Garden sanctuaries

How gardens have become our sanctuaries over the past few years.

Published under HamptonsLifestyle and Our blog — May 2022
Garden sanctuaries

As well as being a statesman, Founding Father and the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson was a keen scientist and gardener. He once said: “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”

In our post-pandemic world, those words ring truer than ever. Gardens are increasingly our sanctuaries, a place to relax, feel connected to nature and escape from the stresses of our daily lives, a theme explored in A Garden Sanctuary by Hamptons at the 2022 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

In March, Hamptons conducted a survey among almost 2,000 clients across London and the South of England to find out what their garden means to them. We discovered that they have become vital: of those people who had moved house in the last two years, 61% said outdoor space was very important to them when choosing a home. Meanwhile, 57% of respondents said they would consider moving for more outdoor space.

This desire to have as large a garden as possible is a key reason why many people have relocated from cities to the countryside since Covid began. “When people go from a patio in the city to having a proper garden, they suddenly get what I call ‘park life at home’ – where all the things they once had to do in a park they can now do in their own gardens,” says Joanna Cocking, Head of Prime Country Sales at Hamptons.

Gardens are recreation and entertaining spaces, with the most luxurious homes now benefiting from outside bars and fire pits as well as swimming pools and tennis courts. While Cocking says it is difficult to quantify how much value a garden per se adds in the country, it is crucial that the plot is in proportion to the size of the house, with anything too small reducing the value.

If a property already has a well-maintained swimming pool and tennis court, they tend to make it more sought-after. “These can cost as much as £100,000 each to install so they do add value,” Cocking says. “People are investing large sums of money to make their garden look as good as the house itself.” The Hamptons survey supports this, finding that 78% of those polled invest in their garden each year, with one in 10 investing over £2,000 annually and 16% spending more on their garden than on interior home improvements.

In cities, gardens are particularly prized. “Whereas in the past having a terrace wouldn’t have been hugely important, it is now one of the first things on London buyers’ lists,” says Nathaniel Wilde, Head of Sales and Valuations at Hamptons Sloane Square. “Pre-Covid you might have struggled to sell a basement flat, but now if it opens onto a patio or communal garden buyers are able to overlook the fact it’s a basement for the outside space.”

Late in 2020, Hamptons sold a two-bedroom ground-floor flat in a building in Tite Street, Chelsea, where the author and playwright Oscar Wilde lived for a decade. The property had a glass kitchen extension that opened onto a private landscaped patio and was bought for close to its £1.695m asking price.

“In that flat, the garden felt like a seamless continuation of the home,” Nathaniel Wilde explains, and this blending of indoor and outdoor space is an increasingly crucial theme. One of the respondents to the Hamptons survey, Natalie, said the garden was her “private sanctuary”.  “I can enjoy nature and sunshine; it is a workshop where we do DIY projects; it is an extension of the kitchen when we BBQ,” She said. “It is many 'rooms' in one.”

Indeed, gardens are having to work increasingly hard and are often used as office spaces. Some 39% of survey respondents said they had plans to create a home office or garden room in the future – a trend encapsulated by the multipurpose carbon-neutral cabin created by Koto Design in A Garden Sanctuary.

The pandemic has taught us how hugely beneficial gardens are for our mental and physical health, with even the smallest plots providing an opportunity for exercise and sanctuary. Survey respondent Clare couldn’t have put it better when she said: “My garden is a joy bringing light where there is darkness, fitness where there could be laziness, creativity with a degree of chaos. Every year the garden changes, as nature changes, every year different plants thrive – this is one of the greatest joys of gardening.”

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