Garden Design by Paul Slater
Garden Design by Paul Slater  

Things to consider:


Budget/ costs for landscaping.

A well-constructed garden using good quality, suitable materials following a clear and considered design is an investment in your property and your lifestyle. During the design process you will be asked to set a budget limit that you are comfortable with. The design will take this limit into account. Getting the design right should always be the main consideration so you may not wish to set a limit at this stage. Deciding a realistic budget can be tricky. There are several ways to do this:


  • Base your budget on how much you would spend on a major room in your house (a kitchen or bathroom for example).
  • Set a budget as a percentage of your property value (10% - 20% is a good guide)- it is likely your property value will increase significantly over this investment. 
  • My previous projects have worked out at £200-£350 per square meter.
  • Most designers will be happy to work towards your own maximum budget.


Like for like quotes.

The Landscaping industry is currently unregulated. Finding the right contractor capable of building your garden to the right specification can be a minefield. It is really important when getting quotes to build your garden that they are considered equally. Different companies have different skills and overheads so times and labour costs may differ. Designs will specify materials and how to install them and sometimes, where to source them. Make sure the quotes have specified the correct materials and correct installation methods. Look for a companies accreditations and industry memberships.


The Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) is the leading body for domestic landscapers. It has the most stringent entry criteria and conducts regular checks on its members. You can feel confident you will be engaging with some of the most professional people in the industry.


The British Association of Landscaping Industries (BALI) is the largest gardening/ landscaping body with many members with wide skill sets.


Be wary of sites such as Check-a Trade and other lead generating sites. They are open to abuse and false reviews. There are many good companies who don’t feel the need to belong to organisations such as these – but make sure you get several recommendations from friends and family.


Your quote from a contractor should reference CDM regulations 2015, include clear pricing and a method statement or specifications as a minimum.  Some companies will charge for the initial visit and quote. This is an indication of their professionalism and pride in their work – a quote can sometimes take several days to compile. Contractors should produce clear Terms and Conditions, any extra or special terms, payment plans and details of their guarantees and insurances as well as a formal contract for work. A good contract will protect you and the company providing work.



Materials types and use.

Knowing what material is suitable for each situation is essential to creating a long lasting garden.  I have worked almost exclusively with natural products throughout my career. There is a huge range of stone available, each with its advantages and limitations and each with slight differences in laying methods. Quality also varies immensely between suppliers and sources. Make sure you get the right material for the intended use and are aware of its maintenance requirements.


There is a mind boggling range of porcelain paving, again with varying levels of quality. It requires more specialist installation and equipment to install but is good for a really smooth, contemporary look. It will require maintenance and sealing in some circumstances.


Timber decking installed and maintained correctly will last a lifetime and can be as low maintenance as any paving. Choosing the correct timber is essential. Hardwood looks fantastic and has real character. Composite deck is easier to maintain over its life but has its limitations.


Soil types – why it makes a difference.

Soil types and structures vary immensely across the country, and sometimes even in the same garden! Knowing the type of soil is the key to deciding the required sub-base for each particular type of paving; it also dictates the type of plants that thrive. Clay soils are subject to extremes of water logging/ drying so will move considerably over the course of a year. Some plants will not tolerate this – its not what nature intended.


Planting areas can be improved with organic matter and some working but it is very difficult to change acidity levels.



The ‘right plant in the right place’ should be everyone’s mantra when planting a garden. As should ‘ a penny for the plant, a pound for the ground’ – basically feed and nourish the soil and the plant will thrive without too much help.


Selecting groups of plants that work well together and thrive in the position intended can be a real skill, especially if looking for a more natural theme.


All new plants are now subject to a plant passport scheme; each plant (or batch of plants) should have its own unique passport ID number that allows full traceability in the event of pests or disease. This is controlled by DEFRA. There are some serious diseases around that can devastate the horticulture and agriculture industries if not checked.

Please buy and source your plants responsibly and do not import your own.  




British standards and regulations to be followed.


Most garden hard landscaping is deemed as ‘construction’ and will be subject to many rules and regulations that you may not have considered. Here are just a few key considerations:


  • CDM 2015 – Construction Design Management regulations. Should be followed for every trade that carries out work in your home or place of work. Includes H&S requirements.
  • BS 7533 Series - Pavements constructed with clay, natural stone or concrete pavers: 13 separate elements.
  • BS 5385-2:2015 Installing porcelain paving.
  • SUDDS – Sustainable Drainage Systems. Ensures rainwater is managed correctly.
  • Building regulations – eg, step heights, railings and banisters, Damp proof courses and many more.
  • Planning regulations – eg, TPOs, AONB, Conservation areas, fence heights, height of structures, soil and ground levels.
  • BS 3882:2007 - Specification for topsoil and requirements for use
  • BS 1722 Series - Fencing
  • BS 8545 – Tree planting
  • DEFRA - plant passport system
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