Please help with curb appeal...

July 11, 2019
last modified: July 11, 2019

Late last year we bought a spec home that had just been finished because we needed a home quickly and it was the only home within our budget that met our needs. It's a perfectly functional home but rather soulless and bland. We might be moving in a year or two and we want to improve the curb appeal for resale, especially since the neighborhood may not be finished by then. If we need to add new plantings or replace current ones we didn't pick out, we want to give them some time to grow in.

We don't plan to start the project until fall when it's cooled off but I wanted to start planning. We live in Hardiness Zone 8A and my preferred budget is not more than 2-3k. I'm aiming for low maintenance for resale reasons. We want to make our home stand out from the sea of similar homes but we know it's a keep up with Jones kind of area so we can't get too radical.

The photo below is of the home across the street. The stone and brick tree rings and planter edging are popular in the neighborhood.

Any suggestions?

Comments (25)

  • new-beginning

    Tell us what kind of tree(s) you have please. With those low windows I am thinking you need low growing plants (evergreen) which don't need much pruning. You might want to visit the 'garden' side of GardenWeb/Houzz and specifically the appropriate state (Texas?)

  • tcufrog

    I'm not sure what type of trees they are. I'll ask my husband if he knows. I cross posted in the Texas gardening sub forum since we live in the DFW area. I just thought that some general advice regarding things other than just choosing plants might be found among people who are buying homes.

  • new-beginning

    if the trees are oak - that is good, but lots of builders use trees that 'look good' but are not necessarily 'good' to have - I have a several page list of non-native invasive trees that Texas would like for folks to not only "not" plant but to actually remove (and some of them are actually pretty to look at).

    I am in Texas also (and I guessed you were by your user name.

    If you don't get much response from the 'garden' side, check with AgriLife (think you will find that as part of Texas A&M), for master gardeners in your area for lots of free advice from the non-professional but well trained folks.

  • PRO

    The first and main thing I'd do is expand the walkway paving at the left corner of the garage in order that it says ENTRANCE is this way. As it is, the entrance is fairly obscure and the path to it is weak.

    Whatever plantings will grow in front of and cover windows -- don't let that happen. They are low to ground so you only need short things (like groundcover) there. Would do some flowers/color at the front door. A shrub at left house corner to counteract the lawn falling away. A small, skinny tree off of the left corner. A large shrub at left side of lawn to give some separation from neighboring house. A bed of groundcover to connect these things. I would not do anything with the two lawn trees but keep them well maintained ... limbing them up as they grow so they don't block house and appear neglected. They are fine now and will do a fair amount to improve the overall appearance as they become larger.

    The tree rings that size don't seem like anything more than cute gimmicks to me. As the trees grow, they will be quickly much too small.

  • Lynn-in-TX- Zone 8b (Central TX)

    I would drive to more established, but nice neighborhoods and see what they have done with their landscaping. Take images of anything appealing that you see. Then post images or go to local nurseries to identify plants. I would then research the plants to ensure they meet space, growth and maintenance requirements.

    tcufrog thanked Lynn-in-TX- Zone 8b (Central TX)
  • maifleur01

    I would also make notes and pictures of what you currently have growing. That way you will not do what some do and replace a plant with another of the same type.

    Those tree rings, extra are probably more than what you have budgeted for.

    tcufrog thanked maifleur01
  • tcufrog

    Thanks for all of the great advice. I hadn't thought of lower shrubs in front but it makes sense. Right now the trees don't need to be pruned and it's too hot to do so without stressing them. I'll reevaluate in the fall when it's cooler.

    I totally agree that I need a better front walkway. Right now if we have two cars parked in front of the house, there's no easy way to get to the front door. Any affordable suggestions that don't involve yet more grey concrete? The driveway already dominates the front of the house more than I'd like.

  • maifleur01

    If you are planning on moving already forget what you like and start thinking of what will make the house more easily sold. Move that green security??? sign from in front of the bushes or whatever it is to a different location. Buy a pair of hand pruners and remove or at least cut back those stems that are sticking up every which way if they can be.

    tcufrog thanked maifleur01
  • PRO

    Right ... the trees don't need to be pruned. I was saying to keep up with it when they do need it (annually) as it is commonly something overlooked until long overdue.

    "Any affordable suggestions that don't involve yet more grey concrete?" What material is more affordable than concrete? It's likely to be more difficult and costly to use another material. Not impossible though. You don't want to put in some cheap thing that hurts your home value since it is front and center.

  • Renee

    I think the placement of those trees seems random. The center one obscures all the architecture of the house. I’d get rid of those. Much larger walkway and entry could extend to a small meandering patio in front of the windows. Add landscaping that obscures the closeness of the neighbor houses. Darken the house trim and match the door. Akin to the other house you show - bring in better, more interesting lighting fixtures, larger house numbers and movable planters you can take with you. To differentiate, bring in some color.

  • Lynn-in-TX- Zone 8b (Central TX)

    You did mention a budget of $2- 3,000.00 max for the full project... I would get estimates for all of the work, broken down into tasks/sections, and then talk to a realtor to determine what would provide the most bang for your buck in terms of what is a priority for buyers or creates the most visual interest/attractiveness to buyers.

    You could also soften the edge of the grass near the driveway by removing a strip of it, creating a planter bed for low growing plants that add color and create visual interest. The big swath of grass is so boring and unimaginative... Could involve changing the sprinkler system watering...again... cost and bang for your buck

    I would not touch the trees. It gets hot here, shade is needed, and if removed, you would have even more boring grass... Not only that, in many neighborhoods with HOA's, trees of a certain size and a specific number out front is required. Trying to remove and replace trees could eat up a good portion of your budget for something that could have been a non-issue for most homebuyers...

  • tcufrog

    I agree that the front flowerbeds need love. It's been horribly hot here and I haven't had time to tackle them early in the morning when it's coolest. I like Renee's ideas but I fear they would blow my budget out of the water. I do agree that the location of the trees is pretty awful. They were planted before we bought the house.


    I agree the concrete is the most const effective option. The front of the house is dominated by that giant driveway. I was worried that adding more concrete would be unsightly.

  • PRO
    Dig Doug's Designs

    ideas under $3k showing your trees as they mature plus the addition of 1 sweetbay magnolia, 4 dwarf yaupon holly, 4 citronelle heuchera, 2 Leanne cleyera , 2 yellow roses & 2 potted annuals.

    other ideas: using Miami Crape myrtle, Dwarf Yaupon holly, Banana Boat Hosta, Double Knockout Rose, Leanne Cleyera, Sweetbay magnolia, potted Begonias

  • PRO

    " I do agree that the location of the trees is pretty awful." Actually, it is not the worst because they are not directly in front of the entrance area. As long as you limb them up 50% of the total height each spring/late winter (before the flush of growth occurs), you'll be maintaining a clear view below them. It's not hard to imagine them eventually becoming much taller than the house and the front yard be an open view to the first floor. If you don't limb them up, you'll get the cluttered view, as in Doug's picture above.

    That the driveway is concrete is the reason to use that material. Using a different material will require more cleverness of design and will be more expensive. It's not in your budget. You're probably not sitting around thinking there's so much concrete "what part of it can we remove ...?" Adding a little more to majorly improve the entrance access and the view of it, will not change that.

    tcufrog thanked Yardvaark
  • Jinx

    I’d try to find it in the budget, if possible, to have the bed raised in the corner, rather than just following the slope. It’d be more in balance with the two-story height of your house, would be attractive, and would give some distinction between your yard and your neighbor’s yard.

    Not as tall as this one, but just to show an example:

    In that corner, I’d plant something like a Crape Myrtle, Yaupon Holly (large size), or similar. Then I’d fill the bed in with Texas hardy plants, such as ornamental grasses, salvias, and other shrubs and perennials you like (and easy care/drought tolerant for resale purposes). I’d try to have enough room for a boulder(s), bird bath, or other decorative interest. I think doing a more natural look, rather than formal, will set your house apart ... will give it a much more individual look and not “spec house builder choice” looking yard.

    This bed is larger, but just to give an idea of plant interest, rather than lined up shrubs. I think you can find a good balance between a more natural/native look with a few more formal plantings mixed in ... both to compliment your house style and the street.

    There are a lot of good landscape companies in the Metroplex, it might be worth checking into hiring one for this job. Basically, I’d try to highlight nice features of your house (bay window, interesting slope, brick, height, etc) with plants that compliment those features, rather than lined-up rows of anything that could look disconnected and generic. I’d want to plant a variety of heights, while staying cohesive. I certainly think you can have both: a yard you’ll enjoy while living there and one with an eye towards resale.

    ETA: I agree with Yardvaark — for a small suburban lot in the shape of yours, I think the trees are planted and spaced just fine. The shade will be much appreciated later on!

    tcufrog thanked Jinx
  • skmom

    I used to live in the DFW area, I had a home that looked pretty similar to yours, and I remember the challenges of gardening with little top soil and caliche beneath it. The nice thing about those raised beds your neighbor has is that you can bring in nice soil and it makes gardening easier. I ended up with a very lush backyard after a few years, but we added a LOT of soil in the back and drainage to not flood out our neighbors since our yard ended up being higher than theirs due to the added soil. Anyways, about those trees growing larger than your house... no, they never will... they will eventually maybe get as tall as the house, but they will never get taller, so don’t worry TOO much about keeping them limbed up early on like yardvaark is talking about, things just don’t grow that tall in that part of Texas, and you’ll want all the shade those trees are gonna provide, they will be a huge asset one day. Of course, anything low enough to get in the way, you can get rid of those kinds of limbs. A couple of low maintenance, evergreen bush varieties I found easy to care for were Indian Hawthorne (I believe I had some dwarf variety, not sure exactly what it was because the builder planted them and I just moved them to a better spot) but I didn’t even have to prune them in the decade we lived there and they never got taller than maybe 2.5 feet tall, and Japanese Holly bushes which I sheared back once a year to keep them looking kind of formal. I didn’t have either one of those types of bushes in any special soil, they grew in the native soil. Everyone and their mother grows crape myrtles there, and they’re really pretty... I think they’re easier done away from walkways (like out from the corner of the house over the lawn) because they’re messy after a rain, but people love them and it’s a nice splash of reliable color. If you want to add some easy care, reliable annuals (things that don’t survive the winter so you plant them every spring in the ground or in pots) then you can’t go wrong with hardy begonias because they’ll flower well for you in sun or shade. Those kinds of plants are super easy to find and care for and make a nice impact. Another option to widen your walkway is to add brick edging. If you can find brick to match your house, and have it added to the sides of the walkway and down the driveway, that would stand out in those kinds of neighborhoods and it’s fairly easy to find a guy who could do a bang up job in that area... or at least, it still was when we left the area 7.5 years ago.

  • Lynn-in-TX- Zone 8b (Central TX)

    I like your second image, Digdougdesigns!! All of the lawn and yellow roses just seem to blend and looks far less striking than the punches of color added to the second image. For a home that will be sold in the short-term, it looks to be a low cost, appealing solution to attract future buyers, without spending money that may never be recouped... Just my 2 cents...

  • PRO

    "... so don’t worry TOO much about keeping them limbed up early on like yardvaark is talking about, things just don’t grow that tall in that part of Texas, and you’ll want all the shade those trees are gonna provide," That it may not grow into a tall tree does not mean that you wish more of the view below it to be obscured. The opposite would be true! The shorter a tree is, the MORE important it is to keep it limbed up. And this has nothing whatsoever to do with the quantity of shade it can produce. The canopy forms just the same, but a higher level, preserving view, and overhead shade remaining the same. The sun will come in from the side when it is lower in the sky, but this is usually necessary if there is lawn below the tree. And if one wants shade coming from the side, it is usually better to get it from large shrubs. If resale value is important, you will not want to have lower hanging limbs obscuring the view of the ground floor of the house.

    I lived in Weslaco for a few years so know about the heat and need for shade. Still, trees will get tall enough to clear the ground floor and still have a canopy.

  • new-beginning

    also, have you considered (will the HOA allow) painting the garage door a tan/beige color (that would match one of the bricks?) That white and large garage door just grabs the attention.

    I personally would look for some PaveStone type blocks/bricks/stones that are flat and all the same thickness, add along both side of the driveway, carve out some extra space to add length to the concrete by the front door and, frankly, I would remove that piece by the driveway, front door that is the same height as the driveway and use the PaveStone stuff there.

    Knock Out roses would be nice in the front bed - be aware that many plants sold at the box stores will not do well in Texas - better to find a local, privately owned nursery and preferably with at least Texas grown plants (so be aware of Home Depot, Lowes, WalMart, chain garden centers, etc.)

  • Anna (6B/7A in MD)

    You need color, whether via planting or a new door color (though I understand it’s new). A more interesting light fixture. Grasses would add nice texture.

  • cpartist

    I would do two other things. I would paint the garage door a color that blends into the brick color. I would paint the front door a color that helps it pop. Maybe a pretty blue?

  • memetexas

    I would definitely take the left side flowerbed all the way to the property line which might be 2-3 feet from the house and do it in a kidney shape. Think curved beds and not the rectangle lines like across the street.

    Maybe bring the left side fence and gate up to the front of the house.

    tcufrog thanked memetexas
  • blakrab Centex

    As the commercial landscaping industry plants largely invasives and inedible non-natives (Crepe Myrtles, Indian Hawthorne, Nandina, Japanese Boxwood, etc) by default, I would generally NOT copypasta your average neighboring landscapes! Please watch any of Doug Tallamy's videos on how important it is to use (at least ~70%) natives in our yards to help support what remains of wildlife in the 6th mass extinction that we are now causing!

    And Austin has a great native planting guide available online linked in my post here.

    But off the top, use Texas Persimmons instead of Crepe Myrtles.

    Use Southern Wax Myrtles or Feijoa (edible non-native) instead of Indian Hawthorne.

    Use Flame Acanthus instead of Nandina.

    And Western Soapberries are a great, unique native tree that used to be endemic in DFW!

    Really, the possibilities are endless with natives from trees on down to wildflowers and grasses!

    I would also avoid any more concrete if you can, as that just adds more impermeability to recharging your groundwater there.

    And seriously, if you have basically a blank have the perfect opportunity to do some real good here!!! B)

  • sheilajoyce_gw

    Our daughter lives in your area. She just visited here and was complaining that there's a recently arrived rose blight/disease in the area that is killing all her neighborhood roses. She also complains that the heat is destructive to beds of flowering annuals. I like the decorative feather grasses for your front bed. They don't require a lot of water or work. No more cement.

  • l pinkmountain

    Those tree rings look insipid to me so don't waste energy on tree-ring envy/keeping up with the Joneses. Texas is hot, I'd first plant trees where they could shade and cool my home, and would be easy to irrigate. Not too close though. And then call it a day unless I loved to garden. I second the idea of visiting some other more established neighborhoods to get an idea of looks you like. Take photos. That's what I did at my last place. I got great ideas from copying my neighbors, but putting my own spin on it.

    If you need to do raised beds for your trees, I think it might be too late. But lots of good compost and some light mulch (NOT piled up around the roots and trunk!) can't hurt. See Doug's example and then extend to the crown. Our city gives away compost so that's a though on where to get some. Can also be bought from landscape places but I'd start my own in the back yard, it's free gardener's black gold!

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