Take our simple ideas, and adapt them to your home.

Every landscape has a story. This one begins with a "for sale" sign and a fast way to create curb appeal. The previous owner had stuck shrubs across the front bed for instant effect and a quick sale. By the time the new owner, Beth Dreiling, came home with the keys, the bushes were at death's door.

Well, the quick-fix shrubs did die. Beth had to replant and wondered where to begin. We came up with a three-step plan for her, taking into account her budget and what needed improvement, to provide a simple solution for each issue. Here's what we did.

The Front Bed
What's wrong: Even alive, the shrubs were not a good choice. In time, they would have covered the windows, and they did nothing to enhance the home's architectural style.
Make it right: Beth wanted this area to look good year-round, without being stiff or rigid, and to showcase the home's dominant windows. So we chose three evergreen perennials, which never die back to the ground. Cast-iron plants anchor one end of the bed as the tallest selection, and lilies of China (with similar foliage) are shorter additions in front of the windows. Autumn ferns drift between the two, adding a soft texture to balance the architectural leaves of the others. Then we added a ground cover--variegated ivy--to soften the front wall's edge.

What's wrong: The lone white planter's shape and color did not suit the house.
Make it right: A trio of galvanized planters extends the garden onto the landing. (The cost is worth it here because the pots are visible.) The tallest holds a cast-iron plant to mirror the adjacent bed, another has autumn fern and a New Guinea Hybrid impatiens, and the last one delivers more color with additional impatiens. The containers' shape and color complement the angular lines of the house without being obtrusive.

The Front Door
What's wrong: The mostly solid door appeared to be a barrier rather than a welcoming entry to Beth's home.
Make it right: The new door's three-across panes mimic the windows that dominate the house's facade. Now, the architecture has continuity from one end to the other.

"Make a Fresh Start" is from the June 2007 issue of Southern Living.