When to Commission a Garden Designer

29/01/2014 12:01 GMT | Updated 30/03/2014 10:59 BST

When is it the best time of year to commission a design for your garden?

Answer- anytime- so long as it's at least three months before starting construction works, and, if you want the garden completed by a certain date or season, then also consider the size and potential complexity of your project. So, If you want to be sitting in your new garden this springtime then NOW is the time to find a designer. You may have already missed the starting gun, summer maybe more realistic!


Several factors fundamentally influence the timelines :

1. Finding a landscape garden designer who inspires you and gives you confidence he/she can achieve creating whatever style of garden you are looking for.

2. Once appointed, the design process itself.

3. After the initial meeting and once the designer has assessed the potential project - it is always a good idea to ask the designer for approximate timelines for the design phase as this can vary quite considerably depending on:

- How busy the designer is at the point of engagement.

- The physical size of the project and the complexity of detailing required.

- How quickly the designer achieves approval for the ideas proposed.

Empathy, which is so important between client and designer, can make quite a difference to the time it can take from initial ideas to final master plan.

4. Dreamtime - by this I mean the time needed to filter ideas in and out of a project. Time to allow the ideas to take shape and 'come together'.

Constraining this element can lead to a less than inspired result.

Give your designer the time to produce well considered/ developed ideas - the final outcome will undoubtedly benefit .

3D views can often be a productive part of the presentation process, creating a better understanding of what is being proposed. These can however; be time consuming to produce.

Once the Masterplan has been approved your designer will need to produce the specifications which will define the detailing for the scheme.

A lighting and planting design/ plan will need to be created. There are invariably construction drawings and/or fabrication drawings to produce too.

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Only when the Project Specification Pack has been completed can the relevant tender documents be distributed to the various contractors and fabricators to be costed.

Main/ landscape contractor- ( and specialist contractors ) should be contacted before the final specifications are produced to give them lead in to the project- saving time later when, having awarded the contract to build, they are primed to a start date in advance. All the best garden builders will be busy and have advance bookings. Overall costs often can dictate who is awarded the contract unless a chosen contractor is appointed due to a recommendation or reputation. This can save a lot of time in the process, but in the absence of an approved contractor, be prepared to' join the queue' for the start date .

Lead times for materials e.g. stone paving or strategic items such as furniture can be significant.

If you are having a new house built or a major extension, appoint the landscape designer early on in the process so that a constructive dialogue can take place between the key design disciplines. Another benefit of having the landscape elements costed as part of the overall project costs is that you will be in a better position to make informed choices and not be left with a depleted budget to spend on what is such an important aspect- your garden.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of considerations which, should you be contemplating any major works to your garden or outside space, will help you understand what may be involved and encourage you to plan ahead.


For more information on the design process, outlining what you could expect from your garden designer, visit