The Design Process

We have developed a simple 9-stage garden design process, which takes you from your initial contact with us all the way through to your finished dream garden.


Stage 1 - Initial Contact

Now that you've had a good look at the website, decided that I'm the designer for you and filled in the contact form, you can expect a reply within the next few days which will include my pre-consultation questionnaire and my basic pricing scale.
Rather than live with uncertainty, I have fixed prices for the size of your garden, so easy!
The questionnaire is to help you to think about your wants and needs for your garden and also to help me prepare, so we can have a productive first meeting. I charge for this initial consultation, but it's at a reduced 'taster' rate.
So, you fill in the questionnaire, send it to me and we arrange a convenient date.


Stage 2 - Initial Consultation

We meet and discuss your detailed requirements. This will involve a close inspection of the garden and in-depth discussion of the styles and forms of garden you prefer as well as more mundane matters such as "Do you need a shed"?.

If the garden is very small and we agree on the design fee immediately, we can sign a pre-brief contract and I can survey straight away. This will save you some travel fees. Otherwise I will leave to prepare a brief & quote for the design work.

Once we are agreed on the brief we both sign the contract and I will arrange to return to survey the garden.

Stage 3 - The Garden Survey

I will measure boundaries, levels, the house and any other necessary items.

I note the garden's aspect, wind exposure, soil pH and many other details essential to creating an accurate picture of your garden, so that I may choose with care where to place patio, paths and other features.


Stage 4 - The Draft Plan

After a period of reflection, I will prepare a number of drafts for you to consider. We will talk through which elements you prefer, and their locations, and upon agreement I will proceed to draw up the final plan.

On this visit, I usually bring paving catalogues and samples to help you choose your materials

Stage 5 - The Presentation Plans

Your presentation plan will be an illustration of the location of all the important garden features. It will be my interpretation of everything that you have requested for the garden, in the most suitable locations. This will be printed full size in colour. There will be additional black and white printouts which have the new levels; drainage arrangements, and electrical routing for lighting.

For small gardens these plans can be on a larger (1:50 or 1:20) scale and combine layout and planting plans; for larger gardens (usually 1:100 scale) there will be separate layout and planting plans. The latter may not be produced until the landscaping work has finished.

Once you have seen your beautiful new design, we will discuss how the garden is to be created. If you wish to DIY, I can give advice on how to proceed. Alternatively, you can employ me to oversee the build process.


Stage 6 - Contract, specification document, structural and setting-out drawings

At the outset I will show you the form of contract that I use, which is a standard form published by The Joint Contracts Tribunal. Once the client/consultant section is signed, the next step is to write specifications so that we can ask contractors to tender for the work.

Specifications describe and define a plan for the contractors so that the work is completed to the designer's and clients ideals, rather than to the contractors interpretation.

If you imagine the Presentation Plan as something like how you see a street in a Wild Western Town used in filming, you would know where the bar and grocercy were, where people went in and out and looked out of windows, but you could not tell if it were a true building or just a façade. The specifications and structural drawings make sure that the building (of course garden in our case) is built with foundations that accord with local building regulations and will stand the test of time. The setting-out drawing makes sure, to continue our metaphor, that a door is not put in where the window should go and enables the contractors to work efficiently on the site.

In total, specification documents include a description of the designers vision, a detailed materials list, structural and setting-out drawings. These become tender documents that the contractor can base his costs upon and be compared with on an equal footing with all other bids. They can be sent to a number of contractors or Sophia's Gardens can select the contractor felt best for your needs.

Stage 7 - The Build Process

Once we are satisfied with a contractor's bid and chosen our preferred company, we will decide the time scale and the contractor will sign his section of the contract. Throughout the build process I will oversee at regular intervals and liaise with you.

This is an opportunity for your continued involvement, or to just relax and watch the men work!

On completion of the build, you pay the contractor 95% of his fee and then planting commences. Often we work in the garden with clients as they like to be involved in getting to know the latest horticultural practices and learning about their plants.

After a settling in period of 3 months, a final inspection is performed, any faults are put right and a certificate of completion issued. The retention of 5% is paid to the contractor.


Stage 8 - Planting

I really enjoy this stage. Once the planting plans and the build are complete, it's time to shop for plants.

My system is to buy and plant in the appropriate season. So, I buy bulbs, shrubs and trees and plant these in autumn; bare-rooted perennials for spring planting, and for cold sites, shrubs and trees in containers can go in during early spring.

I buy smaller plants, which establish better than larger ones, and cost you less. (However, this is not instant gardening. The plants are spaced, for example, so that perennials fill their area after 3 years, at their mature size.) If the the build is completed at an inappropriate planting time the bare soil can be sown with a decorative green manure, to be dug into the ground in autumn.

Planting will be done by Sophia's Gardens, with you taking part also if you wish. Many happy hours have been passed by myself and clients together in their new garden in this way.

Stage 9 - Handover

You have a brand new, beautiful, easy-care garden to watch grow and develop; play and relax in; show to the neighbours..., the list becomes endless.