Dakota Murphey, Garden Design, Hiring Help in the Garden, How To

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 Whether you’re starting with the blank canvas green space of a new build or the outdated garden design of the previous home owners, if it’s not working for you, it’s time to take action.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.

how to find garden designer
Source: Andy Sturgeon

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.

garden design
Source: House Beautiful

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.

manicured garden
Source: Design Trends

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.

planted hedges
Source: Outdoor Ideas

Dakota Murphey

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.

Garden Tools, Gardening Year, George, Hiring Help in the Garden, How To, Trees, Wildlife

how to deal with falling leaves

As anyone with deciduous trees in their back garden will know, autumn can be a beautiful, but laborious, time of year. As the foliage turns to stunning shades of reds and yellows, it begins to drop, and drop… and drop. Learning how to deal with falling leaves is a challenge every gardener must face, so to help out we’ve rounded up the best tips for you.

Why do you need to sweep up leaves?

Fallen leaves can smother the lawn, suffocate plants and introduce diseases into the soil. If you can’t see the top of the blades of grass, or if over a third of the lawn is covered, then it’s time to clear away the leaves.

Remember leaves will continue to fall throughout the season, so it’s worth planning a day to clear up the leaves every few weeks until winter.

Are leaves good for wildlife?

Some creatures do like to use fallen leaves as shelter, particularly worms and other insects. So it’s good to do your bit for the local wildlife and leave a small patch of leaves undisturbed.

wildlife in leaves

Is it OK to mow over leaves?

Yes, mowing over leaves can help to shred them and make them easier to mulch. But heavy falls and wet leaves can be tough to mow.

Watch out for pine needles

Pine needles will decompose into an acidic mulch, which is only suitable for certain plants. So it’s worth sweeping these up and bagging them separately from the leaves for later use. Helpfully, pine needles usually drop first.

How to clear up fallen leaves

  1. Rake the leaves into piles. You can use a leaf blower to help create rough piles first (or blow the leaves straight back into woodland).
  2. Rake the piles onto leaf bags or a sheet and gather up. The folding Leaf Eazi Leaf Collector is a great tool for this.
  3. Drag these bags off the lawn and store for later use.

A leaf vacuum is another useful tool for collecting autumn leaves. Look for one with a shredding function to make disposing of the leaves even more efficient.

raking leaves

Should you rake wet or dry leaves?

You can rake up leaves when they are wet or dry. If they’re wet, they’ll form a more grabbable solid lump, but be much heavier to move. Beware wet leaves can also contain mould or mildew, which can set off allergies. To use a leaf vacuum the leaves will need to be dry.

What do you do with leaves after you rake them?

The best thing to do is turn fallen leaves into compost. This saves waste and returns the nutrients back to your garden. Firstly, make sure you remove diseased leaves from the pile and bin them to avoid spreading the infection. If you can, shredding the remaining leaves will help speed up the decomposition process. Then put the leaves onto the compost heap to biodegrade. Use the fresh compost on your flowerbeds the following spring!

Are leaves good for garden soil?

You can mulch some of the leaves directly into the lawn, provided there is not too thick a layer, and send their goodness straight into the soil. You need to see at least half the grass through the leaves for this to work. Start by aerating the lawn. Then chop the leaves into small pieces using a lawn mower. As the leaves mulch, they will decompose and their nutrients will run straight down into the soil.


If you have plants that like a lot of mulch (like shrubs, garlic and roses) you can make the mulch and then rake it straight onto the flowerbed. The best time of year for mulching is in the autumn, to help protect your plants over the winter frosts.

Help for dealing with falling leaves

If all else fails you can hire a professional leaf cleaner. But clearing up the leaves is a rewarding task, and with the help of our leaf collectors, should be done in a breeze!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Gardening, Hiring Help in the Garden, Make over

Dex the digger, brought his mate Luke to work one day saying that he would share his wages with him, but needed, or perhaps he said wanted,  someone else to work with, I can’t quite remember. Well, pleased that the work would get done quicker, I insisted that Luke should be paid equal wages too.  Seeing two grown men working  for half wages did not sit right with me.  However, over the next few days, it did seem to be taking a long time to do these last bits of garden. work  Then the rain came, and came and came and came, so that when Dex and Luke came to work, they had to take shelter in the shed at frequent intervals. I was away for 3 days and left them to work, as I had done before when Dex worked alone. This time on my return however, there definitely did seem to be less work done than when Dex had been alone.  Did I smell a rat? Had it rained that much? Was I getting paranoid?   I pondered over the weekend, and decided to ask Dex to come to work early on Monday, without Luke.  I would then work with him most of the day myself. I rang on Sunday to arrange this, but couldn’t speak to Dex directly, leaving a message instead.  Early Monday came and went. Dex did arrive late morning with Luke, full of apologies.  Unfortunately his personal life had fallen apart that weekend and he had to travel from Kent that morning, from where he was now staying.  The cost was outrageous and accounted for most of his earnings that day. We all three worked in the garden till early afternoon and got most jobs finished and the place looking tidy.  The new turf had taken well and loved all the rain.  I had bought just the Cordyline I wanted and found the perfect place for it. But that was the last I saw of Dex and was left feeling very sad for him. I left thinking about the rest of the garden for another time.


Gardening, Hiring Help in the Garden, How To, Make over

I am over the worry of it now and on the downhill stretch.  There were enough bricks reclaimed to remake the wall, and it looks great in light yellow colours of the old London Stock bricks that the house is built in. The path beside it we started in the crazy paving that was down before.  However, I was using them only because they were there.  I don’t really like the look of crazy paving in a Victorian house setting. The Dex came up with a plan.  He had only just started and the cement was still wet.  It takes quite a time to fit the jigsaw puzzle together and we reasoned that laying concrete was quicker.  Dex’s master plan was to inlay white stones in the cement.  I was due to rush to Sussex on a school pick up run in an hour, but chose to rush to the local Jewsons to buy more cement and white stones.  I couldn’t quite picture the white path, but took a chance that my taste and Dex’s would match. I flew down to Sussex, but had a bad night there imagining the path to look like a long trail from the top of a grave. The next morning a friend commented that that he had never seem a garden makeover with a graveyard theme….that helped.

But it was lovely and I am so pleased.  It still has to have a resin coating so I think it will wear well.