Curb Appeal Tips: Landscaping and Hardscaping

You don't have to have a green thumb to landscape your way to terrific curb appeal. Follow these tips for a front lawn that wows.

Pink and purple flowers pop against this yard's new flower beds lined with dark mulch. Gravel pathways tie the neutral tones of the house with the landscape.

Instead of asking "how does your garden grow," a better question for curb-appeal-concerned homeowners would be "how does your garden show?" Landscaping and hardscaping can make or break a home's curb appeal. Find out how to manage your shrubs and beds for an effective front lawn facelift.

Top Priority: Cut, Color and Fill

No matter how inviting you find ivy or how much you adore your azaleas, remember that to an outsider, too much unruly green can look like disrepair. "The biggest landscaping improvement many homeowners can make is often just some judicious pruning," says Sheri Silver, owner of Fiori Garden Design in Irvington, N.Y. "Shrubs that are overgrown to the point that windows are obscured or branches are hanging in walkways can visually 'eat the house.'" And while you're trimming, don't forget to weed your beds — even tidy and trimmed landscaping can look messy with wily, weedy beds.

Good Idea: Out With the Old ...

Don't let past plants haunt your landscaping: Dead and dying shrubs are curb appeal killers. No matter how well-manicured and perfectly planned your landscaping looks, that one brown, sad-looking shrub or plant will be the first thing onlookers notice. Even a bare spot in the plan is better than a skeletal shrub sticking out — once you know there's no saving it, put on your gardening gloves and do the dirty work to dig it out.

Don't forget to check planters and window boxes, either. "There's nothing sadder than a planter full of dead twigs and brown leaves," Sheri says. Empty planters out and put them away if you don't want to worry about maintaining them.

For window boxes, which are affixed to the house, don't just leave them empty to collect rainwater and creepy-crawlies. "Plant some moss — it's inexpensive and available at most nurseries and home garden centers," Sheri says. "It provides a nice, clean look and is maintenance-free."

... And in With the New

Don't underestimate the value of a little bit of color in making your house feel welcoming. "In-season annuals are an inexpensive option that can give a burst of color and look really welcoming," Sheri says. Mulching beds is another simple but effective way to up your lawn's looks. "New mulch is an instant facelift" for your lawn, she says.

Finally, fill in bare lawn areas (through seeding or sodding, depending on your time and budget concerns) and keep your grass trimmed and edged to make your yard a mean, green, curb appeal machine.

Rocking the Hardscaping: Make the Money Call

It's true: Hardscaping can be significantly more expensive than landscaping. And while it won't be the first thing you see from the street, if you're trying to sell your house, it's probably a fix you should seriously consider. "Cracked and damaged walkways take away from the look of the house, and they're a safety hazard," Sheri says.

If you have it in your budget, though, hardscaping can give you a good bang for your buck. While not essential, hardscape-edged beds are definitely eye-catching. "Nice paving or a border of pavers adds tremendous curb appeal and elegance," says Andrea Broxton, ASID, a Nashville-based designer.

Another hardscaping project that is curb appeal gold: an inviting path from the sidewalk, driveway or road to the front door of the house. "It could be an alley of trees, rows of hedges, or a border of flowers along pavers or bricks," Andrea says.

Curb Personality: Making It All Work Together

Overgrown lawns, dead shrubs and weed-infested beds are huge curb appeal killers, but they're also easy to fix. If you really want to pin down perfect landscaping and hardscaping, though, think about your house. "Remember to work with the architecture of the residence," Andrea says. "If you plant a very feminine, flowery Victorian garden in front of a masculine prairie-style house, it will look all wrong — kind of like a lumberjack trying to wear a tutu!"

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