In the second part of the series, It’s Time to Start Thinking About Beautifying Your Yard, Tony Range, horticulture supervisor for the award-winning and beautiful St. Louis Zoo, shared some best practices with me. Tony and I visited recently to discuss tips for homeowners wanting to add beauty and interest to their outdoor spaces at home. Our meeting was fun and informative as we chatted about proper planting techniques, native plants, and how to create stunning landscapes based on any given surroundings.
The St. Louis Zoo is a well-known and beloved attraction in our area, but did you know that it also houses its very own greenhouse? Thousands of plants are grown at the greenhouse and are displayed throughout the park May through October. Next time you visit the zoo, make sure to pay attention to the brightly colored plants and flowers scattered along the zoo’s pathways and inside the buildings, creating a lovely atmosphere for visitors and for the animals calling the zoo “home”. Enjoy the Q & A below from our recent visit!
Now that it’s spring, it’s the perfect time to beautify your home’s outdoor landscaping. What tips would you give homeowners about the use of plants to enhance their home’s appeal?
Many of us are running out to purchase annuals, hanging baskets and more for our homes now that the weather is warming. I think what most people don’t realize is that once the plant leaves the greenhouse and goes to a nursery, they can quickly become nutrition deficient. In the greenhouse, plants are treated with nutrients to keep them healthy. Once they transition to a store and then to a home, within a couple weeks of constant watering and no nutrients, their soil is leached. Plants are hungry and need more than just tap water to flourish and survive.
Nutrient-rich plant food like Miracle-Gro™, added at least once each week to your plants, will help them grow. Today, there are even slow release fertilizers on the market with Terra-Sorb (a water absorbing gel) which offers a slow-release fertilizer for your plants and flowers. Terra-Sorb doesn’t dry out as quickly and is another way to ensure that your beautiful hanging baskets and potted plants continue to impress neighbors and friends throughout the season.
Also keep in mind, dirt is what you sweep up off of your floors whereas soil is a living, breathing entity full of microbial activity, teaming with life. Without a good, healthy soil we would have nothing to sustain our daily lives.
Are there any plants you would recommend based on our planting zone in the Midwest and which ones prefer sun or shade?
There are many plants that I love and recommend! Dragon Wing Begonias tolerate heat and the sun quite well, Silver Falls Dichondra like sun or shade and are easy to maintain, and the Dazzler Merlot Mix Impatients are shade tolerant, lovely and landscape friendly. Just keep in mind that annuals, like petunias, are tropical by nature and are typically heavy feeders, requiring fertilizers to flourish.
A tip I also like to offer is that around July 4th, it’s best to cut back those petunias you may have purchased on Mother’s Day about a quarter or half of the way. This will flush the new growth out, and you’ll love the results. Simply “pinch” to the leaf nodes. Also, when purchasing 6 packs of the plants from your local nursery, steer clear of the ones that are “tangled up”, long and misshapen. Pulling and unwinding their delicate foliage and roots is very damaging, so it’s best to find the packs that are short and tidy.
As a Realtor®, I see a lot of homes with neglected landscaping. Any suggestions that you can make to convince them that curb appeal is important?
I recommend choosing plants and plant materials scaled to the home. Not all landscaping needs to be elaborate. When planting, if the homeowner follows some basic rules, the landscaping undertaking can be fun and can really enhance their home’s curb appeal.
For instance, planting perennials in groups of 5’s and 7’s offer a bigger visual impact. When planting in groups, you’ll be happier with the overall look. Shrubs, Knockout® roses and more work best in groups of three. Even planting a Juniper, for example, should be spaced out and if you plant one in your landscaping, think about planting another one in a different section. The rule of thumb is to never plant just “one” of anything.
I like to think of plants for landscaping as notes on a musical scale, stagger the plants and always place them in groups for an impactful and beautiful display!
What are some other tips you’d like to share with our readers?
Play off the landscape with the use of limestone boulders and other types of hardscape. If you’re lucky enough to find a boulder with moss naturally draped on it, it will be a beautiful and unique addition to your curb appeal. I recommend the use of hardscapes in the winter months, trees with interesting branching habits, evergreens, birdfeeders and ornamental grasses. The Taylor Juniper is a tree that I love, with a striking appearance, growing to about three feet wide and up to twenty feet tall. Also, Blue Spruce “Fat Albert” lends a colorful blue tone to the winter landscape.
The importance of feeding and grooming your landscape plants and flowers can’t be stressed enough. Adding fertilizer is a key component to a lovely yard with curb appeal. Treating your plant’s root system with care also plays a key role in their health. At the zoo, when construction and maintenance is happening amongst the landscaping, I always let the crews know how important it is to go around the plants and trees. Disrupting the roots is much like cutting off an arm or a leg for us – they need their roots intact because it provides important nutrient and water uptake along with structural stability.
Tony Range is a horticulture supervisor at the St. Louis Zoo and also a contributing author for STLZOO Magazine. I appreciated the time he took out of his busy schedule to offer planting and landscaping tips for homeowners.
If you or a loved one is in need of a licensed Realtor®, contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
As winter becomes more of a memory and the weather turns to sunnier days, it may be time to take a peek at your landscaping and start the plans for beautifying your yard. Does it require some TLC? Not sure what it may need to become that beloved, family-friendly space again? I can help! My next two articles will be highlighting yard beautification, including an interview with Tony Range next month. Range is the lead horticulturist for the St. Louis Zoo and will offer his suggestions on how to maintain a yard that will be the envy of your neighbors, all season long.
If you are looking to enhance the overall look of your home, a beautiful, outdoor living space also increases the value of your home. A relatively recent and increasingly popular trend for homeowners is the creation of a backyard retreat, turning a home into a wonderful place for entertaining, hanging out and enjoying when the weather is inviting and the days are longer.
Homeowners who add a deck to their property or enhance their custom deck prior to selling, usually recover the cost in the sale of their home. Decks that need repairs or seem neglected can often turn away buyers because they will see additional expense and future maintenance projects. If you have a deck, it may make sense to paint or re-stain it, add some new, brightly colored cushions to your outdoor furniture, and display some potted plants and flowers. Investing in your deck and outdoor living area also adds additional space to your home, making it appear larger for potential buyers.
Even if you own a home with no future plans on selling it, Consumer Reports indicates that today’s consumers are thriftier and stay home more to entertain and to spend family time. Homes with outdoor living spaces are cited as one of the most appealing ways to spend a nice evening with those you love! When weather is prime, many clients love the idea of “outdoor living rooms”. Turn off the iPad and head outdoors to toss a Frisbee in the backyard, sharing stories of the day with your kids. When you invest in your backyard, you are investing in so much more: time with family and friends.
Another way to enhance the beauty of your yard and create a more welcoming atmosphere for your guests is by adorning your entrance, driveway and more with assorted annuals and perennials. Flowers like Petunias, Snapdragons, and Knock out Roses are great additions to your landscaping. A Southern Living article cites putting a low fence between your house and the street to give an illusion that your house is farther away from the road than it truly is andit’s also a great space for planting flowers and vines.
If you have unsightly structures in your yard and you’re not sure how to hide them, strategic planting can help! Some sheds, garages, outdoor work spaces and utility boxes in subdivisions can be less than attractive. Adding window boxes and flowers to work sheds, setting attractive planters filled with flowers atop structures, and placement of potted ferns can be great additions to your outdoor ambience. Incorporating plants and flowers close to the structure, and incorporating planters onto the walls of the structure will make it seem like a seamless accompaniment to your landscaping.
As a licensed Realtor® it’s my goal to help make your real estate dreams come true, offer tips to enhance your home’s beauty, and share my knowledge of our local market. The real estate process can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be with my guidance! And don’t forget – next month’s blog will offer additional landscaping tips from Tony Range, St. Louis Zoo horticulturist. In the meantime, you contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.