During my recent search for a new home, I always found myself frantically scrolling through property descriptions to discover the all-important and often neglected information on the garden.
And yet, it is not just me who is more focussed on the garden than the house. A 2020 study from Rightmove revealed that homes advertised as having highly coveted south-facing gardens had asking prices £22,695 higher on average than those without, or according to the AA, homes carry 16% more value by having a garden.
The size, orientation and opportunities afforded by your outdoor space are the real differentiator. When embarking on your property search, we recommend that you consider the following garden features:
By Liz Nicholson – Managing Director
The garden ideally should be large enough to accommodate your outdoor needs, perhaps including a terrace for outdoor dining, an area for vegetable or herb production and ideally a lawn area for lazy summer days in a hammock or space for children to play.
Many homes would benefit from outdoor storage – not only the essentials of the useful but somehow extraordinarily irritating wheelie bin – but if the home is fuelled by wood, then a convenient log store should be available. Many of us, in trying to reduce our carbon impact, cycle where possible, but storing bikes for the whole family requires a huge amount of storage space and this needs to be considered when purchasing a property.
For larger properties, the location of swimming pools or tennis courts needs careful consideration as a tennis court is ideally located north-south to give maximum hours of play without being blinded by the dipping west sun. We are increasingly encouraging natural swimming ponds and thought might be given to suitable locations offering privacy and serenity for these beautiful havens for nature and humans.
While large gardens are a complete treat, it is always worth remembering the maintenance requirements which often catch buyers out. I believe a typical English garden of approximately one acre would take two days per week to keep in good order. Niel and I, at our home on the nursery, have gardened a one-acre plot for the last 25 years with some help from a very lovely gentleman in the village called Bill. Bill would visit once a week and cut our grass and apart from that, Niel and I have managed the garden ourselves. It started as a blank canvas and over many years, it grew into the most beautiful, sheltered, semi-formal garden. Over time, we removed the herbaceous borders as we simply couldn’t keep up with the maintenance needs. The rewilding movement allowed us to legitimately leave our grass to grow wild and now it is less garden and more nature reserve! But, with carefully mown grass paths, it remains a magical space.
Rightmove’s analysis also showed that properties with south-facing gardens typically sell faster than those without, in nearly all regions.
South-facing gardens are most popular with buyers, offering many more hours of sunshine throughout the year. Some buyers do prefer cooler gardens and may enjoy the early morning benefits of an east-facing garden or the opportunity for sundowners in a west-facing garden. I particularly love planting palettes that are based on white and green with a fern element and these thrive most in north-facing gardens.
In an ideal world, garden space would surround the house, giving you front and back gardens with side access but this is not always the case. Careful thought needs to be given to how the family flow around the space and use the garden. Level changes often give challenges where it’s difficult to cart bikes and lawnmowers up and down steps. Security is also important and segmenting cars and children / pets.
We choose where to buy our homes according to our preferences: urban, village or fully rural. Even so, many of us still enjoy our privacy within the constraints offered. Gardens, where space allows, are ultimately flexible in allowing us to enhance our privacy by planting hedges and trees. I have noticed a trend in modern housing estates for there to be less tree planting in gardens and I personally feel this is a real shame. It will not only reduce biodiversity but will leave gardens rather exposed to the hot summer sun and, in recent years, the drought conditions have parched many gardens. We would favour being brave with tree planting as you can always remove a tree in years to come and use it for logs on your fire! My favourite fence treatment is woven softwood or hardwood which can be enhanced by a carefully curated collection of climbers or a substantial hedge for full privacy. Trees can be planted to protect views of neighbours’ windows and, if carefully selected, they can offer berries for feeding birds in the winter e.g. Cotoneaster or Malus species, or you can plant fruit trees to add to your harvest.
When buying a house, many people look at the number of rooms and often consider reconfiguration or adding an extension but to be honest, this is a very high capital cost. Garden rooms, by contrast, are very affordable and while they don’t offer adjacency, they do give privacy, a destination and often an entirely unique feel separate from the main dwelling. Where planning allows, I feel this can be a very accessible way of increasing your living area whilst also enhancing the garden.
I remember reading Katherine Swift’s book, The Morville Hours, and being transported by her description of the swifts flying in to feed above the water rill. It is these moments of joy that really give us the true value in our gardens. Whether you’re considering a lake in a larger garden or a lined barrel to give you a mini pond on your terrace, water enhances all gardens and brings with it necessary habitat for the full range of biodiversity. One of my favourite projects last year was installing a rill that connected two water bodies in a private garden in the Cotswolds. This was inspired by the stunning William Kent rill at Rousham. Seeing the motion of water meandering through the grounds of this stunning garden brought peace and tranquillity and a certain timelessness. Until this day, this remains one of my favourite water features.
The UK imports 46% of our food needs, mostly because of our desire to have a varied diet. In truth, many of us who have space could grow a significant proportion of our dietary needs. However, this does take a significant amount of time, not to mention skill!
During lockdown, we were inspired to develop the potager garden at the nursery and installed a beautiful greenhouse to supply The Yurt, more than trebling the area. This was a great idea in theory, but the reality is we needed another full day a week to maintain the kitchen garden! Niel and I tried our hardest but we have taken the brave move and appointed our lovely Sous Chef, Dave, who is going to split his duties and look after the potager to ensure the produce is harvested freshly every morning and we maximise this invaluable growing space.
Where we are privileged to have gardens, I believe that the garden space takes a simple house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms and transforms it into a HOME. When viewing a new house, time should be taken to really consider the opportunities that the garden may offer you and your family.
If I were selling a HOME, I would describe it as follows:
800m2 of nature with an opportunity to place a stunning garden hideaway with westerly setting sun views. Fully operational kitchen garden to feed a family of four and wonderful, neat greenhouse to grow your best tomatoes. Terrace to accommodate families up to 12 and a perfect space to make your happiest memories. One large hammock tree, three fruit trees and seven further pretty trees, home to many native bird species. Rolling emerald-green lawns scattered with daisies for your children to make their best daisy chains and play roly poly. A wild patch where a hedgehog is thought to hibernate and scrubby bushes offering the perfect den… oh and to the side of this incredible oasis, lies a four-bed house with three bathrooms… if you like that sort of thing!