Winter is not the friendliest of seasons for homeowners in the Hudson Valley. Amid the cycle of snowstorms, muddy yards, and icy gutters, local abodes have it rough until springtime finally rolls around. Of course, the return of the sunshine also means that any signs of wear and tear that hit your abode’s exterior during the winter months are all too obvious.
This year, instead of frowning over the brown, matted grass and tired plants that peek out from under the melting snow, map out a plan of action to transform your landscape into the oasis of your dreams. To help, we called on the founding team behind Tilly, an online landscape design service with roots in the Hudson Valley. Check out Tilly’s expert tips below, then get ready to give your home the facelift it deserves.
“When it comes to a front foundation, generally less is more,” explains Blythe Yost, one of Tilly’s co-founders and a Pearl River resident. “Rather than installing a few plants of many varieties, consider using only a limited palette with significant repetition. This will help provide more cohesion and allow for a cleaner, more updated look.”
“Nothing makes a home look tired like overgrown bushes,” Yost declares. “If you don’t have the budget to install new plants now, consider just removing the old ones. It may look a bit bare at first, but an empty front foundation may provide the perfect blank canvas to dream up new ideas.”
According to Yost, pruning is the number one landscape design element to be mishandled.
“Good pruning takes a deep knowledge of plant material, growth habits, and pruning techniques,” she explains. “The biggest mistake we see is the use of hedge pruners which only clip off the top few inches of growth, but never thin the overall shrub, resulting in big, meatball-like shrubs.”
To avoid the meatball effect, Yost recommends digging deep to clip off old stems and thin and shape the shrub from the inside out. The goal is to reduce the shrub by at least 50 percent in size and density. Although the shrub may look sparse for the next month or two, it will soon regrow and rejuvenate itself.
After pruning, clearly defining plant beds is critical for anyone who wants to create an aesthetically pleasing yard, Yost notes.
“Clearly designating where a planting bed stops and the lawn begins can make a big difference in the perceived cleanliness of a home,” she says, adding that sometimes this only requires an easy redefinition with a spade shovel. For a more serious fix, however, additional pre-planning may be required. “If your bed lines are a bit wobbly, try buying a can of inverted tip marking spray paint and spraying a new, straight bed line before you begin. It will be easier to cut a clean edge if you follow your paint line.”
While such techniques are perhaps the easiest ways to maintain edges, Yost notes that some people may prefer to define borders with stone or other such materials. Although not impossible to utilize, alternative materials can clutter a landscape and overcomplicate the design. To avoid this, she recommends beginning with simple definition before introducing any additional elements to the mix.
“While we do think front foundations should be simple, there’s always room for a few flowers,” says Yost, who recommends leaving some space in your landscape to add seasonal color. “Whether it’s a few mums you pick up on a grocery store run or some much-anticipated tulip bulbs planted before the snowfall, a little seasonal flair will help bring your curb appeal to life.”
“Although not exactly a landscape feature, the house is the backdrop for the gardens,” explains Yost. “A fresh coat of paint can make your home feel personal, welcoming, and stylish.” For 2019, she recommends grays, which are on trend, or warmer tones. Either way, she cautions against bluish hues, which feel cold and uninviting in spring.
Not in the mood to revamp your landscape yourself? Just ask Tilly, the New York-based brand founded by four high school friends over coffee one afternoon. The service, which helps homeowners design the exterior of their dreams, has a presence throughout the Hudson Valley and Westchester, as well as in the Hamptons, Manhattan, and New Jersey. Services begin at $375 and go up to $775 for an entire property redesign.