Gardens, where would we be without them? From hidden patios in Clapham to lavish lawns in Dorset, green spaces across the nation have become sanctuaries in which to hide, refresh and raise a glass to escape from the bad news over lockdown. It should come as no surprise, then, that the behaviour of home buyers and sellers has come to reflect the importance of green space.
“Buyers’ needs have changed,” says Richard Banks, director at Michael Graham Estate Agents. “They’re looking for brighter and greener areas, most often work-from-home boltholes that offer great views. Gardens, both front and back, are becoming a crucial element of property marketing.”
The property market has been busy since it was released from lockdown in mid-May. Fuelled by deferred demand from buyers, a temporary ‘mini boom’ drove up housing prices in July to 1.7 per cent higher than in June on a monthly basis, boosted by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s temporary suspension of stamp duty on property sales up to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland.
The latest Halifax House Price Index puts the average price of a home at £241,604 in July, 1.7 per cent higher than June’s £237,834, while prices are 3.8 per cent higher than July 2019. Although Halifax managing director Russell Galley maintains that the ‘effects of the pandemic on the housing market will still create a good deal of long-term uncertainty’, sellers don’t seem to be put off and are keen to take advantage of the stamp duty suspension that could save them up to £15,000.
But in this unstable market, are there any tips and tricks to convince buyers to take a chance on your property? Yes, according to a recent survey from OnBuy’s Garden Furniture, in which 60 per cent of the 3,400 participants admitted that they were more inclined to view a house if the garden was up to scratch.
Results from the survey found that 78 per cent of participants ranked hydrangeas as the most desirable front garden plants for potential buyers, while lilies, lavender and shrub roses followed closely behind. These flowers have, as many property experts would say, major kerb appeal, and could improve your chance of selling.
But it is not just flower choice that can maximise the potential of your home. Here are the best ways to plan your garden, from feng shui to rose arches.
“A mature, immaculately trained espaliered pyracantha or pear can be worth its weight in gold for what it adds to a nondescript building,” writes Telegraph columnist Bunny Guinness in her guide to cultivating climbers. This draws in both buyers and estate agents, who will be looking for elements of English charm in new builds.
“I always look at the location and garden when I’m putting houses on our portal,” says Banks. “Climbers like roses and wisteria are an excellent idea for modern houses as they distract from the harsh lines and plain brickwork, creating a country feel that is very attractive to buyers.”
It is useful to note that you should plant your climber about 30-45cm from the base of the wall, so that it has room for root development and will catch the rain. Having a climbing rose around the front door can make all the difference on a new build, so think about this if you’re hoping to catch the eye of passers-by.
The importance of height and layering
Layering is important in small spaces, so cottage garden-style plants are an excellent option to give plant beds height and intrigue. “Sellers need to remember that the inside can be ripped out and changed but the location can’t,” says Banks. “Presentation outside is now as important as the inside.” A small group of tall lupins or a single tree will make a difference to an otherwise empty spot. It can also be grown in a container.
A helpful design tip is to work with the colour of your bricks or front door - think, if you’ve got bright orange bricks then pick out tangerine-hued flowers for a small border or pot- it looks put together and considered. A cluster of different sized pots can also lend rustic charm.
Think about parking but beware of concrete
Aside from looking rather bleak, there are important reasons not to pave over your front garden. “Impermeable paving causes drains and sewers to flood,” says garden designer Andy Sturgeon.
“By replacing flower beds and grass with materials like concrete and asphalt, rainwater is unable to soak into the ground.” In 2007, the associated damage from paved front gardens was estimated at £3 billion in the UK.
Therefore it’s hardly surprising that, since 2008, any newly built installation of impermeable paving must have planning permission. The Royal Horticultural Society says: “Reversing the trend that has seen 4.5 million front gardens totally paved over is vital for the nation’s health and wildlife.” So, while the idea of an extra parking space might be tempting, resist and opt for permeable gravel, grass or pebbles instead.
Gaining popularity over the last decade, the practise of feng shui in home and garden is attractive to many buyers. Literally translated from Chinese as “wind” (feng) and water (“shui”), it is pseudoscientific traditional practice that encourages the arranging of buildings, objects and space in order to achieve harmony and balance. There are three main principles to consider before you start designing your feng shui garden: chi lines, a bagua map and colour-coding.
First, you will need to find out the bagua, otherwise known as an energy map, of your house, as your garden bagua is considered an extension of this. North, for example, is primarily focused on career and path in life with its element in water, making it an excellent place for a rockery or small water feature; north east is for personal and spirtual growth, would be the perfect spot for a zen garden.
You will also need to consider chi (energy). Straight lines are considered to allow energy to pass more forcefully but are rarely present in nature, so be sure to use relaxing, flowing shapes and pathways for your feng shui garden.
Colour coded plants, too, are important - think, green for health; orange for happiness. The more feng shui plants you have, the better.
Andy Sturgeon’s top tips for a lush front garden
Converting your front garden to a parking space may increase the value of your property but if the majority of houses in one road do this then the values of all the houses go down.
Plant a tree. While it doesn’t take up much valuable space at ground level, it will improve the look of your own house on your street. It also helps the environment.
Plant the front garden, leaving tracks for the wheels of the car; this makes the whole area area appear lush and verdant.
An apron of paving in front of the door can make it feel more grand. Framing the entrance with a couple of stately pots can take this a step further.
Five best plants for front gardens
Rosa ‘Cécile Brünner’
Held on thin stems that climb effortlessly, this rose is perfect for large structures for its pale pink and exquisitely formed flowers.
Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’
Bred partly from the old Portland variety ‘Madame Knorr’, this hardy English shrub rose blooms into large pink flowers, ideal for door arches or pergolas.
Sweetly fragrant lavender looks brilliant in containers. Try planting in a neat row in the front garden for an intoxicating scent that will draw buyers in.
Hydrangea serrata ‘Bluebird’
Ideal for borders and patio pots, Hydrangea is often voted as the most attractive of front garden flowers in surveys. They’re also low-maintenance.
Add instant kerb appeal with this hardy evergreen shrub with glossy leaves and brilliant red flowers in summer and autumn. Best planted against a white focal point.