How to Start a Garden Redesign
Creating a garden that works beautifully and looks lovely involves thought and planning. Here’s where to begin
Read on for the first article in our comprehensive Garden Planning guide to get an overview of what the process involves, what to expect and what to consider, as well as handy links to in-depth guides on each element.
Try to look at your garden as a whole, rather than picking out individual areas for improvement. Design coherence is as important outside as it is inside.
Unlike interiors, though, gardens are constantly changing and growing, over the years as well as from season to season; the small tree you plant now could, in five years, be towering shadily over its neighbouring – sun-loving – plants. Equally, the lush climber that covers your fence in the summer will leave it exposed in winter unless it’s evergreen.
Plant choices require a lot of research. When plant shopping, it’s also a good idea to buy in multiples of at least three, otherwise you could end up with a bitty or chaotic overall design.
You’ll also need to think about which areas get lots of sun and which are mainly shady; this will determine what you can plant where, and also which areas of your space might be best used for dedicated functions such as dining, lounging, cooking, playing and so on.
Finally – and a good garden designer will be all over this – consider how a design will let your exterior reveal itself gradually. Creating partitions or screens with plants or garden structures can lend a sense of intrigue and even make your space feel bigger than it is.
More: 8 Planting Tips for Novice Gardeners
Garden designers are design specialists, but they won’t do the building work; a landscaper will generally do the building part of the renovation. You’ll typically need both, but often your designer will have a team of contractors they use regularly.
Before looking for a professional, though, identify the style of garden you’re drawn to. A garden designer can help to refine your ideas, along with identifying which will work in your plot, but some advance research and thinking will make your initial meeting more productive, as well as steering you towards professionals whose work you admire.
Start saving photos of gardens you like into a Houzz ideabook and edit it until it reflects the styles you like most. Now you’ll be better equipped to assess the portfolios and Houzz profiles of potential designers or landscapers. A good professional will adapt to the style you like, but a shared aesthetic can be a real boon. You can refine your picture search on Houzz by location; simply click on the photo for more info and contact details.
You’ll also want to find someone reliable and trustworthy. Ask around for recommendations and read the reviews of any suitable profiles you like on Houzz. Picking someone registered with a trade association, such as the Society of Garden Designers (SGD), will also mean a designer has the relevant insurance in place.
More: How to Choose a Garden Designer
Browse the work of garden designers in your area and read reviews from previous clients.
It’s very hard to give precise costs, as variables are so wide-ranging – from the garden’s size and location to the complexity of the project and the experience of the professional.
There are typically five stages to a garden redesign, each with an associated cost. There’s the initial consultation, the site survey, the design, the construction, and the planting.
The design phase should cost between 8% and 20% of the overall project budget. For a small garden, for example, this could start at around £1,140 for the basic design and a plant list only, if your designer’s fees were £95 per hour. Click through to the story at the end of this caption for a detailed look at costings.
It can be helpful to think about the redesign of your garden as a comparable investment to a major interior refurbishment. Indeed, many of the same skills and trades will be involved – construction of foundations, walls and hard surfaces, electrical installation, plumbing for water features, drainage. Materials can cost more than their internal counterparts would, too, as they need to be much more durable.
More: How Much Would it Cost to Redesign My Garden?
Your mind may turn to improving your outside space as the weather brightens in the spring, but if you’re considering getting work done, you’re better off starting earlier.
Autumn and winter are generally good times to approach professionals, as this allows plenty of time to get someone booked in and to work around seasonal planting and bad weather.
After contacting a pro, they’ll generally establish your brief and survey your plot to gather information about the site and existing features. Then allow two weeks for a concept plan and up to four weeks for a more detailed design.
The next step is to get a contractor in to do the build – which could take a couple of weeks or a few months on more complex sites – and plant up your newly reconfigured plot, which can take a few hours or a few days.
More: How Far in Advance Should I Hire a Garden Designer?
Although hiring a designer will add to your budget, the cost of getting things wrong can mean scrimping on this stage becomes a false economy.
There are plenty of pitfalls to swerve, too, from ending up with a garden that doesn’t have ‘flow’, to creating a space with too much going on and disparate plants not thriving because they’re in the wrong location.
In addition, have you considered the view of your garden from inside? Are you making wildlife-friendly and sustainable choices? Are you rushing things? Plants take time to establish; choose the right ones, not the fastest-growing solutions.
More: 10 Common Garden Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
There are several key elements to consider in the early stages of planning a new garden. Some will be non-negotiable for you, while others may not make it off the wishlist, but factoring them all into your initial thinking and discussing the options with your designer will help you to home in on what’s important.
Here are just a few of the factors to consider:
- A lawn – do you want or, in fact, need one? Whatever you opt for, responsible garden design will factor in as much permeability as possible.
- Seating – do you want to lounge, dine, perch or all three? What is there space for and where are the best locations for these different types of seating?
- Beds and borders – where will you put them and what will they be filled with?
- Gentle lighting – it’s important if you’re going to enjoy the garden after dark, but also needs to take safety, aesthetics and wildlife into consideration.
What do you love about your garden – and what would you change? Let us know in the Comments.