Every garden is different so the design process is not always the same. The main ingredients from initial consultation to finished garden are outlined below. However you can also commission just part of the process. Or the work can be done in stages - for example when building or extending a property it is useful to commission work on the design concept while the architects' drawings are under discussion, so that house and garden fit together perfectly. Detailed drawings and planting plans can follow at a later stage once the building work is complete.
First is always discussion of your wishes, ideas and functional needs and an initial assessment of the character of the space and how it sits within the built or natural landscape. We begin with outline possibilities at this stage, and as they take on more shape we advise on the sort of costs which may be involved so that you can begin to make informed decisions on budget. After the first meeting you receive a written report setting out our understanding of the brief, the process to be followed in your project, and the fees for producing the design and taking it to the tendering stage. There is a fixed fee for an initial consultation.
After the design concept is agreed, a set of detailed digital drawings is produced, 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, lighting fittings (down to beam width and direction), 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. There is a fixed fee for this stage.
Once detailed layout plans of the site are ready, the precise layout of plants is drawn up. The planting 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. A fixed fee, quoted in advance, is charged for the planting plans.
With a full set of detailed plans ready, contractors can produce comparable quotes for the work. Sometimes there may be a preferred contractor for the work, but more often quotes are sent to three reputable firms who will all submit tenders. We will contact landscapers, check availability and hold preliminary discussions with them before fixing appointments on site; we send out document packs; attend on site to answer contractor queries; assess the quotes and resolve queries; and finally provide a written or verbal comparison of the quotes to help you decide which contractor you would like to engage. There is a fixed fee per contractor quote supplied.
PROGRESS CHECKS DURING THE BUILD
If you are not familiar with landscaping work it can be time consuming to manage a build and figure out whether hard and soft landscaping details are being laid out in accordance with the plans. It tends to be more stress free for clients, the work more timely, and the end result a more accurate representation of the design if the designer is on hand to answer questions and to visit at crucial moments in the build, particularly when the first ground layouts are made, hard landscaping elements are positioned, and planting plans are implemented. We offer a progress checking service which varies in intensity depending on the stage of the build and your needs, and which continues on a basis agreed with you until the project is complete. We act as a liaison point between you and the contractor, saving your time where we can answer design questions ourselves, and referring back to you where there are new decisions to be made. Fees are charged at an hourly rate.
Gardens are not static, and it can be helpful to have extra help with specialist pruning and training of plants so that they create the desired effect in the longer term, as well as weeding and lawn care. Gardening help might be just a few times a year, or weekly. We are happy to work with your gardener - or help you find one, and can 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. Any meetings regarding maintenance are charged at our usual hourly rate and are always discussed in advance.
Fees for the design process depend on the size of the plot and complexity of the planning required. Most stages in the design process are charged at a fixed rate, and can be priced for you after the initial consultation. You will be advised of the likelihood of external fees where necessary: examples might include surveyor's fees, costs associated with planning applications or, in sites with particularly complex requirements, fees for structural engineer's reports.
When we charge at an hourly rate, for example for progress checks or later garden visits, there is always clear communication about what work is being done.
If you wish to proceed, the next stage will always be a survey of the site. The designer will return to make a full photographic record of the site and an analysis of influences on it which may affect planting and planning. In a small garden the designer may also measure up. However in large gardens, or small but complex gardens, a surveyor would be instructed. The survey includes every object on site which might impact the eventual layout of the garden, from the position of trees or house doors, to utilities and level changes. We can assist you in deciding on a suitable surveyor. If the designer carries out the survey, there is a fixed fee, dependent on the size of garden, and you are notified of this in advance. If a surveyor is instructed they will charge separately for their survey and you would pay this fee directly to the surveying firm.
THE PROCESS: START TO FINISH
With all preliminary information gathered, ideas are mulled over. Inspiration is taken from all around: the visual setting, as the space becomes known to the designer, and also matters which are central to the site and important to you - key plants, site history, favoured garden styles and wider landscapes, remembered scents, hobbies... Layering this within broader principles of design results in a clear visual sense of what can be done. This is conveyed to you through a hand drawn masterplan representing the new layout and areas of planting, with perspective drawings to bring the imagined space to life. This masterplan is the reference point for all further work. A fixed fee, quoted in advance, is charged for this stage.
Costs for the build vary enormously depending on the site and what you want from your garden. If you are planning a budget, quotes from contractors registered with reputable trade bodies show that in London you could expect a minimum of £300 per square metre to implement a simple design, while in rural areas this might fall to a minimum of £250 per square metre, (potentially less in larger open areas). Looking at it another way, research by Foxtons estate agents and the Society of Garden Designers suggests that a well thought out garden can add 20% to the value of a house, attract more potential buyers and speed up a sale, for an investment in the garden build starting at around 4% of the value of the house. The unquantifiable benefits are of course found in the way the garden enhances your daily life. When we look at gardens we are always happy to to suggest ways in which changes can be made at a sensible cost. Also we can plan your garden build as a series of smaller more manageable steps over a period of time, and many people find joy in watching the garden develop slowly. Clearly the decision on budget will be different for everyone depending on how they want to use their garden and what they can afford. It is not easy to set pricing information in advance but hopefully this gives you some help in starting to plan. Perhaps a good way to think of your garden project is to compare it with house building: you can enlarge your downstairs living space with a relaxing, fun, fragrant, well used "room outside" for a fraction of the cost you would spend on an extension.