January is often the time when we start to make plans for the new year. 2020 has highlighted to many of us how important our outdoor spaces are – the restrictions we’ve all been subject to have got us thinking about how our gardens could better work for us and our friends and family. If your 2021 list includes getting the garden redesigned, this post is especially for you.
The design consultation is the first and arguably the most important step in the whole garden design process. To create the right garden for you, I need to understand who you are, how you live and what your aspirations are for your garden. The more information I can tease out of you during this initial meeting, the easier it is for me to design your perfect garden as quickly as possible, with fewer revisions.
Although I (and any other good garden designer) will guide the discussion so that all the important aspects are considered, it’s always worthwhile for you to have sat down and had a good think through the key considerations beforehand. It’ll help you feel more prepared, and where there is more than one decision maker involved, it gives you some space to air opinions in your own environment before discussing things in more detail with your garden designer.
Your Current Garden
Most clients contact us because their current garden layout is not working for them. Consider what aspects of your current garden you like and what you dislike. To give some examples: Is your current patio the right size? Is the patio in the right place – does it catch the sun? Do you feel overlooked by neighbouring houses? As you work through the rest of this list, it should help jog your memory as to what works and what doesn’t in your current garden.
How do you/will you use your garden?
Think about how you use your garden – and how you’d like to use it once it’s been redesigned. A few ideas:
- Children’s play
- Relaxing and unwinding
- Growing your own food
- Encouraging wildlife
- Or perhaps to sit and look at from inside…
It’s also worth thinking about when you’ll be doing these things – particularly entertaining. Do you want a space you can use all year round, perhaps with the addition of a firepit? Do you want a space you can use and/or see after dark? Lighting is often a forgotten aspect but definitely one to consider – it can really make the most of the garden, not only for use but also for viewing at night.
Style & Features
Is there a particular style you like? A few examples are below, although don’t feel that you have to stick rigidly to one style – often gardens are a mix of traditional and contemporary. Larger gardens in particular will often have separate areas or ‘rooms’, each with their own feel.
- Cottage Garden
Are there any specific features you would like to incorporate such as a water feature, existing feature tree, a statue or bench?
As well as our gallery and featured transformations, books and magazines are a great source of ideas, and can act as a visual guide to what you do and don’t like. Many of our clients also find it helpful to save photos on Pinterest. Even if you think your ideas are impossible to achieve within the constraints of your garden, it gives me as the designer a really good sense of what you like. There is often a way of incorporating the same feel into your own space – whatever the size or shape.
Planting is of course an important element to any garden. Even if you are not a green fingered gardener, you may have come across particular plants that you would like to incorporate, or some that you have a specific dislike to and want to avoid! If you don’t have any specific likes/dislikes, consider what colours you’d like to see in the garden.
Are there particular times of the year when you’d like the garden to be at it’s best? For example one of our clients is often away from home during the summer, so we designed the garden with a focus on Spring and Autumn-flowering plants.
- Consider practical elements such as necessary outdoor storage, wheelie bins, composting, and rainwater storage.
- How much time you would like to spend maintaining the garden? The most common request we receive is for a low maintenance garden. No garden is ‘no maintenance’, so it’s important to consider what you would and would not be willing to do in terms of ongoing general maintenance.
- Are there any restrictions on your garden? For example, are you in a conservation area? Are there any Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) on existing trees? Which boundaries are your responsibility?
- Are there any drainage issues in the current garden? What is the soil like? Drainage is a frequent problem we come across and design for – so it’s important drainage requirements are considered up front and solutions incorporated as an integral part of the design.
And the Elephant in the Room…
Finally, the most important practical consideration is budget. It’s one that many people feel uncomfortable discussing – and perhaps there’s often a fear that if you publicise your budget upfront, you’ll get ripped off. I need to know your budget for two reasons. Firstly, many people I speak to have no idea how much a garden design costs; by talking about this upfront, we can ensure your expectations are realistic. Secondly, it allows me to design a garden that you not only love but can afford. The same space (& to a certain extent the same design) can cost wildly differing amounts depending on the features incorporated, the materials specified, etc. The garden design process works best when you can establish a relationship based on openness and trust. I suggest doing some research on prices before your initial consultation; our featured projects page also gives you an indication of what can be achieved for varying budgets.
Redesigning your garden is an exciting and enjoyable process, and the starting point to creating your own outdoor sanctuary. Hopefully these suggestions will have got your ideas flowing and provided some structure for an initial pre-consultation discussion/brainstorming session – making the prospect of starting a big garden project a little less daunting. Get in touch to arrange your free consultation.