Tell-tale signs of a good garden designer

Choosing a good garden designer to deliver a sketch plan of full phased garden design solution with open air garden office, Crowborough Sussex

April 24, 2019

Tell-tale signs of a good garden designer

Whenever you pay for something, it’s important to know that you’re getting the best you can for the money you’re spending. But how can you tell if the garden designer you’re thinking of hiring is as good as they say they are?

Check their portfolio

There are plenty of ways to gauge whether or not a garden designer will do a good job, the first of which is to look at their portfolio. If you can’t see very easily what they’ve done, then you can’t get a sense of their style; that means you really have no idea what you’re going to get. The first port of call to find a garden designer’s portfolio will be their website, but if there’s nothing there then it might be worth having a look on their Facebook or other social media pages.

If a garden designer is really worth their salt, then their portfolio shouldn’t just include images of finished gardens, but also their designs, some details of the work and before and after shots. If a portfolio is lacking details of designs, then they might be a landscaper – which may be great – but to create a real impact, you should be looking for somebody who can take what’s there, and create 2D plans and 3D images so you can envisage the final piece, and then detail and specify exactly how that garden is to be built in order to make your ideal outdoor space.

Garden design disciplines

Garden designers will generally come from three different disciplines:

  • The horticulturalist – Somebody who may have fallen in love with horticulture and is brilliant with plants. They may have done a planting design course and then followed it through with a garden design course – maybe a degree in landscape architecture or a post-graduate diploma. Their portfolio will reveal whether they like to build good structure into their garden designs to create a real connection between the house and garden, or whether it is more plant orientated – sometimes a plant bias can end up with complicated planting schemes that require more maintenance, but if they are disciplined in their approach then they will deliver what is appropriate to the client.
  • The garden architect – On the flip side, other garden designers may be more structural and architecturally orientated – which is the case for Eugene Hill, the founder of Dewlands Garden Design. Garden designers from this side of the field will focus more on the structure and feeling of the space and creating a journey through and around the gardens they design. They too will or should understand planting design and tend to deliver schemes that are simpler than that of a plantsman or horticulturalist.
  • The landscaper – This may be somebody that started out working with a garden designer, laying slabs and digging flower beds, and over time, after seeing the creation of a few gardens, became really good at the whole garden design process. Some of these people will go on to get a garden design qualification, but many won’t. They tend to have a real insight into the construction of a garden because they have been there and done it, but ensure you can see evidence of their design process and creative solutions. Our founder Eugene Hill has spent many years hands on building homes and gardens and so has plenty of experience of the practical, but also possesses the creative edge that makes his gardens stand out.

So, it’s important to understand what you want. Are you a plant person, do you enjoy getting out and spending time looking after the plants in your garden? Or would you rather spend your time in the garden using and enjoying the space?

One way to think about your garden and the type of garden designer you might prefer to hire, is to think about your living room; do you take enjoyment out of the structure of the living room, making the most of the space available with clear views to the TV and a nice quiet corner to sit, or do you prefer the cushions and the furnishing, taking enjoyment from the patterns of the cushions, the details of the mantelpiece and the colours of the rug?

Garden design qualifications to look out for

A garden designer who is really good at what they do will be a member of the Society of Garden Designers. These people have a track record of producing complete garden designs from planning and designing to costing and fulfilment. Members need to submit projects to gain approval, each project must meet the requirements, and be assessed by a panel of adjudicators. Eugene Hill the founder of Dewlands Garden Design is a pre-registered member of the Society of Garden Designers and is currently working towards his full membership.

“A garden designer should have some sort of formal qualification. There are so many aspects to garden design, it’s a multidisciplinary subject, covering horticulture, architecture, construction, plumbing and electrics,” comments Eugene. “Also, the detailing stage is incredibly important. There’s a big difference, say, between a 2m high retaining wall and a 1m high retaining wall structurally, similarly thinking through drainage to anticipate problems, and working through different ways of constructing the garden to get the right finish and to avoid problems during the build and in the longer term are all important parts of a designer’s skill set.  Getting all these things right in the planning phase means we don’t have to make expensive changes during or after the construction phase of your garden. The right garden designer will be able to consider all of this and get it right in the drawings, so that the build runs on budget and on time.”

If you want your visions of a dream garden realised, then it’s important to recruit the best help you can. When looking for the right garden designer, make sure you choose someone with an excellent portfolio with a style that matches your vision, and make sure they know what they’re doing – a relevant qualification can mean a lot!

To discuss how our garden designs can add value to your home

call 01892 577371 

or send us an email using our online form. 

Based in Crowborough, Sussex, Dewlands offers garden design and maintenance services across:  

Kent: Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone, Kings Hill  

Sussex: Crawley, East Grinstead, Lewes, Battle, Hailsham in Sussex  

Surrey: Redhill and Oxted in Surrey.   

You can read a more comprehensive list of the area we cover here.
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