It came with a lawn. Some bushes. A few requisite trees. You may not have gone crazy over the landscaping that surrounded your home when you bought it, but now you know it’s time to up the game, making it a reflection of you and your lifestyle. And you know it won’t hurt to help bring up the value of the home to make some outdoor improvements, either.
The biggest problem many homeowners have with embarking on a transformation of their front and back yards is not having a plan. Just because you’ve always dreamed of a koi pond, an outdoor kitchen or a spa doesn’t mean you know the best place to put them, nor whether you can afford them all. So they remain fixtures in your head instead of becoming realities any time soon. Either that or you do a few projects as money and time permit with no thought as to whether the placement of them is ideal.
If you’re ready to dive in, what you can afford will depend in part on your budget and your yard (land). According to landscape experts, the order in which you do the work also makes a difference. Without an overall plan to guide the work, the spa may not leave room for both the patio space, outdoor kitchen, and grassy area you’d hoped for. Whether you are looking to attack one element on your wishlist or several at a time, working from a master landscape plan can help avert such problems.
A landscape plan is like a blueprint for your home’s interior. In other words, the entire site is designed at one time. Flowers, plants, shrubs, and trees, hard surfaces such as walkways, terraces, and walls, and amenities like the spa, the deck and the layout for your outdoor kitchen — all are chosen at once. This master plan takes into account yard size, topography, climate, water availability, neighborhood covenants, maintenance requirements, and budget. It also takes into account how you move from one area of your property to another. And best of all, it provides a more comprehensive idea of the costs involved both now and down the road.
For anything bigger than a new flower bed, it’s a good idea to bring on board a landscape professional who makes recommendations and draws a detailed plan to scale. Here’s the kicker, though. Paying for a master plan for your yard doesn’t mean it has to happen all at once. Many homeowners phase in elements of their yard renovations over several years and in many cases, it offers an advantage. Landscaping can take three years or more to fill in. According to California landscape designer and author Michael Glassman, “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap." As things mature, you can make revisions. Perhaps you want more flowery aromas. Or plants that attract hummingbirds. Maybe now that the trees are taller and offer more shade, you can finally plant those gorgeous ferns that require shade much of the day.
Your priorities for making this all happen include first making a wish list. Whether everything on the list can become a reality will depend on a number of factors, but it’s a start.
Then hire a professional. Not any professional. The right professional. One who understands all the factors that affect a successful outdoor outcome. They understand layout, plants and their needs, your home’s light orientation, and how to plan amazing color arrangements for viewing from different windows in your home. Examine any design pro’s website or portfolio, look to Angieslist or Yelp! as well as asking about getting a few customer testimonials, and visit some finished jobs — preferably several years old to see how they’ve held up. And always sign a written contract spelling out who is responsible for each part of the job if problems arise.
Consider water-smart options to reduce waste. Drip sprinkler systems are the most efficient for some plants, while micro-misters target other varieties. Then there are other considerations, such as organic mulching, drought-tolerant plants, etc.
Educate yourself on the differences between landscape designers and architects, arborists, and landscape contractors by letting your fingers do the Googling. They each have varying levels of education and training and some have specialties they are known for.
If you have champagne tastes on a beer pocketbook, however, take heart. The good news is that some luxury choices can be scaled back but still offer a similar effect. A fountain can provide trickling water sounds more affordably than a pond. A spa might double as a cold water dip during the summers instead of building a pool. And big box home improvement stores offer pre-fab outdoor kitchen setups without breaking the bank.
With a well-designed site, you’ll find it easier to add value to your home in a planned and sustainable way and have confidence that as you add features, they make sense.Source: RealtorMag.com, TBWS
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