What makes for a great garden design process – a few tips from the professionals!
When starting off with a new garden design the process is hopefully exciting, fun, and sometimes challenging and occasionally downright difficult. There are as many different approaches and agendas as there are clients, but we hope and expect to use all of our team’s experience and empathy to get our clients to where they want to be at the end. Talking to other professional designers, we do find there are some common themes as to what tends to make for a more positive experience all round (and what can make it go wrong!) so we thought we would share some of these here.
Brief us as well as you can
Whilst we do our best, most garden designers do not pretend to be mind readers! We have a series of blogs on designing your own garden that give you some good advice on what sorts of questions we are likely to need answered to help us to understand what will work for you. It is not just about a list of what you want to go into it! Images are always helpful as a guide so try Pinterest or Houzz.
Think about how you like to work with other people – it is after all your home and you probably have a view as to what you expect and what annoys you! This should be fun and an excuse to really get to see how your designer can interact with you.
By way of example, if you want us to excite you and create a real “wow” in your garden we will almost certainly need to approach it rather differently than if you will feel insulted if we produce designs that depart from the images you have shown us. One persons “wow” may be anothers’ monstrosity so the more information we have the more likely it is we can deliver.
Do try to get everyone who will have an opinion in on the first briefing and as involved as possible
Many of our clients are very busy people and getting a meeting time that works for all is tricky – Zoom has improved that in the recent couple of years making evenings and early mornings rather easier, and whilst meeting in person and walking round the site is almost always preferred, we do love to meet all the key people. There are many couples who think their views are aligned, but in matters of design, their tastes are divergent to an extent.
I like to think that it is our job to find the intersection between our client’s tastes, not theirs to fight over and compromise when a compromise may not be needed – there are approaches to designs that can please apparently very different tastes if handled well. We obviously can’t do this as well if we don’t have contact with one in the party. We also find that when it comes to later, more difficult trade offs in terms of budgets and priorities, we are less able to help as we have much less to go on.
Help us to understand your constraints
If you have timing or budget issues, things you can’t change, hate particular colours, plants or styles, are absolutely unshakable about a part of the design, or have had a bad experience with another designer, it is great if you can be as open as possible about these as early as you feel able. That way the first iteration of the design will be closer to what you want. Budgets in particular can cause more bad feeling than anything else, so it is always best to have an open chat about your expectations. Most clients are happy to explore a process of designing what they want, costing that, and working from there, but this can go very wrong if you have a budget cap (whether from affordability or what seems reasonable to you matters not a jot to us – do share!)
Feel free to share any and all good ideas!
We think design should be a collaborative process – sometimes clients don’t share their ideas for fear of “leading us” in a particular direction when they are hoping for fresh inspiration. We understand that concern, but you are the people who have spent the time in your garden and know its tricks – you know where you like to sit, where the sun hits, where it tends to be sheltered or windy, and you also know the shapes and styles you like. This sort of information in particular is gold dust to us – we can model things all we like but simply cannot replicate that sort of data as well as you can.
Don’t think we will think your ideas silly or that you have delusions of grandeur if you share images of palaces or grand schemes – all of these will have elements or ideas that appeal to you and which we can work into the design.
It is your designers experience that will take these ideas and sort the wheat from the chaff – gently discarding the bits that don’t fit the overall design but definitely using all of the best bits!
Ultimately as the design team it is our responsibility to lead you through the process, to assist you as best we can, and to try to make the experience a pleasurable one as well as giving you a great outcome. The experience of a number of top garden designers may however help you to make it go as smoothly as possible!
CGLA are an award winning team of Garden Designers, Landscape Architects, Landscapers and Garden Maintenance Operatives working in Buckinghamshire, London and the South East, as well as on prestigious design projects across the UK and abroad. We are currently working in Oman, Jersey and France, and welcome enquires for design, landscaping or garden maintenance. Contact us here