August 22, 2017

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Gardening and landscaping trades massively undervalued in UK, survey finds

Survey
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British garden design and landscaping have a formidable reputation across the world, as witnessed by a global audience of 372 million for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. Their work remains poorly understood by the wider public in the UK, however, according to an AXA survey*.

Overall British householders are prepared to 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 green spaces, at almost £600 per household per year, closely followed by those living in the most northerly climes of the country, 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 few people would call a professional to design or plant their garden (one in ten), most would call in professional help when it comes to hard landscaping, such as building a wall (64 per cent), terrace or decking (61 per cent) or putting up fencing (58 per cent). And a similar number – 59 per cent – would ask for help in felling a tree.

Expectations of the price of these jobs were largely unrealistic, however, falling far below the average prices charged by gardening professionals. The average householder would expect to pay just £390 for a garden design, massively underestimating the hours and expertise required for a professional design (including the site survey, concepts, technical and planting plans). The true cost, even for a small garden, is generally four times that figure on today’s market.

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.

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

When it comes to routine maintenance, people would pay an average of just £10 an hour for a gardener, barely above minimum wage. In a separate survey**, AXA asked people working in the gardening trades revealed that 71 per cent of gardeners have worked for £10-£20 per hour in the past year, a third for £20-£30 per hour and 22 per cent 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 comments: “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 hour 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.”

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