The need for a Garden Designer by Colin Knapman

Writing an article on ‘The need for a Garden Designer’ on just one sheet of A4 is pretty difficult but there are some basic principles that you need to establish first.

Design in a style that suits the property and the client.

Design a garden that’s within budget

Design what’s manageable for future maintenance.

Design what the clients want- after all they are paying

Try to ensure it fulfils all their requirements

Make sure the plants suit the soil and aspect; the style of garden; and their ultimate size is right for the site – chat to Charlie about that

If you are already a plants person or landscaping contractor you may feel you have a good deal of knowledge and don’t need the services of a garden designer. This may be fine on smaller gardens and level areas, but to be sure your client is getting the best deal a third party can often approach the project from a totally different perspective and add something you hadn’t considered.

A good qualified garden designer should supply you with

  • An accurate set of plans of the site based on a full survey

  • Come up with various layout options to consider and tempt the client

  • Generate a final set of presentation drawings for the client along with setting out plans for the landscapers to follow

  • A written specification of materials to be used and construction details

  • A detailed planting plan including an all year round maintenance schedule (for the client)

  • A contract for both parties to sign

You may not need all these details but an accurate site survey can save loads of hassle and embarrassment at a later stage when carrying out the work. A decent set of drawings and specification, (signed off by the client before work starts), enables you, any other contractors involved and the client to understand what the finished job will look like. A garden designer can add a touch of professionalism and prestige to your company and it is likely to impress the client.

How many gardens have you worked on and the client’s changed their mind; not fully understood what you explained to them; added a bit; moved a bit; bought some of their own plants over the weekend and expect you to plant them? How do you control those types of costs and is the client prepared for these extras? If you have all the drawings and paperwork in place it is easier charge for additional variations.

The alternative is to accept that you design on the ‘back of an envelope’, which often means you have overlooked some detail and you end up with ‘win a few and lose a few’, so then you just want to get the job done and swiftly move on. The problem with that is you have made less money; the client is dissatisfied with the confusion and having to pay the extra cost but most importantly your reputation is at stake and the client testimonials are not forthcoming.

So this is where a designer can help you.

1 A client invariably buys into a good looking design –great colour visuals alone often win clients over

2 A detailed specification makes sure the client knows exactly what they are getting

3 A comprehensive survey highlights any issues beforehand such as boundary ownership; TPO’s and overhanging trees. Identify any planning requirements; checks for underground utilities or any subsidence etc.etc.

So just like you may talk through the plant options and suitability with Charlie it may be worth employing the skills of a qualified Garden Designer to make your jobs run smoother and be more profitable.

Colin Knapman BSc (Hons) Garden Design