The pandemic has changed our views on many aspects of daily life, even our gardens.
Often considered a time-consuming chore pre-Covid, working in the garden is now seen as a pleasure, and was listed as the second most popular lockdown activity last year.
That’s after watching television (no surprise there), according to GlobalData market research.
Green-fingered: Gardening became a top lockdown hobby making gardens a bigger selling point in the property market
Clearly, this has had a dramatic effect on the housing market.
‘City types started swapping their two-bedroom homes for places with big gardens in cheaper rural areas after the first lockdown,’ says Ed Jephson, of Stacks Property Search.
‘Gardens became extremely important and it wasn’t just a summer phenomenon; it has continued throughout the winter and up to the present.’
Newcastle House in Bridgend, South Wales, has a garden which is the property’s main selling point.
Previously owned by a family of renowned local horticulturalists who imported several rare plants from abroad, it was revamped 20 years ago by the Chelsea Gold Award-winning landscape designer Peter Dowle.
Screened from the busy road by a high wall, the York stone courtyard garden with its semi-circular portico seating area is a highlight.
‘This is a really secluded, private place,’ says Nick Hegarty, who is selling the house on behalf of his mother for £1.6 million (wattsand morgan.co.uk). ‘Step through the gates and you could be in the South of France.’
It is impossible to quantify exactly how much a beautiful garden such as this adds to the price of a property, but it vastly improves its saleability.
The gardening expert, broadcaster and writer Martin Fish last October sold his 18th-century cottage in the village of Rainton, North Yorkshire.
In the 12 years he had owned it, he created a beautiful garden, planting 30 types of trees and 2,500 ornamental plants. It paid off for Fish: he sold the house for £650,000 within ten days of it appearing on the market.
Of course, not many people have the expertise or the money needed to create such an outdoor show-stopper. So how do you make the most of a pocket handkerchief back garden in suburbia, especially if you are working to a tight budget?
‘Creating a good first impression is important,’ says Fish, who also has a prize-winning vlog, Pots & Trowels, on Facebook.
‘Make sure paths are swept, borders weeded and hedges trimmed. Put a lick of preservative on the boundary fences and freshly stain sheds and wooden furniture.’
Fish’s core philosophy is to attract people into every part of the garden.
‘Having two seating areas — one with small bistro-style table and chairs — often works well,’ he adds.
‘Clipped evergreens such as yew and bay in decorative pots will add height to the patio. Break up the view by dividing the garden with a trellis. Experiment by making your lawn a different shape; an oval can look interesting.
‘Invest in raised bed kits to grow salads and vegetables; children will love that. And a small water feature will make lovely relaxing background sounds.’
Privacy is often an issue in towns, so Martin prescribes planting pleached trees to prevent being overlooked. To add instant colour, he favours pots of pelargoniums, fuchsias, dahlias and petunias.
Research shows gardens improve our quality of life. A recent survey by the National Garden Society revealed 92 per cent of people found their gardens were ‘extremely important’ to them during lockdown.
And 87 per cent said the key benefit gained from their garden during lockdown was ‘it helped relieve stress’.
Yet you don’t even need to live at ground level to have a green space and reap the emotional and financial benefits.
‘Balcony gardens in apartments have come on in leaps and bounds since lockdown,’ says Jekka McVicar, the herb specialist who now designs gardens for over-65s developer Riverstone. ‘People are using them both for food production and to improve their outlook.’
McVicar noticed an upsurge of interest in herb growing when different herbal teas became popular. Now thousands of people are planting mint, camomile and rosemary ‘for the pot’.
The flowers from coriander and dill can be added to salads, and lavender can not only be used on woollens to keep the moths away, it also makes good ice cream.
‘A balcony garden adds so much to an apartment,’ says McVicar, who has won the Victoria Medal of Honour from the Royal Horticultural Society.
‘All herbs smell amazing in the sunshine and the scent of jasmine at night is particularly gorgeous. To unwind with the balcony doors open and that beautiful aroma wafting on the air is utterly relaxing.’
And just like a conventional garden, a balcony garden is sure to impress prospective buyers, so it’s likely to sell for a good price in double-quick time.