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How to commission a garden designer

5 tips on getting the best results when working on your dream outside space

a contemporary garden designed by adolfo harrison
Jason Ingram

1: WHERE TO SEARCH

Alongside show gardens, magazine articles, personal recommendations and the websites of professional bodies such as the Society of Garden Designers and the British Association of Landscape Industries, look at Instagram. It’s a great place to search out designers whose aesthetic appeals – not only for its immediacy but because designers often post pictures of their inspirations and work in progress, giving a broader sense of their approach and ethos.

2: WHAT TO LOOK FOR

As with anything in life, the key to success is working with people who share your vision. As designer Adolfo Harrison says, ‘You might only commission a garden once in your life so, beyond the garden itself, it should be an amazing journey, an exciting opportunity to create your own environment. Use your initial consultation with a designer to understand their process and how you fit into it, and to brainstorm ideas and see if there’s an energy between you where you think you can work together.’ adolfoharrison.com

an urban garden designed by adolfo harrison
A garden designed by Adolfo Harrison
Jason Ingram

3: WHAT TO EXPECT

Every garden designer works slightly differently, but all should listen to you to find out what you want from your outdoor space, and suggest ideas on how to make the best use of it. ‘Part of the challenge is to use our knowledge of space, soil and light etc, to come up with ideas that can open up a whole other world,’ says Harriet Farlam, of Farlam & Chandler. Once a brief is agreed, the designer will produce outline plans, followed by a masterplan, detailed construction drawings and planting plans to enable the garden to be built. They will usually manage the tendering process and run the works on site, and often offer maintenance services, too.

4: PRACTICALITIES

Bear in mind that good garden design, like any substantial remodelling of your home, is not cheap or speedy. As a very rough guide, a small London back garden (10 x 5 metres) could cost from £25,000 and it may well take five to six months from the first meeting before building work can begin.

5: DON’T FORGET

Unlike interiors, gardens are living entities that need ongoing care. ‘Making the garden really happen sin the years after the landscapers have left,’ says Farlam. ‘If clients understand that, then that’s the recipe for a brilliant garden in the future.’ farlamandchandler.com

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration July 2020

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