Commissioning a garden designer is an exciting step towards creating a beautiful and functional outdoor space that suits your personal preferences and needs.

To help facilitate the process of commissioning a garden designer we have created an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide:

1. Research and Ideas Phase

Before engaging with any garden designer, you need to have some idea of what you want. This doesn’t need to be a fully formed idea of how it will look and what features will be in it, as it’s the job of the designer to develop that with you. However, start by thinking about what you want to do in the space, which then leads on to what you’ll need in the space to undertake said activity, for example dining.

Then think about what you like stylistically – look for inspiration in garden design books, magazines, online platforms such as Pinterest, and the local gardens in your area. Plus the style of your house (architectural period) and its interiors.

Collect images or create a mood board that reflects your preferences and ideas. However, bear in mind many Pinterest images are from the US and we don’t have a climate comparable with the likes of California or Miami where different types of plants will thrive. Take inspiration from what you enjoy in your garden, from other gardens you admire and from your favourite plants and flowers.

If you enjoy research then why not visit our fantastic national gardens or attend garden shows to see different design styles in person. Go to your local garden centre and ask questions about different plants.

2. Garden Goals

From this research you can determine your goals for the garden. It doesn’t have to be a long or detailed list at this stage but having some ideas will make a conversation with your perspective designer far more productive. 

  • What do you want to achieve within the space?
  • Do you have specific features or style in mind?
  • What existing features do you want/need to keep?

3. Budget

Establish a budget for the project, be realistic about what you can afford, including both the design and implementation phases. Bear in mind that even the smallest gardens equate to a room larger than any in your home. Due to their outdoor situation, they require firm foundations, durable materials and drainage solutions. Therefore, the costs are more comparable to creating a good quality kitchen than painting a room.

It’s important to be aware that if you constrain the budget at the beginning, you may get a constrained result at the end, so it’s important to be transparent. Designs can always be value engineered and the process often clarifies priorities so trust in the process to optimise the end result.

4. Consultation Phase

The initial consultation is important for both parties, you need to make sure you choose a Garden Designer who understands your vision and can deliver the style and aesthetics you desire.

Ideally you should speak in depth with at least 2-3 designers to get a feel for their capabilities and if they are the right personality for you to work with.

So, when commissioning a garden designer, start by asking yourself, does this garden designer have:

  • The imagination to create a bespoke design for your brief.
  • The ingenuity to solve any site problems that may arise.
  • The practical experience to implement your plans cost effectively.
Make sure to budget when commissioning a garden designer
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5. Making your decision

Evaluate all the information gathered via any discussions, site consultations and from testimonials etc. Ask them about their process, how they work etc. and make sure their timelines tie in with yours. Choose the garden designer who best aligns with your vision, has a proven track record, and fits your budget.

Once you’ve selected a designer, plan to collaborate closely throughout the design process. Providing feedback to ensure that the final design meets your expectations.

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6. Brief Phase

Be clear about your needs from the outset although any decent garden designer will try to draw out all your needs and aspirations.

Ideally the budget and design will align but if you underestimate you could restrict initial creativity and be disappointed with the outcome. Then, it will cost more to re-work the design to satisfy your requirements.

Take risks, be open to suggestions. After all you’ve employed a designer to achieve a result you couldn’t create yourself.

Consider the style and interior design of your house, perhaps allow the garden designer to liaise with an architect or interior designer if there is one.

Think about how long you are going to be living in your current house and any flexibility that may be needed as you and your family go through life changes; from children becoming teens to mobility issues as you grow older.

Always get a brief when commissioning a garden designer
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The designer should create a detailed project brief outlining your goals, preferences, and any specific requirements.

Be sure it includes everything and it’s a good idea to work through this with your designer and then sleep on it for a few days. I always give my clients the weekend or longer to mull the final draft over and discuss, the meeting to discuss and formalise the brief often refocuses priorities.

Once the brief is finalised, try to avoid any changes as they can add time and therefore cost.

7. Design Concept

Work closely with the designer to refine the design concept. Once the brief is agreed the garden designer will create a scale drawing of the site, the masterplan (design plan), defining the design concept with material choices and overall plant ideas. As well as developing illustrative sketches in order that you can visualise the finished garden. Give them time to do this, creatives need thinking time too.

Once ready the designer will present this to you, make sure you have a clear diary and time to focus on this presentation and be confident to give feedback, radical changes shouldn’t happen unless something has gone wrong in the briefing process, however tweaks and small changes are common place, after all it’s a collaboration process.

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Remember that good communication and a clear understanding of your expectations are crucial throughout the process of commissioning a garden designer. This will help ensure the final results meet your desires and enhances your outdoor living space.

If you would like to arrange an initial consultation with me to see if we are a good fit, please fill in this form and we can jump on a call.