Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thoughtful landscaping sows value, enriches life

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

Landscaping your home is no easy task.
'It takes work, time and patience,' said Janet Lockwood, co-owner of Tem-Bel Nursery.
And it takes money. According to the Texas Association of Realtors, homeowners should expect to spend up to 5 to 10 percent of their property value on landscaping.
'You have to look at it as an investment,' said Sara Irvine, managing broker at Joan Mikeska Realty in Temple. 'Because it's going to add to the overall value of your home, and that, sooner or later, will be a major advantage to you when it comes time to sell.' So when Robin Bodkin of Belton was faced with the need to landscape, she ignored it. The project seemed to large for her to handle.
'It's been five years, and I've done nothing,' Ms. Bodkin said. 'There are no trees and no flowers. I have no idea where to start. What do I do?'
Her plea for help in landscape care came in response to the Telegram's 'Getting Started' series that has been running in the Sunday Life section. To help her tackle it, we asked for advice from area gardeners, real-estate agents and landscape designers.
Ms. Lockwood and her husband David, a free-lance landscape designer, said the first step is to measure.
'You've got to know how big the area is you're trying to landscape,' Ms. Lockwood said. 'If you want flowers alongside your house, you've got to know how big the perimeter is, same thing for sidewalks or stand-alone gardens.'
If you don't have the tools to measure the areas yourself, that information is readily available on your home's construction blueprints at the Tax Appraisal District of Bell County at 742-1983 in Temple, 939-3909 in Belton, and 254-634-9092 in Killeen. Homeowners do not have to pay a fee to access that information.
The next step is to study the places you're trying to landscape.
'Figure out which direction it faces,' Ms. Lockwood said. 'And find out how much sun those areas get. If it's full sun, partial sun or shady, then that's going to affect your planting decision. Different plants have different sun requirements.'
You should also take note of window and door locations.
'You're not going to want to plant anything that will grow to block the view from a door or window,' Ms. Lockwood said.
After all of that information is gathered, your next task will be determine if you want to do the work yourself or hire it done.
With a budget of $1,000 like Ms. Bodkin's, Ms. Lockwood said the do-it-yourself approach would be best.
'Hiring it done is going to run into more money,' Ms. Lockwood said.
According to advertised price quotes, professional landscapers in the area charge a minimum of $5,000 for total yard landscaping plans and labor. Total costs will depend on the size of the yard.
In Mrs. Bodkin's case, Ms. Lockwood said the preferable option would be to landscape the yard portion by portion. Do the flower garden first, then get some trees and then the bushes and so on.
And if you do it yourself, don't be surprised if a trip to the hardware store comes up. You're going to need a wheelbarrow, barn and garden shovels, gloves, limb clippers, a rake, hoe and watering system.
What you plant is, of course, a personal choice. You can choose according to color, scent, size or care requirements. Alvin Cimcik, owner of Cen-Tex Nursery in Temple, suggests you only use plants that are native to Central Texas.
'Find out what works here,' Cimcik said. 'You're going to have to get out and talk to gardeners, neighbors or people at the plant shops. They'll be able to tell you what will grow and what won't.'
Dwarf yaupons, boxwoods, sages, Rosemary and laurels are all good choices for Temple yards, Cimcik said.
'They're all low-maintenance and do really well here,' Cimcik said.
Ms. Lockwood recommends oak trees for the yard.
'I like to call them investment trees,' Ms. Lockwood said. 'They're sturdy, attractive and grow well.'
She also says shrub roses, hollies, nandinas, hydrangeas and crepe myrtles are excellent Central Texas choices for flower gardens.
'They add color,' Ms. Lockwood said. 'They liven up the yard.'
And that's a quality that adds to the curb appeal and overall value of your home.
'You want splashes of color,' Ms. Irvine said. 'You want it warm and inviting. If your yard is drab and blah, then nobody's going to want to come and look at it, regardless of what's on the inside of the home.'
Plant location is also important when it comes to curb appeal.
Ms. Irvine said homeowners should have plants by the door, around the foundation and along walkways.
'Put the plants where you want the attention,' Ms. Irvine said.
Fellow Realtor Karen Hargrove with Prudential Synergy agrees.
'What you do to the yard of your home is about inviting the outside in,' Ms. Hargrove said. 'You want people to stop buy and look.'
A cluttered landscape will discourage potential buyers from considering your home.
'So don't overdo the landscaping,' Ms. Hargrove said. 'You don't want it bare, but you also don't want it crammed.'
Things that add to clutter that Ms. Hargrove advises against include yard ornaments like pink flamingos and garden gnomes.
'One or two of those will suffice,' she said. 'Potential buyers won't like your collections the way you do.'
Help with curb appeal is available from the Texas Association of Realtors. Their Web site, www.texasrealtors.com, offers advice and a directory of area professionals to contact for help. TexasRealEstate.com is another useful site.
And help with plant choice is available from the Bell County Master Gardener Association, 1605 N. Main in Belton, at 254-933-5305. The non-profit organization is armed with dozens of experts who know what will and will not grow in Central Texas.

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