Our Process

How We Work

Skip to: 1 Preliminary | 2 Concept Design | 3a Construction Detailing | 3b Plant Detailing | 4 Tender | 5 Construction | 6 Aftercare

1 Preliminary

First contact from client to designer. Usually a brief telephone discussion, if the enquiry is suitable I will make an arrangement to visit the client.
An informal meeting with the client to show portfolio, walk round the garden and discuss general requirements, budget etc. Subsequent to this meeting I will formulate a rough fee proposal and email/ post it to the client, along with T’s & C’s. I am increasingly conducting an initial consultation on Zoom, Facetime or phone, referring to photos of the garden.
To be received from the client, after which I will post out a Client Interview Questionnaire, which will form the foundation of the design brief.
This can be completed by the client and emailed back to me, or I can visit the client to go through it with them. This is often useful for clients who are relatively inexperienced gardeners. The questionnaire will help to establish the client’s functional needs and style preferences.
The brief describes both the functional needs and the scope of the work to be carried out. It will be posted out to the client after analysing the questionnaire results. The design brief must be approved by the client (after any necessary amendments) before any further work is carried out; it is the foundation upon which all subsequent design work will rest and must clearly meet all of the client’s requirements.
To design a garden, an accurate survey of the existing garden must first be produced. I use professional land surveyors to produce detailed, accurate surveys of the garden, in some cases including contours to facilitate easier terrain modelling. The survey is classified as an additional service and is charged separately to the Design Fee. From the survey I will analyse the garden and produce a drawing detailing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for improvement, shade and sun, drainage issues and slopes, circulation, possible problems etc.

2 Concept Design

On larger projects where a garden may be divided into multiple areas, or construction may be phased over several seasons, it’s really helpful to zone a garden into areas of different usage, setting the priority of these zones, and then forming an overarching  strategy for each zone. This means that even if a garden is to be consructed over several years, it is done in the right order, and in manageable chunks with a clear view of the garden as a coherent whole rather than a collection of unrelated rooms. Such plans can also assist in headline financial calculations, allowing a budget to be allocated to each area.

The Client Brief, Site Survey and Site Appraisal form the springboard for a loose, sketchy drawing (or drawings) to communicate general ideas for the design to the client. It does not go into granular details, but is useful in communicating the shapes and areas to be laid out in the garden and also helps clarify and refine the design at an early stage.

These days, almost all of my design work is carried out using Sketchup Pro 3D design software. Using this right from the outset enables me to set up a 3D animation (walk-through) which is updated as the design develops. This can be supplemented by printed scenes from the animation if required

Once the concept plan has been amended through client feedback, I produce a large scale drawing detailing the general design, including hard and soft landscaping materials, trees, positions of borders, patio areas, paths, decking, and garden features such as steps, sculpture and water features. To be presented to client and any final amendments made, to avoid significant revisions during the detailing phase.

3a Construction Detailing

A scale drawing of all construction detailing showing positions of construction features on site: widths of paths, radius of curves, heights of walls and steps, triangulated points, spot levels, tree positions etc.

Detailed construction drawings showing methods and materials for each component of the garden. These drawings help control the quality, suitability for purpose and compliance with regulations of the finished product and also ensure that when tendering takes place, all landscapers fully understand the design and are quoting on a level playing field. They also enable me to pre-plan any joints or cuts in materials, so that they flow seamlessly or align with important axes of symmetry.

The written specification accompanies the construction drawings and details in written form all aspects of the construction to be undertaken, specifying such things as mortar mixes, sub bases, bricklaying patterns, soil and compost mixes etc.

3b Plant Detailing

A large-scale CAD drawing showing species, numbers and spacing of all plants. On larger sites this is often broken down into separate beds/areas, with an overarching bed plan acting as a key to all the sub-drawings.

Some clients (those who know their plants) want a list of all proposed plants so that they can veto or add to them at an early stage. This is a service I am happy to provide, usually whittling down from a long-list to a shortlist.

A spreadsheet detailing species, numbers, pot sizes, and possible substitutes for all plants in the design. Vital to facilitate easy cost calculation and plant sourcing. Separate sheets are used for perennials, shrubs and trees as these are usually sourced from separate specialist nurseries to get you the very best plants.

An optional written (and sometimes illustrated) document detailing the maintenance requirements of each plant in the garden, often calendarised by month.

4 Tender

Clients usually want me to handle the tender process, and I will send out an Invitation to Tender, meet contractors on site, assess the merits of the tenders received, produce a Tender Report if required, and send out letters of Acceptance of Tender and letters declining tender to the appropriate landscapers. I will also provide you with a standard letter to sign and send out to your chosen landscaper, confirming your intention to engage them.
On private garden projects I sometimes use a standard set of JCLI contracts designed specifically for the purpose by the Society of Garden Designers. These have to be bought for each project and are supplied to you at cost. They give you peace of mind and a professional contractual relationship with the selected contractor and/or myself as a consultant. Alternatively, we may just use the contractor’s own T’s & C’s, assuming these are acceptable – I review each to ensure they are fair.

When all drawings are complete, a Drawing Register records all of the contract drawings and their latest revisions. This is especially important on larger projects with many drawings.

The Tender Package is a shared drive containing all of the project drawings and documents, along with a folder of site photos for the contractor.

5 Construction

Finally, you have arrived at the starting line of garden construction: Setting-out and commencement of works by the appointed landscape contractor (During which I will be present). I carry out project monitoring monitoring visits as required by client, usually weekly.

Planting will only usually start when all hard landscaping work is complete, to prevent damage to plants and lawns by machinery/works. Once the garden is ready, I will usually oversee all planting myself to make sure everything is exactly as I want it.

My role as a designer is to oversee the works and ensure that every element is built to the exact standard and specification to which I designed them. Although this is not compulsory, all projects where I am engaged in this capacity run more smoothly.

On completion, all snagging must be attended to before the project can be signed off as complete. A 5% retainer is increasingly common, even on private projects. This enables the designer and client to review the works and make sure all the fine finishing touches are complete before the final payment is made.

6 Aftercare

A maintenance schedule can be prepared on request, detailing aftercare requirements for all plants in your garden, and can be invaluable for future reference for either yourself or a professional gardener.

Garden maintenance should occur fortnightly or monthly in the growing season, or as required by the client, and should be carried out according to the maintenance schedule. Often clients will engage a regular gardener or if keen gardeners, they may decide to carry out all maintenance themselves. An ongoing relationship with the designer is always beneficial for the garden’s development over time, and I am happy to arrange visits a every 2-3 months for the first 1-5 years after the garden is completed.

After some time, a garden may benefit from a review of what is working well and what isn’t – perhaps some plants got killed by a pest or a drought, or the family situation changed – gardens exist in, and change through, time – and so do people’s circumstances.

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” – May Sarton