Love Where You Live - Outdoor Living

Love Where You Live - Outdoor Living

WRITTEN BY Nan K. Chase & Melissa Reardon

Curb Appeal - Make a great first impression
By Nan K. Chase

You don’t need the excuse of putting a home on the market in order to spruce it up. Money invested in repairs can pay off many times over, and a tidy exterior not only adds market value but makes residents and neighbors alike feel good.    

The first impression should be “pride of ownership,” say Ginny and Matt Barker, realtors with Nest Realty Asheville. The keys are cleaning and repairing the house itself, decluttering the porches and any outbuildings, and keeping the landscape scrupulously maintained.

Start by evaluating the siding and rain gutters to see if upgrades are needed. Plan on power-washing everything to eliminate dust and mildew. Fix any loose siding or porch railings, consider investing in a fresh coat of paint (neutral-colored if you plan to sell), and evaluate masonry for cracks. Then, add nice new house numbers.

Now take a good look at the yard. Consider hiring professionals to do needed pruning and thinning of trees and shrubs, and have walkways edged and leaves raked. Do some serious weeding and add mulch if needed. Sweep walkways and even the sidewalk every day. Make sure any birdbaths are kept clean and filled.

Finally, simplify outdoor furnishings and eliminate the clutter around garages and sheds. A front porch needs only a small table and chairs, plus some fresh seasonal flowers, to look inviting.



Renovated by Sineath Construction, this home in Burnsville’s Mountain Air community extends a warm welcome.

Extra Measures - If you’re planning to sell your home, the Barkers offer some additional advice:

  1. Zoom out. Nowadays, the first view many prospective home buyers get is not in person but online, so try to create an open and simplified look for small-scale formats.
  2. Mind the mailbox. Replace or repaint a streetside mailbox to make the approach really pop. Install easy-to-read street numbers and remove the family name.
  3. Don’t forget the driveway. A cracked or damaged driveway is a turnoff, so resurface or repair. Make sure rock walls and pathways are in perfect shape, and get rid of any unused vehicles.
  4. Do an entryway check. It may be time to replace the storm door, doorbell, doorknob, doormat, and wall-mounted mailbox.
  5. Make it picture-perfect. If you’re selling, hire a professional photographer. 

Garden Planning - Get the most from your landscape
By Nan K. Chase

Whether you’re starting a new landscape or freshening up an old one, the job involves more than driving to a nursery and buying plants, usually impulsively. Professionals at local independent garden centers can offer informed advice, but the more information you can provide them with, the more durable the investment. Take stock in these pointers before you head to the garden center. 

First, identify the plants you like. Walk through the neighborhood or a local botanical garden for ideas. Craving edibles? Many beautiful landscape plants produce nuts, berries, fruits, flowers, herbs, or greens. 

Visit garden centers on weekday mornings instead of on busy weekends. Unless you’re paying for custom services, staff members can generally provide 30 minutes of help. Set a strict budget. And be realistic about how much time you can spend on watering and maintenance, especially the first year.

Study your property and record the growing conditions: steep or flat, shady or sunny, clay soil or crumbly, wet soil or dry, nutrient-poor dirt or rich loam. If you bring photos, make sure they can be viewed large on a tablet.

Hands-on Help

In addition to selling plants, many independent garden centers offer special services, says Cinthia Milner, horticulturist and garden coach at B.B. Barns in Asheville. These include:

  • We plan, you plant. After an in-store appointment, a staffer draws a plan and you do the planting. This service relies on customer input rather than site visits.
  • Garden coaching. This involves a site visit by a pro with horticulture or landscape design training. The garden coach helps lay out a project, including a plant list and marking the ground. Cost ranges from $85-$130 for an hour-long consultation.
  • Retail installation. Some centers do the planting at a flat rate, for example $18 for a three-gallon plant, plus the purchase price—a great way to get larger plants in the ground.
  • Full-scale landscape design. A turn-key production that includes plans for a garden design, a cost bid, and implementation.

(Left to right) Hosta, Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), Veronica “Georgia Blue”, Thyme, Ajuga

Easy Does It

Ground cover plants are a low-maintenance solution for managing weeds, reducing mowing, or covering unsightly bare soil while providing an attractive, unified look. Here are five gorgeous ground covers that grow well in Western North Carolina.

Hosta - These shade-tolerant, mounding plants come in all sizes and shades of green, with upright late-summer blooms. Hostas are cold-hardy and spread gracefully.

Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) - Soft and billowing, this shade-tolerant semi-evergreen perennial adds garden interest even in winter. It grows about a foot tall.

Veronica “Georgia Blue” - While Veronica stays bright green through summer, a carpet of light blue flowers bloom around February. It tolerates hot, dry conditions, and even attracts butterflies.

Thyme - The heavenly fragrance of this creeper—in its many varieties—is a major attraction. It even handles foot traffic, making it good along paths.

Ajuga - This creeping evergreen’s purple and dark green leaves spread quickly. It can thrive in almost any condition, from deep shade to semi-sun and in moist ground.

Pool Party - Designed by Retro+Fit Design and built by Living Stone Design + Build, this Asheville home was created in harmony with its incredible vista. A cantilevered deck and an infinity edge pool with a built-in spa hot tub (by Medallion Pools) offer unobstructed views, while ample patio seating, an outdoor kitchen and dining area, and cabana—complete with a floating TV above a gas fire feature—make this an enviable space for outside entertaining.

Alfresco Retreats - Fab ideas for porches and patios
By Melissa Reardon

Outdoor living spaces make for idyllic warm-weather spots for entertaining and relaxing with friends and family, and the demand for these private custom oases has risen in recent times. In the mountains of Western North Carolina, many stylish outdoor layouts encompass fire features, but otherwise run the gamut to include extravagant outdoor cooking areas, pools and hot tubs, manicured landscaping and patios, and comfy exterior living rooms for lounging. Here (and above) are four dreamy spaces to inspire your own outdoor retreat.

Lake House Luxe - Designed by PLATT as a connection between the primary residence and guest quarters, this screened-in outdoor kitchen, dining, and living room serves as a middle ground for family gatherings, with a private view of Lake Toxaway. Beautifully distressed wood (including reclaimed snow fencing for the siding) and stone lend rustic appeal, while dormer windows help enhance the natural lighting.

Southern Belle - The 2020 Southern Living Idea House by Buchanan Construction encompasses inviting outdoor living spaces, including a screened porch with a fireplace, couches, and an Original Charleston Bed Swing, a deck with ample seating, and a lower-level patio with a stone fire pit. 

Modern Marvel - This passive solar home in Hendersonville built by TAB Associates includes an outdoor porch with a sink and Wolf grill, fireplace, and electric roll-down screens for added privacy. The porch roof serves the dual purpose of housing 11 solar panels. 

Photographs by Aaron Hogsed AIAP for Sineath Construction (2, Retro+Fit Design) by Ryan Theede; (lake house) Jerry Markatos; (tab) Amos Moses; (2, Buchanan Construction) by Robbie Camponetto/Southern Living