The Australian love affair with entertaining and outdoor living is showing no signs of waning, with 63% of Aussie homeowners planning to either make improvements or undertake new projects in their outdoor space this year. This is according to the annual Adbri Masonry Great Australian Backyard Survey, which has reported a 4% increase in homeowners wanting to do up their outdoor space compared to last year.
“Aussies love spending time outdoors, whether it is relaxing, gardening or entertaining friends and family. Almost a quarter of us spend more than seven hours a week in our backyards and gardens and the lifestyle benefits that come with that are no surprise. This increase we are seeing in backyard makeovers is a result of increased consumer confidence and recognition that outdoor renovation projects can add value to the home financially,” says landscaping expert Jason Hodges.
For many, investing in an outdoor space is also about adding value to the home. The Great Australian Backyard Survey revealed that behind a kitchen renovation (47%), 32% of homeowners believe renovations to the garden landscape and outdoor entertaining area added the most financial value to the home.
“Outdoor investments are definitely getting the greater share of the wallet when it comes to home renovations. The beauty of the outdoor space is that you can continue to add to it over time, increasing its value, whereas with a kitchen, it is not as easy to make those gradual changes or improvements,” says Mick Conway, owner of Conway Landscaping.
First impressions count
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. This rings especially true when it comes to your home, its saleability and appeal to potential buyers.
“Homeowners should never underestimate the value in street appeal because buyers never do,” says Jason.
“When considering outdoor projects, people always ask, ‘Where do I start?’ I think a great place is at the front yard. Minor improvements can make a massive difference to the way people view your place. In many homes, the dominant feature out the front is the driveway. It takes up a lot of surface area and serves an important function, but too often it’s overlooked.”
In the Great Australian Backyard Survey, the driveway was voted third as the outdoor project to deliver the most value to the home.
“Driveways are a great place to stand out from the crowd. Today, every second house looks the same, but yours doesn’t have to. With some creativity, you can leave the ‘Joneses’ in your rear view mirror by creating a paved driveway that uses colours, patterns and different paver sizes to build a stunning starting point for your home. There are also new opportunities to go green and use a permeable paver to reduce stormwater runoff by allowing rainwater to absorb back into the ground,” says Jason.
Expert Tip: Some councils will credit permeable pavements as a percentage of the soft landscape area on your parcel of land.
Gardening closely follows relaxation as the number two reason Aussies spend time in their outdoor spaces. 62% of respondents like to garden in their outdoor space but with that comes maintenance. Maintenance was voted the number one consideration when embarking on a landscaping project.
“Engaging a landscape designer with the right knowledge and experience is the best option for homeowners wanting to create a low maintenance landscape. Things like having the right plant stock and turf, irrigation and hard surfaces such as a paved courtyard are just some of the features homeowners should consider for a low maintenance landscape,” says Mick.
“There are some great options to choose from when looking for low maintenance plants, including buxus, grasses and succulents, all of which don’t require a lot of water.”
For the first time, Adbri asked survey respondents about the importance of sustainability in landscape design and outdoor projects. 36% said sustainability is very important above all else and 46% said sustainability of concept and products are very important, but price trumps. Dean Herald, principal landscape designer of Rolling Stone Landscapes, believes there is definitely intent for people to make sustainable choices, and it is not difficult in an industry that has been a leader in this area for some time.
“We are in the horticultural industry. We produce plants on a daily basis as far as nurseries go. We are responsible for planting multiple gardens, plantations, capturing and reusing water, through innovation of design using interesting products and using products that obviously last. The landscape industry is a leader in sustainability already and it continues to improve,” explains Dean.
“The must-haves in a sustainable backyard include using mulch, catching and reusing water, using efficient building methods that will last and quality products. The edible garden is also a great addition to have.”
“Raised garden beds are the perfect way to grow vegetables, herbs and even fruit to share with family and friends. Building a raised veggie garden is simple; allocate space which will receive enough sun, mark out the area and install a raised garden wall using dry retaining wall blocks. Add quality soil and then plant your favourite produce. An edible garden is a great way to make use of forgotten corners of the backyard to grow your own groceries.”
With entertaining friends and family and cooking in the top five things Australians use their outdoor spaces for, it is no surprise the outdoor kitchen is expanding to not just include the faithful barbeque.
“Generally speaking it is about extending the outdoor living component. Australians are interested in having great outdoor spaces, being able to cook and entertain family and friends. Within that topic there are trends popping up. If you are talking about kitchens, pizza ovens are becoming more popular, whereas five years ago it was just the barbeque. The barbeque is still there, but now there are alternative cooking spaces,” says Dean.
“The different cultures we have in Australia are fantastic because you have all these different cooking experiences. You have families requesting things like tandoor ovens, so we learn a lot about different cultures, what they like to cook and what different cooking methods they like to use.”