At some point, you've driven by or visited a house that just grabbed your attention the moment you saw it. I'm not talking about the look of the house per se. I'm referring to the overall good feeling you experienced as you took in the view. What you were enjoying was "curb appeal."
Curb appeal is just what the name implies: the appeal of a house and landscape as you view them from the street or curb. It has nothing to do with the size or grandeur of the house. Instead, it relates to the sense of balance and harmony of the landscaping with the house; call it the ying and yang. It's often a personal experience, sometimes difficult to put into words. Many times what gives a house curb appeal is the collective subtleties throughout the landscape. Here are some specifics to help you zero in on making your own landscape more "curb appealing."
When plants and trees are of an appropriate size to the house, or "in scale," they are neither too large nor too small. Trees and shrubs shouldn't overpower the house, yet at the same time, you shouldn't have to strain to notice them.
I refer to balance in a landscape as "visual weight." You don't have to have a symmetrical, mirror image of the right-side plantings with the left, although in a formal landscape this is often the case. For most homes, an informal landscape is more appropriate and inviting from the street. Symmetry can still be achieved by placing trees, shrubs or even flowers so that generally what's on one side mimics the other, through size, form, layers, texture and color.
In a formal landscape, straight lines are the norm rather than the exception. But homes with curb appeal are most often characterized by soft, eye-pleasing curved walks and beds. They imply, "Stroll on up here, have a seat and stay awhile. You're welcome here." Conversely, straight lines say, "Hurry up, get your business done and move on."
When planting beds, especially when using shrubs or trees, think in terms of odd-numbered quantities. From a design standpoint, our eye tends to be more comfortable with odd numbers of plants. In most home landscapes, a more informal, asymmetrical look and feel is appropriate. Odd-numbered plantings help to accomplish this. The exception would be a formal landscape design, when you are deliberately trying to achieve symmetry -- in which case even numbers and mirror images work best.
One of the easiest ways to help create curb appeal is to choose plant colors that complement the house, without being distracting. In fact, in a house with curb appeal, the landscape plants blend together seamlessly with the house color scheme. Don't place much weight on flower color; it's fleeting, after all. Instead, choose plants for their foliage color, and remember to consider their fall display.
On the theme of casual balance, layers mimic nature, and nature is the best case of curb appeal on a grand scale. Layers abound, from groundcovers to the tallest trees. A variety of layers will make a hugely positive difference.
Speaking of variety, landscapes that please the eye do so by mixing things up. But don't overdo it; just like loud colors, too many plant types can be confusing and distracting to the eye. A few groupings of different plants, trees and shrubs provide enough change without going overboard.
If you're ready to add personality and charm to your front yard, start by figuring out what's not working in the current landscape. Then apply the concepts above and you're on your way to having your own "curb-appealing" landscape.