Featured Stories

Appeal from the curb

by: Vern Uyetake, Kyle Anne Bistolas’ front yard, left, is well maintained but requires little upkeep. Her garden business, Boxwood Garden Design, transforms many local yards — whether the house is on the market or the family just wants to spruce things up a bit.

What does your front yard say about you? Better yet, what does your front yard say about your house? Whether you're looking to sell your home or just spruce things up a bit, curb appeal - the view of the home seen when driving by - can be maintained with minimal effort for maximum exterior appeal.

Kyle Anne Bistolas, owner of Boxwood Garden Design in Lake Oswego, works with clients to enhance entrances and established beds by using easy care garden designs.

'I really try and read the client and go, 'OK, are they going to be out every weekend in their yard? (Most of them) probably not.' I like low maintenance plants that will come back year after year,' Bistolas said.

Sometimes, she said, it is difficult for homeowners to examine their own yards for areas needing to be fixed-up because they become accustomed to how things look and function. Bistolas acts as a 'fresh eye' to liven-up yards.

'Some houses need a lot (of help). Others don't have a lot to do because they're very well maintained, but there's no oomph,' she said. 'Curb appeal is something that welcomes you to the home. (It can be achieved by changing) little things - like a new light fixture or painting the existing ones.'

Bistolas shared some quick tips about how she takes her clients' yards from ordinary to extraordinary:

Add color

Adding garden pots can bring in a bit of color to a yard - from both the exterior of the pot as well as what's contained inside of it.

'A lot of evergreens are wonderful for the structure of pots. That way the pot will look good in the wintertime,' said Bistolas.

Seasonal plants may come and go within the pots, but evergreen plants remain with constant greenery through the seasons.

'You can do a pot and it will look gorgeous but in a month the flowers could be gone,' she said. 'You can mix perennials and annuals in (the pot) for color, but you're not constantly redoing the pot.'

Bistolas works with clients to establish a their favorite color scheme.

'What plants do you love? What plants do you hate? What colors do you love? What colors do you hate?' she said. 'There are people that absolutely do not like yellow flowers so I need to know that.'

Once a budget is established, Bistolas can work with her client to decide on what type and size of pot would be appropriate.

'I like black and charcoal pots because they're a little bit more traditional and go with the style of my home,' she said. 'Some people like colorful clay pots.'

Color can change a yard's appearance.

'There's really no colors you can't put together. It just depends on the client - and the sun. The sun is a big indicator. If you start in the spring it's different in the summer because the sun is higher,' she said.

Liven things up

Painting a mailbox's housing a darker color, Bistolas said, hides dirt. Replace the metal mailbox if it is in poor condition.

A fresh coat of paint on the front door and original light fixtures can update the look of the home.

Bistolas also looks for overgrown plants because these items can block unique features in the yard and make spaces look cluttered. Yard art can also make spaces look crowded if not placed effectively.

'Go to nurseries. I live at Seven Dees. Go to your favorite nurseries and look and see what they have. Find things that fit your style and personality,' Bistolas said. 'Do you have a certain style? European? Italian? Traditional? Whimsy? Cottagy?'

Create borders

Bistolas said she wants her yard to look tidy, yet natural. She designates different areas for different activities - a sitting arrangement, pathways, plenty of open grass.

'Create borders around garden beds and you can edge (the lawn). But, you don't want to do a border around everything - that's distracting,' Bistolas said. 'It's nice to separate some things because it looks so nice from afar.'

Bistolas used cobblestones to separate garden beds near the front door with the lawn. Bark dust freshens up soil surrounding plants.

'I always suggest the darkest bark dust because it looks the most natural. I get the fine dark fir or the medium-dark hemlock,' she said. 'It makes a big difference. I try to add it each year in the spring in the front (of my house).'

Bistolas said she often helps local real estate agents who want their listings to have more appeal for potential buyers. Her custom potted plant arrangements are a popular gift from agents to their clients as a parting gift.

Bistolas said she has enjoyed making spaces more comfortable since she started gardening 25 years ago. Now, at her Lake Oswego home, chairs surround a bistro table on her front porch for comfy porch gatherings.

'I do small garden areas, established beds. I feel like people are looking for someone to help them get started and have low maintenance,' Bistolas said.

'I run a lot and walk the dog and I always (see houses and) think, 'if (the homeowners) would just do this and that it would be such a neat house.' But then again, they could say the same thing about my home. A fresh eye sometimes can see things. And the client has to be happy.'

For more information about Boxwood Garden Design, call 503-481-2077 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..