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Cultivating Your Kingdom

Originally Posted: April 11, 2007

Andrea Aurichio

Before you can relax and enjoy the view your landscape will need a little work. The right plants will really make a differance.

It is spring and the gardeners are back! Lawns are being raked, branches and felled trees, left behind in the wake of winter storms, are being gathered up. It's called "Spring Clean Up" and it is a ritual where everyone is doing "yard work" throughout the Hamptons.

There is something about country living that attracts gardeners. On the east end we are particularly conscious of our landscape, whether it is barren and beachy, or lush and green, our gardens consume us. Some of us are experts at growing plants in the sand and have become masters of the seascape, a great form of gardening that does not involve mowing, weeding, or watering.

In addition to being a great hobby, stress reliever, and source of tomatoes for sauce, a garden can enhance or detract from the value of your home. Your garden will always enhance your life, so feel free to express yourself, but keep your resale value in mind for the future.

Selling The Investment

For those planning on selling, be aware that too much garden can scare away potential buyers. Also, too little landscaping can also hinder a sale especially on a new build where a buyer will have to walk through mud to see a house. Landscaping can make or break a deal. No one likes to look at a pile of dirt. Even minimal landscaping can help drive a sale.

Watergardens can take a great deal of maintenance.

An avid gardener will most certainly have a different "landscape" plan than the homeowner who just wants the house to look nice and blend in with the rest of the area. In that case, a simple lawn and some low maintenance shrubs and flower beds will suffice for a house on the market that is priced to sell. Nothing is more beautiful than a bright green lawn on a summer day set off by the surrounding countryside. Sometimes, less is more.

A freshly cut lawn and nicely trimmed bushes and shrubs that allow the buyer to actually see the house when they step out of the car are a big plus. And a well tended window box goes a long way, as do flower pots filled with seasonal flowers.

Just as you would stage your home interior spaces you need to consider the outdoors as well. If you don't have time or money to invest in elaborate landscaping you can rent potted plants and shrubs and place them on the lawn, porch, patio and pool areas. This makes the house and grounds look finished. If the buyers like it, leave it. If they don't, send it back and let them cultivate their own garden.

Potted plants by the pool are very inviting.

Renting Your Slice Of Heaven

If you are planning to rent your house for the summer, you can also enhance its appeal by bring in potted plants and shrubs which can be removed at the end of the season. If you go this route, try to hire someone who will be around to maintain this "garden" along with the rest of your grounds. Most summer renters will love to look at your garden, but with few exceptions, they don't want to toil in the fields.

It is always a big hit, to provide tenants with a basket of local produce and flowers from a farm stand the first weekend they arrive. They will love it. They will love you. They will come back again next year. It's not expensive and it is very effective. It is another way of cultivating your own garden. Say it with flowers, zucchini, corn on the cob, and peaches.

Professional Advice Is Only A Green Lawn Away

Many times real estate agents will introduce buyers to landscape designers before they make an offer to buy a house. It is often a pivotal part of the sale. Remember, buyers will think in terms of building and grounds. When making an offer, buyers will consider the cost of landscaping especially if it is not there, as in "the landscaping is going to cost a fortune."

If the house has elaborate landscaping, the real estate agent and homeowner will usually point out its value as in, " we spent $150,000 on landscaping when we built this house three years ago."

Landscape designers can help you make that sale. If the house is newly built on bare land, the landscaper will make suggestions and design a garden using computer programs that will show the evolution of the garden in stages, from newly planted, to mature growth over a period of years. This way the homeowner can see how the property, once planted with trees and shrubs will look. They can also see how flower beds will look when they bloom in succession and the color coordination kicks in to create the spectacular effect that characterizes a well designed garden.

Landscape designers will help you create the right garden or landscape plan for your house after careful consideration of factors such as the type of house, the location of the house, woods, farm, wetlands, or beach, and the topography of the lot. Clearly certain plantings do better in certain environments. The landscaper will also consider your level of commitment and involvement in your garden.

Professionals can plan for changes in elevation and choosing the right plants.

A Few Final Tips:

1. A well designed garden blooms in stages and evolves during the entire growing season. Its appearance changes with the seasons. If you are selling or renting a house with noteworthy gardens, it is a good idea to have photos of the garden taken throughout the year, so buyers can see what the grounds will look like in the spring and summer, when they are viewing a property on a grey day in January when the East End is monotonously brown. Who can resist the autumnal blaze of colors? Houses in wooded areas are especially beautiful places to be in the fall. Photograph and display this riot of color. Take great shots, frame them, leave them on the kitchen table or display them in the living room on a coffee table where buyers can sit down and get the feel of the house in the off season months.

2. Formal gardens, while beautiful, can often scare away buyers because of the work and expense involved in maintaining elaborate gardens. A landscape designer called in to consult will suggest how the gardens can be thinned out or pared down to reduce maintenance costs without sacrificing the look of the garden as it has evolved over time. Again with computer imaging, the clients can see before and after renderings of the garden. Surplus plantings can always be sold. Mature trees are at a premium.

3. If you are marketing a mega watt estate with abundant acreage, mazes, flower beds, and exotic plantings, don't worry. Money will not be an object to this buyer. They will love your gardens just the way they are. "Don't go changing to try to please them," you'll just ruin the garden. The gardens, again cultivated over time, will attract buyers to these estates because of the value, time and effort needed to create such living works of art. Gardens created by noteworthy landscape architects and designers will also drive the value of the property upwards.

4. Privet hedges are here to stay and so are evergreens. Which brings us to another aspect of landscaping - privacy. Shrubs, unlike fences, do not require permits. Such plantings can demarcate your property line, provide seclusion from your neighbors, privacy from the street and give your grounds a sense of enclosure.

5. Your garden can also be enhanced by walkways, paths, and benches regardless of the size of the lot. The placement of outdoor furniture in a garden will encourage you to use the garden even more. You will find yourself walking out in the early morning to have a cup of coffee, especially if the garden affords you privacy. Likewise, you will find yourself star gazing at night with a glass of wine in your hand throughout the year. You can chill your bottle of wine in the snow if it's deep enough, during the winter months, while you stoke a chiminea or an outdoor fireplace.

6. If you are putting a house on the market, curb appeal counts. You should make sure that all your trees and shrubs are trimmed and pruned. Weeds should be pulled. If you have trees and shrubs that are overgrown and close to the house, cut them back so buyers can see the roofline and the architectural details of the house. "Overgrown and neglected" does not sell.

Local Resources:

 • Lion Landscaping of the Hamptons, www.lionlandscaping.com, 18 Beach Plum Road, Sag Harbor,
 • Unlimited Earth Care, www.unlimitedearthcare.com, 2249 Scuttlehole Road, Bridgehampton, 631-725-7551.

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