The Stopwatch Gardener

A gardening blog from Sheila M. Averbuch

Why pay for garden design?


My New Year’s resolution to sit in the garden more has been on my mind constantly, and I’ve finally resolved to get a garden designer in Click for larger imageto help me make the best of the tiny courtyard space by the backdoor.

I knew it would be difficult to get my husband to go along with this expense. So I made a list: why pay for garden design? After all, it will just be an idea on paper, with much more expense to follow if the builders execute the plan, so I figured I’d better have my rationale clear in my own mind. As it happened, he ended up agreeing even before I’d read him the list, but it was a useful exercise anyway — here are my top reasons:

  1. Inviting spaces will bring us outside: as family we’re so much more likely to use the garden if there’s a welcoming place to eat and rest out there. At the moment the kids run about outside and I work on the garden, but we never just chill. I want that, and the kitchen courtyard is the perfect place.
  2. A tiny space needs big thinking: this is a hard-working area that needs to cater for hanging laundry, feel cozy but not claustrophobic, look good from above and from the kitchen window in all weathers. And that’s not even talking about the planting, which should be peaceful, fragrant, and ideally incorporate a way to drown out road noise. I couldn’t get my head round it myself and finally realized that a professional eye with small-site experience is critical for this space.
  3. Click for larger image

  4. Outside lunches for two: in good weather I try to lure my husband outdoors at lunch, but too much sun, or too little, or the general discomfort of the seating, or bug attacks mean he’ll often give up and duck back inside. A really livable outside dining space can let us enjoy our soup and sandwich and crossword while the kids are at school, and the world is on hold for an hour.
  5. Pave the way for later: Our kids are tiny and mostly play with friends inside now, but they’ll want more privacy as they get older. When I was growing up my friends never hung out at my house, and I want it to be different for our kids. I’d like them to keep bringing their friends over, and an outside kickback space will make that more likely.
  6. Lack of design could cost more: If I didn’t get a designer’s help with this space, chances are I’d push ahead with something of my own devising — a bit of new seating, some slabs, a pergola of some kind. Would it work? If it didn’t, would I keep trying, and keep spending? Probably. If we plan to stay in this house, let’s get it right first time. I can stick to the essential purchases for the next long while (manure, bone meal, potting compost), and swap, divide or grow from seed if I want more plants.

Would you ever get a garden designer to help you with part of your space? If you’ve used a designer, what was the experience like?

posted under Garden design, Gardening
9 Comments to

“Why pay for garden design?”

  1. On February 1st, 2011 at 7:57 am frazzledsugarplummum Says:

    I can’t afford a garden designer but if I could I would definitely get one. I have managed so far but I am at that stage where I’m not sure what to do next. I have a similar area I would like to transform for the same reasons as yours. I think a well designed area can only add to the value of your home as well as give you the satisfaction of having a functional and lovely spot for outdoor living. I look forward to seeing how your design experience works out. Good luck.

  2. On February 1st, 2011 at 9:43 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Thanks Frazzled – I feel relieved to know that you have similar thoughts. Part of me wondered if it wasn’t truly “gardeny” of me to get someone in to help, e.g. if I’m so passionate about it, why can’t I sort this myself? But I’m sure my decision is totally in keeping with my passion for the garden. I just want to do it right. I will let you know how I get on.

  3. On February 1st, 2011 at 9:49 am Christine Says:

    I think if what you’re doing involves hard landscaping (? if that’s the right term), and particularly with a small space where an experiment-gone-wrong would be particularly bad, it would be worth getting a garden designer if you can afford it. I think it would also depend on who the designer was – if I could find someone I really trusted and felt on the same wavelength with, that would make all the difference. One of the things I love about my garden is that I / we can make changes and try things out. But we’ve never done anything as ambitious as your project.

  4. On February 1st, 2011 at 10:41 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    hi Christine — thanks for that. Yes, hard landscaping is on the cards. I had a good feeling when I met with the designer and already the project is going in the right direction. It’s terribly exciting, and part of me feels it’s madly luxurious, but most of all I want to avoid DIY disaster.

  5. On February 3rd, 2011 at 3:27 am Jean Says:

    Sheila, I think you are so right that small multi-use spaces are especially in need of careful design. I haven’t used a garden designer, but I did use a kitchen designer when I was remodeling a small kitchen a few years ago, and I never regretted it for a moment. The designer looked at the space and immediately came up with a basic layout that was totally unlike anything I had been imagining (and so much better!). I ended up with a kitchen that had twice as much cabinet space and three times as much counter space, and still felt much larger than it had before. That’s what good design does.

  6. On February 3rd, 2011 at 5:31 pm Adam Gregory Says:

    After reading yours and other contributors comments I wounder what you think the cost of a garden designer would be?
    As one myself (no plug honest) I don’t consider myself expensive. You could be surprised about how much we charge and what you and your garden could gain from it.

  7. On February 24th, 2011 at 2:40 pm Alastair Says:

    I’m getting on a bit so hiring a garden designer would be useful for me. But if I was younger and fitter I would very much like to do my own gardener. After all, isn’t this most of the fun – and you can sit back and watch your creation grow!

  8. On February 28th, 2011 at 10:59 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Thanks, Gayle — I think you’re right. I wrote that post about garden blogging a while ago, but thinking back to why I did it, I get angry again when I remember how that expert gardener dismissed blogs out of hand. Any gardener who closes themselves of to what’s said on the blogs is missing a big chance for discovery, community and insight.

    Hi Jean,

    Oh, you’re making me feel better by the second about my decision. The designer I’m using brings a fresh perspective and is thinking of things I wouldn’t have. I think it’s okay to admit that the design of this space is beyond me; there’s too much at stake.

  9. On February 14th, 2012 at 2:59 am Ivy Clad Says:

    Definitely! I wish I could have the money back that I’ve spent on garden schemes that just DID NOT work. If I had it to do over again, a professional plan from the start would be the way to go.

    Good luck with the plan and implementation! I’ll be watching for the results.

    I clicked my way to your blog from Pinterest. I’m happy to be a new subscriber!


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