Do I need a designer and where do I find the right one?
Creating a new garden can be an exciting prospect and is not only be a pleasure to be in but a valuable asset to your home. In the internet age there is a veritable tsunami of information and ideas available -and friends, family, the neighbours and even complete strangers online will have plenty of ideas about what to do with your outdoor space if you ask them – and even if you don’t! You will of course have ideas and ambitions of your own and often will have inherited aspects from the previous owner – the good, the bad and the ugly…
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at this point - how to make sense of it all to bring about a comprehensive whole that works for you? A professional garden designer may be able to give indispensable help. After all, to recreate a garden takes considerable thought, time and expense – much like a new house extension or new kitchen. I would suggest rather more thought – and would you embark on any home improvement project without a plan?
Certainly if you are considering any hard landscaping – retaining walls, patio, pergola, pools etc a design with a scale plan will be vital for the landscaper to work from. You may be the handy type that wants to do the work yourself – but even so, a plan to work from will enable you to get organised and save you time and costs during the build process.
A garden designer will ask you how you want to spend your time in the garden. Do you want to grow vegetables, sit and sunbathe after a BBQ, have somewhere for the children to play? And of course what plants do you like and how will the garden mature over the years? Having somewhere to relax with a gin and tonic usually comes up pretty high up on the list of priorities! This will give the designer a good overall picture of your desires and concerns and what you are trying to achieve. Once you’ve decided on the functions of the garden, together we can set about deciding on the form, the structure and how all those activities can be accommodated for you.
For the most part the plan puts you in control! Some aspects of the site we can’t control such as soil type and the landfall or even the local weather. The designer will conduct a thorough survey of the site during which they will establish issues that may not be so favourable and these can be resolved or accommodated in the design process. And your site and its location can also offer positive opportunities you have not thought of and this is what will make your garden interesting and unique. For example, a fantastic view, the shade of a neighbour’s tree, where the evening light falls from the setting sun…
It’s important to understand that the design usually constitutes a very small percentage of the cost of the construction. Ultimately the plan will save you money – from the start, your budget will have been taken into account and the landscaper will have accurate plans to work from which keeps labour and costs to a minimum. What’s important here is that the plan gives you control - it shows you how the garden will look and work so there shouldn’t be any surprises!
How to find the right designer
Choosing a designer is a daunting task in itself. These days a first port of call is their website –this should give some idea of their work via their portfolio and testimonials. A local designer will be able to put you onto previous clients for references and examples of their work and some may offer free initial consultations so you can meet and discuss your requirements while getting a feel for them. A good relationship with your garden designer will lead to a happy and productive experience for both parties.
The Society of Garden Designers will have information and advice about choosing a designer as well as a list of qualified designers. Membership at any level demand their designers are professionally trained and observe professional standards within their practice. There are however many, good professionally trained designers not members of the Society that will be happy to reassure you of their credentials.
Your requirements –the brief
A good brief of your needs is vital so commit your wish list to paper. Spending some time thinking about how you want to spend your time in the garden as well as what plants, colours and materials you like is essential. Communicating this to the designer is equally important and your designer’s job at this stage is to listen. They should have the skills to interpret your needs effectively and develop the design with you through the planning process.
Many people have little idea how much a garden costs but most have a figure in mind; it’s best to be candid about this from the start. Your designer will be producing a bespoke design for your site so be clear about what you can afford. Pricing a garden build is the most difficult part of the designer’s job but they should be able to give a rough indication. A landscaper will be able to price the job more accurately from the plan.
Trust your designer. Having appointed the right designer, be confident about your decision and let your designer do what they do best. You may have firm ideas of your own but try to be open to their ideas and suggestions - you are paying them for their expertise after all! A good brief is essential and you’ll get a more successful garden if you’re prepared to be flexible and work collaboratively with your designer.
At present, you should allow about 12 months from appointing your chosen designer to completion of your garden. However, this can vary enormously, and could take longer depending on the size of your garden, the scale of the project, availability of contractors, and any specialist work. Having to wait a few months before your designer can even start is probably a good sign. As one of my regular landscapers said – ‘I can’t start for a few months – I wouldn’t be any good if I could’. The weather - particularly in wet and windy Devon, can also hold things up.
As with any building project be prepared for disruption and mess – good landscapers are mindful of this and will tidy up at the end of each day as much as possible. If you are unhappy with an element of the design or build of the garden, discuss any issues with the designer or contractor as quickly as possible. Your designer should be on hand to mitigate any problems and ensure the build lives up to the design. This could potentially save you time and additional costs, and ensure the project is as successful and as painless as possible - leaving you with a garden to enjoy and inspire for years to come.
Garden Designer Devon, Landscaper Devon, Horticultural Consultant North Devon, North Devon Garden Designer.