Tag Archives: garden advice

DESIGNING YOURSELF

Once you have measured up your garden and you know what and where your different levels are, then you are almost ready to begin. The other crucial piece of the jigsaw is having thought carefully about the following:

– Who will be using the garden, when and what for?
– Entertaining, family meals, children’s play area, area for growing vegetables? Be sure of what you  want before you begin.
– Do you know where the sun falls in the garden and when?
– Do you know where you have any drainage problems that may need to be taken into account?
– Would you like atmospheric lighting or a water feature put in the garden?
– How much time and money do you have for maintenance?
– What is your budget for the project?

Make sure you have a comprehensive list of these things and refer to it while you are working on the design.

Remember, a sloping garden, drainage problems or the taking down and removal of such things as walls or old outbuildings will cost more to redesign, as the initial outlay for the preparatory works will be higher that if your garden was an empty flat site.

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Be aware that demolition and site clearance is pretty expensive. Try and reuse existing materials in the garden wherever you can, it’s better for the environment and better for your pocket.

THE DESIGN

All designers will draw a design to scale, something most people with no design experience will not be able to do themselves. I suggest that for example when you have decided where to put a seating area for 6 people, that you go out to the space and either put 6 chairs and a table in that space to see if it fits or find out the measurements and mark  out the area required. It is crucial when designing, that you have enough space to fit in the things you want!

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HARD LANDSCAPING – V- SOFT LANDSCAPING

Remember the more patios, walls, and structures you put in to the design the more expensive it will be. The more lawn and borders you have the more you’ll see the price coming down. Less is more with hard landscaping and it should be elegant, simple and functional. If you’d like things such as a shed or water feature in your garden, find out the costs of these before you add them in so you can keep tabs on your budget. If you’d like some structures in the garden but your budget is tight, look to more traditional materials like woven hazel or willow to help keep costs down.

MATERIALS

When it comes to materials such as pavers and gravel, speak to your local builders merchants to find out the costs of different materials so that you can pick the ones that suit your budget as well as the garden. You will be able to get bulk bags of various materials, so that may be a more economical way to buy them. Using environmentally friendly materials, non-toxic preservatives, stains, paints and cleaners helps protect the environment too.

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Remember that once you have the design done you don’t need to have all the work done in one go. You can split the cost by doing it in stages and over two or three years if you’d like. As long as you have a cohesive design then that’s your blueprint to work from as and when, time and money allows.

THOUGHTS ON DESIGN

Take a good look at the style of your house and the materials used to build it. If your garden is to be a seamless extension of your house then you need to make sure that it looks the part. The style or theme you choose for your garden, along with the materials used to construct it need to blend.

Do you want a soft organic flowing garden or do you prefer more orderly geometric shapes? In order to get the most out of your garden you should look at it as another room in your house and plan accordingly. Within this garden room you can create different, smaller ‘rooms’ in your landscape, for example, perhaps one for entertaining, one for children to play and so on.

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Many people decide they want their garden to reflect a particular theme, for example, a Japanese garden or a contemporary, modern garden or a wildlife friendly garden. This can give you a focus for both your design and also planting ideas.

Remember you will need to ‘link’ these rooms whatever style you choose, so think about how people will move from one space to another. Create openings to encourage exploration of the garden space so that people can move around it. Using materials wisely allows you to create different ‘ rooms’ in your landscape.

USE THOSE PLANTS!

Using plants is a great way to define areas in the garden too, so don’t underestimate the importance of these. Early in your planning you should think about how plants will function in your landscape. For example, low growing plants can be used to create implied barriers, blocking access but without blocking the views.

Shady ColourWhen it comes to planting, repeating similar shapes and structures in your garden to give you a unified view throughout your space. I will look at planting and planting plans in my next blog to help you with this important area of design.

Looking at good examples of design is a create way to get ideas. Note what works well and incorporate that into your design. Don’t be frightened to pinch ideas from different places. Looking at what others have done is a natural way to find inspiration.

Remember that most garden design deals with finding aesthetically pleasing and functional solutions to problems within a garden. Creativity is dealing with these problems and trying to find the best solution faced with a lot of possible options.

Feeling unsure which one to choose is normal. Just do your best and remember if you get stuck you can always call upon a garden designer to give you some advice and get you over that hurdle and back on course!

Hints and Tips of how to find the right Garden Designer, Landscape Contractor or Design and Build Company for you

Great, so now you’ve decided whether it’s a garden designer, landscape contractor or design and build company that’s right for you. So how do you go about finding ‘The One’ and when you do, what should you ask them? These are good questions and ones most people ask me. Here are some ways to find people, things you should ask them when you meet and some things you should be aware of.

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So how do you actually go about finding these people?

– The best way ideally is a personal recommendation from someone. It could be a friend, relative, neighbour or even someone you chat to at the school gate. Ask them about their experience of the person they used and crucially, if they were starting their project from the beginning again, would they use the same person.

– Often neighbours or someone in your street is having work done and this is an ideal opportunity to take a look. You may not want the kind of design that they are having done but you will be able to see the quality of the designer or contractor’s work first hand.

– Often you can find a designer or contractor by spotting their car or van with their logo and details parked outside someone’s house. Feel free to ring the doorbell where the work is being done and ask the owners about the service they’re receiving and experience they’ve had.

– The internet now is one of the key ways to find these people. Often previous clients have posted reviews on google or other websites. Reading these gives you a quick and easy way to find out what some of their previous clients thought about them. Most designers and contractors have websites now, showing the work they have done. Have a good look at this prior to meeting them.

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So,once you picked some of these people to meet,what should you ask them?

– How long have they been in this line of business?

– Are they affiliated to any professional bodies or have they undertaken any formal training in the case of garden designers or design and build companies? Where and for how long?

– Are they happy to give you references that you can contact?

– How far ahead are they booked up? Ideally, autumn is the best time to get in touch as all the design work can be done at this time of year followed by a winter build and planting in the spring. See if their commitments fit with what you would like.

So, what else?

At that meeting a tight brief of what you are looking for should be taken by the professional. They should also bring up the question of your budget at this stage. This is not a question designed to trick you into parting with more cash than you want to. It’s essential for the professional to have the opportunity to see if you have a realistic budget to match your brief. They should be able if your budget is not realistic to explain why not and how much roughly you would need to  get what you want. Speak to two or three professionals and you will hopefully be told a consistent story. A good professional will be able to help you align your budget with what you want from your garden. This may be advising that you need a landscape contractor rather than a garden designer or managing your choice of materials and hard-landscaping versus soft landscaping to reduce your costs.

– Always have a contract with whoever you engage. I cannot stress enough the importance of this. I always have a contract with my clients, not because I think they won’t pay but rather for absolute clarity in terms of what they have asked for and my fees and terms and conditions. It is easy for miscommunication to happen and this is a straightforward solution to prevent that.

Regardless of how impressive someone’s portfolio is, there are some other things you should consider before engaging anyone:

– Do you get a good feeling about the person you may be engaging when you first meet them?
– You may, like many of my clients be out all day at work. This may mean you give a set of your house keys to a contractor while they are working on the garden build. It is paramount that you feel the contractors are trustworthy and that you know that you can do this without worry.
– When you ask for references, are they willing to give you names & contact details of previous clients or do they appear reluctant?
– Could you stand having them around your property for the time it takes to do the work?   Some projects run on for months.
– Do they have professional insurance if anything were to go wrong?

There may be other questions that come to mind and in your initial conversation with anyone you should feel free to ask them. Often who you end up choosing is not solely based on price but whether or not you ’get on’ and feel that not only are you on same wavelength as that person but that they will deliver the end result that you are looking for. You know then that you have found ‘The One’.