Landscaping defines different aspects and philosophies of a homeowner association. It can be manicured like a formal French garden or free flowing like an Englishman would have it. In either case, it's intended to provide respite from the concrete and asphalt of our modern world ... to soothe the soul.

Attractive landscaping also increases property values. HOAs that have a strategic plan to care for their landscape attract more conscientious residents and higher prices, plain and simple.

To achieve both high aesthetic and financial goals, proactive boards appoint a committee to supervise the landscape care and philosophy. The Landscape Committee reviews contract proposals and monitors, protects and defends the landscape standards. In addition, the Committee establishes long range landscape plans recognizing that growing things have a limited useful life just like buildings.

The Landscape Committee acts as a buffer between residents and the landscape contractor. Rather than have individuals making demands directly to the contractor, all requests should be funneled through the Committee. Contractor performance should be carefully monitored by the Committee by review of work immediately following the contractor's visit. This is both in the homeowner association's and the contractor's best interest since the contractor is rarely doing all tasks in all areas each visit. By quality checking the landscaper's work immediately, small problems can be addressed rather than jumping the contractor for a year's worth of accumulated screw-ups.

Trimming standards and consistency are particularly important. Pruning styles range from free-flowing, irregular shapes to spherical or unusual topiary forms. It's important that the criteria not change from year to year. Perennial plants adapt slowly to a trimming style. Radical changes in trimming can cause traumatic results, even death.

Natural, low-maintenance growth patterns are easier to maintain and allow plants to flourish and reduce care and replacement costs. They also provide the consistency needed to produce a beautiful landscape.

In an effort to create instant "curb appeal," some HOAs over plant common areas. Small, unusable and difficult to irrigate patches of grass rapidly become eyesores because they're hard to maintain. Young trees and shrubs are allowed to mature and overcrowd the buildings, walkways and streets. Overplanting can be spotted by the following signs:

  • Plants are trimmed just to separate them
  • Trimming is needed to clear walkways
  • Shrubs or groundcover cannot bloom because they're trimmed too often
  • Attractive architectural features are obscured
  • The community looks or feels crowded

Improperly arranged flowers can create similar problems. Annual flowers and other colorful plants should be strategically located to ensure optimum growing conditions. Avoid sporadic spots of color.

While individuality has its merits, the Board should strive for consistency in the landscape policies. When it comes to curb appeal, landscape is king. With careful and proper planning and planting, common areas can be all that they can be.

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