Project 1: Curb Appeal

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, AS anyone in the dating game will tell you, are key. So before you start designing that luxurious backyard koi pond, get the front of your house in order: mowing, weeding, trimming shrubs, putting in fresh sod if you need to. If you have a budget, it’s important to focus your landscaping around key areas. Something that’s going to be viewed a lot — like the front of the house.

When the no-brainers are done, you can start getting serious. The hot trend at the moment: beautiful pathways, made of brick or concrete pavers, winding from the street to the front door. You have to eliminate the ‘garage walk,’or that 3-foot-wide path that routes visitors from the garage to the front door. Make the path slightly staggered or curved to give it some character. Place a wooden “pergola,” or archway, over the path to define an entranceway; one can be purchased at a home-improvement store for a few hundred dollars. Flank the path with Mediterranean-style pots featuring flowering container plants.

Next, add some light. Low-wattage ground lighting to sandwich the path is fairly easy to install and will boost the effect immeasurably in the evening hours (do-it-yourself kits are available from around $100). For showstopper trees, add one higher-wattage lamp beneath. It gives the whole front yard a soft glow.

Redoing the front of your home can have spectacular effects. But for landscaping to be a real asset to your house it has to have enough time to grow into something special.

Low-maintenance plant material is best. Buyers want the yard to look great, but they don’t want it to be labour-intensive. Otherwise, you may turn off buyers — particularly downsizers. Also keep in mind that trees and shrubs are going to grow by leaps and bounds, so you want to give them the space to do it. The biggest single mistake people make is overplanting, crowding two majestic oaks within 10 feet of each other. Plants grow. If you want instant impact, be prepared to have maintenance problems in a few years.