The best way to accomplish your outdoor goals, landscaping experts say, is to plan before you build.
An active family that includes children and pets needs a yard that stands up to wear and tear. The landscape you choose introduces your home to the world. Visitors are likely to notice a well-manicured lawn or a row of trees before they notice the home itself. If your landscaping suffers under the rough play of kids and pets, it can adversely affect the way others view your home.
Many homeowners say their first concern is to create an attractive yard that's also practical and durable, says Mike Carter, owner of The Garden Spot in Florence, Alabama. According to Carter and other experts, you should follow a sequence of steps to ensure your landscaping will be pleasing to the eye while meeting your family's practical needs.
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Plan and budget adequately. A healthy, well-designed, well-maintained landscape can add significant equity -- 15 percent or more -- to the value of a property, according to Tom Ward, a horticulturist with the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. He suggests homeowners begin the landscaping process by learning as much as they can from people whose landscaping they admire.
Leave a stone, or two, unturned. Fight the temptation to landscape every last bit of property. Leave a large area of lawn, so children have room to play. If you have a wooded site, try to save as many trees as possible during home construction.
Choose your grass carefully. For active families, a durable type of grass is a good first step toward creating an attractive lawn that will withstand everything from pet traffic to backyard baseball games.
Learn about the different types of lawn grass.
Set Realistic Goals
After you select the grass, choose annuals, perennials, and shrubs. Carter says he becomes frustrated with clients who say they are too busy to concern themselves with yard maintenance. "They want roses and azaleas because those flowers are so beautiful, but those are two of the hardest plants to establish. You can't always have a yard that looks exactly the way you want it to and expect not to have to maintain it." Carter recommends hardy perennial flowers, attractive but tough shrubs such as boxwood, flowering trees such as crabapples and redbuds, and groundcovers such as periwinkle and thyme.
Give Dogs a Place
"It's hard to keep your yard the way you want it if dogs have the run of the place," says Mark Fazzio of The Seasons Nursery in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. "I tell families that their single best landscaping investment is to build a dog run. And it's great if you can make it in an area that's not as visible and can withstand a little tearing up."
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Set Aside Space for the Kids
"Families with young children might want an area for a swing set or a climbing structure," Fazzio says. With enough space, a basketball court or tennis court can be added.
Plan for Outdoor Dining
"It's not difficult to plan something as basic as a barbecue area with built-in benches," Fazzio says. "If you can find a secluded spot, the ambience can be wonderful."
With a little bit of maintenance and care, you can keep your landscape in top shape. Follow these tips for a hardy yard: