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Don Kinzler, Published April 19 2013

Landscaping shapes home value, seasonal enjoyment

A couple weeks ago I discussed horticulture’s behavioral benefits. If that didn’t inspire you to grab a trowel and plant something, there is another benefit: Money.

A well-landscaped yard is the 401K of the plant world. Landscaping adds between 7 percent and 20 percent to the resale value of your home. Clemson University and Michigan State University research indicate an average 11 percent increase.

An attractive lawn and plantings are doubly important in the eyes of real estate agents. Landscaping not only adds substantially to the dollar value of the property, but makes prospective buyers feel the house itself has been well-maintained. A well-planted yard significantly increases the speed at which a home is sold.

In an interesting study similar homes were shown to realtors and home owners. One set of homes contained generous landscaping, while the others had minimal plantings. Both realtors and homeowners valued the well-landscaped homes 30 percent higher.

The key phrase is “well-landscaped.”

• First, you need a plan. Visualize your yard’s desired landscape. For ideas, consult landscape books and websites containing inspirational photos.

When I was with North Dakota State University Extension Horticulture, I gathered landscape ideas by driving the streets of North Dakota towns. Look around your neighborhoods for inspiration.

You will rarely find a landscape to copy exactly. Rather, borrow a front yard idea from one source, rear patio from another and border plantings elsewhere. Or seek the service of a landscape professional.

With a good landscape, the house appears naturally in a setting of greenery. Your home should be a restful part of your property’s tree and shrub plantings, almost as though the landscape existed first, and the house was located within.

• Develop a long-range master plan.

Include any existing landscaping. Budgets often do not allow completion of a grand plan in one season. Accomplish portions as you are able over time.

• Have patience.

Home makeover programs give the impression that a mature landscape can be created in 72 hours. In reality, perennial flowers require two to three years; shrubs need three to five years, and shade trees need a decade for established appearances. Enjoy watching the development.

• Create a focal point.

When viewing your home, the eye should be led invitingly to the front door.

This focal point can be accomplished using curving or linear groups of plants visually leading to the front. Use colorful or unique specimen plants by the front entry. Brightly colored annual flowers in various pot heights grouped together will invite the eye.

• Include lines.

Broad, sweeping curves are more natural and dynamic than straight lines. This includes shrub plantings around the house foundation and curving shrub and flower borders along the property edges.

• Use edging.

Establish a crisp, clean-cut edge between the lawn and planting areas, regardless of edging material used.

• Maintain lawns, but don’t make them the focal point.

The lawn is not the main feature. Rather it is a well-maintained canvas upon which the rest of the landscape is placed.

• Include trees wisely.

Install trees early in your master plan. They require more time to achieve size.

Locate trees to frame the view of your home, and for background beauty. Avoid low-headed trees squarely in front of your home which obscure the view.

• Create a large enough width.

Design planting areas that are large enough. Planting beds should be six to eight feet in width from the foundation for a single story home.

This draws the landscape out from the home naturally. Narrow widths are a common mistake, which gives plantings a cramped feel.

• This about plant size. Use the mature height and width of plant material to establish spacing and distances. Plants look so cute when they are tiny, often resulting in overcrowding as the plants mature.

• Plant in odd numbers.

Choose plants in multiples of three, five, or seven for a natural appearance. Few homes are symmetrical, and odd numbers suit the landscape.

• Mind the foundation.

The house foundation doesn’t need to be continuously concealed with shrubbery. Rather plant shrubs in groupings.

• Combine a variety of textures, colors and heights.

Plant evergreens with deciduous shrubs. Remember to landscape for winter contrast.

• Use vines on fences soften hard lines.

Allow areas for annual and perennial flowers among shrub groupings.

• Surprises located within the landscape will create fun.

Use water features, hidden statuary, and secret garden hideaways.

• Add to existing landscapes.

To massage existing plantings into your master plan, remember to build a focal point. Re-establish a crisp edge. Widen shrub beds if they are too narrow. Prune to rejuvenate overgrown deciduous shrubs. Remove and replace straggly evergreens that are beyond pruning.

We can each do our part in landscape beautification. Your home value will increase, and our cities will look great. We will truly be “Growing Together.”

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Don Kinzler writes a weekly yard and gardening column in SheSays. Readers can reach him at donkinzler@msn.com.