Someone pointed out to me last week that Christmas is looming.
It is in fact now 11 weeks and a couple of days until Christmas. In the garden many people like to have a collection of pots planted by the front door looking lush and colourful for as much of the year as possible. If yours are looking a little worse for wear then planting up now with some colourful annuals or perennials should have them timed to look spectacular for Christmas and the summer holiday period.

There are lots of options to choose from, many have had great success with Petunia Raspberry Blast in the last few years. Unfortunately it has been discovered that it was genetically modified and with an order from MPI (Ministry Of Primary Industries) has been banished from New Zealand. However, good news is that a similar petunia that is not genetically modified is available. "Petunia Rose Star" is purported to flower right through summer and into the autumn with its striped pink and white coloured flowers very similar to Raspberry Blast - I have planted one up to try for this summer.

Another highly successful range is the bubblegum range of petunias. At the garden centre we planted these in the garden along the roadside for the summer of 2015 and 2016. It is a very exposed garden suffering the full blasts of wind from every direction with no irrigation either. Wow! These are the hardiest petunias we have found, having stood all the above mentioned trials.

These incredibly free-flowering Petunia bubble gums come in three colours - blush, fuchsia and pink. While there are other series that have some perhaps more exciting colours, they look fantastic if you plant all three together in a large pot or planter and let them grow together or like we have done simply mix them up in the garden.

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It sounds a bit funny to say but plants take time to grow! This becomes particularly pertinent when an important occasion is looming and you want the garden to look its best. Sometimes it is a lifetime event such as a wedding or it may be you want to have the garden looking great when you have family and friends coming to visit. A last-minute dash to a garden centre to buy potted colour is great but I have found that despite best efforts the planting will still have an under established look about it.

Some forward planning of how you want your garden to look in six months, 12 months, five years or more is worthwhile. Larger growing plants which may be used to remove the ugly shed, provide privacy from neighbours or protection from the wind all take time to grow so as the saying goes the best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago, the next best time is today!

There are some fascinating statistics about the value that a well-maintained garden space brings to home's property value, especially at time of sale (Ref; Husqvarna Global Garden Report 2011).
▬ 69 per cent of real estate agents believed that the garden was either important or very important for the overall market value of a property.
▬ 16 per cent increase on the value of a property - the overall estimated effect of a well-maintained garden on property prices.
▬ Speeds up sales - around half of the agents said a good garden reduces time to sell by weeks or even months.
▬ Simply put, houses with good gardens sell quicker, for a better price and spend on the garden yields a strong return on investment.

The survey involved 5000 properties from nine different countries estimating the effect that a well-maintained garden has on property prices.
▬ Globally this effect was estimated at +16 per cent (the Garden Effect) on the property value of a house.
▬ When taking costs of maintenance, plants and garden makeover into account, the average hypothetical payback on garden investments was estimated at 3.1 times the money invested (Payback-If-Sold).
▬ Checking with real estate agents, more than 70 per cent believed that a neglected garden lowers property prices by somewhere between 5-15 per cent.
▬ In terms of garden elements that homeowners believe contribute most to property value, a well-maintained lawn tops the global list, followed by an inviting social area.
Time to sell - according to a global real estate agent panel, the rewards of well-designed and well maintained landscaping also reduces the time it takes to get a private home sold.

What pays off the most?
Top 10 global property value enhancers:
■ 1. Well-maintained lawn
■ 2. Inviting social area
■ 3. Stone paths and walkways
■ 4. Decorative trees
■ 5. Decorative bushes and shrubs.
■ 6. Well-kept hedges
■ 7. Nicely designed flowerbeds
■ 8. Aquatic elements
■ 9. A practical garden shed
■ 10. Fruit trees

Gardening - an investment that lasts. Investing in the garden, (unlike for example renovating the kitchen) appears to bring value that lasts. For a well-maintained garden the value normally rises over time. A well-kept established garden is much more attractive than one that is newly planted.

Renovating a deteriorated kitchen or bathroom often pays off well in the beginning. However, the effect is usually temporary and the value of a kitchen renovation typically declines quite rapidly, approaching close to nothing after 10 or 15 years.

Studies from the US and Canada using this model found that when gardens are upgraded from good to excellent, the price increased an average of 10.8 per cent.
A neglected garden has also been found to have a negative effect on price of 8-10 per cent. Hence the difference between an excellent garden and a neglected one is approximately 19-21 per cent.

Want to reduce time-to-sale? Invest in curb appeal!
What makes the difference?
About 53 per cent of homeowners rank a well-maintained lawn as raising the property value most, a finding supported by others. An academic study focusing on the value of lawns found that groundcovers increased the property value by 2 per cent for each percent of ground covered. In other words, if 100 per cent of the lot is covered with well-designed and maintained ground coverage the property value might rise by as much as 20 per cent. Of our global real estate agent panel, 73 per cent state that the lawn is one of the most important contributing factors to curb appeal.

For the real estate agents an inviting social area is even more important than a well-maintained lawn.
An impressive 83 per cent of our real estate agents listed this feature as important for the overall market value of a property.

The "social garden" was one of the hot trends in last year's Global Garden Report: the garden as a place where we spend time with our friends and family, have barbecues or just relax.
The overall estimated effect of a well-maintained garden on property prices (the Garden Effect) in Australia - 12 per cent, and Pay Back if Sold was 3.6 times the investment.
In the report, Australian respondents placed first when it came to regarding time and effort spent in their gardens as an investment in their property.
They also reported using the same gardens mainly as a way of making the house more attractive.
Top five property enhancers:
■ 1. Well-maintained lawn
■ 2. Inviting social area
■ 3. Designed stone paths
■ 4. Decorative trees
■ 5. Decorative bushes
Have a good week.

Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre.