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Curb appeal tips on any budget

Years ago my husband and I came across a picture perfect Cape home for sale in Sudbury. From the colorful flowers at the front step to the white picket fence, I was captivated by the home before we even stepped in the door. Even after realizing the interior layout wasn’t quite right, I had a hard time letting go of the dream of living there. It was the curb appeal that wooed me. So how can you charm potential buyers of your home? Here are tips on improving your home’s curb appeal at any price range.

For the budget conscious

* Start early. If possible, start making landscaping improvements about two to three years before you plan to put your home on the market. This allows you to buy somewhat smaller, less expensive shrubs and give them time to grow into the space. “Plan early so you can give plants an opportunity to achieve a more established look,” says Ed Bemis of Bemis Farms Nursery. “If time is short, concentrate on annuals in bright colors. You’ll get the most bang for the buck from these fast growing, relatively inexpensive color machines.”

* Choose the right mix. “Select plants with staggered bloom periods for the longest season of color and mix in different plant textures, shapes, and sizes,” says Lance Walheim, co-author of Landscaping for Dummies. “Consider pansies, violas, calendulas, and primroses for spring color, as well as zinnias, marigolds, and vinca for color all summer long. Try contrasting dark- and light-colored flowers to add depth to your garden."

* Use bold foliage. Splurge on a few big splashy plants, and then fill in the area with less expensive four-inch greenery. “Zigzag the plants through the landscape to catch the eye,” says landscape designer Jill Appenzeller.

* Salt liberally. Epsom salt is an inexpensive way to help deter pests and encourage plants to produce more flowers.

* Borrow design elements from your neighbors. “If your next door neighbor has a mass planting running right up to your property line, consider continuing the planting for a bit of your property,” says Margie Grace of Grace Design Associates. “It’ll make your own yard feel bigger, and link your landscaping to the larger environment.”

* Protect your investment. Mulch flower beds to retain moisture and minimize weed growth. And be sure to learn when to water. “Young plantings require more frequent watering to help their roots get established,” says Walheim. “Mature plantings with large root systems should be watered deeply but less often. Be sure to water slowly and thoroughly so plants are nourished down to their deep roots.”

For the luxury minded

* Connect the landscape to the architectural style of the home. “Create a sense of entry near the street with entrance piers that pick up the architectural details of the home,” says Jennifer Hoxsie of Greenhaven Landscapes, Inc. “Another great way to enhance the entry of a larger scale home is with an outdoor foyer that brings the structural elements of the home out into the landscape.”

* Create contrast. Select two or three focal points of the home and use a mix of colors, shapes, and textures to highlight these. “Choose perennials from opposite spectrums of the color wheel as accents,” says landscape architect Timothy Sheehan. “Lenten roses offer the early bursts of pink and purple while asters provide color well into the fall.”

* Spotlight key features. “Landscape lighting can accent the architecture or trees with unique character,” says Sheehan. “Restraint is crucial, however. Less is usually more when it comes to landscape lighting.” There’s also more to lighting than simply lining up path lights. “Be sure fixtures are placed the right distance from the home and that beams are directed appropriately so that light ‘overlaps’ in a natural fashion,” says Gary Fouts of Nite Time Décor.

* Remember the finishing touches. “Enhance stone walls or piers at the front of the home with urns planted with fresh flowering plants or winter greens to make the home more inviting from the street,” says Matthew Gramer, president of NatureWorks Landscaping. Pay careful consideration to the shape, size and form of planters. “Luxury is all about the details, so add some fine touches to your space,” says Hoxsie. “Beautiful limestone planters are always a classic for luxury homes.”

* Fit the home into the natural landscape. “Look at the entire property and neighborhood when designing your landscape,” says Ed Bemis of Bemis Farms Nursery. “This contributes to a more sophisticated look. Keep it simple and balanced. Sophisticated landscaping doesn’t mean overly fancy. The goal is to achieve is a look that’s soft, subtle, and comfortable.”

* Don’t forget the driveway. “The driveway and forecourt are the threshold of the house and can make or break the arrival experience,” says Marc Mazzarelli of Marc Mazzarelli Associates, LLC. “A granite cobble courtyard is about as good as it gets here in New England.”

Have a real estate question? Contact Leslie Mann and she'd be glad to answer your confidential questions. Mann is a realtor with Gibson Sotheby's International Realty in Weston, MA.