How to hire a garden designer
Be honest about your budget.
- Document every decision - it helps to avoid any confusion at the final payment stage.
- Discuss copyright of the garden plans or sketches.
- Be aware of the difference between estimates and quotes.
- Be wary of very cheap quotes!
Choosing your garden designer
Start out by researching garden designers and how they work, as many have different processes and degrees of involvement. Look at their websites to get an idea of their level of experience, and at their portfolio for a flavour of their style. Be completely open and honest about money and discuss budgets from the outset to avoid any confusion later in the day. Find out more about designing a garden on a budget.
Briefing your designer
To get the most out of any garden designer, you will need to brief them properly. They will probably have their own briefing system established, but if you feel that they’ve missed anything out, even small but important things such as where to put the washing line, make sure you tell them. Your garden designer will appreciate how important the finer details are to you. Have a look at our guide to assessing your garden design options.
Some designers charge for an initial consultation, and some don’t. Others may charge you a fee which will then be discounted if you decide to use their services. Paying a full rate means that the designer is more likely to give you firm ideas on the initial visit. In a free consultation, although you won’t have lost anything, the designer will be pitching for work and may be less open to spending time coming up with ideas. It's a good idea to have some thoughts yourself - if you need help, check out our garden design ideas.
Designers are increasingly incorporating a sketch meeting into paid initial consultations. This is where they'll come up with some instant thoughts on layouts and ideas for planting. It can be a really productive way to move the project forward and give you food for thought, whether you are looking to design your garden yourself or are going to engage them further. Be clear about your intentions at the outset and ask whether you will get to keep the sketches and if so, who will own the copyright.
Layout, planting and specification
If you want a complete professional redesign, then you will need a full set of drawings. Some designers will undertake their own site survey if it’s pretty straightforward, but for large or complex sites you’ll need a detailed site survey in CAD (Computer Aided Design) form. Some designers will charge for this by the hour, and others as a percentage of the job. For indpiration, read our article on garden design: laying out your space.
Once you have a design in mind, you'll need to start getting prices for the work. A designer can oversee this process for you, and will often recommend landscapers that they have worked with before. The designer needs to write a detailed specification, so that each of the companies tendering is pricing for exactly the same garden – with the same finishes, depth of foundations etc. Make sure that everything is covered and check whether it is an estimate or a quote, which are two entirely different things. The cheapest quote many not always be your best bet and if it’s significantly lower than the others, be wary.
When considering tenders find out details such as: when the contractor can start the work, how long they expect it to take, how many people will be on site, their payment structure, whether they use subcontractors and whether they have a code of conduct.
Project Management and sourcing
Most designers will oversee the project and help to source plants for you, charging either a percentage of the overall price or an hourly rate. Some good landscaping firms may have this element built into their price, and if the design is simple then this can be kept to a minimum.
Adapted from Joe's Urban Garden Handbook by Joe Swift, £11.93 (Quadrille Publishing Ltd), at Amazon.
Find a garden designer to suit your needs and budget at the Society of Garden Designers.