Landscape garden business services massively undervalued by householders, survey finds

A survey of what householders expect to pay for garden design, landscaping, arboriculture and professional gardening services has found that the public undervalue all four skill sets.

People expect to pay way under the odds for domestic horticulture. Image: HW
People expect to pay way under the odds for domestic horticulture. Image: HW

Despite BBC coverage of this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show being available to the BBC's global audience of 372 million, and 3.14m terrestrial viewers watching the most popular episode on 22 May this year, the work of those working in horticulture remains poorly understood by the wider public in the UK, according to a survey by insurance firm AXA.

In results which will not come as a surprise to most working in the sector, a survey of 2,000 UK adults with gardens conducted in May, found that most British householders are prepared to pay a fraction of the value of work on their domestic gardens and outside spaces. 

Those surveyed said they would spend on average just £473 per year on upkeep and improvement of their gardens, equating to an investment of just £9 per week. A quarter of the nation’s garden owners, meanwhile, said they only spent between £1 and £100 last year on them.

Londoners are the biggest investors in domestic green spaces, at almost £600 per household per year, closely followed by those living in Scotland and the North East (£556 and £514 per year). Least inclined to invest are people living along the West coast of the country: Wales, the South West and North West all having a rate of spend around or under the £400 mark.

While only one in 10 people would engage a professional to design or plant their garden, a majority would look to a professional for hard landscaping, such as building a wall (64%) terrace or decking (61%) or putting up fencing (58%). And similar percentage – 59 – would employ someone to fell a tree.

However, expectations of the price of these jobs was largely unrealistic. The average householder would expect to pay just £390 for a garden design, massively underestimating the hours and expertise required.

Similarly, people expected to pay below £400 for common building tasks: £378 for terracing, £290 for a pond installation and £364 for fence construction – a price that includes both materials and labour.

When it comes to routine maintenance, people would pay an average of just £10 an hour for a gardener, barely above minimum wage.

A separate survey of 400 people working in horticultural trades in April, commissioned by AXA revealed that 71% gardeners have worked for £10-£20 per hour in the past year, a third for £20-£30 per hour and 22% have worked on at least one job that paid £30 per hour plus.

When asked how they found the more lucrative contracts at £30 per hour and above per worker, gardeners most recommended attending social and business networking events as a way of reaching the right customers. That was followed by making intro calls to project and maintenance managers at commercial sites, and having online and hardcopy portfolios of past work.

Gareth Howell, managing director of AXA Insurance said: "The figures quoted by the public for common landscaping, design and gardening jobs were very low indeed, however. This shows a low appreciation first of the sheer number of hours that go into this work, expert knowledge of disciplines landscape architecture, design and horticulture, as well as, understanding construction, planning and site drainage standards."

"People working in the trades have a massive education job to do when they meet clients – as we’ve emphasised, having a good portfolio of work where you can demonstrate value and results is one good step, as well as diversifying your customer base as much as possible to ensure a lower reliance on purely residential work."

Task

Price expectation

Design a new garden

£390

Build terraces

£378

Build a new fence from scratch

£364

Lay patio

£351

Build a garden wall

£337

Install a pond

£290

Building a shed

£230

Install a water feature

£229

Fell trees

£215

Build garden furniture

£198

Lay new turf

£190


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