A few thoughts on garden design and building.

I don’t watch many gardening programmes, I used to watch Ground Force from time to time often for all the wrong reasons, the free movement of Charlie Dimmocks assets were definitely an interesting phenomenon for me, even as a man who is not normally a bust fan. I also watch programmes covering the flower and garden shows, where I have made something that has been incorporated into a show garden.
The biggest perceived problem it seems to me of those who work professionally within the garden industry (if this network is a fair reflection of views held generally in the industry) is securing recognition and consequently an adequate reward for their knowledge, expertise and experience.
If I asked someone to design and build a garden for me I would have no idea how much it is likely to cost, very little idea how to get some idea of how to start to calculate a budget, the only guide I have is that a decent garden can add 5-10% to a houses’ value.
Many modern houses have as you know tiny gardens but that doesn’t stop people having aspirations for something unique and interesting. They want good use of the space they have, some want raised beds and an easy manageable environment, some who have young children want a safe stimulating garden for their children to play in with some unobtrusive space to dry the washing.
Several years ago I would call at Van Hages garden centre at Ware, they had on their site, show gardens complete with designs and itemised lists of materials. I thought this was an excellent idea, I am sure it was both inspirational for the customer and pretty good for sales. Similarly at Ayletts Nursery near Saint Albans within the garden centre was a reconstruction of a show garden for the disabled.
My standard garden product range is priced, people have a starting point if they want something different, for example if they want a non standard size garden arch, they know to a degree if my prices are at a level they can afford and can take a view if they are good value for money.
The gardening programmes particularly those with a design element will feed peoples’ aspirations for a better looking garden but will not help them much with an idea of design or overall costs, much less a realistic budget.
If I were a garden designer I would do some research on newly built housing schemes to find out garden sizes. Armed with that I would prepare a few different designs to suit the sizes of garden on the scheme. A brochure with a picture of each design could be prepared, additionally a full plan with spec lists of materials could be offered for sale together with an indication of cost to build each design and some alternatives. For example a path could be costed using slabs, block paved or gravel, raised beds could be constructed using sleepers, bricks or bradstone. There are some things that are difficult to cost when you put a spade in the ground of a garden for the first time you don’t know if it is just soil in the garden or bricks and concrete underneath, if you are offering a design and build package, qualify this in your pricing.
Indication of costs for designing a garden from scratch of a similar size could be worth considering, you need not only to paint the picture but also give an upfront price of how much the picture is going to cost.
Fenlandphil
www.seriousgardener.co.uk

Views: 23

Tags: arch, design, garden, gardening, groundforce, programmes, seriousgardener.co.uk

Comment by Keith Barker on April 25, 2010 at 14:31
Your idea of templates for garden designs has been tried before - I believe Lynette Applegate's design templates for Homebase were a step in this direction.

I'm totally against it from a design perspective. For us each design commission is unique and designs are produced bespoke in order to fulfil the clients exact requirements. A template by definition just doesn't achieve this, and if you're not meeting your client's requirements as a designer you're not doing your job.

I agree that clients need help with their expectations of what is a realistic budget. To educate our potential clients we state that a budget figure of between 4-10% of the value of their home is realistic. Some clients understand this, some don't; some have no idea what their houses are worth!. So during our initial consultation, working from information given by the client, we are able to work out an estimate of the build cost using various £/sqm rates (lawn/ paving/deck etc).

It also helps to put in the clients mind from the outset that a new garden is going to be similar, in terms of disruption, mess, and effort, as having a conservatory or extension built, and consequently the price is going to be comparable.

Keith
Lush Landscape & Garden Design
Comment by Fenlandphil on April 25, 2010 at 15:22
They were thoughts Keith, suggestions, there is it seems a difficulty with overcoming the publics conception, fostered by television, that garden design and building is quick and cheap. I appreciate the ideas that were mentioned in my blog are not new, as the two examples that were mentioned illustrated, others spring to mind as I write. Time is an asset that none of us can afford to squander, putting a price on a job that you have done, doesn't diminish the value of the service you are offering, what it does in my opinion is educate the very clients who have no concept of the cost of a new garden, these potential clients thus forearmed are then more willing to buy at a price that you are willing to sell at, otherwise they won't call you.
Although you say that each garden is bespoke, I suspect that like myself with bespoke gate designs you have your own repository of ideas that you can call on, then adjust and enhance to meet a specific clients needs or requirements. In much the same way an artist or writer has a particular style of painting or writing. The only garden, that I have been involved in and knew the budget of was John Van Hages show garden at Chelsea in 1992, other than that I wouldn't know.
Comment by Fenlandphil on April 25, 2010 at 19:52
We may well have discussed this before it was the comments on the Landscape man that prompted the blog.The thoughts I had, Peter were about managing client expectations, I wouldn't want to visit a customer and waste time when with a bit of preparation they have some concept of what sort of costs are involved. My suggestions were a method of doing a bit of spadework so that a client has some realistic method of establishing a budget, there may be other better ways but it was as the title says a few thoughts.
Using my own experience, most of my garden products are standard size products but I do offer a bespoke service, the prices of the standard products give some indication of where the prices of the bespoke items may go. With gates, railings handrails and grills which I don't promote actively again I send out brochures for the gates to give an indication of where costs may go. I design individual gates to suit customers tastes but they usually like a starting point both in terms style and cost. Garden design may be different but I would have thought from the comments made on here that many clients have an unreasonable expectation as to how much your services may cost.
I am sure that although every garden is different you will look at it know instintively what will or will not work, run your past commisions through your mind and depending on the clients taste use the experience you have to design something unique but within your own style. We don't as designers usually start from scratch but adapt and add to what we know, it is sensible and safe.
The ready made design suggestion was not prescriptive but indicative for your customers to help establish expectations.
Van Gogh painted many versions of Sunflowers all were different but many were similar and variations of a theme.

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