Working with a garden designer

Landscaping - drawing by Hand a Sketch of a modern small City Garden

Designing a garden is daunting, especially if you’re a novice. Landscape or garden designers can help with the green thumb aspects — choosing plants that suit your site. Equally important, they’ll organize outdoor spaces to enhance their good features and minimize bad ones.

Whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor to install all or some elements of your landscaping, Price advises that you work out design problems on paper first. “It’s much less expensive than fixing costly mistakes later,” she points out. “The garden should look like a cohesive whole, rather than a bunch of elements added bit by bit,” she explains. “So, if you decide to add a water feature later, you’ve planned exactly where it’s going so it fits into the design as a whole.”

More tips

* You might hear of a good landscape or garden designer through friends or neighbours. Or contact your provincial landscape association for its recommendations. If you see a garden you admire, ask who designed it.

* Landscape or garden designers have training in plants and landscape construction. Landscape architects have a degree and belong to a licensed professional association and generally do high-end residential or larger commercial projects. Whoever you choose, check credentials, references and ask to see a portfolio.

* Good communication is essential. Have a list of needs and wants ready and collect magazine pictures of landscapes you like.

* Discuss budget: if your taste is beyond your pocketbook, find out if your design can be phased in over several seasons.

* Whether you do the final job yourself or hire a contractor, a landscape designer can provide you with drawings, construction details and lists of suppliers and plants.

* Be cautious when companies offer “free” design services if you buy your plants from them. They may be more interested in selling plants than doing a garden design to meet your needs. The design cost is usually built into the plant markup.

* The construction of a landscape requires more knowledge and experience than puttering in the yard. Consider hiring a contractor for some of the bigger jobs — installing patios, walkways, fencing or latticework and planting larger trees — while you prep planting beds and plant perennials.

* Your designer may recommend a good contractor Or you can ask neighbours for recommendations. Your provincial landscape association can also help. Request to see a portfolio, references and ask about insurance and guarantees on workmanship.

* Garden designers and landscape contractors are up to their elbows in work in spring, so call them the previous fall or in winter. The fall is also a good time to get landscaping and planting done.