Six things to consider when thinking about a garden investment

A beautiful garden not only increases your property’s value – it helps to sell your house quicker.

IIt’s probably to late to hire a garden designer for a complete new garden when you wish to see your house to be sold by the end of the year, but it wouldn’t hurt to hire a pro anyway!

The question really isn’t should you invest in your garden or not. The questions are rather how much should you invest? Whom should you get? What should be done? What do you like? What to avoid and how to keep up with things?

Your landscape is the first thing your guests and possible future buyers will notice when they come to visit. Adding a designed garden to your landscape can easily add 20 percent to your property’s value, some say even more.

1. Allocate a budget and get some ideas of what you wish for

Usually realty professionals, garden designers and landscapist organisations like the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) recommend that owners should invest 5-15 % of the house’s value in their gardens. Sometimes the figures go up to 20%. Of course this highly depends on the property’s plant inventory and if there has already been some kind of design prior to your purchase.

Garden design is a complex process involving many disciplines and demanding many decisions from owners and garden designers alike. There is a large variety of architectural structures that can be implemented, like pool houses, garden studios, aviaries, pergolas or pavillons. Terracing can give access to areas not used so far. Meandering garden paths can add mystery and a sense of unexpectedness and discovery. Swimming pools, ponds, and water features like fountains can add entertainment and rooms for tranquility, while bespoke art and garden illumination can create an atmosphere that no other property can rival.

Usually we as garden designers or a landscape architect (if major structural issues in terms of underground or slopes have to be addressed) will work together with you to create for you a detailed planing and site plan.

Usually your garden designer tenders and administrates contractors and subcontractor to realise the installation, where he or she doesn’t do certain steps by him or herself.

2. Get a professional

When you are decided to have your garden done, don’t design and don’t realise it on your own. It won’t work, no matter how talented a craftsman you consider yourself to be. Hire a garden designer who will draw up a detailed planting and site plan that contractors will understand – if they are used to working according to plans.

3. Get your gardens surveyed and planned

Never miss out on a thorough assessment of your property, including all boundaries, measurements of where the house is, which structures and trees and shrubs are there, and where exactly they are.

A garden designer knows which trees and shrubs are valuable, which ones can be renovated, which can be transplanted and she will assess those who will die anyway, and therefore can be taken out.

Often properties have been neglected for a while before they are sold. In these cases your garden designer will assess what’s overgrown, what can be pruned and trained to a new shape and what is interfering with the main lines of sight from the house or from terraces and pool areas.

After a thorough renovation that saves the plants that are already there, your garden designer will draw up a detailed planting plan according to your wishes in terms of use and style.

4. What’s hot, what’s not?

There are trends in garden design like everywhere else. But since garden design can be a costly investment when it comes to architectural structures, beware of things too trendy, eccentric or crazy, unless you don’t care.

Current trends include all kinds of outdoor rooms, pool houses, garden studios, raised beds, kitchen gardens, terrace renovations, fire places and water features.

Garden art, garden illumination and bespoke structures are on the forefront of contemporary trends as well.

Of course there also is still the very strong mega trend in all matters regarding sustainability, active gardening, introducing wildlife to your garden, kitchen gardens and organic gardening.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is noticing a “boom in home renovation and improvement” which includes substantial investment in gardens and garden design. Rob Tilson of ASLA says that home owners and investors in gardens “(…) are making a better connection to the environment and their outdoor space” and “they are investing more in the rear of their property.” (Source)

“Gardens, gardening and garden design are a megatrend, and given the global environment and sustainability issues, this trend is here to stay.”

5. What are the biggest mistakes?

The worst – and most common – mistake is doing things on your own and doing them bit by bit, in the wrong order. Owners begin garden projects on their own, they start clearing certain areas in their garden because they seem to be very important or they look especially overgrown, they put plants into the ground of which they think they should thrive and continue without ever getting a proper and detailed planting plan from a pro.

The second most mistake is planning a garden yourself with some freely available software or some compilations from the “Your Ultimate Home Garden Planner” shelf.

The third – but admittedly rather rare – case is getting a plan and then not going the whole distance by thinking you can realise a garden plan on your own or hiring someone who doesn’t know how to read a planting plan.

The result will be – in many cases – a waste of money and a loss of many plants. Such gardens will look odd and give the property a disorganized atmosphere without a special character.

A professionally planned and installed garden design will provide a stylish and sophisticated look, where guests and visitors will instantly recognize the involvement of pros. Only a professional and detailed planting plan which is implemented accordingly will result in a beautiful garden adding aesthetic, emotional and financial value to your property.

6. What about the maintenance?

Like with the biggest mistakes in not planning a garden or not installing it according to plan, it would be a huge mistake to invest in a garden and then miss out on the maintenance.

It is important to protect your investment by keeping your gardens maintained professionally. You can ask your garden designer for a maintenance schedule, either for yourself, or for your gardener.

A garden designer who knows how and when to prune trees and shrubs will be happy to coach you and help you to become a keen gardener yourself.

But it’s important to be honest with yourself. If you like to have a beautiful garden, but if you are more of the onlooking type when it comes to scissors, secateurs and saws then hire a professional gardening and maintenance company.

While there are ways to discuss with your garden designer how to realise your garden area by area, to stretch costs or to see how happy you are with the design’s outcome, please don’t forget that on the French Riviera you will enjoy almost 11 months of growing season, depending on the individual year and location. That means that planting a garden in October will result in quite a lush look as early as next spring.