Why Pay For Design?

To Pay Or Not To Pay?

It’s a familiar story. The new garden looks a mess and there is nowhere to enjoy a glass of wine; the previous owners quite naturally had no taste. Without a clue where to start the number of a local designer is dialled and a meeting is booked with excitement and anticipation. The professional arrives and seems to really know their stuff. They listen intently to your ideas and respond positively, even going so far as to tell you that they can ‘do’ something eye-catching with the abomination outside the backdoor. But then the dream is ruined, quite unexpectedly the professional presents you with a fee proposal for the project. You haven’t finished reading the email but your finger is already speed-dialling some guy who ‘does’ gardens without the need for any of that drawing nonsense. That’s right folks, right there is where you probably over-spent on a garden that could have been so much more than grass, patio and raised sleeper borders, quite possibly at lower cost- even including the design fees. 

Let’s take a step back and see where this went wrong. 

You see, a garden designer is an expert in solving problems. Your garden is a problem. The aspect, the topography, next door’s not so aesthetically pleasing extension, the soil PH, the soil structure. How many of you have bought that gorgeous looking plant from your local garden centre only to watch it deteriorate over the following months? How were you to know that it would hate the soil in your garden? Your designer is an expert in pulling out the right plants to suit your garden. Spending a four figure sum on a new hedge isn’t much fun when it only lasts a season, but then who knew that your soil was too heavy for a Yew hedge? That shrub you planted in front of the conservatory window looked beautiful in a 5 litre pot, but now it has eclipsed the light from your home in such a way that only the local energy supplier can rejoice at. I digress, but you undoubtably take my point. Plants can be eye-wateringly expensive- more than that, they can be expensive mistakes.

The next problem is you. 

There are things that you want from your garden. Fine. It’s your garden. The children need a play area; the patio needs situating so that itcatches the sun, and there’s that summerhouse that you have always wanted. Perfect. The only problem is that your garden resembles the north face of the Eiger; fitting all the above elements into such a challenging space is going to require some creative thinking; a knowledge of building practices and a firm grip on reality. Your designer will know what is possible and has the expertise. They are an expert at choosing the right materials and creating structure that allows the garden to work, for you. The beauty of design drawings are that you can see how your garden will work before you go in with the 5 tonne digger without a clue what the outcome will be. Re-drawing something you don't like is vastly cheaper than re-building it once it has been constructed.

The final problem is cost. 

You have so admired the topiary gardens at Versailles and that is what you want. You won’t tell the designer what your budget is because you hadn't really thought about it but you will suffer a minor coronary when you realise that even if you saved the entire year’s wages, you would still be short. Stop. Do not reach for the phone and call the guy who ‘does’ gardens. Speak to your designer, you are paying them the find the solution. You can indeed have the topiary garden. There are solutions and savings that can be made without compromising the garden to the extent that it is a disappointment. The plants can be smaller, the structure re-jigged, the process cut into phases- there are any number of solutions and it is your garden designer’s job to find them. 

The False Economy

The real issue is that too many people want to save a few pounds on something that isn't tangible (the designs) and put that money into the physical aspect of the garden. Sadly, it is a false economy. With design in hand, the three-way problems of site conditions, client expectations and budget will have been squared into a comprehensive design, from which a set of quotations can be gathered. With a single specification all parties are quoting on the same garden outcome. The difference could be a few thousand pounds (my last project had a 25% swing) and yet you would never have known this if you hadn’t invested in the design from the outset. By hiring a professional you are mitigating the risk of expensive construction errors and throwing your hard earned cash on plants that won't survive. Investing in a garden designer is an investment in not only your new garden but your finances too. Why would you risk £10,000, £20,000, £80,000 of your money on a gamble? We shop on-line for the best deals, so why not do the same with something of greater value? If it was me, I would want to know exactly what I was getting for my money and whether it was the best deal I could find. Blindly overspending on the build simply means that there are less available funds for the things like plants.... or perhaps even that long overdue holiday.