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Real Estate and Home Guide — The Altamont Enterprise, May 20, 2010

Going native
A well-tended yard draws buyers into homes for sale

By Saranac Hale Spencer

If the yard around a house is neat, it will invite people inside.

“You get many people who just drive by,” said Lauren Meacham, who’s been the top selling real estate agent in the Voorheesville area for the last five years. Making the outside of the house attractive means buyers will be more likely to stop and look, she said.

Simple things to make a house appealing are painting the front door, keeping the lawn mowed and bushes trimmed, and making sure the front lawn stays neat, she said. It’s also easy to add some color and appeal by hanging a basket of flowers on the porch or putting a potted plant on the front step.

Annuals are a good way to add some color, she said, planted in the garden or potted.

“I’m a big gardener myself,” said Meacham, but, in order to make perennials work for sprucing up a house, the homeowner needs to know when the plant will be in bloom and for how long, whereas the annuals will stay colorful all summer.

Over the last couple of decades, people have become interested in using fewer chemicals in their yards and putting less into the maintenance of gardens, said Susan Pezzolla, a community horticulture educator at the county’s Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Using native plants, which are indigenous to the area, can satisfy those demands. They know how to survive in the eco-system, she explained, so they don’t need pesticides and they are more drought tolerant than ornamental plants, she said.

In some areas of Guilderland, the Pine Bush Preserve management plan calls for those living in developed areas to landscape with native plants, which can be easier to maintain than imported ones because they fit the habitat.

Standing amid the gardens in front of the extension building, Pezzolla said, “The bones of it now are pretty much native plants.” Much of what grows in the gardens that she uses to teach people are native plants arranged in pockets around a white fur tree — a native of the northeast — which was the first thing to be planted at the extension. “It’s kind of the anchor for the garden,” she said.

Usually, people come to her with a problem and want a solution, she said. Often, they are having trouble getting plants to thrive in a shady yard and they don’t want to cut down the trees. Part of the problem is that it is usually dry shade, since the tree uses most of the water in the soil.

Pezzolla points to two oaks hovering over a patchwork of plants and explains that the master gardeners who tend the plot keep the soil moist for the plants by using compost and mulch. Most of the plants are native, she said, not by design but because they are able to live in that environment.

When the grounds are looking nice, people are in a good place when they go into the house, Meacham said. She attributes her sales record to “the little things that I take notice of, like gardens.”

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