Garden Design by Paul Slater
Garden Design by Paul Slater  

Do I need a designer? 

When someone asks Facebook for recommendations for a landscaper there are 30-40 replies with recommendations of companies who have done some good work. But – have you ever considered if a garden designer can help before you approach the landscaper most recommended? 


"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." – Abraham Lincoln


I truly believe that, on any scale budget or style,  a good designer can help you make the most of your garden and avoid costly mistakes. You should really be asking if you can afford not to engage a garden designer.  


First of all - lets get the jobs sorted who does what in the Landscape industry –


Gardener - Usually responsible for general maintenance and upkeep of your garden. There are some highly trained and experienced gardeners with specialist horticultural knowledge who are really worth their money – there are also those who are trying to earn a living with the more simple jobs like lawn care and general weeding.  


Landscaper – These come in many forms and may specialise in one particular area (fencing, decking, paving, etc) or may be multi- skilled trades people who can build an entire garden from the drainage upwards.  There are several colleges that offer accredited training courses but many learn ‘on the job’ from family or employers.


Garden designer  This is where the ideas and creativity happens.  Normally working on domestic projects directly for homeowners. The level of training, knowledge and skill varies immensely across the industry, as does the design style and techniques. A good designer will offer anything from initial ideas or advice all the way to a full blue-print for an entirely new garden. Some designers are naturally gifted, some will have studied for several years to achieve a formal education. Some are very experienced while some only ‘dabble’ as a hobby or part time venture.  


Landscape designer/ Landscape arcitecht - Offers similar services to a garden designer but normally on much larger scale, commercial setting or public spaces. Sometimes employed by local authorities or as part of an Architects practice.


Horticuturalist – a plants specialist. 


Arborist – Tree specialist. Could include tree surgeon who can shape large and small trees safely or specialists to identify species, potential issues and diseases.


The entire landscaping industry is currently unregulated – anyone can call themselves a landscaper without any formal training. There will always be some ‘cross-over’ on what some companies offer. A gardener may offer fencing work or basic patio/ decking. Some also offer a basic design service.   As a designer I also used to offer a complete landscaping service so I could construct my own designs. All of these specialisations have their own voluntary organisations that offer basic checks, codes of conduct and accreditation that give an indication of the professional standards being employed.


So – do I need a garden designer?


An experienced and dedicated  garden designer can help you maximise the potential of your outdoor space. They know what is and isn't possible, making sure you allocate your budget wisely and don’t settle for things that could have been better. Working with a professional garden designer brings peace of mind that you are getting the best garden for your individual needs and budget. A trained garden designer understands drainage, soil types, building regulations, budgets, materials and plants and how they all connect together to create a stunning garden. A designer will look at your individual needs, what you want and what nature will let you have. 


A good designer will develop a strong, coherent design that suits your style and needs. They will have access to a wide range of resources, experience and information that allows the selection of suitable materials and plants that will thrive and look good for a very long time. A designer can also design specific, bespoke items for the garden that may not be available elsewhere.


Following a design also reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings between you and your landscaper, ensuring that the garden built meets your expectations and adheres to a set of industry-recognised specifications.


A well designed garden will always be an asset to your lifestyle while adding real value to your home; some studies show an added 15%-20% increase in value of your home.


Some designers will project manage the entire project, freeing up your precious time. Others offer a slightly lighter ‘Project Monitoring’ service that should give you confidence that your garden is being installed correctly and to the correct specifications and offering advice and guidance with any unexpected issues.


A good garden designer has an awful lot to offer and the costs involved are well worth it – often saving money in the long run. So, do you need a garden designer? Can you afford not to use a garden designer?



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© paul slater