WASHINGTON — If you are trying to sell your home, you can rise above the competition by designing curb appeal into your property.
Landscaped homes have more appeal to buyers. Well-maintained landscaping shows prospective buyers — and your neighbors — that you care about your property.
A lot goes into creating such a space, much more than just weeding on the weekends. Research and planning are always the first steps. Here are 10 basic tips to help you get started.
Trees add the greatest value, according to the American Nursery and Landscape Association, so install them first. And color in the landscape — especially delivered by flowers — gets properties noticed.
Balance the front of your property so it is equally weighted — a large tree to one side and shrubs to the other. Ornamental plantings should highlight the yard, not hide the house. Sweep beds wide, across 8 to 12 feet, around the front corners of the house, with a vertical element planted about 8 feet off the corners, anchoring the house to the landscape. This adds an expansive appearance to the property. Large plants placed tightly against walls make houses seem smaller.
Color, texture and form get your property noticed. Use sweeps of the same or similar colors for the greatest effect. Use shrubs with interesting architectural form and texture, berries, flowers, summer leaf color and foliage variations. Choose shrubs for their year-round ornamental value, especially if you don't know when you will be selling.
Design beds so plants are sequenced with low flora in the front and tall ones to the back, with 2 feet or more open to the house walls. Large beds are very effective, allowing room for a wide variety of foliage and color. Selections of plants can be installed in groupings.
Repeating plants in groups, using the same colors in large sweeps, has a dramatic effect. Purchase mature plants in flower. They seldom fail to catch your eye.
Containers can enhance any entry, and almost any plant that can be placed in the ground can be grown in a container. Add a little personality with an unusual planter. Virtually any object that will hold soil can serve as one, as long as there are holes for drainage.
Walkways should have no more than a 5 percent grade with a width of at least 42 inches. If steps are necessary, always plan to have at least two. A single step is a "trip step." Build each riser a maximum of 6 inches high and make the part you walk on — the tread — at least 14 inches deep.
Paving should be smooth and well maintained, the joints free of weeds and the paving edged. Consider redesigning paved areas if they are in poor condition.
Use lighting for aesthetics, security and safety. Illuminate entries, install down-lighting from trees and shine a few lights against the house and on plants. This offers buyers a completely different view of your home.
Position a piece of outdoor art or feature a specimen plant near the entry, but use only a piece or two. Design plants and sculptural elements in proportion to the size of your home or property. A large home can accommodate larger plantings than a small property can.
Joel M. Lerner is author of "Anyone Can Landscape" (Ball 2001). Contact him through his website, www.gardenlerner.com.