming feeling to visitors. And don’t forget how valuable landscaping can be when it comes to helping reduce air pollution – contributing to the health of the environment.

Property values are an important part of owning a home – but enjoying a home today while living in it is just as important. Leverage curb appeal today for more home equity and increased property value tomorrow.

01: Impressions — published on March 19, 2009

Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

Woody plants are a permanent, year-long presence in the landscape. This permanence helps determine their major uses.

Consider the landscape as if it were a living room. The floor would be formed by low-growing plants and ground-hugging constructions, like lawns and ground covers, patios and pavement. They form the base of any landscape. But what about the rest of the landscape, the walls and ceiling? That’s where trees, shrubs, and climbing plants come in.

Walls

Shrubs and vines, as well as related constructions such as fences, form the walls of the room. They help define its boundaries, separating your yard from your neighbor’s and one garden area from another. This is most obvious when plants are grown as a hedge, but even informal plantings of shrubs will help define bounds between various areas.

A simple cluster of shrubs, for example, can separate the children’s play area from a quiet rest area or the service area with its shed, garbage cans, and clothesline. Formal hedges, because of the obvious barrier they create, are most often used to define property lines.

Shrubs can also offer a screen for privacy, or they can block unsightly views. Deciduous shrubs are good choices for screening: They offer privacy during the summer months yet allow a maximum amount of winter sunlight to penetrate your yard at a season when light is at a premium. If the goal of the screen is to block an undesirable view, evergreens — both conifers and broad-leaf — are the plants of choice, since their cover is permanent. Taller shrubs can also be used as windbreaks or to create a bit of shade in an overly sunny spot.

Vines are used much like shrubs, except they must grow on some sort of support, such as a fence or trellis. A hedge may need many years to grow high enough to block a view. You can create the same effect in a year or two by planting a vining plant at the base of a fence. If you can’t put up an attractive fence, a simple chain-link one with vines planted at the base will offer security without being obtrusive.

Vines are also useful in places where space is lacking. Most shrubs quickly attain a diameter of three to five feet; this can seem a waste of space in a tiny urban yard. Vines grow vertically: Most cling so closely to their support that they take up only inches of horizontal space.
For security purposes, you might want your wall to be composed of plants with spiny leaves or branches. A fire thorn or barberry hedge, for example, can be as effective a barrier as a chain-link fence but far more attractive.

Ceilings

After the “floor” and “walls” have been taken care of, the outdoor living room needs a ceiling. Although the sky can serve as an outdoor ceiling, it can be too much of a good thing. The vastness of the sky keeps a garden from feeling intimate.
Trees block out part of the sky, defining the sky’s borders. Trees also contribute structure to the garden. Trunks and branches act as posts and beams to bring the sky down to a more human scale. For this management of the sky, trees have a purpose in every landscape, even the smallest one.

Trees have other uses as well. No other characteristic of trees is as obvious in the landscape as the shade they provide. Through their ability to filter sunlight and to cool the air through evapotranspiration, leaves can reduce the temperature by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit on a hot summer day. Shade also protects from excess sun that can annoy your eyes and be dangerous for the skin. So every garden should have at least one shady nook. Some trees are known as “shade trees.” These are usually taller trees with a broad crown. Smaller trees can also provide plentiful shade, although you may prefer to remove some of the lower branches for sitting.

Putting It all Together

With the structure of your “living room” — floor, walls, and outdoor ceiling — now clearly defined by the lawns and woody plants it contains, you have the base on which to build your landscape. All you have left to add is the “furniture”: flower beds, accent plants, and the like.

Defining Woody Plants

Woody plants come in all shapes and sizes, from tall and upright to low and creeping. Aside from producing wood, these plants have one thing in common: persistent stems, meaning the stems survive from one year to the next. This distinguishes woody plants from herbaceous (nonwoody) plants like perennials, which die back to the ground each year. Although many woody plants lose their leaves in the winter or dry season, the stems survive and produce new leaves the following year. Trees, shrubs, and most vines are woody plants, but the boundaries between each group are not always clear.

Trees Versus Shrubs

Although most people recognize a tree when they see one, defining what does and does not constitute a tree is not easy. This is particularly the case when distinguishing between a tall shrub and a small tree.

One common definition of a tree is a perennial plant that bears only one single woody stem (the trunk) at ground level. Size is not a determining factor in this definition. A tree can reach 100 feet or more in height or only one foot for miniatures. In practice, however, a very small tree is likely to be treated as a shrub. Woody shrubs have several stems rising from ground level. Shrubs are also usually smaller, often 3 to 12 feet tall. There are many obvious exceptions, such as trees with multiple trunks that can be very hard to distinguish from tall shrubs. Other plants can be either trees or shrubs depending on how they are grown. These general definitions, however, do help to distinguish between the two groups.
Humans also influence plant growth by pruning and other practices. For example, a gardener may prune off all the secondary stems of a shrub, leaving one to three main trunks, thus creating a “standard” (tree-form shrub). A gardener may also repeatedly cut back young trees, forcing them to branch at their base, turning them into shrubs. Nature does the same thing. Some plants that normally grow as trees will take on a shrub form at the northern limits of their range. Each winter their top growth is pruned back by cold, causing them to develop multiple branches rather than a main trunk. Subshrubs are plants with woody stems, yet they die back at least part way to their roots each year. Subshrubs are usually treated as perennials. Some true shrubs, such as butterfly bush, will behave as subshrubs in cold or extreme climates.

Vines

Vines can be separated into three main categories: woody vines, with permanent above-ground stems; perennial vines, which die back to the ground each winter and then sprout again in spring; and annual vines, which start anew from seed each year. A woody vine can be considered a shrub that needs some sort of support to grow well. Some woody vine (including many types of clematis) die back to the ground each year, just as subshrubs do, especially under harsh climatic conditions. Only woody vines are covered in this section.

Deciduous or Evergreen?

Trees, shrubs, and woody vine are classified as either deciduous or evergreen. Deciduous woody plants usually lose their leaves in the fall. In warmer climates leaf loss can occur at other times in the year, notably at the onset of the dry season. Evergreen plants remain clothed in foliage throughout the year. They do lose their leaves, but gradually rather than all at once; they are never completely barren. Some woody plants are classified as semievergreens. Their leaves are persistent in most conditions but fall off in harsh ones, especially in cold or very dry climates. Deciduous plants often have attractive fall colors. Evergreens present a continuous display of green foliage, even when deciduous plants are bare.

The term “evergreen” is often mistakenly thought to pertain strictly to conifers (cone-bearing plants). This is not the case. There are broad-leaf evergreens, including boxwoods and most rhododendrons, and deciduous conifers, such as larches and bald cypress. In many plant catalogs, woody plants are divided into three categories as to their foliage: deciduous, broad-leaf evergreens, and needled evergreens.

Source:Dutchmaster Nurseries Blog

01: Impressions — published on March 16, 2009

25 Biggest Landscaping Mistakes

Tips on how to avoid common landscaping disasters and what to do to fix them if it does happen.

25. Excessive Lawn Ornamentation

People often make the mistake of putting too many decorative items in their front yard, which can be a distraction from the beauty of the natural landscape. Before setting out that lawn ornament, ask yourself why are you putting it there and how it fits in to the context of your overall design and plant materials. Stick with one crisp choice, even if it is a little silly. One little whimsical statement goes a lot further than ten.

24. Forgetting to Recycle

Yard projects tend to produce a good amount of waste, which most people don’t realize when they set out to do the work. Instead of tossing out the branches, clippings and other debris, dispose of them in an eco-friendly way. Rent a shredder and turn them into mulch, and put lawn clippings back on the lawn — they are both great fertilizers. Another idea is to create a compost pile. Compost containers have gotten more attractive. Some almost disappear into the landscape.

23. Planting in the Wrong Place

Improper plant placement is another common mistake. People often do not take into consideration the proper sunlight and exposure for their plants. Be sure to pay attention to the little tag that you get when you buy the plant. When it comes to planting trees, you need to remember how big they could get and how much space they are going to need. Also think about focal points — choose something that’s going to look good year-round.

22. Planting Too Deeply

One of the quickest ways to kill a tree is to plant it too deeply. Some folks figure the more soil they can put around it, the better. But doing so can actually choke the tree to death because there is no air allowed to go to the root system. Going too deep can also encourage root rot. Avoid these scenarios by looking at the main stem, where the largest branch is and then where all of the tentacles come out. That’s the root ball, and that’s what you want to meet, right along the surface. A good rule of thumb with plants is to dig to the actual height of the container in which it came.

21. Cutting Grass Too Short

It’s a common myth that cutting the grass shorter means you have to mow it less. That’s actually not the case, and you can do more harm than good. If you scalp the lawn, it could result in a bare patch, which could make it too inviting for insects and/or susceptible to disease. The key is to cut the lawn different lengths throughout the year. During the summer, the lawn needs a little more shade, so let the blades grow just a little bit more. That way the water doesn’t evaporate so quickly. During the winter, cut it a little bit shorter so that the sunlight can actually get into the soil.

20. Forgetting the View From Your Window

It may seem like common sense to think about the view from inside the house, but a lot of people forget it. Keep in mind what it looks like from all angles. Place your containers where you want them, and then go inside and look look through every major window to see what they’ll look like before you plant. It should be like a painting. When you look out, you should see the glass framed with beautiful trees and foliage.

19. Using the Wrong-Size Pots

It is best to start a plant in a larger pot than it comes in to allow it to room to grow. However, if you put a plant in a pot that is too large, it can shift, sink down into the soil, get too much water or dry out too fast. Also, remember that you are going to have to re-pot it, eventually. It’s easy to tell when that’s necessary because little roots begin to stick out at the bottom. A word of caution related to re-potting. Be sure to give a plant plenty of time get acclimated to its new pot before re-potting again.

18. Failing to Fertilize Properly

There are two ways that fertilizing can be a mistake. The first one is not doing it at all. The other is fertilizing too much or fertilizing improperly. Ask someone at your garden center to recommend a proper fertilizer for your yard. It’s a good idea to do it at least twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. You should never do so in the bright sun, and watering always needs to follow. It’s also a good idea to mix in fertilizer when planting new plants. Make sure that, when I dig the hole, I mix in new soil and I also mix in fertilizer. So the plant, over the period of a year, is going to have a nice time release of fertilizer.

17. Picking the Wrong Plants

Just because a plant looks pretty doesn’t mean it actually belongs in your yard. You have to take into consideration your particular backyard, with filtered light or shade, and what’s going to work best for you. If it’s a really hot, sunny spot, maybe you want to go with a succulent. Get a great landscaping book for your area to help you figure out what to plant and when, as well as how and when to fertilize.

16. Not Accounting for Wildlife

Before you decide what to plant in your garden, think about what pests you have in relation to what you’d like to plant. For example, pretty flowering plants can attract deer, so you might want to throw in some bitter-tasting ones among them. Once they taste the wrong one, they are likely to stop coming around. If there are wild rabbits around, you may need to shelter your garden bed by building a small fence. Chicken wire is another option.

15. Being Shortsighted

Being shortsighted is a common problem because many people don’t know what the eventual growth of their plants will be. You need to find out how they spread, how they reproduce and what type of maintenance they require. There are actually software programs available where you can design a landscape and then click a button, and it will show you the growth rate of those plants over a year or two years and so on.

14. Improper Pruning

Pruning can be just as much of an art form as it is a technique, but when pruning is improperly done, you can do more harm than good. In fact, in some cases, it’s better not to prune at all than to do it improperly. Every plant has a different pruning process. The fall is usually the best time of year to prune, but be sure to find out for sure. There are great books and manuals as well as websites that offer tips and explain proper pruning techniques.

13. Scattered Color

Before making a trip to the nursery, you need to know what palette you’d like as well as is which colors work well together. Look at the color of your house and then choose one color that really frames it. Try to stay semi-monochromatic for the most part because if there is too much color and it’s too strong, it almost can become a distraction. Repetition and some harmony in a garden goes a long way.

12. Irrational Irrigation

Use the correct amount of water for your plants and lawn. A lot of homeowners make the mistake of over-watering. Most lawns just need about an inch of a water per week. The best time of day to water the lawn (and usually any plant) is early morning so that way it has all day to dry. You can buy a sprinkler with an automatic timer to reduce water waste, or even put in an irrigation system in.

11. Using the Wrong Tools

Having the right tool ensures your safety, maximizes your time and is more efficient in the long run. Think about the size of the job and dictate the size of the tool, accordingly. Some must-haves are safety goggles, gloves, a solid shovel and a good rake. Keep them organized, and keep them clean. For specialty jobs, you might want to consider renting a tool, and not just power equipment, but hand tools. Maybe you don’t need that tool for the rest of your life, but you need it for that one specific job.

10. Failing To Be Family-Friendly

A lot of people get carried away with the theme of their yard. They don’t think about how they are going to use the lawn or the area — they just think about how they want it to look. For example, a rock garden is really attractive, but probably not the best thing for a family with small children. Sit down and make a list of what you want to do in your yard, making sure to look at the needs of everyone in the household.

9. Impulse Buying

Do a little research before you reach and grab. Have some sort of a shopping list in mind and then get what you want and leave. It’s very hard to return flowers, so this step is imperative.

8. Too Much of the Same Thing

Intermingle various shapes and sizes to give you interest in your yard as well as bringing the right kind of insects. Certain plants need certain nutrients, and if you plant all the same plant, then it’s sucking all of the nutrients out of the soil.

7. Overlooking Maintenance

Part of planning a garden is also planning time to maintain it. Make up a maintenance schedule and abide by it. Garden beds need to be weeded at least once or twice a month, minimum. If you don’t have the time to take care of your garden, make sure you have enough money to pay somebody to do it.

6. Ignoring the Seasons

Plan out your garden with regard to the seasons. When homeowners go to a nursery or plant yard, they often just buy what’s in season at the time. Various flowers bloom at certain times of the year. If you’ve got a lot of plants that are blooming in the spring, remember that in the fall you’re going to need some other plants, if you want foliage. Select plants look good in the winter and in the spring, if possible.

5. Underestimating the Cost

There is a lot of sticker shock in the world of plants. People often think “it’s just a couple of plants, how expensive could it be?” Landscaping is actually 30 percent more expensive than any other type of home improvement project. Another area that gets underestimated is the budget, and one of the biggest factors in a budget is the labor involved. It always costs more, and people cost the most. When you’re starting a landscape project, make sure you have enough budget, because you want to do the job one time, and you want to do it right.

4. Overlooking Exterior Lighting

The biggest mistake people make when they think about planning out their yard is that they only visualize it during the day. Just adding some exterior lighting not only helps with vision and movement, but it also really makes the garden pop. It doesn’t have to be expensive or entail a lot of effort. For instance, there are a lot of good solar lights that can easily be stuck in the ground. The sun heats them up all day and then at night they come on with a nice soft glow.

3. Neglecting Curb Appeal

Never underestimate the power of curb appeal. A lot of homeowners put all of their energy into the backyard, but the front of the house is where first impressions are made. There are three simple improvements you can make that make a big difference out front. Paint your door a contrasting color than what is at the base of your home, keep the grass trim and green and plant colorful flowers.

2. Mismatched Style

When selecting plants, you should match the architecture of your home with the theme of your garden. Besides the plants in your garden, you need to think about your hardscape. If you are putting in a deck, for example, you need to make sure those elements of your garden also reflect positively upon your house.

1. Not Having a Plan

Don’t start a landscaping project without a plan. Decide on a specific theme or look and then draw it out on paper. Figure out where you want to put your plants and shrubs in relation to the shape and style of your house. Examine ways to bring the inside out so that when you are finished, you have a nice, harmonious design. Don’t forget to factor in your budget, and when you hit the nursery, stick to it. If you follow the plan, you (and your landscape) will reap the rewards.

01: Impressions — published on March 16, 2009

Creating Curb Appeal

The home selling market is a tough nut to crack these days and first impressions are everything. Creating curb appeal is the key to getting your home noticed as the buyers drive around the neighborhoods to find their perfect place to live. Curb appeal is the look and feel you get from the outward appearance of your home and the property. It’s a first impression to what’s to come inside, and with a good curb appeal presence, you set the stage for an inviting place to call home.

Some aspects to consider when working your curb appeal:

  • neat and classy landscaping with some splashes of color and a neatly mowed lawn
  • freshly painted home and/or fencing, including clean or freshly power washed siding
  • clear and large house number and neat mailbox that matches the outside look of your home
  • inviting entryway with a nice door matching the decor of your home
  • proper outdoor lighting for evening visitors
01: Impressions — published on March 6, 2009

Little changes can create big appeal

Some suggestions for giving a home some instant curb appeal:

Front door. Consider your front door the focal point and give it fresh paint in a color that is harmonious with your home’s façade and shutters. Keep debris and clutter off the front porch. House numbers, kick plates and door knobs should be clean and in good condition. The front door mat should be new and a welcoming sight.

Lawn and beds. Ninety percent of Hampton Roads front yards consist of mulch beds and turf grass areas. Green grass and brown mulch with well-defined bed lines are always more appealing. Keep 3 inches of mulch to deter weeds, thus creating a neatly maintained look. To emphasize a crisp look, place a 4-inch “v” trench between turf and mulched areas; use large arching curves to define your beds.

High impact color. Masses of colorful annuals at the base of your porch help to pull the eye to the front door. This also can be achieved with colorful container gardens on the porch.

Shrubs. Never allow shrubs to grow in front of windows; overgrown shrubs age a home and reduce its perceived size.

Walkways. Wide, sweeping, level walkways set an inviting stage for guests arriving at your home. A 4-foot to 6-foot width is usually recommended for front walks. Walks should be finished in a complimentary color and pattern to your home’s architecture.

01: Impressions — published on July 29, 2008

Curb Appeal Will Help You Sell

You may not know and realize how important of curb appeal to your home. It is a common sense that if you have an attractive and clean home on the outside, this will make someone want to see the inside. This strategy is very useful when you are attempting to sell you home; great curb appeal is just as important as having a home show beautifully on the inside. If the outside is not clean this can deter a potential purchaser from even booking a showing to see your home, even though the interior could be spectacular.

It is better to get others’ opinions in order to take an objective look at the outside of your property. To enhance the appearance of your home there are a few inexpensive things you can do. The most important consideration is the state of repair of the property. You must repair everything that needs repairing, which includes any cracked windows, broken railings, loose screens, crooked shutters, loose awnings, broken light bulbs, etc.

When finishing with repairing, you then turn to cleaning and unculttering processes. The garage should be cleaned out and items thrown out that have not been used in a year. Remove old tires, paint cans, bicycles, loose shrubs and broken lawn furniture from the yard.

Clear all pathways of any debris. Trim all shrubs and remove dead branches. Clean out the eaves. Don’t forget the back yard! A new paint job can add tremendous curb appeal. Paint front doors, garage doors, trim and shutters a contrasting color to the brick and siding for a dramatic effect. Use only one color for uniformity and balance. Too many colors look busy.

Siding can be power washed to refresh the appearance. Flowers and flower pots can add tremendous color to a boring front yard. Place flower pots and large outdoor plants in a variety of colors on the front steps, walkways, or porches. Hang flower pots from the ceilings of verandas or hang on railings. Buy plant hooks and hang flower pots from them, which can be placed on the sides and front walls of your home. Plant a few flower beds with some green perennial plants for contrast. This is fairly inexpensive, but can add a lot of appeal to your yard. There are many books on landscaping at the library that can help you with this. Nurseries can offer helpful suggestions as well.

Spotlights focused on your flower beds can brighten up the yard at night giving it a very homey and welcoming feeling. This is also good for safety. A well lit home is a deterrent for burglars.

Lastly, add a decorative wreath and outdoor floor mat to the front of the door. This just adds the finishing touch and offers a welcoming appearance.

01: Impressions — published on May 30, 2008

Ways to imorove Curb Appeal

Cosmetic fixes that can put a prettier face on a plain-Jane home will pay for themselves – and then some. Just as every mother believes her son is a handsome devil, homeowners tend to see the best in their houses – or at least become comfortably familiar with the way they look.

But let’s face it, to the objective eye, not every man is George Clooney and not every house is a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. There are a lot of drab, even downright gloomy facades out there – especially among homes built after World War II, when many builders abandoned traditional architectural styling to streamline costs and mass-produce housing.

Thankfully, the cosmetic surgery required to put a beautiful face on your home won’t hurt a bit. It doesn’t even require a big-ticket construction job. “Creating curb appeal isn’t about trying to transform the house from, say, a plain-Jane ranch into a grand Victorian,” says Charlotte, Vt. architect Ted Montgomery. “Just changing one or two little details is all it takes.”

You can find your inspiration by looking at similar houses in the neighborhood – or by hiring an architect to offer suggestions ($300 to $500) and maybe sketch a plan (add $300 to $500). You’ll boost your home pride, endear yourself to the neighbors and generate a lot more interest from buyers someday when your house goes on the market.

Subtract Flaws Assuming the house and yard are already well maintained, job one is to get rid of unsightly blemishes left by a penny-pinching builder or the misguided remodeling efforts of previous owners.

Replace the garage doors. The most prominent facial feature of many homes is a pair of big garage doors – which all too often are flat, lackluster slabs of steel or vinyl. Trade them for more visually appealing doors with moldings, windows or an old-fashioned carriage-house look ($2,000 to $5,000 a door, including labor). See designerdoors.com and clopaydoor.com for examples.

Remove siding. Sometimes ugliness is only skin-deep. “Peek under dreary aluminum, vinyl or asbestos siding and you may find well-preserved wood clapboards hiding underneath,” says Asheville, N.C. architect Jane Mathews. If so, remove the siding, repair the old wood and give the house an attractive paint job ($10,000 to $20,000). If not, you could paint the siding or replace it with fiber cement siding (see image), a no-maintenance product that looks like real wood ($15,000 to $25,000).

Lose the funky railings. Swap out bad porch or stoop railings – such as black iron bars and chunky pressure-treated decking components – for visually interesting banisters and spindles that are worthy of their prominent placement at the front of the house ($1,000 to $3,000).

Add Character. Like a dimple or a cleft chin, the addition of an interesting architectural element can give your house some distinctiveness.

Install a salvaged door. The typical postwar front door is decidedly dull, but the entry should be the focal point of your house, says Corvallis, Ore. architect Lori Stephens. For interesting replacements, troll an architectural salvage yard (the directory at buildingreuse.org can help you locate one). Consider a recycled mission-style oak door, a six-panel colonial with blown-glass windows, or arch-top French doors ($200 to $800; more if you’re converting to an arch top).

Add moldings. Many newer homes lack exterior trim; the siding just butts up against the windows and doors. A contractor can give the house a more sophisticated, traditional look by cutting back that siding and slipping in wide, flat moldings around the openings and possibly at the corners of the house and between its stories ($3,000 to $4,000). Consider using a synthetic product like cellular PVC for your moldings, which looks like wood but will never rot.

Enhance the roof. A straight, un-adorned roofline makes a house look about as interesting as a shipping container. So consider adding one or more windowed dormers (gabled peaks) or extending the eaves (the roof overhang) a few feet beyond the front of the house with detailed moldings on the under-side ($2,500 to $6,000 per dormer or eave extension). This is major surgery though; do not attempt it without first getting an architect’s input.

Multiply the Effect. Invasive procedures aren’t always necessary. Just adding the right accents can transform your home’s outer look – not unlike a pair of stylish new specs or a good haircut.

Replace light fixtures and hardware. Lose generic shiny brass or black house numbers, mailbox and porch lights (especially bare-bulb fixtures) and substitute something unique and substantial, perhaps made of antiqued copper, bronze or brushed nickel ($20 to $75 each). For ideas, see rejuvenation.com and restorationhardware.com.

Plan for a nonstop flower show. Most of the flowers in your yard probably bloom in the late spring, which makes for a beautiful May – or whenever the big show happens in your climate – but leaves you with a bland yard for the other 10 or 11 months of the year. A local nursery can help you choose and plant additional bulbs, shrubs and trees with different bloom times (as well as plants with colorful autumn foliage and winter berries), so there’ll always be something performing in the yard ($50 to $250 a shrub, $500 to $1,500 a tree).

Add color. A paint job ($2,000 to $10,000) in pleasing hues can make any structure appealing. “But don’t choose a bright, high-contrast color scheme – that only exaggerates a house’s flaws,” Montgomery warns.

For subtler suggestions, check out the book “House Colors” by Susan Hershman ($23 at Amazon.com) or go for the colors of nature – muted greens, deep reds or pale yellows – and keep the body and trim close in color. That will give your home a friendly, peaceful look rather than making it say, “Hey, look at me.” Sort of like an average-looking guy choosing a simple charcoal suit instead of a flashy powder blue one that only a Hollywood star could pull off.

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