Landscaping as way of modifying the features of space within and around a home is one of the time-honoured ways of adding value to a house.
When you do landscaping, you intend to integrate the natural as well as built or created environment into an aesthetic whole. You are looking for beauty or aesthetics, but often you are also out to see some functionality. When you landscape, you are trying to add beauty, but you may want beauty that is useful.
Some landscape specialists and home sellers attach a particular monetary value on the whole exercise of landscaping but others stress that they can’t put a price to it.
To the latter, the aesthetics is invaluable; you will never be able to put a value to it and if you could, it is in the eyes of the beholder. And yet a home that is landscaped is more valuable than the one that is not. Homes in the high-end areas of Nairobi and other urban areas tend to have more elaborate landscaping than lower and middle-income areas. In the lower-income parts, landscaping is characteristically regarded as a luxury given that it has a cost to it.
In the higher income areas, the variety of landscaping approaches can be mind-boggling, sometimes only limited by the cost of doing it. Experts say that some of the methods of landscaping cannot be sustainably implemented in Kenya because of such factors as the consistent availability of water and skills of person who is do the maintenance or implement the project.
A landscaper may use flowers, vines, shrubs, trees and other naturally occurring and man-made materials. This may be over land, fence and land forms. It could stretch all the way from the outside the gate or around the outside of the fence to the porch.
If vines are used, they may go over walls, fences, columns and trees or other man-made objects. For functionality, it may serve to hide some of the outdoor constructions or structures such as garages or an animal shed that may be nearby.
“You want to portray warmth, colour, texture, shade and create general serenity of the environment around a home. The cost could be in millions. But when you are looking at the beauty and usefulness of the landscaping,” said Victor Osiche, a landscaping expert with Karen-based Nairobi Botanica Gardening.
Osiche said that the greening aspect of the home is very critical because it gives the home a natural look.
In shared spaces, landscaping is intended for all users of the space because there are typically many houses or homes as in the case of apartments.
Leonard Onyancha, who sells houses in Nairobi's Embakasi and Thika, says for the middle-income areas such as Kitengela and Syokimau where homes have compounds it is easier to do landscaping but there are still many who do not take advantage of that.
That is how you find that there are many adverts on sales of homes with one of their strengths being having cabro-paved compounds or driveways rather than a garden or landscaped compounds or environment.
“Higher income areas have a greater tendency to do landscaping than the middle and lower income areas. But we are seeing more and more homes with landscaping in middle-income areas,” said Onyancha.
Osiche said that the process of doing landscaping starts with a client seeking the services and the expert visiting the site.
“You visit the client and capture the idea with the key thing being to give the client what he or she wants. You do a preliminary design, forward it to him or her who approves or seeks modifications. You then go and do a final design and then discuss it with the client,” said Osiche.
On sustainability, not only issues of climate have to be taken into account but also the skills (such as those of a gardener) to handle the project after the expert has left the scene.
With matters of design and costing completed, Osiche says, the implementation stage can begin. This is done in stages with the client approving every stage.
“At every stage you must engage the client to avoid the chances of having to undo the exercise and start all over again,” said Osiche.
Payment for all the work, begins at the first stages of implementation. Osiche says that six months of free maintenance, depending on the contract, can then follow after completion of the project with the client only paying for labour and the expert supervising the gardener who may take up the work after the experts exit the site.
At that stage, the work is as good as done and the expert would only charge for work done after the six-month free maintenance stage is over.