When should I get my garden designed for summer?

spring garden inspiration for hedgerows

We often get asked “when should I get my garden designed so I can have it for the summer?”, as with most questions there are many variables, but let’s explore so you have a better idea.

So how long does it take to design a garden?

In reality, how quickly you can get through a design process and into build depends largely on how focussed and specific you are, as well as the availability of a team to then install it. In most cases we can get you a design proposal within a few days of meeting you to capture your brief. If you are keen to proceed and sign up within a few days of that we can typically get the survey underway within a fortnight. This means from instruction we are likely to be in a position to start on your designs within 2-4 weeks at the earliest – but of course this varies according to our workload. We will always let you know when we can start as part of the design proposal.

Once started, the time to complete is very variable – we aim to be guided by you – the scale and complexity of the work required clearly impact this, as does your own approach to the project. Some people are keen to get through the design stages as fast as possible, making quick and consistent decisions having conveyed a clear brief in the first place. Others prefer to ponder more, are keen to enjoy the process, explore a broader range of options and are perhaps less decisive. All of these are normal and we are delighted to work in whatever way works best for you. We too are at times more in tune with our clients than others – I often walk away from a preliminary meeting with a very clear idea in my head of where the design will end up – and usually this is pretty close, but once in a while this doesn’t quite gel, and it takes a few more iterations to really get it right. Sometimes minds are changed once the designs start to come together, and it is often the case that this shared creative development can fuel the best results.

As a guide, to get from initial briefing to a final pack suitable for costing, through perhaps 2-3 rounds of meetings with changes and updates is unlikely to take less than 6 weeks. Costings can easily take another 3-4 weeks and if there are then changes to reflect value engineering they are probably going to take at least another another few weeks. Thus a design process can be cut back to the bones, but most take a few months.

Costing and value engineering is likely to be at least some more weeks, and sometimes can be months (on more complex projects requiring multiple tenders and specialist external quotations). Once the costs come in and we discuss we usually go through at least one round of changes and re-costing before our clients are ready to press the button on committing to an installation. By this time the summer can be come and gone and we are still waiting on a construction team to be available to start…

This latter is the largest constraint in truth – Landscaping remains heavily oversubscribed at present, and good landscapers will be heavily booked. Their jobs are taking longer than planned because materials are taking longer to source, and so it goes….

Our advice

If this sounds a bit drawn out – yes it is – it feels like that to us, and across the industry we are trying to find ways to speed things back up. It is not all bad news though…

1. Book a team as soon as possible

Put simply, if you are planning major makeover and have a construction team in mind then it is worth securing them now. We can push a design process through faster than usual if we know we have to, but we cannot magic up site teams from nowhere. If you would like us to reserve you a slot we can usually do this as soon as the first costings have been shared (although it is not without some caveats until everything is all finalised!).

2. Be focussed about driving to a timetable on the designs

We can guide you, but there may be details that can be finalised later to allow this to be costed and pulled forward

3. Think early about long lead time items

Again we can guide on which these are – getting the paving sorted early is often a big one as are pergolas and other externally sourced items. Other key items may take a long while to get mobilised (anything requiring council or planning permission (TPO works for example)) so we should crack on with those as soon as we can

4. Are there elements that would make a lot of difference to you that we can do early while you enjoy planning the rest of the works properly

Planting can often be pulled forward, as can tree work, some electricals and enabling works.

5. The landscaping work is always quicker if there is a clear design pack in place at the outset so it is worth investing in this up front

Waiting on decisions or additional pricing and sourcing is typically the things that slows down site progress the most

6. Having said that, if you are really wanting to push ahead fast then get to a budget costing before every last detail in the design is finalised

Costs are likely to influence your design decisions – we offer a budget costing and value engineering process as part of our design fees

So the answer…

For a major project, the construction work itself is likely to take some months so February is late to be starting to think about starting a design process with a view to completion for the Summer. There are circumstances in which this is easier, particularly for more straightforward designs or where there is an onsite team already in place (perhaps building the house). We have undertaken such work in the past when there is for some reason a “drop dead date” and are always happy to discuss it, but it takes some heroic efforts and great focus as well as driving costs and stress levels up!

For most projects your best bet is to get the designs done as soon as you can, ensure they are detailed and well executed, rather than compromised by speed, and that you have a clear understanding of the costs associated with the designs as early as possible to allow you to make good decisions on timings and priorities.

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