As Good as Sold
As house-buying season looms, new research shows two-thirds of us believe the garden is the deciding factor when buying a property. Hannah Stephenson and Phil Spencer look at front garden potential for would-be sellers
So, you want to sell your house? Then there are two things you should know: summer is the best time to do it, and the deciding factor may be your garden. Some 66 per cent of prospective buyers in Britain say the garden is vital to their decision on whether or not to buy a house, according to a survey of 2,000 people by online trade recommendation service Rated People, while estate agents advise that a garden can increase a property's price tag by up to 20 per cent.
So it's time to hide the dustbins, ditch the rubbish, dig out the weeds and make some colourful additions to your front garden to make it a welcoming haven.
If you park your car in the front garden, don't try to enhance the area with fiddly little plants which may flop over the parking space and end up being squashed. Instead, group a few plants strategically - taking account of the movement of cars - to create a bold and practical effect.
Standard potted trees are often a way to make a front entrance look grander, so if you're after a really quick fix, look in your local garden centre for standard bay or olive trees in pots, to frame your front door. Alternatively, go for box topiary.
Hide eyesores with quick-growing evergreen climbers such as the cultivars of the honeysuckle Lonicera japonica, and plant other climbers such as clematis or roses to adorn bare walls.
Obviously, if you're in a rush to sell, you're not going to have time to plant a hedge to block out pollution and road noise, but you can make smaller effective improvements with some quick planting.
Consider putting up a framework of trellis to screen your dustbins and plant fast-growing climbers around it, even if it's just some variegated ivy.
If you have harsh concrete steps in the front garden, soften it by lining the path with evergreen plants in pots, and place container plants around the front door to make the entrance look welcoming and cared for. Bear in mind that you may not sell your house immediately, so permanent plantings which will provide interest in the cooler months may be a better bet.
Location Location Location's Phil Spencer, who's a Rated People ambassador, advises home-owners to stay low-maintenance.
"Of course, everybody loves the idea of having a house with a fantastic garden, but all too often, don't relish the reality behind maintaining it. It's a sensible plan to create a garden that looks fantastic, but requires minimum effort from its current owner or future owner.
"Shrubs and conifers add stature and texture, but can virtually be left to their own devices once you've prepared the soil.
"Plants like chrysanthemum, gardenia or jasmine can retain moisture longer and therefore require less watering."
No-fuss planting for those with little time to maintain their front garden might include euphorbias and phormiums for strong structure in a sunny garden, while variegated ivy and hostas in pots are ideal plantings for a shady area around a front door.
Lighting also plays a part. If you have one tree in your front garden, place some strategic uplighters underneath it to make it more attractive at night. While solar lights are not much use for leading the way up a path, you can achieve a happy medium by fixing attractive lights of a higher wattage on to low walls.
Spencer adds: "Don't forget personality -people can always tell the difference between a house and a home and it works the same way with a garden. Don't be afraid to add a bit of personality to your decorations and outdoor accessories. Why not try deploying some inventive plant pots or wall decorations to make your garden a bit more interesting and welcoming?"
With increasing worries about front gardens being overpaved, leading to drainage and other problems, it's worth considering the design of your front space.
Use paving materials that allow water to seep through such as brick pavers, gravel, matrix pavers or grass reinforcement. Utilise walls and fences with climbers such as clematis, jasmine or ivy. Include shrubs and small trees, such as lavender or camellia, in 'dead space'.
With the front garden creating a great first impression, your home may soon have the 'Sold' sign outside it.
Best of the Bunch
Last year I decided I didn't have anything like enough tulips in my garden and now I am reaping the rewards of my late autumn plantings, both in pots and in the borders. Sizzling orange triumphs are dazzling in patio pots, almost black Tulipa 'Queen of Night' are coming up among burnt orange and vibrant yellow wallflowers and cool cream tulips are providing an element of calm in my semi-shaded front garden.
There really is a tulip for every situation, whether you prefer the showy parrot varieties, the classic majestic reds and yellows or the intricate species types which look amazing in rockeries. Tulips should be planted in late autumn or early winter, three to four times the depth of the bulb, a few centimetres apart, in full sun and avoid wet conditions. On heavy soil add grit.
Good Enough to Eat
Sowing root veg for winter
It's not even summer yet but I'm already thinking of winter, as root veg which can be harvested in the cooler months need to be sown now. Carrots, parsnip and swede as well as turnips and beetroot can now be sown directly into the ground in rows around 30cm apart.
Carrots, swede and turnip need to be sown thinly, while sow two parsnip seeds at 15cm intervals in ground that is free of stones - or you may get split roots.
What to do this week
- Sow late-flowering annuals, herbs and vegetables including early carrots, runner beans and parsnips
- Continue to harden off summer bedding plants, but if you live in a cold area, don't plant them out for a few more weeks
- Stake and support stems of herbaceous perennials including delphiniums and peonies
- Continue to water trees, shrubs and border plants that you have planted this spring
- Regularly spike over border soil with a fork to remove weeds
- Give acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas and pieris a feed with a fertiliser formulated for them, to prevent leaves turning yellow
- Spread a layer of well-rotted compost around perennials
- Finish planting out sweet peas and tie in new growth
- Sprinkle the base of all roses with a generous handful of rose fertiliser