New trends in front-yard appeal

This season it seems new trends in front-yard gardening are taking root in Maple Ridge

Emi Uchida gives Ken Hemminger a working tour of her front yard garden in west Maple Ridge.

Emi Uchida gives Ken Hemminger a working tour of her front yard garden in west Maple Ridge.

Update the kitchen, check. Renovate the bathroom with the newest colours. Then glance out the window at your dandelion-filled front yard and get to work creating that perfect front lawn.

Curb appeal is one of those no-brainers when ensuring your home is ready to sell, although it’s also sometimes tough to know just how to ensure a good first impression with prospective buyers.

And this season it seems new trends in front-yard gardening are taking root and could change how homeowners prepare for that all-important first impression in the next few years.

In the past two years, there’s been a steady increase in the number of people putting more effort into adding some originality and diversity to their front-yard gardens, according to the 2011 Garden Trends Research report. The report states that North Americans are spending twice what they used to on their front gardens.

“I just fell in love with the idea of reinventing the space,” says Joanne Sale, who turned her entire front yard into a maze of food, native plants and grasses. While the neighbors first thought she was putting in a mini-golf course, they are now getting used to the changes, she says.

From the pages of the Wall Street Journal to the famous UK Chelsea Flower Show, a trend is growing that is changing how people are thinking about that green space in front of our homes.

This year’s Chelsea Flower Show included a larger number of front-yard food gardens, wildscapes, and native plant displays that save water. Now these ideas seem to be on their way to mainstream gardening.

Maple Ridge was on the early crest of this new wave of gardening when the municipality’s agricultural advisory committee started the front yard food garden contest three years ago. The contest honours growers on small, medium and large-size lots and even has a children’s category this year.

“It’s wonderful to see what people do,” says Stephanie James, a passionate committee member and contest judge. The gardens often integrate herbs as well as vegetables, such as kale or squash into flower gardens for a full, year-round splash of colour.

“We are trying to encourage people to think about growing food again,” she says.” It’s been very inspiring.”

She says the contest reminds people of food security issues in a fun way that also does double duty as a way to clean up front yards that have been left dormant or unkempt. One of last year’s winners turned his front yard full of old cars and masses of junk into a wonderful display.

“It was absolutely marvelous,” she says.

She also noted a change in places such as Albion, where the small lots don’t really lend themselves to old fashioned manicured lawns. Several entries have come from these homes where people have managed to pack in gorgeous displays of food and flowers, she says.

James is adamant that these food gardens and integrated flower and food gardens improve the value of real estate and notes that some of the entries over the years have been nominated by neighbours who were impressed by changes they saw in nearby properties.

“It definitely improves the value.”

She’s not alone in her enthusiasm. Fellow committee member and Maple Ridge realtor Ken Hemminger agrees.

If gardens are created with plenty of forethought and integrated into flower and lawns so there is no barren ground in the off season, they will only enhance the value of a property, Hemminger says.

“They are much more attractive and sellable,” he says of several properties he’s seen develop over the past few years.

Hemminger has lovingly transformed his own front yard into a mix of flower and vegetable beds slowly over time so the neighbours didn’t even notice. Now, he invites them to pick the vegetables and uses the space to share with local kids and his own grandchild who get to learn where food comes from.

“They’re having fun,” he says. “People forget what really fresh stuff tastes like.”

But with the growing trend to native, wild, and food gardens along our streets it’s likely more of us will find the value of our home blossoming as we embrace this delicious new trend.