Choosing a Garden Designer

It’s not easy to find the right garden designer. Especially nowadays where there are a lot of courses and other options to get some kind of diploma that allows someone to call themselves a garden designer. A good garden designer should have overall knowledge in a lot of fields (garden and architecture history, horticulture, geography and climatology, topography and geology, art and garden styles, safety, build construction and law restrictions). While a decent education in garden design is very important there is nothing better than hands on experience.

A local designer will be always more trustworthy with his/ her choices than, let say, a garden designer who works from another country. Why? It’s simple: the designer will have the necessary local knowledge on species of plants, soil conditions and the weather, which in different countries will affect everything in a different way.

Designing a garden is a long process which progresses in stages. A fundamental aspect of garden design is organising space. It’s all about creating outdoor rooms, which have their designated areas (recreation, dining, playing etc.) but unlike indoor rooms these evolve and change with time and the seasons, because they contain plants - not furniture and paint on the walls.

First of all it’s very important for the designer to see the space and meet the client face to face. The main aspects which need to be taken into the consideration during the initial meeting are:

  • Brief expectations and place description: what would the client like to keep, what function the garden will have, are there any small children or pets, how is the house decorated (colours of the walls, furniture style)
  • Space analysis: what are the in and out barriers (entrances, neighbours etc.). A rough sketch with house position, land and any important features like big trees, water points, windows etc.
  • The outside view: looking at what is outside of the garden, will help to decide what should be hidden or exposed within the design.
    Garden orientation: Determining where north is will help to understand where the sunny and shady places are.
    Topography: it’s worth looking at the overall landform to see what influence on the garden can have on a surrounding, for example: if the garden is sunken it will collect more water etc.
  • Wind: strong winds could cause a lot of problems with garden usage. It might be worth looking at the right trees specious and shapes to create wind barriers
    Borders and fences: the height and used material restrictions - if any need to apply and what is the fence role: will it be an open fence to expose nice view out of the garden or is it a high, secure, safety fence?
  • Drainage and irrigation systems: is there any drainage or irrigation system already in place or is it needed? Is it possible to regulate the water relations with choosing the right plants or do the irrigation system need to be installed?
  • Slopes: mark on the plan all the level changes. They make the garden much more interesting, so sometimes it’s worth creating them if they don’t exist in the garden.
    Installations: designer need to get to know where there are water, gas, electric and sewage installations. It’s very important to have easy and quick access to all of them. Make sure there are no hard surfaces, big trees and shrubs above it.
  • Soil: structure and PH will tell a lot about what will grow well and what should be avoided. Existing garden can tell a lot about the soil conditions and what plants will grow well in it. For example: camellia will not grow well in clay - heavy soil which holds the water, viburnum will look best in alkaline soil and any conifers will make our soil more acidic, which will be great for rhododendron and unfortunately horsetail weed.

After taking into consideration all of the above aspects the garden designer should be ready for taking the next step, about which more will be written in the next blog.