Homes With Heart – Heather Coombs-Perez

Landscaping can be an excellent return on investment for homeowners looking to beautify their home or neighborhood while building equity. A Clemson University study found that landscaping could result in more than a 100 percent return, but also cautions that hiring licensed, professional landscape contractors was the best way to safeguard the investment.

Local landscape designer and owner of Gravel & Green Landscape Design (, Bret Weiss, says that now is a great time to start planning and planting if you’re thinking of landscaping this season. However, he cautions the do-it-yourselfer to do their homework and avoid the pitfalls listed below.

• Don’t underestimate the cost of landscaping. According to the Association of Professional Landscape Designers landscape design will generally reflect an investment of 5-10 percent of the value of the home. In Southern California, for an average home worth approximately $600,000, the investment in landscaping should equal $30,000-$60,000.

• If you’re not going to hire a professional to design your garden, at least hire professionals to install the more difficult parts. Designers take into account building codes such as the height of fences, easements and property lines when installing concrete elements or permanent structures. Permits are required for various patios and retaining walls, as well as built in barbeques and other ornamental elements. Don’t get caught having to redo parts of your landscape to satisfy the city inspectors.

• All plants are not created equal. Just because a plant looks pretty in the pot at the nursery, it doesn’t mean it will do well in your garden. Hardiness, the amount of shade or sunlight, the size between plantings, and any special watering or feeding needs, need to be taken into account. A good landscape designer will know how the plants grow over time and can plant accordingly to keep the same “look and feel” of the garden as it matures.

“A big mistake people make is overplanting a brand new bed, or planting the wrong types of plants in the wrong place,” said Weiss. “Some trees have really invasive root systems which can damage your foundation if planted too close to the house, or cause a sidewalk to crack and warp. If you’re affecting sidewalks, the city may ask you to replace it, which can be incredibly expensive,” he said.

If you have an established garden, a few quick tips to keep it looking good include:

• Weeding –Pull weeds from planting beds and layer in some mulch. With all the rain we’re having, it’s a great time to fertilize.
• New plantings – Planting now while it’s cooler will allow new plants to go through “root shock” that all plants undergo when they are transplanted. They will then grow quicker and bloom faster during the May and June growing season.
• Transplant quickly – Nurseries feed plants in their greenhouses on a very strict and regimented schedule to keep them healthy. When you get the plants home, it’s really important to transplant them into the soil as quickly as possible—the same day is generally the best.
• Ornamental grasses – A major design element found in many Southern California gardens is the use of ornamental grass. It’s very important to trim these grasses before the growing season. Known as “topping”, it’s like giving your grasses a flat-top crew cut. This will encourage healthy new growth throughout the plant and stop the grasses “falling over”.

For more information and creative garden design, visit, or contact Bret Weiss at 310-390-0502. To see what landscaping can do for the investment value of your home, or for a free market evaluation, contact me at 310-259-7419 or email [email protected].

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