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The Blog: Let's Talk Gardening
Consider a fresh coat of paint
Evaluate the walks and driveway
Consider the view from the street
Improve the entry with proper pruning

Welcome Home, Creating Curb Appeal

by McDonald Garden Center Owner, Eddie Anderson

The greeting message provided by your home is one of the important considerations when developing the street view. The architect developed the style and function of the house. The builder is often the one who lays out the walk and driveway system to the home. In Elizabeth Lake Estates, the city maintains the sidewalks in front of most homes. The layout of the lawn, trees and shrubs ties it all together. These are the basic factors that work together to compose the entry system to your home.

When maintaining existing plantings or preparing the home for sale, take a few minutes to evaluate the greeting message you are sending. A general rule of thumb is that every 20-25 years the foundation planting needs renovation work. Shrubs become woody and hard to care for, the shade patterns have changed or plants have just out-grown the site. Styles may have changed or your taste may be different than it was a few years ago. The exterior areas of your home will typically account for about 10% of the total value of the real estate and can increase from there depending upon paving, plantings, walls and fences, structures and art.

Here are 10 tips that will help you decide what if any changes are needed to insure a warm welcome to your home:

  1. Evaluate the trees. Are they over growing their location? Is the canopy raised high enough to create good air flow? Are the branches framing the view or blocking the view? Would removing one or more trees help to strengthen the remaining trees and shrubs?
  2. Evaluate the walks and driveway. Are they clean? Over time mold and algae can make a nice entry look old and tired. “Wet and Forget” or “Spray and Walk Away” can help clean up the concrete or pavers. (Works on the roof as well). Power washing and a sealer afterwards will add life to the cleaning. Are the walks wide enough? Generally walks are 48 inches wide. That is great for single file but may seem a little close when greeting a family coming for a visit. Narrow walks may reduce the value for a couple of prospective buyers walking to the front door. A row of pavers set on either side of the walk can be an inexpensive solution. Insure that shrubs are not encroaching on the people space you have created. If plant growth is more than a foot tall I like to have at least 12 inches from the edge of the walk clear of foliage and branches. This includes the driveway and the sidewalk in front of the home. It is no fun to get out of your car and be greeted with a slap in the face from a wet branch. We pride ourselves in having a walkable neighborhood. Be sure your sidewalk is open and easy to navigate.
  3. Improve the entry with proper pruning. In preparing this article I discovered that over time I have allowed a branch to grow into the view of my entry system. It is easy to miss the changes that are occurring as plants grow. Those changes can turn a charming entry into an uncomfortable or even claustrophobic experience. Spring growth is slowing down now and it is a good time to prune Hear encroaching shrubs. The internet has made it possible for us to learn how to solve many of the home care issues. If you are uncertain about the proper pruning of your plants you can easily watch a You Tube video on the subject. Many grounds maintenance companies have skill at doing the work for you. Be sure you check for certification, training time and experience level. Look at their work and check references. It is one thing to mow and blow and a whole different world to bring to life the vision of the design, recognize disease, identify the weeds and properly prune the wide variety of plants in the garden.
  4. Safety first. The city will take care of the cracks and heaving of the side walk in front of your home. It is up to you to insure safe passage for family and guests. More on this in later articles.
  5. Evaluate the View. From the street is your eye guided to the front entrance? Do the plantings frame and support the entrance? Color can draw the eye in a sea of green plants. In-ground plantings may be a nice addition. Often a color coordinated ceramic planter can help bring the eye in the direction you would like. A nice fresh, well maintained planting in the pot can send a cheery greeting and the message that we take extra care.
  6. Evaluate night time entry. Do you stand at the door trying to find the door knob or the place to insert your key in the lock? Today time clocks, photo cells and motion detectors can make it much easier to light the entry at appropriate times. Low voltage LED lighting has become a great inexpensive way to solve the problem. You can use the easy-to-install runway approach with using photo cells or consider the more up scale use of moon lighting, wall washes or focal point high lighting.
  7. Evaluate the plant selections. Mature size, shape, texture, flowering, microclimate, fragrance and ease of care are some of the considerations when choosing the plants for your entry. More on this at another time.
  8. Screen unsightly views. It is always important to find ways to screen unattractive aspects of a home. Can you find a convenient home for the trash cans that neighbors and visitors do not see. Utilities can often be screened with shrubs or a small fence. A shade canopy from a tree or building can help the air conditioner run more efficiently. Ladders, wheel barrows and other maintenance equipment need a home out of sight as well. In Hampton Roads hiding boats and trailer storage is often a challenge. Folks living on the water expose both the front and back of their home to neighbors, friends and boat visitors as well.
  9. Consider a fresh coat of paint. Color trends are constantly changing. It is easy to add a fresh new look with paint. Matching the new color theme with complimentary accessories can bring your home in tune with the times. Salt treated lumber has added years of service to decks, steps and fences. Over time the lumber takes on a very old and weathered look of yesterday. A fresh coat of paint can make that look more like a part of your home.
  10. Hire a consultant. Not confident in your own taste and skill? There are a number of talented professionals that can help. Architects, landscape architects, landscape designers, painting contractors, realtors and home staging specialists to name a few. Magazines like Architecture, Coastal Living, Better Homes and Gardens, and Southern Living all offer exciting ideas to help freshen you home. Prefer the internet? Try, or