If you're not opening up a cabin or camping somewhere in Alaska this Memorial Day weekend, you're most likely spending the weekend working in your yard or whatever is left of it after our record breaking long winter. Homeowners know all too well that materials and installation of landscaping in Alaska is expensive. And maintenance and replacement can be even more expensive. There's our harsh winters and moose eating shrubs and trees. Yet, after it's all planted, sprinkled, pruned and the sunshine comes out, landscaping adds value to our homes, commercial buildings and streetscapes. All those downtown hanging begonia and geranium baskets sprinkled with lobelia says something very positive to the thousands of tourists who walk our streets about how Alaskans feel about their community.

     Unfortunately, not all our landscaping looks as colorful and healthy as those hanging baskets. Federal, state and local designs for new roads require a landscaping plan. However, after the landscaping is installed, there are no requirements, funding or bonding for its maintenance and replacement. The same is true for commercial buildings. A lot of commercial and government-installed landscaping in this community is abandoned after its initial planting. Drive down A Street and you can see for yourself which businesses maintain their landscaping and which do not. Locally owned businesses have a much better pride of ownership than do international companies who don't care about a dead tree or shrub in their parking lot, even though 24,000 cars a day may drive by.

     Some new residential subdivisions have plat notes which require the developer to install individual lot landscaping which may include up to four to six inches of topsoil and hydro seeding in both the front and back yards as well as planting a certain number of trees and shrubs in the front yard. This requirement is a future homeowner cost savings of up to $5,000 or $10,000 and adds value to the lot and the new community.

     Other developers pass on the landscaping requirements to the builder who may in turn pass it on to the new homeowner. Read your covenants, codes and restrictions to find out who is responsible for landscaping and when it must be installed.

     A tree can cost more than ten times the cost of a shrub and a shrub can cost more than ten times a flat of flowers. However, the tree can last for a hundred years (assuming moose guard or an evergreen) and a shrub can last ten or twenty years. Flowers bloom and die within 60 days unless they are perennials like peonies, iris, tulips. Consider your annual flowers like a piece of jewelry. It adds color and interest to your wardrobe, but the real added value of landscaping is in the trees and shrubs you plant, water and maintain.

     Potential home buyers decide within ten seconds whether or not they want to look inside a home. Landscaping plays a significant role in those ten seconds. A well-placed twelve-foot clump birch tree surrounded by five cotoneasters with a sprinkling of bark and a nice hanging basket at the front door may make the difference as to whether or not you have a showing. A well-maintained yard also speaks volume as to the home sellers maintenance inside the home.