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Hi, I'm going to be getting my garden landscaped but when I contacted a landscaper they referred me straight to a designer because I seemed unsure about what I wanted. I arranged for the designer to visit but I was expecting her to fill the gap and basically tell me what I wanted based on the garden and what I want to use it for. I don't feel she did that. We discussed levelling the lawn and putting in a patio and chopping down hedges etc and she showed me some catalogues. She said she'd draw up a plan based upon what we wanted doing. I was expecting to be told what was best and then we would give feedback and come to a mutual agreement but every time I suggested that I was unsure about something she said to discuss it with my husband and decide before going ahead. I wanted someone to brainstorm with, not someone who would put my ideas onto paper. I don't know where to go from here. Thanks

With respect to those designers who know their stuff, this question is evidences exactly the reasons behind me starting my consultancy business. A designer should be able to steer you through the decisions required and advise at every stage. Unfortunately some designers don't know their plants (it's a very small part of the garden design courses), and others aren't knowledgeable enough to step in and advise when a client isn't sure of the direction to take. Be bold, decide what you want (patio, trees, sunny summer borders, or structured shrubbery with perhaps a little less maintenance). Unfortunately you might end up designing the garden, the designer can advise on levels and materials, and the landscaper can change it all when he starts. Sorry, I meant he can do the build!  Hopefully he'll convert your wishes and the designer's advice into a finished product. H-C


Well Louise, I've found the same problem when I've dealt with lawyers and architects. They all want to winkle out of you what your ideas are and then they write them down and present them to you with their terms, payable within 30 days.


lawyers??  I doubt that!

I think you need to be clear about how you determine professional competence before you waste a lot of time talking to people who are playing at it.




Just my experience in my professional life. I never met a lawyer who would tell me what was best to do, only asked me what I wanted to do. If I had known what was best to do I wouldn't have needed a lawyer of course.


Thanks for the replies. Pansyface that's exactly how I felt about the garden designer.

I did try writing out the desires I have for my garden but I'm not sure it made much sense. Maybe I'll try again.


Not sure who's life direction you are pooing on Edd. If it 's mine you will need to be quick as I can't tie it down myself.


Louise. I think perhaps you are expecting too much from the designer. Before you talk to a designer you must be clear on what you want. You may not be clear or have the knowledge to determine exactly what you want in terms of hard landscaping. For instance you should have a list of what you want in the garden ie. seating area in the sun, border for perennials, rockery, wheelie bin storage, clothes drying area etc etc. and how much you want to spend. The designer can then go ahead and draw a plan based on that. She will know where to put the seating area so it gets the sun, how big it will have to be and what it will be built with. And she will try and incorporate all that you want in the plan bearing in mind the budget. The landscaper then comes along and builds to the plan. He may or may not have to change it depending on unforeseen ground conditions. Some landscapers can do design but a lot need specific instructions to do the job.



Louise - you don't seem sure of what you want so maybe it would be better to take your time and make some lists of what you want and , more importantly, what you don't want. It's a big commitment and expense so don't rush it. Take a look round your existing  garden and make a note of what you like and dislike about each part. Then decide what you need - for instance, if you have children and need a play area for them then note that, if you want an evening seating/dining area note that. Then list things you'd like to have - perhaps a pond, a veg plot, trees, chicken run etc. Then the things you don't like - styles, colours, particular plants etc. If you hate a particular style of garden then note it. How much time you have for maintenance is really important - no point having huge herbaceous borders if you work full time and have other commitments. It will become a millstone round your neck.

That will give  a designer the bones to work with - they can only draw up a plan if there's enough to go on.  If I was you I'd take the rest of this year to think about it carefully, and make sure you're giving him/her useful info so that there's less chance of you ending up with something you're not happy with. 

Hogweed's been posting at the same time as me, but we're basically saying the same thing!

Agree with above, but also please go see as many gardens as you can.  You will see lots of things you like and dont like and form firmer opinions on things. Did this designer have a portfolio of completed works and happy clients?  If not, why not? I would have thought they would be itching to show you completed projects.  

Louise........I think you have some really good advice above and I would agree that maybe you take a little more time to be sure in your own mind how you want the garden to be.

A designer of any description....whether for your kitchen or your garden..........will work within the parametres you set.  If you want to kick ideas around first, do just what the other posters have advised..........look around other gardens as well as your own (you can always adapt, scale up/down )........discuss your ideas/plans on the forum  and with your family members.  When you have a good basic idea of what you want/need and, more particularly what you definitely don't want, then that will be the time to call in your Landscaper and/or Designer.

Sorry if that sounds a bit bossy but it IS your garden and you need to set the agenda


I suggest you collect together some pictures of gardens, plants and features that you like - a sort of mood board or scrap book - clippings from gardening magazines, photographs of other peoples gardens that you like, places you've been to etc, as well as make a list of practical uses you'll need in your garden, e.g. herb patch, washing line, BBQ, patio, shady seat, children's play area, veg patch etc.  

That will give a good designer something to start with .... 


I'd be inclined to suggest you spend some time going round gardens and seeing the sort of thing you like and taking some photos so you can at least let them know "desired outcome".   There may be colours or plants you particularly like / dislike.  You will also need to ensure you set a budget or you could find yourself entering into a bottomless pit.

I'd personally expect a garden designer to be knowledgeable not just about "design" but about plants.  What plants are best to use where and for the location and climate and the amount of work / maintenance afterwards. 

(more importantly) Do some research on garden designers.   In particular you want to know:

What makes them a "garden designer" - qualification, experience etc.

There's a lot of folks call themselves fancy job titles but that doesn't make them anything more than self-proclaimed.

Ask to see photos of the work they've done and for customer references and including where you can make contact and go and have a look at their work.

Also seriously consider what you want this Designer to do?   Are they just going to produce drawings?   Tell you what could be built in terms of hard landscaping and what is to be planted?    What then???   Do you then have to pay someone else to build and plant things???  

If I were you I'd give it some proper thought before you get suckered into just paying out for stuff because you don't really know what you want or even who you want to do whatever it is.

Frankly I'd never want to have a "garden designer".   I've seen and heard too many folks getting suckered by them.  They get drawings and a list of plants but frankly that's the easy bit when it comes to doing a garden.

I've a proper gardener helps me 2 days a week.   He went to college to do horticulture and then has worked as an under-gardener on a big country estate.   As a green keeper on a golf course.  Back to another large castle estate doing fruit trees, then roses, then lawns and then cut flowers and borders.  Then to another large estate as head gardener with 3 gardeners reporting to him.     He never calls himself a "designer" but he sure as heck knows how to get the look and feel I like and neither is he averse to proper work.    When he weeds a border, it's well and truly weeded!     He also knows how to manage my expectations and stops me doing stuff that's going to be totally impractical.

The way it works with professionals is that you let them know what you want to achieve and they provide the service to ensure it's realistic and achievable and that you get the desired outcome and they guide your expectations but you do have to know broadly what you like and don't like.



As a draughtsman who could produce some cracking drawings of your garden (or a 400 ton heat exchanger) but is still learning what a weed is, I have to say that it really depends on your designer. I've spoken to two really good garden designers who knew their stuff. If you said you needed a private area here they'd suggest plants and architecture to ensure year round cover. The thing is they knew their plants and that made all the difference (I don't know where you are based else I'd recommend them) to my musing when laying out the garden as I could start to imagine more than just the structural elements.

I would do as Dove says and come up with what you want - all year round from the garden - and present a scrap book to a designer (maybe even a different one). Take your tim, loose hours on the likes of Pintrest, and don't be afraid to change your mind if you see something that's better suited for you. If your designer isn't flexible they need changing.

Good luck!

When we had a garden design done we discussed the broad ideas e.g. avoid straight lines, path curving across and down the garden.  Looked at the existing plants we wanted to keep and those we were happy to lose.  The designer then came up with a design and full planting plan.

That's certainly what I would expect.  If the one you have is keeping on passing the buck back to you I'd tell them to take a hike.



I don't think the designer did 'pass the buck back to you'. I think he/she has done what we have suggested above ie. asked Louise  to sit down and work out what she wants in the garden, what she likes etc. etc. A designer will draw up a plan based on the garden, the client's requirements and her budget. Until Louise knows what her requirements are, the designer is going nowhere. All the above advice is spot on. Take time to work out what you want in the garden, visit as many gardens as you can, look over fences and hedges in every street you walk down and get some ideas. Even get a few books out of the library on garden design. Having a garden redesigned is exciting but not something you can do over a cup of tea. It takes time and effort even if you are having someone in to do the hard landscaping.

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