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"What's nice about them is the flexibility," Engstrom says. "You can have a water feature for a small amount of money, or you can have an infinity-edge pool and fountain. You can have a pot or rock with a bubbler just for the sound of water that doesn't involve a lot of maintenance or safety issues. It's scalable. I think people love the sound and look of water with soft planting."

Maca agrees: "Whether it be ponds or waterfalls or statuary with water attached, water is a magnet in any landscape. It becomes a focal point."

Not that swimming pools have fallen completely out of favor, mind you. Realtors have reached an understanding with this love-it-or-leave-it amenity.

"People love pools, but it depends on the people," says Helfant. "There are people who wouldn't have one, wouldn't care for one, and would avoid properties with them, just as there are people who go specifically looking for homes with pools. Some people are neutral and will take one if it's there. It's not an item you put in for resale; you provide for it."

That means that if pools are hot in your area and your lot can accommodate one, have a pool company quote you a price so that you can make that available to potential buyers when you go to sell. That way, they can roll a pool into their financing package.

Trees add tranquility

Trees are another major aspect of landscaping that add instant character to any home. While water may mask some of the noise from a busy street, trees can actually muffle it by up to 50 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

There is another reason mature trees are popular: reduced energy bills.

"People are going to start becoming more conscious of shade trees, because you can lower the internal temperature in your house 15 degrees," Maca says.

Another coming trend: a return to patios.

"With decks, most everyone had one, and most of them were designed on one level, rectilinear and not very exciting," says Maca. "Now we're putting in combinations of walls, stone and patios that connect to a deck, and you have three or four interesting spaces. When we talk about creating that outdoor living area, we talk about several subspaces, one for cooking, one for visiting. Fire pits are popular for these. The indoor-outdoor connection is really important, and a designer can help you make that connection."

Designers vs. architects
If you're all thumbs when it comes to landscaping, you may wish to consult a professional who does it for a living. For quality help in arriving at a landscaping plan that will make your home pop, you have two choices: a landscape designer or a landscape architect.

Next: "Landscape architects, by contrast ..."
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Make your home's landscape more bird friendly
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