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Curb Appeal

Dianne Westlake

The function of Communities in Bloom is to encourage civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification by promoting community participation. After two years of phenomenal results in the programme, this year Peterborough took a bit of a breather and contributed to the Communities in Bloom effort in the category of friends of CIB. Next year, the plan is to enter the National Competition.

The results of the local Peterborough Communities in Bloom contest are soon to be released. Categories ranged from private homes, public or institutional properties, commercial or industrial properties or businesses, horticultural based businesses, the most beautiful street and school gardens. While entering the contest provided the opportunity to show off your efforts to the public, this may not be your thing. It does, however, help to focus our attention on the curb appeal.

This is an excellent time to take a good look at our gardens, especially our front yards. The way your property looks from the street is a big factor when selling your house and it does a lot to improve the neighbourhood as well. As you drive or walk around your neighbourhood, ask yourself why one house stands out from the rest.

Improving curb appeal does not necessarily mean that there has to be a huge investment in plants, structures or walkways. There are a number of relatively simple and inexpensive ways to improve the appearance of your house. Take a few photographs of your front yard to assess what you have to work with. If you are using a digital camera take a few shots in black and white to help you focus on the design elements.

Perhaps you wish to change or add to the plantings. Always have a plan, put it on paper, and be realistic as to the amount of effort and cost. It usually works better if our plantings compliment your house in style.

Get inspiration from others or take a look in magazines and choose elements that appeal to you. Try to be objective but realistic. We cannot all nuke our front yard and start over but we can add (or in some cases subtract) to make the most what we have.

Good maintenance of the building itself not only protects your investment but also adds to the overall appearance. Fix those steps or porch, freshen paint and clean the windows. While your house is not technically a part of the garden, it is the backdrop and can set the tone.

Tidiness is also important. Remove eyesores, place garbage cans and recycling bins out of the line of sight from the street. Edge flowerbeds and walkways. Cut the grass and improve the quality of your lawn. Pull out those weeds and make sure they do not go to seed. A thick lawn competes with the weeds. September is a great time to top dress with compost and over seed with a high quality, drought resistant grass seed.

Use what you have. For example, an existing large tree can be used as a focal point or interesting windows may be begging for attractive window boxes. Perhaps a structure like an arbour or pergola would be suitable or use a piece of garden art. A water feature is also a possibility. Just remember to check the bylaws in your community to ensure that ponds are safe. Standing pools of water are breeding grounds for mosquitoes so either include fish or a pump to keep the water moving. Water bubbling through a rock and then disappearing below is an attractive and safe solution. Moving water attracts birds and provides a relaxing sound that will help mask city noise.

A planter on the porch adds a focal point and invites the visitor to the home. While regular deadheading and watering is necessary to keep these plants in top form, they offer a punch of colour and interest and give you the opportunity to express your creative side. If you do not have a suitable container, watch for end of the season sales.

These days we are seeing more and more people replacing their lawns with plantings of easy to care for, drought tolerant perennials, native plants and ornamental grasses. If you think this might be an option for you, do your research carefully and do not skimp on soil preparation and mulching. Extra time spent early in the process will reward you down the line.

Where do we get plants at this time of the year? Check out your favourite nursery or garden centre where many plants, trees and shrubs are on sale. Take cuttings or dig extra plants to share with a neighbour or friend. Organize a plant swap at work. Look for fall plant sales sponsored by Horticultural Societies.

If everyone does a little, it will do a lot for the look of our city and you may inspire your neighbours. Take a walk in your neighbourhood, see what your neighbours are doing and offer encouragement. Ask questions we all like to share our successes and commiserate our failures