Garden & Landscape Tips

Blue glazed pot on porch
Bright glazed pots have instant impact, and plants with colorful foliage will look great for months. This pot is planted with crotons, a variegated flowering maple (Abutilon), and chartreuse-leaf sweet-potato vine.
© Marty Ross

Summer’s heat is on, but your garden can still show off great curb appeal even in steamy weather. Even if you're not putting your house on the market, a few smart touches will make your house a nicer place to come home to.

Real estate agents advise their clients to plant some flowers when the "For Sale" sign goes up. "For sellers, the first thing I tell them is that the person falls in love driving by the house. You have to have curb appeal," says Andrew Duncan, a top Re/Max seller in the Tampa area.

Sprucing up out front pays off: landscaping improvements are one of the top five home improvements recommended to sellers by real estate professionals, according to Home Gain’s 2012 National Home Improvement Survey.

Suellen Dice, a top-selling real estate agent with Better Homes and Gardens real estate in Kansas City, often works closely with sellers to improve the curb appeal of their homes. Great landscaping nearly always gets potential buyers in the door, Dice says. You don't have to dig new flower beds or redesign your whole yard: mulch alone "is like magic," she says, and a few colorful flowers send a signal that the inside of a home will be as pretty as the outside.

Curb appeal doesn't have to be expensive. Here are a few summer-fresh ideas about how to add instant curb appeal from real estate agents and garden designers:

Front yard with simple color palette
Trim shrubs neatly and plant drifts of flowers around their skirts. Keep the garden’s palette simple. "You don't want to knock people down with the whole color palette," says Keith Salvo, a landscape designer in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. One or two colors look pretty and inviting, he says.
© Marty Ross
  • Add pop right away with bold containers of flowers and foliage. Laura O'Meara and Mary Meador, who help Kansas City home-owners plant containers and spruce up the fronts of their homes, depend on long-blooming flowers to provide interest for months. Pots on the front porch or steps should be in scale with the house; big containers, or a cluster of several pots, are usually the most effective. Don't skimp. "I like the pots to be really full," O'Meara says. "Every pot should have color, height, and interest — and when you're finished, it should end up looking as pretty as a vase of flowers on a table."
  • If you're making your own combinations, walk around a garden center or nursery. Pick out plants that appeal to you: mix and match right in your shopping cart to get the colors and textures just so. Recommendations for stylish combinations are sometimes on the plant labels, and knowledgeable staff should be available to advise you.
  • Limit your color palette to just a few colors, with both flowers and foliage. Pastels in summer "help settle the mind," says Keith Salvo, owner of Salvo Landscape Design in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "In the fall you can switch to oranges, yellows, and reds."
  • Trim your foundation shrubs. You should be able to see out to admire the garden from inside and potential buyers should be able to see the windows. Real estate agents have three words for overgrown bushes: take them out.
  • A few bags of fresh mulch applied to the flowerbeds as a finishing touch makes them look neat and tidy. Mulch also conserves soil moisture and helps control weeds. Preen Mulch with Extended Control Weed Preventer contains a weed preventer that stops weeds before they emerge for up to 6 months; there’s no other mulch like it. Even if time is limited, the front yard will still look cared for.
Bright pillows on porch furniture
Curb appeal doesn't have to be expensive. Bright cushions and fresh pillows on porch furniture look welcoming. You only have a few seconds to make a great first impression.
© Marty Ross

Lastly, especially if your house is on the market, create a good impression to potential buyers with decorating details:

  • Freshen up the porch with new pillows or cushions for outdoor furniture.
  • Add new house numbers and a new doormat.

Even if you have no plans to sell, or sales are slow, you will enjoy the spruced up garden all season, and so will your neighbors.

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