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Remodeling your yard

ImprovingCosts: On average, do-it-yourselfers spend $466 annually on lawns and indoor or outdoor gardens, according to 2002 figures from the National Gardening Association. Homeowners spent an average of $3,502 on professional landscape installation and construction in 2002, and an average of $1,465 on professional landscape design, according to the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, an industry organization.

Value added: Consumers perceive a home with proper landscaping to be worth up to 11.3 percent more than its assessed value, according to 1999 study by Clemson University. The same study found that the return on the landscaping dollar is more than 100 percent.

Popularity as a remodel target: Seventy-nine percent of homeowners do their own indoor or outdoor gardening or yard projects, according to 2002 stats from the NGA. Two percent hire professionals to design their yards, while 3 percent hire pros to install or construct landscaping, according to 2002 figures from the ALCA.

New trends: "Having continuous blooms through the use of perennials [that flower] throughout the season," says Joanne C. Kostecky, APLD, a landscape designer on the board of the American Nursery & Landscape Association.

Look for plants that are self-sustaining or will need less maintenance, says Sabrena Schweyer, vice president of Salsbury-Schweyer Inc. in Akron, Ohio.


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Also hot: arbors; gazebos; pergolas; lighting -- especially low-voltage options; plants with large, decorative foliage; ornamental grasses; tropical plants; perennials; ponds; water features; bird feeders; bird baths and natural materials, like marble, stone and metals with an aged patina.

Features to consider: What do you want from the area? What outdoor activities do you enjoy? Which interior rooms look out on the yard -- and what kind of view do you want? And do you want to attract -- or repel -- butterflies, birds and wildlife?

While ponds are popular, with kids or pets nearby consider a water feature instead to provide the sound of moving water without a potential hazard.

Remodeling suggestions and helpful hints: Borrow from the best, says Rebecca Kolls, master gardener and host of the nationally syndicated television series "Rebecca's Garden." Visit a local garden, arboretum or park and make note of what you like. Then replicate the idea in your own yard.

Make front walkways at least four-feet wide, so visitors can navigate in pairs, says Kostecky. And add seating off the path or on the porch.

Pro tips: Large beds of one kind of plant look much more dramatic than a just a few of a lot of different varieties. And curved or winding walkways make an area seem larger.

New products: Hand-blown glass ornaments, beautiful bird feeders and more sophisticated pond systems.

Also look for newer plant varieties, such as "Endless Summer" hydrangeas, which are more resistant to winter burn; sambucus with purple leaves and white flowers, and "Rozanne" a blue geranium, says Kostecky.

Special problems: Good soil is to a yard what a good foundation is to the house, says Kolls. Her advice: Have it tested. Most local extension services will do it for about $10. Kolls's secret: add a couple inches each of manure, peat moss and compost, then till it into the top foot of soil.

Biggest mistake: Trying to do too much at once, says Kolls. Start with a plan, and concentrate on completing one small area at a time.

Also avoid re-contouring the yard and suddenly having water in the basement, says Linda Engstrom, APLD, president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. Ground should slope away from the home.

Another common error: "A lot of people have problems with planting their plants too deep," which will kill plants, says Kostecky. With trees, leave the flare of trunk uncovered.

Professional or DIY: This is one area "where people feel a lot more comfortable doing it themselves," says Dan Tratensek, analyst with the National Retail Hardware Association.and Home Center Institute, an industry trade group. "They look at it as a recreational activity."

Want to enjoy a professional look, while doing some or all of the heavy lifting yourself? Invest in a plan by a professional landscape designer.

-- Posted: July 1, 2003


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