Say you only have one week left before 100 guests show up for a garden party — there’s no need to panic.

Say you only have one week left before 100 guests show up for a garden party — there’s no need to panic.

Experts say it’s not too late to quickly and inexpensively freshen up a tired yard if hosts focus on the essentials.

“Don’t try to decorate the whole yard,” said Tracy DiSabato-Aust, an Ohio garden author and speaker. “You don’t want to be stressed out for what should be a fun event because you’re worried about redoing the whole landscape.”

With that in mind, we tapped DiSabato-Aust and other experts to come up with a guide to a new yard.

Tidy up

Start with the basics. Pick up debris, weed the beds and cut off the dead branches, twigs and stems that can make a yard look old and neglected. Run a pair of clippers around bushes and shrubs, trimming away the wild branches and adding a bit of shape. If time allows, sharpen the edge between the beds and the lawn.

“If you haven’t already, cut back perennials and remove any leaves from the fall,” said Tom Wood, owner of Wood Landscape Services in Hilliard, Ohio. “Those things seem obvious but will make a difference.”

Focus in particular on branches that might be in the way.

Plant, plant, plant

It’s too late for that oak or maple you’ve been pondering, but there’s still time to add a small decorative tree.

Debra Knapke, who runs the Garden Sage landscape design firm, suggests planting a small conifer such as a dwarf golden Hinoki false cypress, Diana Japanese larch or varied-directions larch.

“There are so many wonderful conifers that offer year-round interest,” Knapke said.

Homeowners can then turn to flowers for “color and pop,” she said.

Knapke likes petunias and lantanas, while DiSabato-Aust leans toward perennials such as Knock Out roses, baptisia (false indigo) or Siberian iris.

If time is really crunched, Steve O’Neal, professor of horticulture and landscape design at Columbus State Community College, suggests a short cut to a great flower arrangement.

“You can use potted plants made for hanging baskets for a quick fix,” he said. “Put the basket in the ground, the whole thing. Put mulch around it and you can’t tell. When the party is over, you can pull the basket out.”

Containers are another easy way to add drama to a patio or deck.

Spread the mulch

Mulch is to the outdoors what paint is to the indoors: a quick and easy way to freshen up a space.

A new layer of mulch can instantly make a messy bed look made and can make those new plants stand out.

“If you have time, dress all the beds with fresh mulch,” Gard suggested. “New mulch is just the best.”

Any mulch works, but darker mulch can add more drama to a bed.

Final touches

Finally, add some zip to your yard with some special touches.

O’Neal likes gazing balls, which can be tucked into landscaping or mounted on pedestals to add some zing. He also suggests sticking birch twigs around plants in containers to add height and drama. For an extra touch, paint the twigs school colors.

Knapke recommends adding herbs such as lemon verbena, basil, oregano or lavender to fill the air with scents.

“When it’s warm outside, you get these lovely smells,” she said. “You put lavender in the ground along the walkway, so as people brush past it, it gets the scent into the air.”