The process of having your outside space designed varies from client to client depending on the size of the space, it’s required uses and the aspirations and budget. Generally I would make a fee free initial site visit of about an hour to have a look at the space and discuss with a client what their options might be and a guide to what cost implications might be based on what they would like to achieve. I would then prepare a no obligation fee proposal / scoping brief, which lays out what work I could do for the project and how much that is likely to cost. This document lays out what I can do for you based on what I have interpreted the project aspirations to be. Its a fluid document that is open to mutually agreeable change and once agreed it forms a client brief and contract.
If a client then decides to instruct me to design their outside space the procedure is likely to be as follows:-
Site Survey – Following agreement to the brief I would visit the site again to do a survey. I will take measurements and lots of photographs and check existing features and other impacts such as drainage and aspect, neighbourhood context and views. I would then draw my measurements up into a scaled digital drawing using a software programe called AutoCAD to have a base plan of the garden for me to design with. Depending on the complexity / size of the garden it is sometimes worth trying to source ordinance survey maps for greater accuracy. It is essential that a digital topographical and underground services survey is supplied for larger, more complex and public sites.
During the survey visit I may suggest spending time with garden and planting books to identify spaces that a client responds to (both positively and negatively) and discuss a client’s response to these. This process contributes to gaining a picture of who you are and what sort of space and design solution will be best for you as it is important for me to consider a clients personality and likes and dislikes. I am also very open for a client to send me images of paintings, or gardens or photos or anything visual that they have a positive response to.
Larger, public sites with multiple users often benefit from some sort of public consultation or further design meetings to identify the design issues, users and stakeholders and what they think of the site and how they would like to use it.
Design – I then spend some time drawing a scaled strategic design using a combination of hand and digital drawing techniques. This drawing very clearly lays out the various areas proposed for the space as well as the proportions of hard materials (such as paving and decking) to soft materials (planted areas such as lawn, meadow and planted beds). It would indicate type of materials (sandstone, evergreen planting, sensory planting) but not exact species or suppliers. I would be designing with a provisional budget in mind and as it is a scaled drawing it can be possible to have a fairly good idea of costs at this stage without a formal quote from a builder yet. I may do a 3D sketch too if I think that it will help to explain the spatial relationships of the features within the proposed design.
I sometimes design for a phased construction process, that is, specifying features that a client wishes to have incorporated into the scheme at some time in the future but which they are unable to afford at the time of the drawing. The Masterplan can then also function as a fundraising document for future construction phases.
I can also to interpretive sketches, drawings, sectional views or photomontages, which explain the site in 3D.
It is not unusual for a client to want to make one or two changes at this stage but assuming that we have both stuck to the brief there shouldn’t be too many.
The landscape contractor will probably require a scaled construction drawing, which is the design in plan view with measurements and areas marked up to form the basis of the construction estimate. The landscape contractor may also require some detailed construction drawings of more complex features. I can do all of these once we have agreed upon a design.
Contractor Quote and Construction – I do not organise the physical building work but I am happy to supervise a landscaper, which usually involves a site briefing to assist towards a quote and regular site visits during construction. It makes sense for me to lead on the initial layout of the garden to ensure that it stays true to the design. I usually charge this work at an hourly rate. I have a couple of teams who I would readily recommend but I am happy to work with a builder of your choosing.
Planting Plan – If you want me to implement the proposed design’s planting strategy then I can produce a planting plan for you. This is a drawing of the new layout that indicates which plants should be planted where. I can also arrange the purchase and delivery of the plants as well as lay them out into position and supervise their planting by landscapers. Sometimes substitutions need to be made depending on what is available at the time of purchase and sometimes planting needs to be done at phases to incorporate seasonal availability.
Please see Sample Drawings page for some examples of the above drawings that I have described.
Maintenance and follow up – I am generally available by phone to answer questions that you may have with your new garden. I like to visit gardens that I have designed at regular (broadly seasonal) intervals during their first year to see how well they are doing and discuss any questions that you may have. I also visit gardens beyond their first year to watch them develop and evolve.
I do not personally maintain gardens but I can help you find a gardener and am happy to spend some time with them in the garden to discuss maintenance issues. I can also write you a seasonal maintenance plan, which lays out what to do and when in your new garden.
Cost – The $1million question! Without seeing your space and discussing your aspirations it is very hard to say how much it would cost to build. However it is worth viewing having your garden redesigned and built as adding an extension to your home in terms of cost. If you have a medium sized urban garden – say 100m2 – you can not do very much at all for £5K. £10K – £15K will make an impact with a range of hard and soft materials and the more you can spend the more impact you can have. Larger public spaces with a range of uses and access issues can scale up in cost proportionate to complexity of design but there are always ingenious ways to use materials and plants for impact!