First garden impressions count

PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

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So, you want to sell your house? Then there’s two things you should know: summer is the best time to do it, and the deciding factor may be your garden.

Some 66% 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%.

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.