Need a Landscaper or Garden Designer ?
When you need work done in the garden, is it obvious who to call for help ?
Do you need a garden designer, landscaper or gardener ?
It’s not quite as straightforward as it first appears. Part of it may be some confusion of what each one does and the other which increases the problem is that there is often crossover of services each one provides. There are also specialists who do an element of each one too.
Let’s looks at the main garden trades:
- Garden Designer
What does a garden designer do ?
They create the overall design for the garden, taking account the customer’s brief, budget, site conditions, location, planning constraints and design principles to produce a garden that works for the client and their needs be it for relaxing, social or pets and family.
They usually design both the hard-landscaping (walls, paving, structures) as well as the soft-landscaping (planting including trees, hedging, shrubs, lawns and borders) and any features such as ponds or fountains.
They may design a whole garden or on larger gardens simply create a new area.
The garden designer will generate an outline scheme plan and then produce construction drawings to specify materials and enable the building works. Finally they will produce a planting plan which shows the location and number of the all the different plants to be used.
Beyond the design work, the garden designer will produce a specification, collate estimates and if necessary project manage the delivery by assisting the search for suppliers (plants and materials) and contractors (landscapers) to construct the garden to ensure that the design is realised.
Finally the garden designer should produce a maintenance schedule so that the customer can nurture the garden to its intended potential and pass the information onto a gardener so the plants are looked after.
What does a landscaper do ?
Think of landscapers as the builders who take the current garden and using the design drawings (produced by the garden designer) do all the necessary construction works including demolition, earth moving, excavation, foundations, paving, fences, walls and raised beds, timber structures (pergola, arbour), electrics for lighting and water pumps, drainage and irrigation systems.
The landscapers will do the soft landscaping such as laying turf, move/supply topsoil, create the beds and borders and then supply and install all the plants.
What does a gardener do ?
A professional gardener takes the garden from completion of the build i.e. when the landscaper has finished and help gets the plants established by correct pruning, dealing with pests and diseases and any gaps where plants have failed and removing weeds. It may take several years for a garden to become established and look like the drawings produced by the garden designer. The gardener may need to deal with rogue plants that turn up or plants which have a tendency to self-seed which may be intended in the design or not. Once the garden is established it’s a case of ensuring that garden is kept looking it’s best.
Normal stages and order for producing a new garden
- Design – use a garden designer
- Build – done by a landscaper
- Maintain – get a professional gardener or do it yourself
Each of the trades fits a specific stage of design development, creation and on-going upkeep of a garden.
Cross over of garden services
Segmenting the trades into the three distinct phases is probably easier said than done. Why ? because often each trade also provides a range of services:
- Garden designer – may also do build works themselves or they supply and install the planting. Some also provide a garden maintenance service.
- Landscaper – they may offer garden design and garden maintenance.
- Gardener – may also offer garden design and do hard-landscaping build works too.
So which garden trade to use ?
My personal view is that for a sizeable project, then find someone whose main business is a single trade i.e. find a garden designer first, then appoint a pure landscaper and once the garden is built get a gardener.
This may cost you more but I suggest that you will get a better end product. A new garden is a significant investment that hopefully gives you pleasure for many years and should add value to your property. Buying cheap may reduce the quality of the end product in terms of its design and lessen the benefits.
I’m not saying there aren’t companies out there that can deliver all three (design, build, maintenance) – but in general if you’re getting a free design from a landscaper then I expect the end result may be less than perfect or not what you originally expected.
If you do go for a single supplier: you are reliant on their ability to manage how much they spend on working the design, building: labour and materials including plants. More often than not – the budget could easily get absorbed by the landscaping at the expense of both the design and the planting. I guarantee you will easily see examples of this where the design doesn’t quite work or the balance between hard-landscaping and soft-landscaping is incorrect and it look more like a barren parking-lot than a garden because the paving or decking areas far overshadows the minimal planting.
If you do opt for a single trade then ask to see their portfolio or speak to past customers for feedback on the company and the end result. I suggest if possibly go and see some of the gardens they’ve produced.
My view is design should developed not rushed: which means it should be a process done over time not a five minute sketch on a note pad. It’s also easier and less costly to make changes during the design phase than make them on the fly during the build: so please invest in and value the design !.
A bit about John Bates Gardens ?
I’m a gardener and my main focus is garden maintenance for domestic clients.
I’m not a garden designer but I do have an interest in garden design and have several relevant RHS qualifications which include: practical horticulture, garden planning, construction and planting.
I do offer a planting design service where I select plants for new beds and borders which I then create: I source the plants from local nurseries and do the planting. My customers love this service as they can refresh and update their garden without necessary the large cost of any landscaping works.
I’m not a landscaper – I do not do any building works (hard-landscaping) but do know landscaping companies that I’m happy to recommend.