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Curb Appeal

Your Yard May Be Scaring Off Potential Homebuyers

By 05/22/2019May 24th, 20198 Comments

This is a guest post written by my amazing design assistant Kelly Parkinson. She had just moved when she started working with us 3 years ago and last year they moved again into a real fixer upper! Here is the beginning of their exterior transformation:


Mike and I moved into our house 14 months ago. It was a complete gut and re-model on the interior.  We’re very close to being done on the inside and now that Spring has arrived, we’re SO eager to get outside and begin work with the exterior.

Just let me say, we had zero intentions to depart with our renovated and beautifully styled home with the help of Maria. We were crazy to even consider another move, but this property had our full attention. It scared away all other buyers, but we saw the potential. Diamond in the rough right?! My husband and I were confident we could take on the interior renovation, but we were second guessing ourselves for the scale of project and expense for tackling the exterior.

Front yard BEFORE (My father-in-law and I, 53 yard trimming bags later!)

When we took possession, three quarters of our yard, both front and back was completely overgrown in bushes and trees. To the point where nothing could be pruned back and kept. It all had to removed, which was truly sad.

The house wasn’t even visible from the street! Never been taken care of, it appeared as though it was unoccupied. The large masses of overgrown trees and shrubs were such an eye sore to everyone that passed by.

First weekend we got the keys, we began clearing the front yard so our neighbours knew we actually lived here. 🙂

Front yard after clearing the landscaping and installing new windows and trim

We were overwhelmed with where to start with our landscape transformation. We began by drafting an existing yard plan with measurements so that we could share with exterior landscaping companies. But we still didn’t know where to start! We really needed to pick a lane, so we began with the front since it’s the first thing that you see driving up to your house, and you can wow guests before they even enter your home.

Maryanne White, Maria’s fabulous landscape designer, (she’s in New York) is the best! It’s hard to find good designers in any industry, once you find one who has your aesthetic, get busy and hire them, even if it’s just for a consultation. You will be so happy you did!

She asked for our dreams and inspiration in images. We wanted an english style boxwood garden with white, yellow and purple perennials and flowering trees.

Curved garden beds lined with boxwood (source)

Purples alliums and iris’s (source)

Within days, she drew these up for me so I could see her vision and I have been dreaming about our soon-to-be-fabulous front and backyard ever since. Once our yard is complete, I’m sure, we will never be moving again!

Here is the front yard plan

When I showed my husband the plans, he immediately loved the idea of boxwood borders and white hydrangeas surrounding the front with mixed perennials and shade plants in the tree garden. Similar to the example below.


We have 8 mature trees skirting the property line. Not pretty trees, like the ones you take pictures of and post on your Instagram feed when they are in bloom or take cuttings and have on display in your home. Nope, our trees are ugly overgrown cedar and fir trees that drop sap and needles. Makes it very challenging to plant anything around them with the acidic soil.

The town that we live in has strict rules regarding tree removal (for good reasons of course!). We are permitted to remove 1 tree every 2 years with an arborist report. So we started in the front, next to the driveway. The massive cedar tree blocked the access to our backyard and constantly messed on our vehicles in the driveway.

Because we could only remove 1 of the 8 trees on the property, Maryanne needed to incorporate the existing trees into the plans until we can remove them. She certainly had a few challenges including designing a space that was dog friendly.

Our 8 year old, german short-haired pointer (shown below, looking so handsome in his new tartan collar) absolutely cannot be trusted in the yard (yes even at 8 years old!). We decided we would invest in pretty show casing plantings for the front, knowing Wyatt couldn’t reak havoc upon them and they would have a chance of survival.

Front yard plantings would include both shade and sun loving plants similar to those shown below.


Moving towards the backyard, here is the new plan:

The shaded line along the left side of the plan is a tall hedge to block the boat shelter at the back of the yard.

What I love about Maryanne is that she considers everything when designing your gardens. She asked me what my views are from my kitchen and living room windows. When I sent her this picture, she immediately drew up a hedge to camouflage the boat shelter haha! It was the elephant in the room and was difficult to disguise.

View from our living room (and my nursery of perennials waiting to be planted)

Would now look similar to this:

We have 4 mature trees alongside the back of the property that will have to stay until permits can be pulled to remove them. We will eventually add a garden up against the fence there that will connect with the garden shed.

The garden shed is situated smack in the middle of the yard. We stare at it when we’re sitting on the outdoor patio and it’s also the view from our kitchen window. We wanted it to match the look of the rest of the house since it was so visible. The idea is to surround the front of the shed with curved garden beds. I took the inspiration from Maria’s beautiful studio gardens shown below.


This is what the garden shed looked like when we took possession and our progress up until today.  You can see I moved my potted lime light hydrangeas in front of it last summer to have something visually appealing to see from our kitchen window.

Demo begins this week! Something beautiful is starting to take shape hooray!

We are beyond thankful for the help of MaryAnne White from Gardens by Design.

Stop second guessing your decisions and hire a professional who has years of experience to help make the decisions for you. She is so incredibly talented.

We will soon have a yard that will fill us with so much joy and happiness and won’t scare the neighbours any longer!

Thanks Kelly for this fun update!

Update on my next speaking engagement:

I am speaking at the Small Home Expo at the Tradex Center in Abbotsford, June 1 & 2, 2019.

10 Ways to Love your Small Space;  5 Things to Do, 5 Things Not to Do!

My presentation will now be available by livestream, if you can’t attend in person you can buy a ticket to watch me including all the MainStage speakers live (or for two weeks afterwards) for only $15 here.

If you are local, go here to purchase a ticket to attend the show and see me live!

Related posts:

Maria Killam’s White Garden Transformation: Before & After

Ignorance is Truly Bliss: Before & After

My New Boxwood Garden Beds; Before & After

If you’d like your exterior colours to fill you with happiness when you get home, I can help in our eDesign department here.

If you are building a new house, we can help with our new build package here.

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  • Katy Fertel says:

    Hi Maria,
    I knew as I was reading your note from Kay that she had to have been the author! I sat next to her and spent our three days together, and she so eloquently and accurately summed up what I felt as well. Many thanks for all that you do!
    Just signed up for your presentation on June 1st and look forward to the help it will provide as I downsize dramatically!
    All the best to you and Terreeia,

  • Laura says:

    I’m loving the garden ideas. It is great to see these posts as I live in zone 4 and always struggle with what I want to plant and what I can plant because of our harsh climate. I am eager to see the afters, especially because your house looks so much like Maria’s, it’ll be interesting to see the two different landscaping.

  • Lauren says:

    This inspiring post couldn’t have arrived at a better time for me. I am in the midst of buying a house and moving from CA to Wisconsin. Seller just accepted our offer yesterday. The house is in a great area and meets our needs, but lacks good landscaping. I woke up this morning feeling a little blah, but your post reminded me that my (and others’) creativity will make the home just right–and make me happy. Thank you, Maria! Lauren

  • Carol says:

    Cant wait to see the “after” pictures when you get things planted. Would love to see the “before and
    afters” of the interior or did you post it already and I missed it?

  • Miranda says:

    I’m excited to see your finished gardens sometime in the future! I know it all takes time (years)!? My husband and I have also hired Maryanne for help with our ugly and overgrown 2-acre yard. She is making some fabulous plans for us and we’re excited to get started on the execution of the project. Please keep us posted on your work.

  • Michelle Nicholson says:

    Two years ago the properties behind our home were sold. The 30-foot hedge that separated our lands and gave us wonderful privacy and a gorgeous view was replaced by a new development of close-knit monster houses with massive windows facing us. I’ve been in a total funk ever since then, completely bewildered about what to do to regain control of our surroundings. That was, until I hired Maryanne White last week to do a phone consultation. She came up with a wonderfully cohesive landscape plan that marries our aesthetics with practical and beautiful plantings and hardscapes. And it’s one that will restore our privacy and will be even prettier than what we had before! I’ve been smiling ear-to-ear ever since, and can’t wait for our landscaper to start incorporating Maryanne’s beautiful design! Having a master plan has made all the difference in the world and was worth every penny. Thank you, Maria, for introducing Maryanne to your readers and to Kelly for sharing your story. Looking forward to seeing the final results of both of our make-overs!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Michelle,I was horrified reading your comment until I got to the new landscape part, haha! I tell you if the 20ft cedar hedge that divides my back yard from the two neighbours behind us ever died, I would immediately pack up and move because it would take too long for new ones to come in so I totally feel your pain wow!!
      Anyway, I’m so glad you have a plan now! Thanks for your comment!

  • alyr says:

    Well, I’d call it “turning off” not “scaring off”. Because you couldn’t sell me a property with an old and overgrown, messy deferred maintenance yard for any amount of money. And obvs, that tells you the house itself is in the same condition – as Kelly noted. So you gotta REALLY want to live ONLY THERE and have plenty of money to gut the house AND the yard with a long term plan. And you better know that gutting each comes with much more than cosmetic fixes – like roots growing into the foundation and underground mechanics. No thanks! Of course, living in FL with hurricanes that only magnifies the challenge, too. Never fails to amaze me how people let the exterior get like that. Just YANK it out/prune before it’s out of control. That’s FREE and no landscaping is 100% better than a mess out there LOL.

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