Landscaping means to “improve the aesthetic appearance of (an area) by changing its contours, adding ornamental features, or planting trees and shrubs”. If you are selling your home, a well manicured front yard will help to attract buyers to your lot, and then inside. But even if you are happy in your current home, landscaping can improve the use of your current outside space, turning what was an open field into an outdoor oasis.
The way that your front yard looks is often referred to as “curb appeal”. A nice looking front yard with healthy lawn, bright flowers, trees that don’t block the view of the home from the street, and stone or cement pathways to the front entrance and driveway, are what attract people to a home. Homes that have “curb appeal” sell more quickly, and give people a favorable impression of your home before they’ve even walked inside. On a recent episode of “four houses” many of the homeowners remarking on the exterior of each other’s homes, commented that they were disappointed when large trees were blocking the home or when the exterior and interior styles didn’t match up.
For those who have trouble keeping up a green lawn or who are living in areas with water-usage concerns, landscaping can also be done with cement or pebbles. Plants can still be grown in and around the pebbles or in flowerbeds on the outskirts of the cement. One thing to consider is that it is better to go with light colors for these materials, as dark colors will heat up your property and may burn bare feet in the summer months. Light colors that reflect the heat back out also help counteract global warming. White roofing tiles are the same price as black, but serve this same purpose of relieving AC bills and reflecting solar heat back into space.
It has been popular recently, especially for homes with larger front yards than back, to create a vegetable garden of planter boxes in the front yard. While it can certainly be attractive, especially with pebbles or mulch for pathways, and also increase a family’s fresh vegetable intake, they are not legal everywhere. Sometimes local bylaws have a set percentage of a front yard that can be used for growing food, and some ban it for the purpose of keeping all the houses on a street looking homogeneous. So please consult with your local authorities before planning your front yard use.
Back yard planning is dependent on many factors: What is the shape of your yard? Do you prefer a level stone deck or a raised wood deck? Do you have a pool? Do you have children or pets and therefore need a fence and gate around that pool? Do you want to include a vegetable garden or water feature? Does a garage, shed, tree house, playhouse or other building take up some of the back yard real estate?
One area that every back yard needs is a relaxing place to eat or just to sit. This area can be covered or uncovered though it is worth considering adding a shelter over the BBQ area for rainy or snowy occasions. Consider the average precipitation and amount of direct sunlight in your locale when choosing awnings or shade-giving trees. You will want to use treated metal or wood chairs outside, keeping in mind that most outdoor cushions cannot be left out over the winter months (if you get snow). If you have room to store the cushions, you’ll want to find special outdoor ones that have been finished with a solar and water repellents. The bleaching effect of the sun is very damaging to fibers and will even effect cushions in shaded areas.
Water features and shady trees can enhance the coolness of a backyard in hot weather and add to a relaxing feeling. There are a few companies now like SwimPond in western Canada that create fresh water swimming pools integrated into your existing landscaping.
When designing your own pond or water feature keep in mind that they require a certain amount of time and up-keep and that standing water in shaded areas will be a breeding ground for mosquitos and other pests. Live fish in ponds can also attract local wildlife such as raccoons and herons.
Happy outdoor living.