Is your garden in need of some serious attention? Does your outdoor space look boring and uninspiring, without much thought given to structure, layout or planting? Whether you’re starting with the blank canvas green space of a new build or the outdated garden design of the previous home owners, if it’s not working for you, it’s time to take action.
Garden design is both an art and a science, but mostly it’s a craft. Even if you consider yourself to be reasonably green fingered and love pottering around in the garden, the vast horticultural knowledge and the advanced technical and management skills of a professional garden designer takes many years to master.
Find a good one and you’ll have a keen expert by your side who can see the vision of what you want your dream garden to be, and make your dreams come true. Here’s a useful 4-step process to ensure your chosen garden designer is aligned with your goals and has the right skill set for the project.
1. Create your vision
Before you’re ready to appoint a garden designer, it’s important to do a bit of homework first, so that you can articulate your vision. What sort of garden would you like to achieve – English cottage style, formal Italian style hedging or modern landscape architecture? You don’t have to be an expert in garden history but it helps to have a clear idea of the look and feel you’re going for.
Next, consider how you’ll be using the space. Are you looking for a garden for relaxing in peace and quiet, to entertain friends or for children and pets to run around in? Are you keen to grow your own veg? Do you love gardening or are you looking for a low-maintenance solution?
Without a defined brief, any garden designer is bound to struggle to develop a meaningful proposal. Look for inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram, books and magazines, garden shows and exhibitions and compile your own scrapbook or mood board with all the design elements you want to include in your garden design.
2. Establish a realistic budget
We all like to dream big but having grand garden design visions is one thing, having the budget to realise your dreams is quite another. Obviously, the physical size of your outdoor space will be a significant factor of the cost of a redesign but even small gardens can eat up sizeable chunks of budget rather quickly, especially when it comes to major landscaping and planting schemes.
If necessary, revisit the different elements of your desired design including groundworks, hard landscaping, garden buildings, water features, electrics and choice of planting. What are your ‘must haves’, what are your ‘nice to haves’? Be realistic about the kind of investment you’re willing to make into your garden, and be prepared to cut your cloth accordingly.
3. Shortlist garden designers
Having determined the scope and creative direction of your garden design project, it’s time to start looking for garden designers. Word-of-mouth recommendations are always a good starting point, so ask family, friends and acquaintances for who they’ve used.
Don’t underestimate the power of the internet to help you in your search, especially if you’re looking for specialist garden designers. Try googling for keywords such as ‘coastal gardens’, ‘north facing gardens’ or ‘clay soil’ to help you identify the right expert to deal with specific garden issues.
Do bear in mind that anyone can set themselves up as a professional garden designer, whether they’ve taken an evening course at their local college, are a full member of the Society of Garden Designers or have no qualifications or experience whatsoever. While formal qualifications aren’t always the best indicator of quality, it’s always wise to check the designer’s background. Ideally, you’re looking for a combination of professional qualifications coupled with solid practical experience across many garden design techniques and a wide range of projects.
Once you’ve chosen your favoured garden designer, take a keen interest in their portfolio and visit some of their completed projects. If at all possible, speak to past clients to gauge customer satisfaction levels first hand.
4. Trust your instincts
When you’ve reached the end of the decision making process, you should feel happy with your choice of garden designer. The importance of working with someone who is on the same wavelength cannot be overstated when it comes to this kind of creative process. Whether the two of you will be able to ‘click’ will become obvious very quickly once you’ve met in person – and this is where you really need to trust your instincts.
A garden redesign can be an intensely personal experience requiring a great deal of trust and confidence. If there’s anything you don’t like about your garden designer now and can envisage problems working together as the project progresses, that’s a huge red flag. Cut your losses now and find somebody else before you’re in too deep.
Through the lifecycle of your garden project, you should expect the relationship between yourself and your designer to develop and grow, just like your garden.
Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.