Author Topic: Why you shouldn’t use a Garden Designer  (Read 315 times)

Marie Shallcross

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Why you shouldn’t use a Garden Designer
« on: February 28, 2018, 09:06:01 pm »
Why you shouldn’t use a Garden Designer

Like many of us, I wear more than one professional hat; so I am a Garden Consultant, Garden Designer, Gardening Teacher and Gardening Writer. I have been a small scale Landscaper but do prefer plants to laying patios. Although proud to mention that a brick wall I built 30 years ago is still standing!

However, as a garden designer, I would like to make my position clear and stating a true, but not a well-known fact:

Not everyone should use a garden designer.

Some of the landscapers among you may be saying amen to that – and some of the expert horticulturalists too. Bear with me, this is about educating those who are potential clients. You may find it helpful to when explaining to those clients who expect ‘a gardener’ to be capable of designing, landscaping, advising, maintaining gardens and estates – all at the same time that actually, there are differences…

For example: -
Your potential client may have a large estate and wants it to be developed and managed. So initially they’ll need a landscape architect or a landscape designer to create a vision and know how to follow through. Ok, so a garden designer would be appropriate for certain areas – formal gardens near the house, orchards. You could need various specialists, land surveyors, structural engineers and so on. And someone to manage the project and keep all those professionals working nicely together; liaise with the client, and so on.

During the process, you – or your client, or the project manager – will need to consider the long-term needs. Bringing in a garden consultant with expertise in interviewing head gardeners might be a good start. The gardens will need a team of gardeners to keep them looking good. And potentially a gardens manager and estate manager will be needed.

So we have established that large estates of many acres may need a garden designer for some areas, but they’re not the only professional involved.

But what about smaller gardens? Wouldn’t you use a garden designer for those? Let’s consider six reasons why shouldn’t you use a garden designer: -

Are you prepared to work with the garden designer to create a garden that suits you? Yes, you did read that correctly. I can design 3 different gardens for you, all of them wonderful, of course – but without input from you, will they work for you in the long term? A successful garden design depends on collaboration and if you’re not prepared for this, then you shouldn’t use a garden designer. Or accept that the garden may well not turn out as you had hoped.

Good garden designers are experts in their field. Now whilst collaboration is essential, if they’re advising you, it pays to listen to their advice. If you decide not to follow that advice, that’s fine; it’s your garden, after all. But make sure you’ve listened.

Do you care about your garden? Are you bothered if it looks nice / is wildlife friendly / is a welcoming space? Some people are not interested in their garden. If that’s you, I would query why you would use a garden designer for a full garden design.  You could just have a wildflower meadow and a patio.
Or give use of your garden space to someone who will enjoy it. There are various garden sharing schemes around.

You think garden designers just plant a few trees and flowers. So you talk to a couple after you’ve let the non-gardening builders (not even landscapers!) lay a patio, build some narrow raised beds and put up a shed. Without any thought to how these elements of the garden link to each other and the house or whether they’re in the right place for your needs…

Oh and definitely don’t use a garden designer if you don’t appreciate that they cannot create a £60,000 garden on a £10,000 budget. Magician is not part of their job description.
Whilst we’re talking about money, you shouldn’t use a garden designer if you’re not prepared to pay them. The number of times we designers hear “Could you just pop round and we can chat about my garden, and you can give me some ideas, and do a quick sketch…nothing fancy” Uh, no. I’m more than happy to share thoughts and tips – I think over 6 years of blogs on my website sort of suggests that. But would you go to work for a month without being paid?

Are there any more reasons why you shouldn’t use a garden designer? Well, yes. For example, is a garden designer the right professional for the job? This partly relates to my first point about an estate, but not totally. For example, for inside spaces and houses, use an architect; for fencing use a landscape gardener.

So, if these are reasons why you shouldn’t use a garden designer, what are the reasons for using one? I look at this in another article but suffice to say for now - consider your budget. A good garden designer can save you money on your garden design and landscaping project.

Marie Shallcross