More and more people are renting properties, and for longer. Home ownership is at its lowest level since 1985 –doubling since 2004- and by 2021 it’s estimated that 25% of all UK households will rent. Gardens are a vanishing dimension of Britain’s urban landscape: the number of gravelled or paved gardens has tripled in number over the last decade. Evidence shows it’s rented property that undeniably bears the brunt of the decline of the garden- landlords seeking a low-budget, zero maintenance solution, and ‘generation rent’ who, very often, will not see gardening as a make-or-break issue when choosing a tenancy. This is not due to lack of interest- in many cases renters have simply ceased expecting to be lucky enough to have a garden to care for.
The end result is a rapid decline in both gardens and interest in gardening across the country as millennials find themselves deprived of a space in which to develop their gardening skills. The increase in paved or concreted yards also strips nature of a space to thrive, harming local wildlife, killing pollinators, as well as reducing drainage and increasing the likelihood of flooding. Concreted, paved or decked yards do nothing to absorb greenhouse gases, and can harbour bacteria far more effectively than turf making them far more unsanitary areas for children and pets. Altogether there are palpable environmental disadvantages to concreting a yard- and to cap it all off, it’s ugly as sin, practically irreversible and could lower the resale value of your property! Yet landlords keep persisting with it- judging the hassle of trusting tenants with a garden to be the greater of two evils. In truth, there are palpable financial benefits to allowing tenants the freedom to garden. There’s an obvious disincentive to having an empty house, and the promise of caring for a garden can appeal to renters of all ages. Here’s our guide to finding that sweet spot, where low maintenance meets high desirability:
When letting a home with a cultivatable garden, there’s no guarantee that your tenants will have the time, skill or inclination to maintain a garden consistently through the year, as you might. Therefore, you’re essentially outfitting a garden for beginner gardeners- it needs to be attractive, but hardy and low maintenance.
- Assess the space
As with any property, you should first evaluate the usable space for your garden. Creating a nice space that will remain pleasant throughout the year is more of a priority than creating a lot of mediocre space, so aim for quality rather than quantity- lots of sun and sheltered.
- Keep it simple
You’re not trying to recreate Kew Gardens in the back of your terraced house- your tenants need a blank canvas, not the Chelsea flower show. There’s a lot to be said for a simple garden with room to grow.
- Keep it tidy- but flexible
Use features such as rocks, fountains, decorative bird baths, sundials etc to departmentalise your garden and create an attractive environment in which fewer plants can make a bigger impact. This allows your tenants to plant into the unused space while also creating an uncrowded and low-maintenance garden based around reliable old favorites.
- Go for borders or beds, not a lawn
A lawn can quickly look untidy, and despite being a popular garden feature its need for constant mowing and maintenance may make it an unappealing chore for tenants. Far better to arrange beds, borders or baskets around features to create versatile and attractive spaces.
- Choose perennials
Though more costly, you can create a lasting garden by using perennial flowers- so even if your tenants ignore the garden, they’ll be back year after year.
Our top five plants for a rented house:
- Miniature trees. Dwarf shrubs and miniature trees look great among a summer garden, and don’t steal all the other plants’ sunlight. They can be transported in pots, and add a real sense of space to your garden. Consider an ornamental acer tree, which will add a distinctive dash of colour to your back garden.
- Lavender. One of the top low-maintenance plants, this classic English garden favourite is pretty, fragrant, and can be brought indoors to liven up the home with its distinctive scent. Your tenants will love it, and it won’t be put off by a lack of regular TLC.
- Buddleia. Though entirely portable thanks to growing out of a pot, these beautiful plants will be far too popular to go: they’re known for attracting butterflies all summer long with their stunning flowers.
- Heather. With gorgeous flowers and a rugged, moorland look, once established heathers are virtually indestructible- making them perfect for any garden. Perfect for ‘framing’ other plants or in a rockery.
- Hostas. As attractive as it is tough, this durable perennial will make a welcome appearance in even the most overlooked garden, year on year.