By spending even just a few hundred dollars on the rights plants and materials and a few hours of time, you can achieve a well-landscaped look without shelling out for professional help. Besides the personal enjoyment you'll get from a prettier yard, landscaping adds more value than almost any other home renovation.
A recent study found that depending on where the house is located, high-quality landscaping adds 5 percent to 11 percent to its price.
If you have no immediate plans to move, all the better: Landscaping is the one home improvement that actually appreciates over time.
So how do you decide which projects to tackle? That depends on how long you think you'll be around to enjoy the results.
If you're selling in a year or less
Edge the beds Cutting fresh edges where grass meets mulch makes the lawn look well kept. A move as simple as curving the edge of your flower beds could increase the value of your home by 1 percent. Also, if your foundation plants are overgrown, widening the beds by two feet will make the shrubs seem smaller.
Nourish the grass For truly lush turf, ideally you should start regular fertilizer treatments a year before listing the house. But you can green up the lawn with just a single application.
Scatter color throughout For even just a few dollars per plant, you can blanket your yard with petunias, impatiens and other small annuals that will flower throughout the current growing season. Also invest a few hundred dollars in some larger perennials and in shrubs that stand at least a metre high. A few good-size plants have more sex appeal than 20 little ones.
If you're improving for the long-term
Cut back the jungle Many everyday garden plants, such as azaleas, forsythia, hollies and rhododendrons, will fill out with new growth after a season or so even if you hack them down to stumps.
Add drama with foliage A distinctive garden will make your home more appealing to the evential buyer. Therefore replace plants that don't flower, or provide interesting foliage with eye-catching alternatives, like a patch of blackeyed Susans, a flowering crabapple or a cutleaf Japanese maple.
If you're planning to stay put, you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars for big plants. You'll save 50 percent or more by buying small ones and waiting a few seasons to get the full visual impact (when planting, make sure to space them based on the mature size listed on the label, not how they look now).
Consider new angles Most gardens have almost all the plants along the foundation and the property lines. But if you place yours throughout different parts of the property, you'll create more depth. This is particularly important if your garden is close to the road. Try putting some near the house's corners to accentuate its shape, others near the street to define the yard, and some in between, where they can block unfortunate views and be admired from indoors.
Cover your rear It's nice to wave hello to your neighbors out front, but the backyard should be a private space. If yours feels overexposed, fencing can offer a quick fix.
Many nurseries offer free design help to buyers, and with research a plenty on the internet, you really can't fail in sprucing up your garden for the short or long term. Simon Turner