Friday, April 15, 2005

How To Landscape Like The Rich...For Less

Fixer-upper houses usually have fixer-upper yards, too. To make the most money, you have to look out the windows.

I like to study the way how pros in the rich neighborhoods create landscapes.

Here are some guidelines for getting that luxury landscape on a DIY budget:

1. Bigger *seems* better! Effective landscaping involves large beds planted with identical plants instead of small beds with more variety.

2. A crisply edged bed needs no jewelry. Gardeners of the rich and famous dig a sharp trench around each planting area with flat bladed shovels. This method of defining plantings is far superior to black plastic edging, stone-look vinyl borders, or rolls of wooden stakes—not to mention, free.

3. Evergreen groundcovers cover a lot of ground! Vinca, English ivy, and dwarf mondo grass spread quickly and are cheap (if not free from a neighbor). En masse, they paint a broad swathe of depth and texture across the front of the house.

4. Only pay for shrubs that look good all year. As much as I’m seduced by hydrangeas, my budget says I need to stick with evergreens. Holly, nandina, and Leyland cypress grow quickly, providing structure, height, and privacy.

5. A thick layer of mulch reduces weeds and watering while highlighting your specimens! Garden purists prefer to cover everything with plants, but we budget landscapers consider mulch a rich background for sparsely planted beds. Choose a natural looking dark brown mulch or pine straw. The screened compost we buy discounted from the county chipping service will even improve our soil over time.

6. Color is cheap! Group bright blooms in focal spots instead of sprinkling them around the yard, even if it’s only two big pots on either side of the front steps. Advance planning for the expected sale of your home means you can get maximum show with minimum cost: fall bulbs promise cheap spring yellows, annuals from seed or 6-packs thrive throughout summer, and autumn pansies brighten January beds.

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