This article by Andrew Jordan was published in Cotswold Preview Magazine, April 2015.
Gardens are an extension of our living space, but are often the poor relation of the house when it comes to spending money on improvements. But did you know that a well-kept and designed outdoor space could add 10-15% on the price of a house.
Here are 10 ways to give your garden that wow factor.
If it is a solid but ugly boundary such as a wall or a sturdy fence then it can be clad, using for example trellis with climbers such as clematis or roses. Dramatic combinations can be made by painting a wall in one colour and training a climber in a contrasting colour over it. For a more contemporary feel panels of hornbeam (available from specialist nurseries) could be used. Charred timber fences (using a blow torch and a strong wire brush for rubbing back) makes a lovely finish, alternatively you could spray your fencing a deep graphite grey.
2. Tree & Shrubs
Another inexpensive way to create a new look is to manage existing shrubs and trees. In my own garden I had an old Portuguese laurel hedge which I didn’t particularly like. I set about cutting all the lower branches leaving clear stems. Not only did this improve the overall appearance it also opened up space underneath for additional planting. By exposing the underlying structure and lifting canopies of trees and shrubs a wonderful and mysterious world is revealed. A great idea especially for small and narrow spaces.
Another option could be to prune shrubs and hedges into more interesting shapes, for example cloud pruning. This will provide something nice to look at throughout the seasons.
3. Pots & Containers
Pots and containers will add value to your outside space, a practical way of decorating roofs, decks, balconies as well as the more usual ground-level areas. The bigger the better, plants need a lot of root space and water and stability from wind. This will also help to minimise how much human effort is required to keep them going.
You could update tired terracotta pots with a lick of paint, making them eye-catching centre pieces. The right pot without any planting provides a sculptural element within the garden, for example an old oil jar.
4. Entertaining Area
Make the garden a true extension of your home by including something functional. This could be a paved entertaining area with space for an attractive dining table and chairs. You could also consider building a proper outdoor kitchen. Pizza ovens are easy to build and can be used as a wood-fired fireplace even if you aren’t hungry.
Alternatively a sunken fire pit or hot tub will help to extend the use of the garden into the evenings and throughout the seasons.
A good quality outdoor floor, such as decking or natural stone paving will add value and provide style to your outdoor space. Strengthen the link between the outside and inside using a similar flooring, material or colour choice. Paving an area in the same material as the surrounding walls is a good way of giving a small space a unified look. Some materials, such as certain smooth, precast pavers become slippery in rain and snow; while other, like brick, give a good foothold. If you have to contend with uneven ground and you want to avoid enormous amounts of levelling you could use gravel.
Garden boundaries are also linked to views. If there are good views, for example rolling hills or a church spire, you may want to enhance this through framing. You could plant small trees or large shrubs either side of the view, or make ‘windows’ through existing hedges. If the budget allows you could build a moon gate, a circular opening in a garden wall (could be brick, stone or logs in a steel frame for a more rustic/ woodland feel). If the view is bad don’t block it as this will draw attention to it. Instead fade it out through softening by planting shrubs or small trees next to it.
7. Garden Structures
Creating shelter from sun, wind or rain, will allow the garden to be used regardless of the weather. A pergola planted with climbers will provide dappled shade but not much protection from driving rain. A gazebo or summerhouse will protect you from all weathers and there are many different shapes and sizes to choose from. You could paint them to stand out or leave to age naturally to blend it with the landscape. A less expensive option could be to convert an existing shed or buy a basic shed then dress it up to suit your requirements.
Every garden no matter its size should have a water feature. It can provide a focal point and place of relaxing with the sound of running water. If space is an issue you could install a water plaque, or convert one of the many stone troughs which are readily available in the Cotswolds. A water feature has the added benefit of encouraging wildlife into your garden.
Lighting in any form can improve your garden, extending its usefulness into the evening. It will enable you to eat, read or simply potter about outside on warm spring and autumn evenings. If you can see your garden from inside you will enjoy a night time view all year round. From spotlights to tea lights, stylish decorative lighting needn’t cost the earth. For example oversized lanterns will make you guests feel like you’ve been transported to Morocco.
10. Front Garden
First impressions count, so don’t neglect your front garden. Keep it tidy and well presented, and plant slow-growing plants that don’t need much maintenance. You could also include a statement gate or some architectural planting such as topiary to wow any visitors.
Thoughtful landscaping can improve your overall satisfaction with a home while you live there, as well as the chances of luring of potential buyers when you move.