How to Choose a Landscape Gardener
The task of choosing a good landscape gardener may seem daunting, especially as you may well be living with the results of their work for the next 10, 20 or even 30 years. Calling on the help of a landscaping company may be something that you do just once in a lifetime, so few garden owners have any experience of knowing what to look for.
Chlemsford-based landscape gardener Rebecca Woolley, founder of The Constant Gardener, provides a short guide to the key features you should look for when choosing a garden designer.
Portfolio of Past Work
In the world of landscape gardening, nothing says more about the consistent quality of a garden designer’s work than their portfolio of past work produced over a number of years.
Experienced garden designers with a strong track record will usually be only too pleased to show you pictures of their completed projects – either on their website or as a collection of photographs. They should also be able to talk to you in detail about these projects, enabling you to get a sense of how they went about their work.
Looking at past work also help to give you an idea whether they have worked on a garden similar to yours before. And you can get a sense of whether their approach to design is likely to excite you or leave you feeling uninspired.
A good track record will tend to produce lots of happy customers who are willing to recommend their garden designer to others. So look for testimonials or ask to speak to one or two previous customers.
Horticultural knowledge matters a great deal when designing a garden. However creative the garden layout, the fundamentals need to be right – such as choosing the right type of planting for your garden’s soil, taking account of which areas receive regular sun or are in shade, and so on.
When they visit your garden (which they should), take note of whether they show interest in what type of soil you have, how the light moves around the garden during the day, which areas are in shade, which existing plants are doing well, and so on.
A planting scheme based on thorough knowledge, rather than a decorative afterthought, is far more likely to stand the test of time and give you the years of use and pleasure that you are looking for.
A wealth of horticultural knowledge and creative flair is of little benefit if your prospective landscape gardener does not listen to your needs and channel their skills in the direction of your requirements. Good listening, at all stages of the garden design and build process, can make the difference between a garden which is OK and one which truly delights you because it encapsulates your specific ideas or vision.
Your chosen designer should want to meet you, see your current garden and talk to you in depth about your tastes and what you are looking for. At this meeting, notice whether they are asking you lots of questions about your needs and preferences and noting down your answers – or whether they spend all the time talking about their own ideas.
When they show you their initial design ideas on paper, notice whether they have incorporated your requirements into the design or whether they have gone off in their own direction. Even if you have asked your designer to come up with designs without much direction from you, do they take time to listen to your feedback and adjust the design accordingly?
Creativity is always a hard skill to test for, but it is an important element in your choice of designer.
Looking at photographs of past work will give you a strong sense of how creative this designer is in terms of visual appeal. But you also want someone who can be creative in terms of solving practical problems – such as clever use of space, incorporating necessary elements such as sheds, and so on.
One way to test for creativity is, when looking at photos of past projects, to ask what challenges or problems there were on that project and how they solved the problem.
Team with a Full Range of Skills
Is this landscape company a one- or two-man band, or do they have access to a wider team?
A bigger team means that you will have a broader set of skills to draw on as needed (e.g. specific expertise relating to trees, turfing, fencing, paving and so on). You don’t want your garden design to be limited by the skill set of your chosen contractor. For instance, a contractor who specialises in hard landscaping but has limited horticultural knowledge may result in more hard areas than you really wanted and a weaker planting scheme. Alternatively, a horticultural expert with no hard landscaping expertise may design a wonderful planting scheme but fail to provide the zoning, access and interest that hard landscaping can provide.
Also important is the contractor’s ability to deliver: a one- or two-person outfit may take weeks to complete the work that a larger team could complete in a few days.
Having your garden landscaped can, potentially, be an intrusive process involving a lot of coming and going of people and materials. A considerate landscape gardener will take steps to minimise the disruption to you by tidying up as much as possible at the end of each day, and ensuring access to garden and other facilities such as driveway and garage. Where reduced access is inevitable, they should discuss this with you and attempt to keep it to a minimum. They should also show consideration towards any immediate neighbours, particularly around issues of mess and access.
Although this is hard to check for before work begins you can ask about it at your initial meeting and it is something to check for in testimonials or when speaking to past customers.
Ideally, your garden makeover should be an exciting and enjoyable experience, not a fraught and stressful one. Technical issues aside, this can often be achieved by selecting a designer (and team) who is cheerful, approachable and friendly when interacting with you at all stages of the work.
A friendly attitude makes for easier communication throughout which, as well as being more pleasant, can result in a garden which more closely meets your needs.
You can typically judge whether your contractor has an open and friendly attitude from the first consultation. But it is also a good aspect to ask about when you speak to past customers.
The Constant Gardener – Landscape Gardener for Chelmsford and Beyond
At The Constant Gardener we have been providing landscape gardening services to many happy customers in Chelmsford and surrounding towns and villages in Essex for a number of years. We are a team of designers, gardeners and hard landscapers with access to a full range of specialist experts as required for individual projects. We work to a well established design process which starts with a thorough consultation to ensure we fully understand your requirements and preferences before drawing up a design. We have a strong project portfolio covering a wide range of garden types, from contemporary garden design for new builds to formal garden design for more traditional properties. We are frequently praised by our customers not only for the creativity of our garden designs but for our professional and friendly approach at all stages of the work.
To discuss how we can transform your Essex garden, please contact us.