THE PROCESS: START TO FINISH
Here are the main ingredients from initial consultation to finished garden.
However every project is unique, so the process is adapted to you. Often work is carried out in stages. Sometimes a consultation or concept plan is all that's needed. For clients who are building or extending first, we work alongside your architects, as it works best to consider the garden design concept while architectural plans are still under discussion, if possible, so that interior and exterior fit together perfectly.
All the stages of work below are led by Gini Denison-Pender, bringing in artisans, surveyors, landscapers, garden building architects, planners, and other designers as necessary to create the perfect garden for you. Gini acts as the central liaison point, ensuring that the different elements of the project are in harmony, and that they progress in the best order.
Your wishes and ideas and the functional requirements for the garden are the first priority, combined with an initial assessment of the character of the space and how it sits within the built and natural landscape. After the first meeting in your garden Gini sends over a written report of our discussion to refer to and build on as the design evolves. This report also explain the process to be followed, and the fees for producing the design and taking it to the tendering stage. Outline possibilities start to take shape, and as they firm up we start to discuss the costs which may be involved so that you can begin to make informed decisions on budget. There is a small fixed fee for an initial consultation.
If you decide to proceed, the next stage will be a survey of the site. Gini always returns to make a full photographic record of the site, an analysis of influences on it which may affect planting and planning, and to form a deeper understanding of the character of the garden. In a small plot we might also measure up, however in large or complex spaces, a surveyor would be instructed to carry out a topographical survey. This includes every object on site which might impact the eventual layout of the design, from the position of trees or windows and doors, to utilities and level changes. Gini will assist you in deciding on a suitable surveyor.
Once preliminary information is gathered up, the creative stage arrives. Inspiration comes from all around: the visual setting, key plants, site history and wider landscape, along with your favoured garden styles, remembered scents, important references, and so on. All these are blended into an initial concept, layered within broader principles of design, underpinned by the required functions of the site, and viewed through a wildlife lens.
The result is a clear idea of the flow of the space and key ingredients of the design conveyed through a hand drawn masterplan representing the new layout and areas of planting. Perspective drawings bring the imagined space to life. The masterplan, once agreed with you, is the reference point for all further work.
After the design concept is agreed, we produce a set of detailed scale drawings in a digital format accurately representing the design as it will be laid out on the ground. All hard landscaping elements, whether paving stones, steps, bespoke wood structures such as pergolas or gates, light fittings or items of furniture, are drawn up in sufficient detail to be able to turn the imagined garden into reality. This level of detail also means that accurate and comparable contractor quotes may be obtained.
With the detailed layout of the garden mapped out, planting plans can be completed. These plans are a central part of bringing the design to life in the way it was intended. A plant specification lists all the species and their quantity and initial size. Dimensions of planting beds allow quantities of additional materials to be calculated. Detailed plans and specifications give a sound basis for contractor quotes.
Once the full set of plans is ready, Gini will either recommend contractors who she knows from experience will offer the best service for your garden build, or send the drawings out to tender with a selection of reputable firms, as you prefer. We will contact landscapers for preliminary discussions before fixing appointments on site; and provide them with document packs. Gini attends meetings with contractors on site to answer any design queries; and then she will assess the quotes with you to help you decide which contractor you would like to engage.
PROGRESS CHECKS DURING IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PLANS
Gini is on hand during the build, liaising with the landscapers throughout. She usually attends on a weekly basis while work continues, or more often if needed, particularly at crucial moments such as when the first layouts are measured out on the ground and hard landscaping elements are positioned. Gini works with the landscapers to lay out plants, ensuring that they will bring the plans to life as intended. This progress checking service varies in intensity depending on the stage of the build and continues on a basis agreed with you until the project is complete. Gini acts as a liaison point between you, the contractors, and anyone else involved in the build, saving your time by answering design questions, whilst always referring back to you and being on hand with advice when there are new decisions to be made.
CARING FOR PLANTS AND HARD LANDSCAPING
It can be useful to have extra help with your finished garden. Specialist pruning and training of plants ensures the garden develops according to the plan. Annual cut backs of perennials, regular weeding and annual maintenance of timber and stone by a maintenance team can give you time to relax and enjoy all that the garden offers, or engage with the tasks which give you most pleasure, perhaps tending produce or growing your own cut flowers. Gini will chat through the plans with your own gardener - or help you find one, and provide them with copies of the concept drawings so that they can visualise how the garden will look a few years on, and look after it accordingly. Gini will also arrange follow up visits with you in future years if you wish, to keep an eye on the garden with you as it evolves.
Most of the planning and design work is charged at a fixed rate, and can be priced for you after the initial consultation: design fees depend upon the complexity of the work, time needed, and size of plot. During implementation stages, our fees are a percentage of the build cost. We will advise you about the likelihood of external fees where necessary: for surveyors, or perhaps planning applications or structural engineers.
Occasionally hourly rates apply, for example to cover follow up garden visits after the build is completed, and there is always clear communication about the work being done.
BUILD COST AND VALUE
Costs for the build vary enormously depending on the site and what you need. As an initial very rough guide, quotes from contractors registered with reputable trade bodies show that in a compact central London plot currently you could expect a minimum of £500-£600 plus VAT per square metre. In rural areas this might fall to £400 plus VAT per square metre for hard landscaped areas, or less in larger open areas. There are of course a multitude of unquantifiable benefits in the way your new garden will enhance your daily life, but in addition to that research by Foxtons estate agents suggests that an investment of between 4% and 10% of the house price in a well thought out garden can create an uplift in house value of 20% .
Gini is always happy to to suggest ways in which changes can be made at a sensible cost. If there is lots to be done we can plan the build as a series of smaller phases over a year or more.
Alternatively if you just need some ideas to get you started, Gini offers a fixed fee consultancy service spending half a day talking through possibilities, measuring out potential new hard landscaped spaces with you, and following up with suggestions for key plants to suit the soil and garden microclimate to help you create the mood you want.