Pictured is Dawn Hart, owner of Island ACE Garden Center.

Impressions are important when a prospective home buyer visits a piece of property for the first time.

For the owner, it’s even more challenging to make the entrance to a home as alluring as possible in the middle of winter.

Dawn Hart, owner of Island Ace Hardware, on St. Simons Island, said there are ways to spruce up the entrance of a home any time of year.

During the winter, Hart suggests staging along the sidewalk and front door. Landscaping should include an edged sidewalk with a nice, clean line. Fresh mulch or pine straw should be spread in beds with neatly trimmed shrubbery.

But property owners should be cautious, and not hard-prune shrubs and plants until late February or early March. Instead, plants can be refreshed with some cautious trimming of brown areas.

Depending on the size of porch, Hart said there are a variety of ways to make the entrance to a home appealing. She suggests potted plants on each side of the main door. Hanging ferns are also a nice addition on larger porches.

Annual winter flowers such as pansies, snapdragons and petunias, in solid colors, can help brighten up the entrance to a home during the winter months.

Spring isn’t far away, and once the weather warms there are other ways people can spruce up the entrance to their home. Early spring is the time to fertilize the lawn and plant a wide variety of flowers.

Regardless of whether you live on one of the barrier islands or on the mainland east of Interstate 95, almost any flower or shrub that does well can be planted.

Residents living inland west of I-95 may have to be more selective with outdoor plants because of the harder and more prolonged freezes, Hart said.

One of the best ways to ensure plants handle the wintertime freezes is to ensure they are well-watered watered to help protect the roots, she said.

“Trees are excellent to plant,” she said. “Getting them in the ground will help the root system.”

Hart said she believes landscaping adds value to any home and is a good investment, especially for those planning to put their home on the market.

Chandra Kendall, associate broker at DeLoach Sotheby’s International Realty, also on St. Simons Island, said a well-maintained yard can often indicate how well a home has been taken care of.

“Prior to listing, it is imperative to look at your yard, go through and clean out any dead shrubs or plants, and any items that may be considered clutter and debris,” she said. “Having an attractive landscape plan will increase the chances of a quicker sale, and for more money.”

Wintertime isn’t the most ideal time to showcase a home in its best possible light, but Kendall agrees there are ways to make it more appealing.

“Obviously in our area the time of year when the yards are most appealing is spring and early summer,” Kendall said. “However, with care and maintenance your yard can look attractive all year, choosing plants and foliage resistant to changes in the seasons, and adding annuals for color.”

The importance of that first impression cannot be emphasized more than when a customer looks at a home for the first time.

“Curb appeal is essential to a potential buyer,” she said. “If the exterior of the home is not attractive or neglected, the general idea for the buyer is that the inside may be neglected as well. The first impression is the lasting one, and should entice a buyer, not turn them away. A well-manicured yard and organized landscape plan is a top requirement for a successful sale.”

The longer someone waits to make the needed improvements to make that ideal first impression, the more difficult it becomes.

“Weeds can quickly take over, and it can cost a lot of money to get back into shape,” Kendall said. “Trees and shrubs should not be touching the house. An unkempt yard can also lower property value, and the ability to sell. Irrigation systems and wells should not be neglected, and maintenance of these systems should be ongoing.”

One way to ensure the best return on the investment of landscaping in preparation of selling a home is to contact a professional, Kendall recommended.

“Consulting a landscaper or landscape architect can be a lucrative return on investment,” she said. “According to the National Association of Realtors, landscape maintenance and tree care recover 100 percent of the costs at the time of sale.”