Curb Appeal

Edith Butler

This time of year calls to mind the ‘spring cleaning’ our parents would start muttering about and planning for. A new start for the season ahead, although time consuming and consisting of hard work, is always worth much more than the effort. Even though traditionally this was directed at inside environments, it is just as valid as the snow disappears and the garden comes to life to view the outside environment of our homes with fresh eyes. There are sure to be trees budding, shrubs blossoming, bulbs poking through – all the wonderful signs of spring. Just as surely there will also be sand/salt lining the curb, escapees from the recycling boxes, that trowel/fork/spade you couldn’t find last November. You will find someone’s golf/soccer/ foot ball, dog deposits, broken twigs, in short all the detritus of suburban life that has been gathering under the snow just waiting for spring.

No time like the present then, to address what the television programs and gardening magazines have been calling ‘Curb Appeal’. Improvements in curb appeal can increase the selling price of a home and decrease the time needed to do so by making it more attractive to prospective buyers. For most of us, who will not be selling anytime soon, we simply want our homes to reflect a happy/healthy lifestyle.

Regardless of what style, type or size of garden we have there are general rules, which apply to all. First, and most obvious at this time of year, is a general clean up. Pick up all rubbish; making sure all areas up to and including the curb are littler free. Make general repairs to your ‘hard’ landscaping such as fences, trellises, gates, brickwork and paths. Apart from aesthetics this is necessary for safety reasons.

If there are water features or birdhouses they will need a spring clean ready for the return of our feathered friends. Garden beds will need clearing after the winter, garden edges will need to be renewed and any broken branches removed.

Once the garden background has been prepared, walk as far away from the front of your house as you can while keeping the entire yard in view. Try to look at your home as if for the first time and consider whether it is inviting and reflects your personality. If it does then fine, but if it does not, there ways to make it more so. Garden designers usually charge $200 to $400 for a new plan for your garden (often deducted from their fee if they are engaged to do the work). However if a major overhaul is not what you had in mind there are some projects you can do yourself to increase curb appeal.

Using your front entrance as a focal point; aim to make it warm and welcoming. Simply a new coat of paint and some new hardware with perhaps a bench and some large pots of flowers will go a long way toward achieving this effect. Consider your walkway next. Is it narrow, straight from the curb to your door? Is it an ugly concrete strip? This would be a good time and place to get rid of any pent-up energy or frustration with a sledgehammer. A new path, wider, and with a definite curve(s) would soften the effect in accordance with feng shui. Expensive pavers do not have to be used. Other materials such as limestone screenings or coloured gravel not only give a natural appearance; they are easy to shape however you wish. Lighting, perhaps solar powered, along the path is both attractive and affords safety after dark. Off to one side of the entrance, towards the curb another focal point would help balance your garden. This could be a tree or shrub (of an appropriate size for your garden), a water feature (nothing deep – maybe a bird bath) or perhaps some large rocks. If you are partial to gnomes and their kin; they are usually much happier and safer in the backyard. A load of good quality triple mix can be delivered and used up to ten inches deep to create a raised bed. As long as you use a spade or edger around your new bed (and keep it edged well during summer) edging material can be omitted. There are many garden plans in books and magazines to help you with your choice of planting material. Local nurseries will have plants appropriate to planting times. If you think you can manage a certain size to start with cut that in half and begin with that. Biting off more than one can chew is a sure way to disappointment!

For now, of course, plans on paper or computer are much easier to play around with and may save money and time later. Planning also helps allay frustration as we wait for spring!