changing perceptions sustainable dry garden
sustainable dry garden | | essex

There seems to be a common misconception that garden designers are horrendously expensive to hire and therefore having your garden designed is an unachievable luxury. When people learn that I am a garden designer, their first comment is often along the lines of ‘I’d love to have my garden designed but it’s so expensive’.

I ask them to think on it this way; have you spent a lot of money on plants over the last 5 years only to discover that they don’t survive or don’t look good anymore? Do you feel like every year in spring you are starting again and rush out to buy lots of annuals to add a splash of colour to a tired looking garden?

The answer I receive the most is a confident ‘Yes!’

Part of my job is to break through peoples perceptions of garden designers as unachievable and to show them, that with careful, proper garden planning and an initial outlay, the benefits will be felt and recouped for years and years.

Designing a garden doesn’t have to involve a large scale building project, very often you can achieve superb results with a simple sketch showing how to use the space more effectively and a considered planting plan. I am under no illusions that there are many professionals out there (not just for gardens), who would charge hundreds of pounds before they even step foot in your property, but I am not talking about that end of the design spectrum (and it should be noted that it is the practice of some designers to refund their initial costs if they get your business).

What you get with the garden design service I am talking about is an investment in the advice, knowledge and ideas of someone who has a broad knowledge of every aspect of design and can bring it all together to provide you with a cost effective and perhaps more importantly, a long lasting solution. For my own design service I offer a free informal consultation for my local clients and services such as a basic planting plan starts at just £200.

Within my pricing structure pricing guide I break down a budget allocation into proportions to demonstrate how small the design portion actually is, in respect to the total garden design cost. To further strengthen this point, as a designer I have a fixed fee structure, so that you know what my costs are at every stage of the design process. I really dislike the ambiguity of accepting quotes that change throughout the work stage and while this is unavoidable in a lot of situations, for example, a gardener digging up a flower bed only to find an old bath suite buried underneath it (true story) thus taking double the amount of time in preparation, I do also feel that with research and planning you can and should be upfront about design costs.

The flip side of talking about the fixed costs of design ‘knowing where you stand’ is to discuss the minefield of the hugely varied cost of plants. Depending on where you shop and what size you select, your plant costs can soar from hundreds to thousands without ever changing the fundamental design. The tip I will give here is research. A well researched planting plan will go a long way to ensure that you have the healthiest, more quickly established, and longer lasting plant collection. I cannot emphasise enough that you need to put the time and effort into not just choosing the right plants, but effort into preparing the soil, planting, staking, watering, feeding and aftercare.

A year ago now I was fortunate to be asked to design and built a sustainable dry garden sustainable dry garden, which meant that it would require virtually no maintenance. However, I had to meticulously plan the plants and spend a long time on soil preparation in order to achieve the end result. The garden has exceeded the clients expectations and I am very pleased that the garden is a finalist in a competition for best sustainable garden 2017. My point here being that the clients had an initial cost outlay for the design, preparation, plants and planting, but now they are able to sit back and enjoy the garden for years to come with no (or very minimal) costs. Sounds like a sensible long term investment to me!

All I ask, is next spring think about what I have said and reach out to a garden designer before you rush to the garden centre. garden design



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