Category Archives: spring


The first warm days of spring always generate Real Estate listings, bring homeowners outdoors to chat with neighbors and prompt a walk-around-the-yard inspection. Inevitably, my phone rings a lot on Monday mornings in March and April…

“The front of my house looks awful”

 “There’s nothing special about my entry – how can I make it a focal point”

 “No one knows which door to use when they come over”

 “Getting ready to sell our home and need the WOW factor to attract buyers”

If these comments sound familiar, could be your home is in need of a facade face lift. This is often the solution for a client lamenting their lack of “curb appeal” or the mediocre “first impression” of their home. A major structural change or a new paint job isn’t your only recourse for a significant facade improvement. Oh yah, I’ll evaluate your plantings too, after all, that’s how I make my living. But simple structural add-ons, some windowboxes, trellises, a new landing or walkway can make a big impact at a reasonable cost.

 Some before and after examples to get you thinking…

BEFORE - a lost path & blank wall

Adding a new arbor directs visitors from the front driveway/parking area to the entry door the homeowner wants them to use. It not only frames the view, but gives an Asian touch and preview to the interior decor. The homeowner made the custom trellis from my design – its pattern repeats the shape of the upper windows, adds interest at the entry to fill the blank wall and balances with the door and window shapes on the facade. The perennial vine used in the cedar planter keeps from year to year, but the varieties and colors of the annuals can change each year to give a whole new planting look.

The new Bluestone walk includes the square shape repeated in the trellis and upper windows - a unifying feature at the ground level

A secondary Bluestone walk with gravel was added for circulation between the greenhouse, front entry and the right side steps that lead to a screen porch.

BEFORE - 2 story home with massive scale

AFTER - Awning Trellises added to the lower windows align with the roofline of the covered porch


 The awning trellis around the 3 lower windows is just enough to add character and draw the eye down from the massive Dutch Colonial facade…now even the plants are more noticable.

BEFORE – House “disapears” with larger homes beside it

 This homeowner said, “My house disappears with the larger houses next door on both sides. I need something to draw attention to my house”.

The plantings were completely redone and a large tree was transplanted from the backyard to fill and cover the left side of the house where there are no windows. The front entry needed scale added  to draw attention away from the neighbors homes, so a new Granite Porch, steps and wood Pergola with railings were added to give it a new focal point, not to mention “curb appeal”.

AFTER - Granite Porch, Steps, and Wood Pergola add scale to this entry


Here an Arbor and Trellis Fence are used to connect the narrow garden space between the house and a property line hedge, while framing the “Garden Room” for privacy from the street view.

These planters, selected for clean lines, blend well with the architecture around them and plants hide an electric meter on the front facade

 After a new car port was added next to this mid-century style house, the owner wanted to unify the space between the entrance at the side, the car port wall and the driveway.  We used left over concrete pavers (purchased from a neighbor) set in gravel for the stepper path from the driveway to the side entry deck. Again, the square pattern of the windows is replicated in the path material to create unity and interest.

The concrete stepper path blends well with the house style and a wide, gravel dripline seperates the lawn from the foundation to make mowing easier.

Plantings are used to soften the hard surfaces and Car Port wall

If your house sits close to the street or sidewalk, think about eliminating any narrow strip of grass and just go with plantings in scale with the bed depth and front windows of your house.

BEFORE - Sunken brick landing is a tripping hazard and salt spray killed all the plantings (except 1 shrub)

AFTER - The brick landing is re-laid with a cobble accent strip and new plant selections are tough enough to survive road salt and winter plowing. Annuals are added to beds each year for summer color.

 You can always use matching planters to frame a doorway, clamp-on planters spilling over with plants on a railing, or add widowboxes bursting with annuals for an inexpensive, quick fix to add color, scent and eye candy to any entry or facade.


Try putting your houseplants outdoors in unique wall planters this summer. It gives them a growth spurt while they perk up a shady area or covered porch.

Don’t forget the finishing touches:

Happy Spring! It’s just around the corner.


My size 10's hitting the deck

Is this a cruel joke? I was planning to open a client’s garden today, only to wake up and find 3 inches of snow had fallen overnight.  That Mother Nature, always throwing me a curve ball (no, I’m not talking about today’s opening game for the Red Sox). My husband, Dan, calls me a walking weather reporter once the outside work begins for the new season. Well, this year it’s going to be different – I’ll take it all in stride.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold's Promise'

When you look around the yard and see flowering shrubs, interesting stems and bark, plus bulbs poking through the ground on April 1st, who could really complain about the weather.  The Arnold Promise Witchhazel off our deck is really putting on a show against the evergreen behind it.  What a fabulous plant – it’s already been blooming for a month and its great attributes just keep on going through the fall.

Stewartia tree bark


All year long, I’m amazed looking out my kitchen window at the everchanging, peeling bark of my favorite ornamental tree, Stewartia pseudocamellia (Japanese Stewartia). Tucked into its given space, a walkway bed between the property line hedge and a trellis privacy screen, I can’t help but marvel at it every time I pass by. Come June, it will be prolific with “sunny side up” egg colored flowers, not to mention the fall leaf color – deep, maroon red.

Red Twig Dogwood is another showy shrub this time of year. The red stems really stand out set against the snow. It’s even more impressive used in mass plantings (the same for Yellow Twig Dogwood). For boggy wet conditions, I usually opt in for the native – Cornus sericea ‘Baileyi’.

Cornus alba 'Elegantisima' (Red Twig Dogwood)

As plants continue to replace lawn in my yard (more to come on that), the five Red Twig Dogwood shrubs are doing double duty – looking great and soaking up water in a sloped swale.  Guess all this snow has to melt sometime.  Tomorrow I hope.

FIELD NOTES: First Week of Spring

Photo (c) Cynthia August Images 2010

I still have snow in my yard. Flurries the past few days, even though the birds are returning. What’s the deal? Well, it is New England!

I hoped to get my own garden cleaned up before I start on anyone else’s gardens, but there’s snow on the ground. Guess it’s like the cobbler and the shoes…when you’re a landscape designer, your own garden is sometimes the last to get attention.

Right now, I’m getting ready for the big seasonal push for maintenance of established gardens. As spring continues and summer unfolds, the work will change.

In the next few weeks, I’ll open perennial gardens for clients:

  • Cleaning up leaves from last fall
  • Cutting back roses and vines
  • Checking for broken branches and pruning shrubs
  • Pushing down the root ball of any perennials that heaved up out of the ground over the winter due to frost
  • Applying weed control
  • Connecting with clients for garden changes

In the spring, I do this work myself. Experienced seasonal team members come on board mid-June, so I’m solo for the first few months.

The work gloves are ready and my boots are laced up. Catch you soon!