Improving Curb Appeal with Gardens
Whether you live in a single-family house or an apartment building, curb appeal matters. Beyond resell value, it’s the first thing you notice every time you come home. Your home’s curb appeal sends a message—not only to neighbors or potential buyers but, more importantly, you—a message of pride and gratitude, or shame and irrelevance. The outside of your home reflects your inner feelings about it. It goes deeper than superficial looks.
Plants and gardens are an easy way to improve curb appeal. We are all drawn to nature. Greenery soothes us and flowers make our heart beat a little faster. Surrounding your home with gardens contrasts all of that building material, softening the elevation and evoking integration with the surrounding environment. Most architects work closely with landscape designers because architecture and nature must harmonize.
Before we get into ways to improve your curb appeal with landscaping, I want to set the foundation first—which is your home. Consider the architectural style of your home and its size as it pertains to plants that will complement it. If you have a smaller house, don’t choose plants, shrubs, or bushes that will grow too high and block your home from the curb. If you want to plant gardens that complement your architectural time period, say, Victorian, do some research depending on your region for the appropriate plants. If you have a porch, driveway, garage, or mailbox post, consider how they will play into the landscape design. Make a list of all the players, so your entire front yard area has beauty and function.
Front Door and Pathway
In landscape design, you want to maximize your yard’s potential and attributes while minimizing its problems and distractions. Therefore, play up what works for your yard and find ways to move the eye to them. The two leading players for a successful curb appeal are the front door and the pathway leading up to it. There should be a clear and defined path leading to your front door that invites guests into your home. Surrounding gardens can support this but can’t do all the work. Here are some ways to make your front door pop so that it’s more welcoming:
- A front door with a window(s) is inviting. It makes the house feel open to guests versus a solid door that may say “stay out.”
- Paint your front door a contrasting color so it’s more visible.
- Install a natural wood door to add texture.
Now let’s look at some ways to enhance the pathway leading up to the front door:
- Make sure your pathway is at least 36″ wide.
- Consider the hardscaping. Can it be replaced with pavers to differentiate it with the sidewalk and make it feel special? Can it be broken up into stepping stones or wood planks? Perhaps it’s made of two different materials. Get creative with the surface of your pathway.
- A shallow garden running alongside the pathway can highlight it and help pull the eye in towards your house. Just make sure you give the plants space to grow so they don’t invade the pathway. Use a complementary border to your surface material.
- Add lighting so at night it’s still well defined.
The bold red door on this house creates focus and final destination in this front yard. The clearly defined path welcomes you to enter. Normally a door with windows is more welcoming, however since almost the entire front of this house is glass windows they opted for a solid door. © Ciro Coelho, NMA Architects
When considering the plants for around your house, remember that they should enhance the house, not overpower it. You need to think ahead by 10 years to when your plants will be more mature and at their maximum size. Of course, you can prune to help control size, but too much restriction on plant growth can cause them to die over time. If you plan to add a tree, give it ample space to grow and be aware of the shade it will cast when mature.
When choosing plants, keep these tips in mind:
- Variety: Don’t choose too many different varieties, instead implement some pattern with three of the same plant. Design works best in odd numbers for creative symmetry.
- Size: Using different sized plants will create more visual interest versus lots of the same size. It also evokes natural growth in the wild.
- Color: All shades of green go together; just don’t plant the same shade of green in clumps. You want the eye to bounce around. Flower colors should be limited to 1-3 colors unless you’re going for a wildflower field look. Pick your primary color first and complementary color(s) second.
- Pots: Add potted plants to steps, porches, and driveways, so they don’t feel stark compared to the gardens. Connect any hardscapes with potted plants.
- Seasons: It’s always a good idea to plant for the seasons. Look for varieties that, when planted together, will produce a garden that looks great in all four seasons, such as evergreens which don’t lose their leaves in winter.
- Perennials vs. Annuals: I like to plant 80% perennial and 20% annual so that every year, the bulk of the garden comes back after winter. Annual flowers add pops of bright color that most perennials don’t offer. Plus, you can switch things up every spring.
I hope these tips for beautiful curb appeal helps inspire you to take a second look at the front of your home. In life, there’s always room for improvement. If you feel your home’s first impression could use a makeover—start planning. For a quick start take a photo of your house from the curb, then print it out. Sketch out the general shape and height of a garden that compliments your house’s features, like front door, windows, or porch. From there, start making a list of potential plants, shrubs, or trees that would meet those specifications. If you’re unsure, take measurements to your local nursery for professional help.
Shade gardens can be stunning if planted properly and come with some advantages, like slower growth and longer-lasting flowers. Of course, there are also challenges like soil that’s too wet, encouraging root rot or slugs, or soil that’s too dry, unable to get adequate...