There’s nothing like a drought and water restrictions to give one garden fatigue, and rather than watching their carefully cultivated lawns and flowerbeds wilt and die, many homeowners in SA are now incorporating more “hardscaping” to keep their yards looking good - and add value to their properties.
“In this they are following the example of many sectional title complexes, housing estates and retirement villages where the common property features a combination of hardscaping and drought-resistant indigenous plants which looks attractive but is low maintenance and does not require much watering,” says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group.
“And the trend is being bolstered by younger homeowners who work all week and would rather not spend their weekends mowing and weeding anything except perhaps an organic veggie patch, and by older owners who are looking to reduce their home maintenance tasks.”
The elements of hardscaping include everything from gazebos, pergolas, paved patios and wooden decks to decorative walls and seating areas, built-in braais, pubs and firepits, pathways, water features, ponds and pools, he notes, and the benefits of including more of these in your yard include durability and aesthetic appeal as well as less maintenance.
“The view now is that natural materials like stone, wood, glass, clay pavers or tiles, thatch and even canvas have just as much place in an eco-friendly, sustainable garden as plants, especially in dry areas.
“In general, home and stand sizes are also getting smaller, and prospective buyers definitely favour properties where the owners have used hardscaping to turn outdoor spaces into additional ‘rooms’ for entertaining, exercising and relaxing, complete with weather-resistant furnishings.”
Hardscaping does have some drawbacks, says Kotzé. “Hard surfaces can be unforgiving on bare feet and dropped crockery - and will absorb and radiate a lot of heat in summer if you don’t have some natural or artificial shade.
“Paving that covers water pipes or electrical conduits is much more difficult to lift and put back than lawn if those ever need repairs. Paved or tiled areas also tend not to absorb rainwater, which may cause run-off problems unless they are properly designed.
“So we would definitely encourage homeowners to make use of professional landscaping or garden design companies if they are planning to make major changes. However, given the current buyer demand for easy-care homes with attractive entertainment spaces, we would also say that well-executed hardscaping projects are currently among the best home improvement options when it comes to return on investment.”