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October 01, 2012   Email to Friend 

Alabama Gardener
Lois Chaplin

To a gardener, a landscape is a garden and a priceless refuge. Over the years, environmental, trade, and realtor groups have measured the dollar value of landscaping to encourage the public to put more emphasis (and spending) in their yards and green spaces. It’s a win-win scenario as those who have a thoughtfully designed landscape probably already know. Careful planting around a home can be worth real money in addition to its pleasure.

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), shade trees carefully positioned around a house can save up to 25 percent of a typical homes’s energy for heating and cooling. Computer models from DOE predict that just three trees properly placed around a home can save between $100 and $250 in heating and cooling energy costs annually. Properly placed deciduous trees reduce house temperatures in the summer, but allow the sun to warm the house in the winter. Evergreens can serve as insulation and windbreak on the windward side of a house.

Trees providing shade to homes can reduce attic temperatures up to 40 degrees, which is no surprise to those who remember grandma’s house nestled under trees. Using local power rates, the School of Forestry at Auburn University found that homeowners could save as much as 11 percent on their power bills with only 17 percent heavy shade coverage. The scientific study is available online at https://fp.auburn.edu/cfs/treeStudyArticle.aspx.

Studies from the Environmental Protection Agency show urban forests reduce urban air temperatures by shading buildings and concrete, and returning humidity to the air through evaporative cooling. The same large shade trees filter pollutants from the air. This has an impact on cities, both downtown and in suburbs, where pastures may become sun-baked neighborhoods.

While many reports about resale value could stand to be reworked with current day numbers, most realtors would agree good landscaping increases the curb appeal of a home. A 2002 Money magazine survey reported landscaping has a recovery value of 100 to 200 percent if it is well done. The Society of Real Estate Appraisers concur that landscaping adds to the dollar value of real estate and increases the actual speed of the sale.

According to Clemson University, “good” or “excellent” landscaping can improve values from 4-to-7 percent over homes with “average” landscaping (which may be interpreted as no real design). Even individual trees can be valued. In fact, Auburn recently assessed the individual value of more than 7,300 campus trees at nearly $11 million. An arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture is often a good source to determine the value of trees (isa-arbor.com).

Parks and street trees have been found to be second only to education in residents’ perceived value of municipal services.

Psychologist Rachel Kaplan found trees, landscaped grounds and places for walking to be among the most important factors when individuals chose a place to live. So whether at home or in the neighborhood, according to all this quantifiable information, what’s planted can help keep neighborhoods and cities a great place to live.

Lois Chaplin is an accomplished gardener and author. Her work appears here courtesy of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

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