Gardens of holiday homes could be one of the victims of the 90-day Brexit-related visitor restrictions.
Second home owners who used to spend longer than they did in France now have to leave their gardens unkempt for up to three quarters of the year unless they can make other arrangements.
One obvious answer is to hire a professional to take care of it on your behalf.
Professional gardeners are always busy
Legal recent changes in French company law to self-employed (micro-entrepreneur) Paying Social Security taxes after their money comes in—rather than fixed amounts, whether they’re paid or not—has led many people to register as gardeners.
Prices range from €15 to €20 per hour.
Being in the system means being paid off the books is no longer as attractive, so expect people to be billing correctly now.
Good gardeners don’t need to advertise as word of mouth usually means they have a lot of work to do.
Garden centers remain rather small
In France, on the other hand, there are many advantages to being employed and self-employed gardeners are likely to compete with small businesses with fewer than 10 employees.
For companies with more than this number of employees, payroll taxes increase, which is why many companies remain small.
The teams arrive in a van with their lawn mowers and brush cutters and get to work, getting the job done quickly before piling back into the vehicle to head to the next job.
Such companies used to be looked for in the telephone book, but today a quick search on the Internet reveals a large number of garden centers, some of which operate as cooperatives.
Emeric Leboucher, who runs Jardinage Services in Normandy, tells the story The connection: “To be honest we didn’t have many UK customers after the pound sterling crashed a dozen years ago. This could change [with visiting restrictions] I know the UK clients we’ve had before were passionate about their gardens.”
Robots can help
One difference these days, however, is the growing popularity of solar-powered robotic lawn mowers, which start at around $1,000.
Read more: Gardening in France: Let’s Talk Lawn Care
“If they’re well set up, they’ll mow the lawn all season long on their own, return to the base station to charge, and rarely need our intervention,” he said.
“It’s one of the options more and more people are taking.”
La Poste switches to gardening
As is often the case in France, gardening services are concentrated in cities so finding one near you may take more than a click.
The sector has also attracted some larger companies trying to break into the promised gold mine to an aging population that needs more help to stay in their homes.
La Poste, eager for new revenue, has started a franchise called Axeo Services, which also includes gardening help.
Read more: France’s post has problems?
It has national ambitions, although the first franchisees were based in major cities and adoption in rural areas was slow.
Not a cheap solution
Prices are relatively high regardless of whether the professional is a man-with-a-van company, a company that sends a team, or part of a national franchise.
For long-term garden maintenance, it makes sense to get a quote for an annual service.
An example from Jardinage Services is €290 per month, all taxes included, for a garden of 750 m².
Included are 15 two-hour mowing and trimming sessions, two five-hour shrub trimming sessions, an eight-hour fruit tree pruning session (in winter), an 18-hour hedge trimming session in the fall, and a four-hour spring session to trim patios and decks with mechanical brushes and high-pressure cleaners.
Also included in a tip is the price of taking clippings and other plant waste and disposing of them.
For those who are French resident taxpayers – not people affected by the 90-day visitation restriction – there is a 50% tax deduction (or credit if you don’t pay income tax). Petits Travaux de Jardinagea definition that encompasses the work described above.
Recent changes mean that the loan will be paid out in two installments six months apart, one year after the bill is paid, rather than in one lump sum.
For gardening work, the tax credit is limited to €5,000 per year.
The above quote does not involve weeding flower or vegetable beds, and finding gardeners willing to do so can be difficult.
If the garden has flower beds, it may be necessary to sacrifice them and plant shrubs.
Tax credits can only be applied for with receipts from registered traders – another reason why cash payments to the lawn boy without receipts are becoming increasingly rare.
On the subject of matching items
The second ban on home visits in France encourages property maintenance
Spring is the season for gathering nuts and other delicacies in France
Open gardens in France – show your garden or visit one near you