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How to Landscape for Maximum Return

Think about it; the land surrounding your house is precious and represents a fair percentage of your residential space. Therefore, maximizing it’s use and beauty makes sense, especially in today’s real estate market, where lot sizes are shrinking. In fact, nowadays, landscaping has a higher return on investment than interior upgrades such as new kitchens and bathrooms. And the great thing about landscaping is that it’s a beautification that will likely add new, valuable living space for you and your family to enjoy year-round.

Create a Welcoming Front Entrance

A basic makeover should consider the basic “bones” or structure of your yard. Is the front of the house welcoming? Can your guests get to the front walkway and entry easily? Is it an interesting journey to your front door? So often, pathways are too narrow, stairs are too high, or even non-existent, and it may be difficult for visitors to determine how to navigate the way to the front entrance of the home. Such barriers hurt your home’s curb appeal and will reduce the monetary value of your home.  Adding sculpture, water features or unique planting beds are ways to create focal points of interest. And finally, trees and shrubs along fences are the window coverings; providing privacy and shelter from the sun and rain.  Here are some value-boosting basics to consider:

Make the Front Walkway Wide Enough

How often have you found yourself marching single file towards a front door?  What thoughts entered your mind along the journey?  I’m sure you’d agree that it was not a very comfortable experience. The most appealing front walkways are wide enough for two people to walk side by side comfortably. This means that it should be at least, 5 feet wide and ideally 6 feet wide.  A wider walkway like the one example shown to the right, makes for a luxurious journey for guests as they walk towards  to the front door.

Create a Little Mystery Along the Path to the Front Door with Interesting Accents

A path with angles or gentle curves invites further exploration and can provide visitors with anticipation, especially if it includes sites of interest along the way; colourful pots filled with flowers, an interesting seat or sculpture or soft, or fragrant plants that invite you to brush up against them. You can control the speed of how someone might walk a path by installing a wide variety of plants with interesting flowers, foliage and fragrance and by adding a small seat or bench along the way to the front door.

Consider Your House’s Architecture, Style and Colour

Make sure that you connect the style and colour of the pathway with your home’s architecture so that it compliments it. Use complimentary hardscape materials that will enhance, rather than distract, from your home’s look, colour and style. Nowadays, there is a wide variety of hardscape materials and options including: natural stone, flagstone, permeable pavers, bricks, planks, pea gravel, river rock and many more. Obviously, climate considerations will impact whether, or not, they may be appropriate for your home’s climate challenges.  Choose combinations that will add texture and interest and that work well with the building materials of your home. Natural stone features such as boulders and river rock shown in this photo to the right, add warmth and natural elements to the stark angles of the house’s architecture.

Incorporate a Small Specimen Tree and a Few Flowering Shrubs

An interesting small-scale tree, that at maturity reaches 15 feet high or so, adds a “wow” factor that can really make a difference to the curb appeal of your home. Together with a few flowering shrubs, they add seasonal interest to your landscape. And to be clear, size matters here. It’s important to make sure you’ve chosen the best tree and flowering shrubs for the site conditions; so that at maturity, they thrive and fit the space you’ve allotted for them.

Take Care of Your Trees

Dead or dying trees hurt resale value; if you take care of your healthy trees, you won’t be throwing your money away. I can’t tell you how often I am called in because homeowners have let their garden go to a point of no repair and they require a new start. So, it’s important to take care of your trees and shrubs; prune and trim them regularly. Prune them to prevent branches from crossing or touching each other; this can lead to decay. Trim them to ensure they have a pleasing form and shape and to allow for good air circulation inside the tree or shrub, so that they always will look good and stay healthy.

Mulch Your Plant Beds

Weeds can be the bane of any homeowner’s existence and if often a reason why so many people avoid incorporating plant beds into their gardens. The fact is, a well-planned garden that incorporates trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals is a joy for the soul and does not have to require a great deal of work to maintain. The secret to minimizing maintenance during the summer months, when weeds can go rampant, is to incorporate a 1” to 2” mulch layer over the soil. Mulch reduces weeds, conserves moisture and improves the soil, which helps your plants to stay healthy. A good quality mulch also gives the garden beds a neat, finished look. Too much mulch smothers the roots of trees and shrubs, so make sure to allow about 1” of space around the main stems when laying the mulch.

Make Your Back Yard an Enjoyable Place

A great back yard can add tremendous value to your life style and to your home. Features with generic appeal include:

  • A functional patio or deck with enough room for lounging and dining.
  • Places for reading, relaxing and sleeping.
  • Water features such as a swimming pool, pond or fountain
  • Bird feeders and bird baths
  • Firepit or fire tables

With a combination of some or all of the above features, designed as “zones” or “outdoor rooms” within the space, you’ll not just be admiring the great outdoors from the inside of the house, but experiencing it to the fullest with your family and friends almost year-round.

Maintain Your Lawn

While I’m not a proponent for lawns anymore because of their problems and upkeep, if you have a lawn and are planning to sell in the next year or so, make sure you make every effort to maintain it well; water regularly, fertilize, aerate, weed and rake. Grass, like any other plant, is vulnerable to weather excesses, lousy soil and a lengthy list of pests. If you’re unlucky enough to have to deal with bugs or grubs, bring in professionals to help you get them under control. Lawn maintenance is one of the cheapest projects to do and you’ll reap the benefits with an ROI of 267%.


The landscape of your dreams is also an appealing feature for potential home buyers; it’s a great selling advantage, when you are ready to sell, and most importantly, something to enjoy while living in your home to add usable space and enhance your lifestyle. Current research indicates that well-designed landscaping can max out your home’s value and provides a return of investment that makes it both a worthwhile and sensible endeavour.

Sally Stanleigh

Sally Stanleigh, Founder of Outdoor Rooms Landscape Design is an accredited Landscape Designer and Floral Designer. She graduated with Honours in Landscape Design in 2005. Sally is passionate about creating beautiful gardens with timeless appeal and loves the challenge of transforming the most difficult spaces into beautiful ones. Sally has a sound knowledge of horticulture and Project Management. Learn more about her work at