Whether you are designing your new garden yourself or calling in a professional, garden designer Joy Grey tells us why a good design brief is important.

To design a successful garden stand back from what you want to see and think about what you actually need. How do you use your existing garden? How do you envisage using your new garden? Do you need a safe place for children to play, an entertaining space for four or thirty, a secluded corner to enjoy the sun? Where will bins and the lawnmower live? Have you considered your constraints? Do you have excessive sun or lots of shade? Are you overlooked? Think about maintenance – weeding, deadheading, lawn mowing and so on. It can be constant! A well-designed garden must, first and foremost, function. Establish your needs and constraints and only then can you bring everything together to achieve a garden that looks beautiful and works. Here are some of the things you might include in your design brief:

Number of adults, children (their ages) and pets who use the garden.

What do you like most about your garden? What do you like least?

Existing landscaping to remain (plants, paving, fencing, etc) Are any home remodelling changes planned? Does a neighbour have plans that might affect you? How long will you stay in your home? When will you use your garden (evenings, weekends, summer)? Do you have any privacy, security or noise issues? Any water issues? Pest problems (deer, neighbour’s dog)? Allergy issues? Any soil problems (rocky, sandy, clay, disease)? Is there wind, frost, excessive shade or sun? Underground utilities?

What type of activities would you like to use your garden for? Dining for number of people, daytime, evening and frequency? Recreational activities such as play areas for children, sunbathing, reading, relaxing, bird-watching etc? Vehicular and pedestrian access considerations (paths, wheelchair access, etc.)
What else would you like to incorporate?
Speciality gardens (vegetables, herbs, fruit orchard, rose or cutting garden, woodland garden). Patio, walls, pathways, or other paved areas (any paving preferences as well). Outline what else you require: lawn area, structures (pergola, fencing, gazebo, sculpture), lighting, water feature, barbecue, fire pit and utility areas (rubbish bins, log store, shed, greenhouse, composting).

Is it by you,  professional gardener or maintenance company? How many hours required each week?

How would you like your garden to look?
Country: colourful, mixed borders, informal layout, winding paths.
Formal: symmetrical, clipped hedges, lawns, pergolas, paths, fountains.
Contemporary: architectural foliage, strong colour contrasts, mass plantings.
Mediterranean: drought tolerant plantings, grasses, lavender, olive trees.
How would you like your garden to feel? Private, serene and calming, formal, informal, symmetrical, exotic. 
What are your plant preferences? Plants you want or don’t want, flower colours you like or dislike?

Most people don’t want to think about this, but budget will determine whether your garden can be installed all at once or phased over time. It also determines whether you can hire a professional landscape contractor to install and maintain the garden. Paving materials and size of plant material will also be determined by your budgetary constraints.

The Grey Cottage, Goose Green, Gullane EH31 2AT | t: 01620 842866 | m: 07971163565 | e: joy@goosegreendesign.co.uk