UK’s front gardens have got greener in the past five years, survey suggests

Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent
·2-min read

Front garden greenery has surged in the past five years, with homeowners adding an area of planting 70 times the size of Hyde Park, horticulturalists estimate.

The number of front gardens with no greenery at all has halved in five years, according to surveys for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) carried out in 2015 by Ipsos MORI and in 2020 by YouGov.

And twice as many people say the space at the front of their house is entirely greened up, compared with five years ago.

Front garden
(Neil Hepworth/RHS/PA)

If replicated countrywide, the shift to greener front gardens could mean almost 40 square miles of plants, trees, grass and earth has been created in five years, the RHS suggests.

The horticultural charity, which launched a campaign to green up gardens in 2015 in response to the spread of paving and gravel, says greener spaces in front of homes have a range of benefits.

They can improve people’s mental and physical health, help wildlife, conserve water from rainfall, improve the air quality, and cool cities in hot summer months.

Front garden
(Neil Hepworth/RHS/PA)

But while the proportion of front gardens with no or little greenery has fallen since 2015, when 44% of survey respondents said they had no plants or less than a quarter plant cover, that is still the case for a third of gardens.

This shows there is “still much work to be done”, RHS director of science and collections Professor Alistair Griffiths said.

The RHS is hopeful that a surge in gardening activity and interest during the pandemic last year can help fill gardens and homes with plants.

Front garden
(Neil Hepworth/RHS/PA)

Nearly half of people (48%) with a garden said they spent more time in it during the spring lockdown and more than a quarter bought more plants for their garden.

The RHS said its website received more than 31 million unique visits in 2020, up from 19.9 million visits in 2019, with traffic to its advice pages increasing 100% during the first lockdown last year.

Prof Griffiths said: “The RHS has been promoting the importance of adding plants to paved-over front gardens since 2015 when we launched our Greening Great Britain campaign.

Front garden
(Neil Hepworth/RHS/PA)

“Although there is still much to do, we are thrilled to see an improvement, which has been helped by millions of people taking up gardening over lockdown and buying more plants to grow indoors and out.”

The findings come ahead of the opening of RHS Hilltop at the charity’s Wisley garden in Surrey, with a large exhibition space showing the latest gardening science, learning facilities, and four acres of “living laboratory” gardens.

The new garden space, which opens in June, aims to promote the power of plants to improve health and wellbeing, support wildlife and help the environment.