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Have you ever driven by a house and thought the landscaping was just beautiful? Did you think to yourself that the property must be worth more than the neighbors? Well, now there is proof that landscaping a HOME adds measurable value. The June 2007 issue of Money magazine states that landscaping offers some of the best returns for your renovation dollars. It also states that the payoff increases over time. A recent Michigan State University study found that depending on where the house is located, high-quality landscaping adds 5 to 11% to it's price. If you have no immediate plans to move, all the better: Landscaping is the one HOME improvement that actually appreciates over time. So how do you decide which projects to tackle? That depends on how long you think you'll be around to enjoy the results.

If you plan on selling in one year or less:

Edge the beds:

Fresh edges where the beds meet the lawn makes the lawn look well kept. Curving the edge of your flower beds could increase the value of your HOME by up to 2 percent. If your current shrubs are overgrown, increasing the bed's width by 2 feet will make the plants look smaller.

Fertilize the grass

It should take about 10 minutes to fertilize a 1/4 acre lawn. The best way is to use an inexpensive broadcast spamder. You can purchase one for about $ 45. You can green up the lawn with just a single application, or for a truly lush lawn, you should start regular fertilizer treatments a year before listing the house. You can use straight fertilizer, or to help control weeds, you can use a fertilizer that contains weed killer.

Use color for a little pizzaz

For a rainbow of color, blank your yard with petunias, impatiens and other small annuals that will flower through the current growing season. Color can add between 3-5% to the perceived value of your HOME. Also, invest in some larger perennials and shrubs that stand at least four feet high. The large size gives the impression that they are an established, healthy plant. A few large plants are better than a lot of small ones. Ornamental grass grow quickly and can be especially attractive.

If you plan on improving for the long term:

Trim your existing shrubs

Many common yard plants, such as azaleas, forsythia, hollies and rhododendrons, will fill out with new growth after a season or so even if you hack them down to stumps. Be careful, though, of yews and junipers, which will not grow new leaves on old wood and may need to be removed alt if they're quite overgrown.

Use foliage to add drama

Distinctive yards are more appealing to buyers. Replace plants that do not flower with eye-catching alternatives, like Black-Eyed Susans, a flowering crab apple or a cut-leaf Japanese maple. Ornamental grasses are also popular for adding four season appeal to your landscape. You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars for big plants if you plan on staying for awhile. Purchase smaller plants and wait a few seasons for the full visual impact. Be sure to check the plant labels for mature plant sizes, and space plants accordingly.

Vary your beds

Most yards have almost all the plants along the foundation and the property lines. But if you place yours through different parts of the property, you'll create a depth of field that makes your HOME look farther away from the road. Try putting some near the house's corners to accentuate its shape, others near the street to define the yard, and some in between, where they can block unfortunated views and be invited from indoors.

Cover your rear

It's nice to say hello to your neighbors out front, but the backyard should be a private space. If yours feels too open, fencing can offer a quick fix. For each eight-foot section, you'll pay about $ 100 (for a plain cedar stockade fence) to $ 300 (for an elaborate Victorian model), plus another $ 50 to $ 150 a section if you have it installed. You can also achieve the same effect at a much lower cost by planting small evergreen shrubs, although you'll have to wait a few seasons for full coverage. Instead of pruning those overgrown foundation plants, you can hire a landscaper to transplant them along your property line. As long as they're healthy and evergreen, it's a great way to maximize the value of the plants you already own.

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