Spring has finally made her presence known. Birds are singing with abandon and blossoms are bursting with color in gardens across Fairfield County.

Those colorful displays may increase the value of a property and play a part in the sale of a house, according to local garden experts and realtors.

"No matter what the price point of a property, gardens enhance your life and your home increasing value not only monetarily but, even more importantly, to your soul," said Julie Vanderblue, of the Vanderblue Team, an affiliate of Higgins Group Real Estate.

A property on the market at 8 Peabody Lane in Westport definitely soothes the soul. Its grounds feature thoughtful landscaping designed to calm and relax. Landscape designers fashioned a rare, natural enclave on this 1.54-acre parcel on a private cul-de-sac in the Fairfield County Hunt Club neighborhood. It features waterfalls and Zen-like gardens to ease the spirit. The current owners have carefully tended and nurtured this special Eden. Lush and alluring, these gardens invite quiet walks and peaceful contemplation, according to listing agent Janet Anderson of Coldwell Banker.

Then there is the Colonial with architecturally ornate and historic gardens at 5060 Congress St. in Fairfield's Greenfield Hill, which is also on the market. The stems of flowers in this historic garden may be standing straighter, their blossoms bursting with pride this season as the garden was recently recognized by the Smithsonian Gardens and registered in the institution's Archives of American Gardens, through the Garden Club of America's Garden History & Design program. The AAG preserves and highlights "a meaningful compendium of significant aspects of gardening in the United States for the benefit of researchers and the public today and in the future," according to its website.

The garden at 5060 Congress St. on a bucolic estate called Farmwood is one of more than 7,500 gardens throughout the nation highlighted in the Smithsonian archive, which includes 100,000-plus photographic images and documentation related to historic and contemporary American gardens. Those records are important since "historic, designed and cultural landscapes are subject to change, loss and destruction," the website says.

Images in the collection show views of gardens from the 1870s to the present and include features such as garden furniture, ornamentation, fountains, sculptures, fences and gates, many of which are found in the Congress Street garden. It is hidden behind stone walls and separated from the property's notable swimming pool by a lattice fence. Scenes for the film "The Swimmer" were shot at this pool as Academy Award-winning actor Burt Lancaster swam in it.

More Information

ABOUT THESE HOUSES

• ADDRESS: 5060 Congress St., Fairfield
TYPE: Colonial
PRICE: $4,950,000
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 16
AMENITIES: abuts the Connecticut Audubon Society at Larsen Sanctuary, underground utilities, 4.35-acre level estate, Gunite heated in-ground swimming pool, hot tub, pool house, stone chapel, wine cellar and tasting room, bluestone patio, outdoor kitchen with built-in grill, wet bar, specimen trees, formal walled garden, 10,916 square feet, 1941 Cameron Clark-designed home with a 2004 addition, front and rear staircases, six fireplaces, attached two-car garage plus detached six-car garage in stand-alone post-and-beam barn, six bedrooms, seven full and two half baths
SCHOOLS: Burr Elementary, Tomlinson Middle, Fairfield Warde High
ASSESSMENT: $1,830,150
TAXES: $49,900
For more information or to set up an appointment to see 5060 Congress St., contact Doris Rowe and Tara Rowe Hawley of Coldwell Banker Previews International -- Rowe at 203-767-0920 or rowehouses@aol.com, and Hawley at 203-331-5939 or tara.hawley@cbmoves.com.

• ADDRESS: 8 Peabody Lane, Westport
TYPE: Colonial
PRICE: $1,496,000
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 10
AMENITIES: 1.54-acre level and sloping parcel, Zen-like gardens with water features including a pond and multiple waterfalls, built in 1965, fully remodeled, 3,041 square feet, located on a cul-de-sac, two fireplaces, four bedrooms, two full and one half bath
SCHOOLS: Long Lots Elementary, Bedford Middle, Staples High
ASSESSMENT: $818,900
TAXES: $14,691
For more information or to make an appointment to see 8 Peabody Lane, contact Janet Anderson of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage at 203-226-1090.

The design styles represented in the Smithsonian garden archives range from large Italianate estates to herb and rose gardens, cottage and patio gardens, and urban parks.

In a letter to the homeowners, a representative of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Gardens said, "The documentation will help provide scholars and researchers with a much better understanding and appreciation of its history, layout and design inspirations. ... `Farmwood' is one of thousands of gardens included in the AAG that reach a wide and varied audience. Researchers and the general public regularly access AAG holdings for scholarly and education purposes as well as for design inspiration."

One of the owners of the Congress Street home is also a member of the Fairfield Garden Club and spent two years researching the background of the garden that the family reclaimed when they first moved in. Deer had taken over the garden, which was designed and built in the 1920s by the Fleischmann family. It was later purchased by Roy and Margaret "Margot" Larsen, who donated much of the land to the Connecticut Audubon Society. Larsen Sanctuary, which is open to the public, borders this property and will never see development.

Jillian Klaff of William Raveis Real Estate said, dollar for dollar, homeowners rarely recoup their investment in gardens and landscaping, but added established gardens with specimen and other special plantings do add value to a property. If a property is not well maintained, it will detract from the financial value and curb appeal is important, she said.

"The homeowners will definitely get less money if it doesn't look good," Klaff said.

To learn more about the Smithsonian Gardens archives, visit www.si.edu.

ABOUT THESE HOUSES

- ADDRESS: 5060 Congress St., Fairfield

TYPE: Colonial

PRICE: $4,950,000

NUMBER OF ROOMS: 16

AMENITIES: abuts the Connecticut Audubon Society at Larsen Sanctuary, underground utilities, 4.35-acre level estate, Gunite heated in-ground swimming pool, hot tub, pool house, stone chapel, wine cellar and tasting room, bluestone patio, outdoor kitchen with built-in grill, wet bar, specimen trees, formal walled garden, 10,916 square feet, 1941 Cameron Clark-designed home with a 2004 addition, front and rear staircases, six fireplaces, attached two-car garage plus detached six-car garage in stand-alone post-and-beam barn, six bedrooms, seven full and two half baths

SCHOOLS: Burr Elementary, Tomlinson Middle, Fairfield Warde High

ASSESSMENT: $1,830,150

TAXES: $49,900

For more information or to set up an appointment to see 5060 Congress St., contact Doris Rowe and Tara Rowe Hawley of Coldwell Banker Previews International -- Rowe at 203-767-0920 or rowehouses@aol.com, and Hawley at 203-331-5939 or tara.hawley@cbmoves.com.

- ADDRESS: 8 Peabody Lane, Westport

TYPE: Colonial

PRICE: $1,496,000

NUMBER OF ROOMS: 10

AMENITIES: 1.54-acre level and sloping parcel, Zen-like gardens with water features including a pond and multiple waterfalls, built in 1965, fully remodeled, 3,041 square feet, located on a cul-de-sac, two fireplaces, four bedrooms, two full and one half bath

SCHOOLS: Long Lots Elementary, Bedford Middle, Staples High

ASSESSMENT: $818,900

TAXES: $14,691

For more information or to make an appointment to see 8 Peabody Lane, contact Janet Anderson of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage at 203-226-1090.