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Lawn and garden equity
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"People will drive by a home when the grass is uncut, it looks a little unkempt, and they don't even want to stop," says Helfant. "But if it is a well-manicured, well-maintained yard, they'll say, 'Oh, that's a well-kept home!' Automatically, we connect well-kept interior with well-kept exterior. If I see a home that is not well-maintained on the outside, visually, then I'm going to wonder how that owner has maintained its interior, and more importantly its systems. It may not be verbal, but we can't help but think it."

If you're about to sell and money is tight, your best investment is to hire a full-service maintenance company to trim, edge, prune and primp your yard and beds. Even humble landscaping, if well tended, will do more to sell your home than elaborate plantings that have run wild.

Designers first consider function when developing a landscaping plan. Do you need a large unobstructed lawn for flag football games? Do you like to watch birds from your breakfast nook? Do you entertain outdoors? Are you crazy about water features? Are views your thing?

Next, they'll "age" the existing plantings and hardscape five, 10, 15, even 20 years into the future. Are there problems already in place: a tree that one day will block the view or even threaten the structure, a pool that the kids have outgrown and that no one is using now, obstacles to mowing that, over time, will become eyesores?

Now and into the future, your best design will be one that is a) functional, b) maintainable and c) in scale with your house.

"One thing that is particularly challenging for us as landscapers is scale," says Maca. "There are huge homes now, and to try to bring those into scale with the landscape is real hard. With smaller houses, we can work with plants in scale, but with these larger houses it takes forever to get a plant up there that is the size of some of these houses. How do you begin to reduce the impact of a four-stall garage?"

Engstrom finds herself frequently employing large arbors and pergolas to span the distance between large box and small foliage.

"A lot of our newer houses don't have a lot of character, and a pergola can help bring the house down into the garden. If you have a high two- or three-story deck as we have here, we will use the supports to build an arbor or pergola below the deck to help break the height and then put plants on them to help pull the garden up to the high deck."

Do you swim?
Pools used to be the water feature of choice, but not anymore. The explosion of water-burbling options, from dramatic waterfalls to gurgling pottery, has made water features the hot trend in landscaping throughout the grounds.

Next: "... water is a magnet in any landscape."
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Make your home's landscape more bird friendly
Remodeling your yard
Areas to remodel - patio, deck, porch

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