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Garden design myths

Spending time outside, looking after your garden, is a great way of enjoying a sunny afternoon, and is said to help improve mindfulness. While it is easy to head to your nearest garden centre and pick a few plants for pots, where would you start if you were to revamp a tired looking and overgrown backyard? You could of course take some top tips from this article in The Guardian and do it yourself, but it's our view that garden design and landscaping is best left to professionals.

Why use a garden designer

Would you try and install a new home electrical system on your own? Probably not, because it takes skill and experience in an area that you might not have any knowledge in. Similarly, garden design requires expertise in horticulture and soil biology and mixes it up with interior design, spatial awareness, engineering and art.

There are many reasons why you should hire a professional garden designer this summer.

For starters this is often a way of saving both money and time in the long run, arguably the two best things to save on!

Maximising your outdoor space and fulfilling its potential means you can finally have the garden you always dreamed of, without the stress and hassle of having to attempt to do it yourself.

And if you are thinking of selling on your home, a beautiful looking garden can help you seriously raise the asking price! Potential buyers won't have a reason to try and negotiate on the price.

But when it comes to brining in the pros, a lot of us have second thoughts. Let's have a look at 6 myths/ common reasons why we don't reach out to the pros when our garden is in dire need of professional help.

Myth 1 - You need a large garden to hire a specialist

One of the reasons we often hear when people decide to have a go at designing a garden on their own, is because they think their garden is not big enough for a designer to be interested in. You might be thinking that a garden designer will only work on large spaces. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Garden designers love working on all sizes of gardens. In fact, smaller jobs come with challenges of their own. This is because a professional designer will have to come up with ways to make the most out of the available space.

Example: The owners of this house in Chelsea already had a courtyard at ground floor level which was their more public and visible outdoor space for family and friends, but they also had a lovely South West-facing roof terrace which they wanted to use as a more private space for their own enjoyment throughout the year. Charlotte Rowe Garden Design worked closely with the client to create an outdoor sitting room and dining room in a classic contemporary style.

Photos: Steve Gorton

Example: A high contrast horizontal trellis runs along the side of this small garden in Chelsea that was designed by The Garden Builders. Rendered raised beds add interest to the scheme and the existing small storage has its cover replaced with a zinc top. The overall look is sleek and contemporary.

Below: an award winning garden, designed by Kate Gould and built by The Garden Builders in 2009 RHS Chelsea. The urban space was softened by a lush green wall and a sophisticated stone water feature.

Garden designers will be able to see how best to maximise the space without making it look crowded and messy. There are even things that these talented people can do to actually create an illusion of extra space.

Sometimes, garden designers add the most value in small urban gardens by identifying exactly how to maximise every square inch in it and making sure materials used are in keep with the property's character and low in maintenance.

For example, urban backyards usually have beautiful fencing to add a design element, and plants that require very little care, like buxus (see photos below). There is no point in using a lawn when there is no space for a lawn mower!

They can transform any garden into a beautifully bohemian and serene environment, perfect for you and the family to relax in. However, if you want your garden to be a more social area then they can also turn this into an exquisite, elegant space, perfect for throwing sophisticated outdoor parties.

Myth 2 - You need bags of money before you pick up the phone

Wrong again. While getting the pros in may sound like an expensive investment, it’s often cheaper than doing it yourself! This is because your garden designer will have a budget that you have set and it’s their job to stick to it.

The designer will know what you should and shouldn’t pay for certain things, meaning you won’t get ripped off or spend money on things you don't need. They will help you choose material that will be long-lasting too.

Some designers also have trade discounts that they can pass on to clients, just like in interior design. Good planning also means that you will not have to re-visit your garden design for years. Incorporating lighting early on for example, means that you will not have to re-dig parts of the garden later on to run cables and light boxes. All points that your designer will make in their presentation.

Myth 3 - Re-designing your garden will take up all your time

The whole point of outsourcing is that you let someone else stress about budget and quality assurance all while you can get on with other important things, like spending time with the family or getting on with your work. Take it from me, project management is a stressful task! And if you live a busy life or have children then this is something you should really avoid. As with interior design you, this is what you can outsource to your professional:

  • research of materials

  • sourcing material, like patio tiles, decking, furniture and features

  • making sure you are getting value for your money by comparing different providers for the above

  • ordering them in and returning things that are not right

  • bringing the trade professionals in for implementing the design and managing the standard of their work

  • styling the finished garden

A professional will not only take away all of the stress and hassle, but they will also be able to provide you with a realistic estimate of when the project will be finished. Knowing that you have hired a professional means you can sit back, relax and enjoy the process knowing they are taking care of everything for you.

Above: A large decking outside our home means we can create zones and use different spaces at different times during the day. Outdoors furniture: Danneti Photos: Jenny Kakoudakis

Myth 4 - nobody knows better than you

We get it, you're a perfectionist. And that's what stops you from even starting a project - because everything needs to be perfect on paper before you can even contemplate making a move. So how is it possible that a garden designer, a professional, will ever come close to what you have in your head.

The thing is, through training, designers have developed a good ear and can pick up everything you like and dislike through initial questionnaires and informal chats. And because they are paid to work on your dream design, they will actually put it into action.

and besides, what you have in your head might look nothing like what you actually achieve on your own. So get the pros in and let them turn the dream into reality. That way, you can have the garden you always imagined and always wanted.

Photo: Randle Siddeley

Photo: Nathalie Priem for MAC Building Solutions

Photo: Kreis Grennan Architecture

Myth 5 - You will get an off the shelf garden design

It’s a garden designers’ job to come up with ideas that will suit your garden, your needs and your style. Through their experience over the years they will be able to come up with a plan that you might not have even thought of. Besides, the location of your home, the orientation of your garden, the soil and many other aspects mean that the design you get will be unique to your home.

A professional garden designer will be knowledgeable of your local climate, which is extremely important when it comes to landscaping. You aren’t expected to know exactly what flowers and shrubs will do the best in a specific part of your garden, but the professionals will. Let them advise on this to ensure your garden stays healthy all year round.

Why spend days looking into garden trends, ideas and examples when they can do all of this for you. But remember that it’s your style and your specifications that they will need to work around, so make sure that your new outdoor area is a real extension of your own personality. this is all down to communicating your ideas, likes and dislikes clearly and early on.

Photo: John Davies Landscape

Photo above and below: Oliver Design Associates, Connecticut, US

Myth 6 - You will only get a garden design when hiring a garden designer

Thinking of adding a deck, patio or porch? Often, professional gardeners and landscapers can build these for you two. This is another way in which hiring a professional to do this will save you money. You can kill two birds with one stone and get it all done quickly and efficiently.

Another aspect that your designer will incorporate in their planning is lighting. Garden lighting is one of the best ways to breathe new life into the space, but installing new lights throughout the garden is not an easy job.

Not only is it time consuming identifying the right lights for different jobs (spot lights, uplighters, downlighters etc), it is also complicated to work around how they will all work properly together and that the work is guaranteed for a period of time.

Let the experts take over and light your garden just the way you wanted.

Deck lights at the Seasons in Colour home, photo: Jenny Kakoudakis

Peace of mind

Hiring a team of professionals provides you with priceless peace of mind. You can relax knowing that your garden is not only in the best possible hands, but also that soon it will be turned into your very own outdoor paradise.l

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