In our last post we talked about how mistakes, some with good intentions, can turn your curb appeal efforts into curb appeal fails. Be sure to catch that post, too! Today we’re sharing more bad ideas so that you’ll know what to avoid on your journey toward the most gorgeous yard on the block.
Are you ready for more landscape design mistakes? These are some definite “don’t dos” that can wreck havoc with your home’s curb appeal.
1. Indulging The Kids (Or Your Inner Kid)
Yes, they live there, too. And you want them to enjoy the space. That’s why you put in the swimming pool, or the basketball hoop, or the sand box. It’s why there’s a bicycle lying over in the driveway or a couple of tennis rackets leaning up against the door.
You can’t pretend they don’t exist for the sake of what your house looks like from across the street. But that doesn’t mean you have to advertise their existence in every square inch!
A good example of kid-overload is a yard filled with inflatable holiday décor – you know what we mean. Every year there’s at least one family on the block that seems to be displaying every balloon Santa every invented, every Thanksgiving turkey, every giant witch or spider. Pick a holiday and their yards suddenly turn into a thrift store of decorations.
The same is true of garden kitsch (think gnomes and flamingos!), flags, or anything else that announces its presence and becomes clutter, or dare we say, an invented eyesore.
There are so many ways to incorporate beautiful – and yes, kid-friendly – décor into your landscape that you don’t need to succumb to over-the-top cheer. Whether it’s a holiday season or not, decorating your yard adds color, charm, personality, and visual interest. It can come in the form of sculptures, planters, artwork, garden ornaments, even string lighting and lanterns. It can be understated, bold, elegant, fun, traditional, quirky.
It can please children and grown ups alike. Because let’s face it, even the kids don’t quite know what to focus on in the face of an overcrowded yard! Keep your eye on the big picture when you decorate and even if you go for the big, inflatable balloon sleigh, consider how it can be part of your overall design and not just a childish indulgence thrown on top of it. Trust us, everyone, no matter their age, will appreciate it and enjoy it more.
2. Skipping Or Skimping On Maintenance
One of the great things about a naturalistic landscape design is that it is inherently low maintenance. It doesn’t require the mowing, trimming, fertilizing and watering of, say, a lawn. And if you’ve gone native with plantings, it should be pretty hardy throughout each season.
But low maintenance is not *no* maintenance. A few leaves left strewn among autumn flowerbeds is charming and natural – a pile of them covering every square inch of your yard and front walkway is… well, a little less charming.
A cut tree branch or stump-turned-art can be a lovely naturalistic addition to the overall aesthetic of your space. A bunch of dead branches and twigs left untrimmed or scattered across the lawn is just messy.
Bushy shrubs, wilting greenery, dead flowers, flattened mulch – all of these things should be cleaned up, and your space kept at its best. That includes replacing dead or dying flowers with new, even more seasonal ones. Yes, it may even include weeding! It includes getting rid of grass clippings that have accumulated against a natural stone wall. It includes replacing mulch and even adding or raking stone to freshen up hardscapes.
Different plants and shrubs require pruning at different times of the year, so be sure to put them on the schedule at the appropriate time or you could be doing more harm than good.
If you have a pond, keep it healthy with proper feeding of fish, water clarifies or algicides as needed, and the right mix of plants, stone, wildlife, circulation and filtration.
And don’t forget about more “permanent” structures like a paving stone walkway or your porch steps. Even those things can become a little too weathered over time. Walkway stones can crack. Paint on railings can peel. Wood can splinter. The same way you may see-but-not-really-see those familiar eyesores that we mentioned earlier, you may not pay attention to the broken, sagging, worn down things until your curb appeal is already sliding fast.
3. Going Unnatural
Maintenance is a good thing – trimming, patching, pruning, cleaning. But all that good stuff can be overdone. Remember the “good little soldier” effect we discussed as it relates to lighting? That over-calculated rigidity can take hold of your maintenance routine, too.
Unless you’re going for the old-fashioned formal garden look (and that’s pretty out-of-vogue unless you’re living in a 17th century castle on the French countryside), then the last thing you want to do is prune your shrubs into obedient sentries.
Nobody wants an overgrown, unwieldy bush of greenery, but identical cones of conifers are no better.
The same goes for perfectly neat flowerbeds with pretty peonies all in a row. Think collections of wildflowers instead.
Geometric hedges, perfectly straight pathways, mulch plucked free of every leaf as if with a pair of tweezers… all of these things are rather unnatural. Nowhere in nature will you find a perfectly round stepping stone or a square evergreen!
That’s not to say that there’s no place in the world for a formal garden, but chances are your neighborhood is not it. If you want curb appeal, and you want your careful design and grooming efforts to pay off, then give Mother Nature a little leeway.
Let a few fall leaves accumulate in your garden. Plant a bed of tall, swaying grasses. Leave a big, natural boulder right there in the middle of your yard as a lovely focal point instead of carting it away to the nearest quarry. Choose a few natural stepping stones and let them meander through your yard.
The key is to understanding how to *craft* nature, not to simply let it run wild. That means strategic naturalistic design plus regular, appropriate maintenance!
4. Forgetting There Are Four Seasons
Let’s be honest: you’re probably not thinking about your landscape much unless it’s spring. That’s when everyone is eager to start planting again, to see colors emerge and fresh greenery unfurl. By summer, your gardens are humming along and depending on the weather, they may start to wilt under the heat, or dry up and look a bit dusty. Fall is lovely, but you know that everything is on its way out, so you may not pay attention to much beyond the pretty changing colors of the trees and the fact that you. Need to rake them up about every five minutes.
And winter… well, who wants to think about THAT? Dreary, monochromatic, bare, dismal… And everything stays quiet and still until you can enjoy your landscape when spring comes again.
If that sounds familiar, chances are that you’re missing out on the enjoyment that a four-season landscape design can bring. Of *course* everything is going to go dormant, die and look bare and abject until spring – unless you plan for it to look great!
Winter can come with a surprising variety of colors, from evergreens to bright red berries, purple cabbages, and even non-organic features like colorful water bubblers and planters. It’s also the perfect time to appreciate textures, like a unique papery bark, or willowy ornamental grass. Winter whites go a long way when they’re properly lit at night. All of these things can turn an otherwise dreary landscape into something the neighbors will stop and appreciate.
As for the “blooming” seasons, it’s important to remember that what works during spring will probably be of no use during fall. If you haven’t thought past those gorgeous tulip bulbs that you enjoy in March, then your curb appeal is gong to suffer long before the summer heat sets in.
Different flowers and shrubs have different growing seasons. Some bloom early, like crocus and forsythia. Others, like the starry petals of the aster, won’t do you much good during spring (at least as far as color is concerned) but will unfold in beauty in later summer and early fall as other garden blooms start to fade.
Knowing – and designing around – the change in seasons means that your curb appeal will last all year long. You’ll never have to tolerate another bland month again!
Are you inspired yet? Ready to take your curb appeal to the next level? Get out of a design rut and talk to our pros! We’re here to put together a four-season lifelong master plan that can live and grow with you, so that you can enjoy your outdoor space more than ever – and make sure the rest of the neighborhood enjoys it, too!