5 reasons to use a garden designer

If you’re planning a redesign of your outside space with seasonal plants, plus room for cooking, dining and relaxing, Matt outlines how a professional could help

TODO alt text

They’ll bring fresh ideas

A professional garden designer brings creativity and a new perspective to your space, while bearing in mind your wants, needs and budget. They can help with everything from planning the entire site or solving privacy problems, to choosing the most appropriate plants for beds and borders, all while helping you avoid costly mistakes.

As well as drawing up plans, knowing which plants work where, and how to locate decking, fencing and paving, a designer’s role is also to spend your budget wisely. An experienced garden designer will analyse both the space and brief, and identify low-cost solutions. Expect to pay from £250–750 for a day’s consultancy.

They know their niche

Professional garden designers tend to work on a design-only basis, so you’re engaging with a specialist in their field. They will take responsibility for all the design work, specifications and appointment of contractors, as well as act on your behalf in any discussions. Some will have a list of preferred, trustworthy contractors that they work with regularly, while others may be part of a design and build company where you’ll pay for an all-in-one package; this keeps everything ‘in house’ and can often speed up the whole process.

They’ll work to understand your needs

Choose a designer who you feel is most likely to interpret what you want to achieve in your garden and who will freely offer ideas and suggestions. You need to fully understand the ideas on the table (ideally in 3D) before paying for them. Plus, landscape contractors, specialist fabricators, lighting engineers and water feature specialists need clear details to carry out the work as intended.

They have specialist knowledge

Remember that a gardener or builder is not a garden designer – their experience and skills lie in the practical areas, so their training won’t include spatial design, drawing/computer-aided design and creating planting schemes, for example. Trained gardeners will have a minimum Level 3 diploma or Royal Horticultural Society Level 2 qualification in horticulture.

While many garden designers do have specialisms, the areas of garden law, levels and slopes, drainage, hard landscape detailing and an understanding of plants should be standard, as should an appreciation of the more ‘mundane’ aspects of making a garden work, such as storage and where to hang your washing.

They’ll take a methodical approach

When it comes to a complete makeover, most designers work in a similar way. First, there’s an initial consultation, which will lead to a more established brief. This can then be tweaked before being agreed by both parties. Next, a site survey and analysis will take place, which leads to the production of concept plans and sketches, all with your budget in mind.

Once the idea has been approved, the designer will create a scale plan followed by detailed construction drawings and planting plans. Other services include the production of tender documents, project management, and aftercare services such as maintenance schedules.

Top Tips

  • Don’t always overlook designers that aren’t members of an accredited board. Many of the great garden designers I know forgo the adjudication process, so sometimes a simple internet search for studios or practitioners in your region can be equally effective. Just make sure you check out their references and previous projects first.
  • Personal recommendations are particularly useful. Ask friends, family and neighbours to see if they’ve worked successfully with a designer, and ask to see the results.

Where to find a good garden designer

Spend time looking at a prospective designer’s portfolio or website and build a rapport with them before committing to a contract. Make sure you have someone you can see yourself working alongside and who can effectively communicate their proposals to you and the people who are going to construct the garden. Start your search at:

Image: iStock