Small front yard desgin help

Waty19August 7, 2011

This is for a house I'm flipping in Atlanta, Ga. I'm about to be over budget on the project so I will be doing the landscaping myself... Joy. Not trying to break the bank on this but as we all know landscaping is very important in the sale of a home. I've attached an image to this post. Not the latest pic from the house but enough so you have an idea.

The dimensions are from the right of the house underneath the 2 windows 13ft- Thats from the edge of the house (cut out from photo) to wall of the porch attached to the house. From that point out to the next corner (side porch wall) is 8 ft. Now the wall on the right of the stairs that your looking straight at in the photo is also 8 feet. And the wall to the left of the stairs is 9 feet. The wall 13 feet in length(under the two windows) receives sun all day. The rest get sun half a day.

I wouldn't even mind putting in a nice landscape wall or something to spruce it up a bit. Since the front of the house is so small it wouldn't be too hard. If you could please give me so advice on what types of plants or bushes would work and how you'd arrange them I'd much appreciate it. I normally leave this is a company to do because I know nothing about bushes. But I'm having to trim back some costs. Thanks so much!

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Would it be possible to add a photo taken from much farther back, so we can see the entire width of the property (or
at least the entire width of the house)? And preferably not quite as wide a photo.

It looks like there's close to a 12" height differential between the soil on either side of the stairs.

Does the shadier area get morning sun or afternoon sun, or a bit of both? Yes, it can make a difference.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 2:49PM
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I will take one and add it tomorrow when I get home. The shadier area gets the sun in the morning - say 10am till around 3ish. There also is a height difference of soil on either side of the stairs. I'll add a measurement for that tomorrow as well.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 4:12PM
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Updated Pics:

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 11:45PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Nice looking front porch remodel, good luck with flipping the house, but I was under the impression that Atlanta was hit as badly as California in the real estate market. I'd be very surprised if higher end landscaping will give you a 100% return in the current climate, and I'd suggest keeping it really simple. I got burned back in a 2008 high end flip project here in Berkeley, and you have the advantage of knowing it is a down market. If you've done a good job with the work and priced it to sell, I'd guess that just cleaning up the garden front and back is sufficient.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 12:25AM
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Since this is a flip, I would suggest that you keep the landscaping as simple, clean, and neutral as possible.
I am assuming that you will be putting in a cement walk to the front stairs? And cleaning up the surface of the driveway?

After refurbishing the stairs, paint them and the porch floor white. Use an inexpensive coir runner to the front entrance - a cherry red colour on the door would make that welcome pop from the street. Paint the foundation in a blend of cedar tone brown (similar to the rails) mixed with the soft butter yellow of the siding, to visually ground it to the earth.

Cut two arcing beds on either side of the steps to the outside corners of the porch. Carry the one bed on the right along the walls to the end of the house. The bed under the double windows should be at least 3 ft deep. Till and mulch with shredded cedar mulch. Put urns of red and yellow flowers with trailing greens on either side of the third step - pull it away from the cement by a couple of feet to make the stairs look wider and grander. You can take these with you when you sell.

I would replace the worn front grass with fresh sod in the front yard and just clean up the lawn in the back. I wouldn't put in any bushes or any more plant material. Not only will it keep your costs down, it will allow the prospective homeowner use his own imagination to fill in the clean mulch beds.

You do have an appealing property to sell. Good luck to you.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 1:34AM
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Quick fix; remove those two front trees,as there symetrical pairing and the huge scale make your remodel look like a diminuitive cottage

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 7:02AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Good luck is what you'll need, a friend's house in Atlanta that was in good condition recently was foreclosed upon. Original value back in 2008 was $129,000, sold last month at foreclosure for $24,000. My friend felt lucky that he was able to persuade the new owner to let him remain as a renter with no good credit history or first/last or securitydeposit. More bad luck for him as he'd been wiped out on his last flip here in Berkeley and moved to Atlanta, to stay with his daughter in the home he'd helpjed her buy. It sounds like flipping houses is just as risky back there, and instead investors with cash are swooping in and holding them as rentals. You are up against some really tough market conditions.

Personally, I'd leave the trees as they most likely help keep the house cooler and would use money better spent to replace the front walk, resod the front lawn, and freshly mulch the beds. Maybe repeat some more of the white hibiscus syriacus, along with some blooming hydrangea paniculata limelight and face them down with a swathe of pittosporum Wheeler's Dwarf if hardy there, or hostas/ferns or white flowering annual flowers such as vinca/Impatiens or iberis sempervirens. If you put in new landscaping without provisions for automatic irrigation, hopefully you'll be sure to keep it green and growing. Half-dead new plantings certainly don't increase a home's value, and you need to also include that in your budget.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 9:56AM
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I would second the opinion to keep the trees. From the photos, the house size appears to be consistent with the nature of the surrounding neighbourhood. Removing them is an added cost and task you don't need to incur.

It's been said already, but keep things clean and simple. You can sculpt new beds and place a few shrubs to add some overall sculpture/mass, but don't feel compelled to fill it all in. A buyer who's a novice gardener may appreciate the simplicity of maintenance, and a buyer who's an avid gardener may appreciate the freedom and flexibility to further develop the plantings as per their taste. Kinda like clearing a house of excessive personal photos and knicknacks. It lets the buyer populate the blank spaces with their imagination.

- Audric

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 8:48PM
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I wrote several thoughts re this question which disappeared suddenly just before I submitted. Don't have the time to redo those words but will add a few ideas over the next days for you to consider.

At the top of my list is the lawn. It appears that there is an irrigation system installed using very iron rich well water which permanently stains everything it touches. If the well water source has not been switched to city water it should be. It is impossible to grow a lawn/plants without water and you do not want the iron well water staining your sidewalk/steps/foundation.

The following idea will receive loud criticism from those who do not understand the adventure of growing southern grasses in dappled shade/shade conditions. While they all protest give the following some serious thought. It should work and save you some money, too.

The lot is fairly level. Rather than tearing the yard apart, tangling with large tree roots in preparation for sod installation, work with the grass that is presently on site. It is healthy and with minimal fertilizer plus some plugging it should quickly grow together. If you plan to sell the house this winter also over seed with winter rye.

Proceed in this manner:
Install driveway and sidewalk.
Rake lot.
Mow present grass.
Give lot another through raking removing all debris.
Top dress lot with top soil using it to even land as much as possible.
Add plugs to bare spots. Check with one of your local companies selling grasses as to the current type for dappled shade. Many new varieties coming on the market.

This would be my approach to lawn growing. It is so difficult to get grass growing in your situation. Rather, work with and supplement what is already established.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 2:04PM
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Nandina, if what you're seeing that makes you think there is irrigation from an iron rich well is the orange stain on the foundation, I think it is probably staining from our notorious red Georgia clay soil. There may be a well also, but foundations will stain like that just from the clay.

For this reason, I would not even think about painting the porch or stairs white, as adriennemb suggests. No offense intended to her/him, though. It would look nice, but would likely be dirty very soon and often.

Nor would I, as an Atlanta native, cut down the trees. They probably cut the air conditioning bill in half, if not more; and since they're deciduous, they will let the sun in during the winter when you need it.

Definitely do the driveway and the walkway, and redo the stairs too if it's within your budget. If not, at least patch them up and repaint them (but not white, maybe a darker blue-gray).

bahia, yes, the pittosporum Wheeler's Dwarf is hardy here.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 7:27PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

The previous post seems more logical as well as quite pragmatic. Parts of California have the same sort of red clay, with the same staining issues. As a potential buyer, personally I'd be much less interested in a lush new lawn and more focused on the crappy condition of the stairs and odd/funky position of the railings relative to the raised stem walls. I don't know if Indian multi-colored slate is an appropriate/popular outdoor finish in Atlanta, but I think it would address the red clay/staining issue as well as stylistically go with the house.

It may seem less than moral to say this as a landscape designer but focusing on the lawn seems rather silly when a new sod lawn is so quick to install, and may only need to last a month or 2 until the house sells.!?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 2:04AM
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Indian rainbow slate does well here if purchased from the right source. HD's is not one of those sources.

bahia nailed it. The stairs and railing scream "I don't give a damn, just wantin' to flip" if left like that. I'd keep driving.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 6:15PM
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The OP did not request construction advice. Rather, his question dealt with the recognition that landscaping was an important part of house flipping and also an indication that the budget was tight. I assumed that the stairs and railing were construction matters and would be corrected.

I just received a quote for sod on an area about that size; $1000.00. A little elbow grease and my pragmatic approach could yield more dollars from the sale of that cottage in the pocket. Plus, the cottage should be on the market this fall/winter which means that the lawn can easily be over seeded with a few dollars worth of winter rye and remain lush and green in appearance until mid spring. Hopefully sold by that time.

Okay, working with budget constraints, what cheap landscape solution do you propose that would invite notice and a sale? My suggestion disappeared before it posted thanks to the mysteries of GW. What are your ideas?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 7:33PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

My advice still stands, I think it would make more sense to put any extra money into fixing up the house before putting money into landscape. That is my take on what makes the most sense in this market. If the owner is willing to do the work himself putting in a new sod lawn could probably be done for less than 300 dollars in materials. In a housing market that is saturated with foreclosures, most potential buyers are not willing to pay extra for landscaping and it isn't likely to increase sales price or sway a potential buyer. Been there, done that, lost my complete investment, no longer interested in helping to flip houses by contributing attractive landscaping. I stick with paying clients with sufficient and realisticrealistic budgets these days. From what I've read in the papers the Atlanta real estate market does not sound any better

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 9:05PM
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There are over 24,000 houses for sale in the Atlanta area. Just houses, not including condos, townhouses, duplexes, etc. Prices range from $10,000 to $5,000,000 or more. Many stay on the market for months, some have been on the market for 3 or more years.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 1:16AM
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Like Nandina stated I ask this question to help landscape the yard. There's going to be a new drive way and walkway in place this week. The stairs will be redone. The handrails will be straighten and repainted. The stone will be pressure washed and not painted. The brown in it is from Georgia clay. This house did not have gutters on it. When it rains the water runs off the roof on to the ground and the mud/clay splashes up and gets on the stone. The trees are staying. A newly sodded yard will run me $90 a pallet and I will need 4 of them. Plus the time to till and rake the yard so I', looking at around $450 for a new front yard. Its within reason.

I need help with which plants should go where. I don't know a daisy from a dandelion. I liked the suggestion of the mulched arching beds. I will do that. Should I keep that bush on the right side of the house and just trim it down? Or just I just remove it? These are the kind of things I don't know about.

Yes, the Atlanta market it beat. Of all the houses on the market only 10$% are probably worth a darn. Homes priced in the low to mid 100k's 5 mins from downtown sell well. Yes the area is transitional and I wouldn't live there if the house was free but many people find it convenient to work. I thank everyone for their inputs and think this forum is awesome. But could be stick to the point of landscaping? That would help me a lot.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 3:03PM
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The short answer to your initial query - if you truly are not comfortable with gardening, especially if you live off-site, I would suggest that you refrain from any landscape planting at all in favor of the clean and healthy look of fresh sod and mulched beds.

But landscape design does not stand separate from house design - it is complementary. And that is why posters have commented about the entire presentation of your flip. As you know, curb appeal is paramount in these uncertain real estate times. Most home sales are actually decided within the first minute of viewing a property and the woman is usually the driving force in the purchase. So, to be attractive to her, you also have to go beyond the building framework to actively draw a visual and emotional feminine response. Good, effective, all-inclusive design should do that for you.

That is why something as simple as a bright red front entrance may help you get people in the door. And there are other "tricks" as well. Providing that theft is not a concern, I still think that a pair of heavy urns on either side of the porch steps would entice the prospective buyer's eye. If you prefer not to use flowers, a less high-maintenance choice could be a draping type of juniper, often on sale at this time of year. Once the property is sold, take these home for use with your next flip. The coir runner on the stairs also directs the eyes (and feet) up onto the porch.

The unidentified bush in the right corner does serve a purpose by concealing your mechanical lines there. However, I'm not certain that it would survive the proposed power washing and mulching. If you were to trim the branches, it would interrupt the flow of the bed and may end up looking more like a wayward weed than a desirable plant. It might just be easier to lose it at the onset.

Once again, good luck to you.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 5:05PM
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Hi Waty,

I'm a little leery of responding in my first visit to the 'garden' side of garden web....but I've spent lots of time on the home forum so here goes. Qualifier: I am not a professional landscaper! But I am an avid home gardener.

That said here's what I'd do.

1. Remove the Rose of Sharon bush on the right side of the house. It's too close to the foundation. You could replant it elsewhere if you like it.

2. I'm not sure what the overgrown tree/bush is to the far right of the photo, but first I'd try to trim it to clean it up. If it looks good, keep it in the boundary of your mulched bed. If not, tear it out.

3. Create your beds. Start at the concrete edge where the stairs end and continue to the edge of the house on both sides. You can make them curvy - one idea I've used is use a garden hose and create something interesting. I like it when one side is different from the other just a little - and suggest that you make the bed on the right side curve out a bit toward the middle of the yard on the side where the overgrown bush is located.

4. I'd plant something with color in each of the beds on either side of the stairs. A dwarf red crepe myrtle would be pretty and should do well in your southern climate. Then I'd keep it simple with boxwoods (3-4 on the right side, 1-2 on the left) in front of the foundation. Not right up against the house like the rose of sharon, but out about 2-3 feet. If you get rid of the overgrown bush, you could put the rose of sharon in your outer edge of the right side of the house.

5. And finally I agree with the other posters who suggest grass seed (I like to put a little bit of peat moss on top when I sow it so that it is covered and stays moist).

Good luck and I hope this helps!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 5:07PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

As a flip, I would just go for simple, clean and cute. Wouldn't do anything but trim the lower branches of the trees so nothing hits anyone's head when they walk around, remove the signs, fix the lawn, heavily mulch the triangles on either side of the front steps (to remove the hard-to-mow right angles) and put 2 hanging baskets of some spiller or ferns on the front porch. Maybe a large pot of mixed foliage on the ground in front of the porch. If people have an interest in gardening, they usually want to change what's already there anyway, so they would see there's a nice "blank slate" waiting to be filled. If they don't garden, they won't see "a bunch of plants that need to be taken care of."

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 5:49PM
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Hoping you'll show us pics after you do the sodding. It will look so fresh and nice. Be sure you keep the new sod frequently watered.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 8:38PM
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