Negotiating and creating a garden makeover that will delight you - and your landlord!
"Our Eden was a bit of a mess when we moved in, and three months of continuous rain made maneouvering bikes into the shed something of a muddy palaver. But it was winter, so we concentrated on cosy things, like curtains, while the pot plants and shrubs that I brought with me from my previous home were left, neglected amongst the detritus and weeds."
Come the Spring however, we took Joni Mitchell’s advice and got ourselves back to the garden. It needed a lot of work. It was mostly lawn (or, rather, dandelions interspersed here and there with meadow grass), and prone to mud as several mature trees make it very shady and slow to dry out. So we approached our landlord with a proposal for a complete makeover – we’d do all the work, if he would pay for the materials (not including the furniture, containers, plants etc that are of course ours).
Here is the garden before our landscaping efforts.
Note the dying lawn – we had to kill it all off before we started work proper!
And here it is now.
We cleared out the border along the house side, which was riddled with lily of the valley and grape hyacinth, put in raised beds to create a formal herb garden, built a neat little patio and gravelled the rest.
The result is pretty and practical – as we pointed out to the landlord, it’s more convenient for renters as there’s no mowing to do and there’s plenty of room for containers, which may suit short term tenants better than flower beds and borders.
We tarted up some hand me down furniture with white paint and new cushions.
…and created a night time grotto with solar fairy lights and lanterns.
The landscaping took three days all in all, and was fairly easy to do (if heavy going on the muscles) as we planned and measured it carefully. We finished it in early June – just in time to enjoy the heatwave!
Now this kind of project might seem a bit beyond the reach for most renters – and yes, we have been extraordinarily lucky – but this is actually the second landlord who has let me completely landscape a garden, including laying a patio. Look at it from their point of view – the hard labour is done free of charge by the tenants, they hand over a few hundred quid for materials and in return get a garden that is easy to maintain and hugely improves the property. Everybody wins, not least the landlord!
So here are our tips for approaching your landlord with a similar proposal:
Draw a detailed plan, explaining with notes exactly what you’d like to do
Cost everything out carefully, and shop around for the best prices so you can assure your landlord that you’re being frugal, while not compromising on doing a proper job
Emphasise your credentials – if you’ve done this kind of work before, point this out, include pictures, show that you know what you’re doing
If you haven’t done it before but still want to give it a go, recruit a friend with more experience and point out their credentials to the landlord
Put it all in writing!
Lastly, make sure you keep all your receipts and write up a full breakdown of your expenditure when you hand them over.
Convince your landlord that you’re responsible and competent, and you might be surprised what he or she will let you do, especially if it results in an improved property! Good luck fellow tenants…