Commissioning a designer - Realising Your Design - Garden Design (2015)

Garden Design (2015)

Realising Your Design

Commissioning a designer


A designer will help unlock the potential of your site in ways you may not have considered. Evaluate work from a number of different designers first before choosing someone with the flair and skill that suits your needs.

CREATING A GARDEN of real quality requires vision, sensitivity, skill and experience, so take time to choose the designer that best suits your expectations and needs.

Making your choice

When selecting a designer, first take a look at their portfolio, and then, if their approach is in accord with your ideas, arrange an initial meeting. Remember, too, that some designers only take commissions local to their area, while others work nationally or even internationally.

Discuss with your designer the area of the garden to be designed and the extent of the commission, agreeing which of the following services will be included:

Complete garden design.

Planting design, including detailed planting plans.

Additional drawings for walls, paving or decking designs.

Specialist elements, such as water features, green walls, roof gardens, sculpture or lighting.

Obtaining tenders, nominating contractors and monitoring projects to completion.

Cost estimates for agreed works and plants.

The supply of plants.

Construction work and supply of building materials.

Ongoing maintenance of the garden after installation.

Agreeing the fee

Talk through ideas, requirements and budget constraints with your designer to determine a programme of work and a clear understanding of the total cost of the consultancy service, including expenses, fees for contractors, and the cost of materials and plants. Agreement between you and your designer can take the form of an exchange of letters or the JCLI Consultancy Agreement, which is a specialised contract supplied by the Society of Garden Designers (SGD), designed to make sure both parties fully understand the scope of the project. Charges for services vary from designer to designer and accurate estimates are only possible once you have agreed what is required. Fees tend to be between 10 and 20 per cent of the total cost of the garden. Planting plans and finding contractors and monitoring work to completion may be charged separately, so agree this with your designer at the outset.

Fees can be charged in different ways, and may be a lump sum or percentage of the total cost of the garden build, or a daily rate. In addition to the fee for design, you may have to reimburse expenses such as travel and telephone costs, and payments made to third parties by the designer, which could include planning application fees, land surveys and soil testing.

The Society of Garden Designers

Registered members of the Society of Garden Designers are approved professional garden designers. They have passed the Society’s adjudication interview, and their skills have been assessed. Many have additionally passed professional garden design courses and all have a minimum of two years’ practical experience. Only registered members can use MSGD (Member of Society of Garden Designers) or FSGD (Fellow) after their name. Registered members work under the Code of Conduct and Constitution of the Society. They are listed on the website,, where you can search for a designer by name, postcode, county or country.




This dramatic curved water garden, set off by lush planting and meadows, shows how a professional garden designer can take a prosaic landscape, such as derelict tennis courts (top right), and transform it into a breathtaking, inspirational space.