What does a garden designer do?

Garden Designer Frequently Asked Questions

What does a garden designer do?

A garden designer has many hats! A creative, engineer and plantsman amongst multiple other roles. Ultimately, they will ensure that you receive the best design and outcome in relation to your site specifics and brief.

What should I look for in a garden designer?

A good designer has the imagination to create a bespoke design for you, the ingenuity to solve the site problems and the practical experience to implement the plans cost effectively. The client/ designer relationship can be over many months/ years so ensure you feel that your chosen designer is one that you will be able to communicate and work well with.

What’s the advantage of engaging a garden designer? 

A good designer will listen and guide you through the design and build process as well as offer invaluable creative and practical input so you don’t make expensive mistakes. They will offer imaginative ideas and ensure you have a brilliantly cohesive garden that meets your brief (and beyond!)

Do I need to know about plants and gardening?

No, the designer will ask at the start how much knowledge you have and if you already have or would like a qualified gardener once the garden is complete. We offer an after service to monitor the establishment of the plants which also includes editing the garden in the coming years, as well as a seasonal, simple maintenance guide. We can guide you on finding and engaging a qualified gardener.

How long does the design take?

This depends on the complexity of the site, design, your availability for meetings and lead time of the designer. All should be discussed at the offset.

Do I need to dedicate time to the project?

Yes, a minimum involvement includes meetings to discuss your brief, the concept plan and presentation (master) plans. Then latterly, planting schemes and ideas. 

Will a new garden increase my property’s value?

Yes, not only will it provide “curb appeal”, families increasingly are wishing to use their gardens more as outdoor “rooms” for entertaining and relaxation. A beautiful, practical garden is an enormous bonus to a property.

I am having some building works on our home, when should I think about the landscaping design?

We recommend as early as possible, working the building works in conjunction with the landscaping ensures a fluid outcome. 

How much will it cost?

Of course, this is wholly dependent on the size, nature of the garden as well as your “wishlist”. Your budget will be discussed at our first meeting, so it is important to consider this and be transparent with the designer. We can offer advice on a ball park figure that you will need to consider for the design, hard & soft landscaping, lighting, irrigation and any other additional elements you require. 

Can I phase the project to spread costs?

In most cases yes. We always advocate having a design for the whole garden and then can advise on potential practicalities to break this into construction phases dependent on your priority.

Planning your garden

What are you thinking?

As the new year unfolds, planning your garden is an exciting thought process. Not only is the calendar moving on to a fresh start but so is the garden. New shoots are starting to appear and the bulbs gently push their fresh green through the cold wet soil. It can be overwhelming when you inherit a new garden or have lived with your garden for some years to see its potential and how it can be improved to suit your needs. 

Fresh Eyes

Fresh eyes certainly help and if you are wishing to appoint a garden designer, the ultimate potential of your outdoor space can be realised by working alongside us. Possibilities are endless and of course that depends on your wish list and budget! We can guide you to make sure both those crucial criteria tally. 

The Wish List

The wish list often is quite lengthy at the start of planning your garden. As we move through the design process, we can help you realise what is important and priority to you. It is true, less is always more. Initial thoughts should turn to how do you want to use the garden and who is going to use the garden? Its location, aspect and the property’s style also play a major part in decision making. 

Garden Entertaining Spaces

Consider the size of your family and how much entertaining you do. Recently, this has been restricted in numbers, but our gardens are used so much more which is wonderful. The size of your furniture and its practicality will help to depict the areas they are to be included in. Every vista can be enjoyed and we always try to include different seating spots around the garden after all, an Englishman’s home is his castle. It is prudent to include views back to the house and across any “borrowed” views, not just the obvious ones from the house. 

Cooking Outside

Cooking outside is extremely satisfying. A simple mobile BBQ works just as well as the fixed outdoor kitchen spaces we design. As long as the space is practical to reach, the chef does not have his back to his guests and there is room to complete the task, then this is just as good. It really depends on your individual needs. We can help you plan an area that will suit your needs and incorporate this into the design. 

Look and Feel

Many factors go into the look and feel of the garden. Ensuring this works seamlessly with your home, we will  consider your style to be incorporated into the garden, The materials, plant choices, colour hues and seemingly simplicity of the design will collate to the overall ambience of the garden. A design style certainly develops over time, and you will see from our marketing that although we have worked on many different gardens, our style will suit perfectly not only the owners but the outdoor space.

Need some help?

Feeling overwhelming, uninspired, confused, need some help? We would be delighted to discuss your project. Do get in touch-

E: [email protected] 

T: 07879-645107 


For lots of inspiration, you could also visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk or https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens

Lighting Your Garden

Lighting your garden is an important consideration in the overall design. We will produce detailed lighting plans with you to ensure that lighting your garden has an appropriate practical and aesthetic final outcome to compliment our design. This will make sure your garden looks it best after dark. 

Quality fittings usually from https://hunzalighting.com or https://www.collingwoodlighting.com/en/ will ensure not only longevity but also the right ambience in your outdoor space.

Practical Considerations

Whether you live in the town or in a more rural area, which will be darker, practical considerations are key. A simple wash of light across your house sign will welcome visitors as well as identify your property in the dark. The entrance, drive and parking area need gentle lighting to offer an inviting approach but also ensure safety. Discreet step and path lights will cast gentle, soft light to demarcate areas. Whilst allowing easy, safe access around the garden. A light by the log store or bins adds practicality. We will carefully consider how you are going to use the garden.

The Aesthetics

The aesthetics of course are paramount. Clients are often nervous that there will be too much lighting and need reassurance that we will always advocate a simplistic approach. In fact, the darker the garden, the less lighting is required. Through the garden, there may be feature trees to uplight and planted borders to cast light through. These will hi-light the plants, their foliage and flowers and cast interesting shadows. Light will help define the textural quality of tree trunks and their strong form. 

Sculpture, water and details on your home, may also benefit from enhancement through light. 

The Winter

The winter, always seeming a long season, can mean you use your garden less. Without doubt, outdoor lighting brings a seamless transition to the outside. Almost feeling as if it is drawing you in, even from the warm comfort of indoors. It will add another whole new dimension to your garden. It will hi-light the form and layers throughout, so that your garden can be enjoyed through the year even when you are not in your outdoor space so much. 

Installing Garden Lighting

Installing garden lighting will be achieved alongside the garden construction. We will produce lighting and ducting plans for our specialist teams to follow. All routes will be installed in conjunction with any hard landscaping so that there is always a neat conclusion and no cabling visible. The fittings and the amount of wattage of the bulbs, will compliment our design and guarantee a superb outcome.

You may wish to visit one of our projects https://nettlesandpetalsdesign.co.uk/projects/family-house-entrance-garden/

Garden Goals

Garden goals really are very personal. All sorts of factors depend on what you wish to achieve, but I would recommend think about the atmosphere of the garden. Of course, the look of the garden is incredibly important, but how you feel when you are in the garden is of equal importance. 

Stepping into your outside space can evoke all sorts of reactions. “The garden is a place between hearth and heath” is a phrase I heard recently and loved. It is a space that is still yours before you transition to the “public” outside. For that reason, it must be somewhere that you feel safe, can relax and enjoy calm. It should be a place that can be filled with voices and laughter but also a place that you can enjoy solitude if you wish, away from all the hustle and bustle of life. 


Solitude can be achieved by a quiet corner amongst lush planting, you don’t need much space just a small area to feel cocooned and quiet. A warm spot with a comfortable chair that feels private and calm, will allow you to unwind. 


Buzz evokes a higher energy. Think about your entertaining space. It will not only allow enough room for your family and friends, but be somewhere near the house that will make carrying drinks and meals out simple as well as being easily accessible. Ensure the seating is comfortable, lots of cushions and a furniture configuration that means it is a super social space. Consider shade too  dependent on the location. 


Joy is a sense that is easily achieved in the garden. We all know it is a place to encourage increased happiness and a sense of well being. Much has certainly been written and researched recently. Fragrance, colour and textures through the design can bring cohesion and atmosphere through the hard and soft landscaping palette. A more limited palette will ensure a less busy space, a space which feels more together and easy to enjoy.


Calm can be enjoyed whether you are alone or with friends in the garden. A sense of peace is a nourishing thing and in fact to share this with others, can be quietly satisfying. 

Enjoy your thought process in regard to the garden, what it is you wish it to bring to it, but above all take your time, get it right and enjoy the ultimate outcome. 

Let us help you www.nettlesandpetalsdesign.co.uk

Great Garden Spaces

A great garden space does not only rely on the size of the plot you have. Whether a tiny courtyard or country estate or something in between, it is the flow through the garden, the connection with the house and the way the space is used to fulfil your requirements that is important.

Client Brief

We pride ourselves on listening to you, formulating and approving with you, a strong client brief. This is collated by our initial meeting. Once you have engaged us, further meetings and longer discussions take place as well as a detailed questionnaire. We will ask you about your “wish list”, your style and your inspiration. How you would like to use the garden and who will be using the garden amongst many other questions. 

We will consider your home, its’ position within the plot, views from the house, the approach, the space within and the surrounding landscape. Your location is key- how we can be sympathetic to the local landscape and use local materials. As well as soil analysis to ensure the planting will thrive and flourish.

Time Well Spent

Time well spent at the offset will pay dividends as we progress through the design stage. The process is more intense at the beginning as this is where we clarify and discuss your ideas and budgets as well as offer suggestions as to how this can be achieved. We will have firm inspiration in mind before we start putting “pen to paper”. 

Pencil Sketches

Pencil sketches always start our brain storming, although these are not shared with you (unless you would like to see them!) It is a really beneficial way of seeing if our initial ideas are going to work in the space. This saves time and gets the creative juices flowing before the CAD comes into play. 

Layout of the Garden

Layout of the garden is naturally crucial. The entrance to and exits from the house and how to get from A to B. We will consider the most natural flow through the garden but not expose it all in one go. Having a hidden corner and not revealing parts all at once is a key consideration. This creates more interest and intrigue as you are in the space. The balance between not only the flat plane but also vertical accents and symmetry will ensure the ratio of hard to soft landscaping is met. 

Practical considerations of getting to destination points for example a carefully positioned seat or an industrious greenhouse need to sit at sensible axis in the garden.

Immersive gardens

Immersive gardens are those that make you feel at ease and as though you are part of the landscape. You feel comfortable and the garden is an enjoyable place to be. Filled with scent, colour, movement and style. By studying the garden with careful thought, our design intent, but more importantly, your brief will be realised in a seamless, effortless form to sit alongside your home.

Using evergreens in the garden

Evergreen Structure

Using evergreens in the garden are crucial in our designs. Not only do they offer all year round interest, their strong forms ensure balance and height through the garden through all seasons. They form the backbone of the space, interspersed with soft perennials, to provide great contrast and shape.

Evergreens come in mainly shrub form, but there are some useful perennials too such as, the soft silver tones of Stachys and the leathery glossy leaves of Bergenia. Both form a lower layer within the planting scheme, almost creating a carpet of coverage. Shapely topiary evergreens make anchor points on corners and grouped together make a real impact. Currently, Pittosporums and Hebes are a cost effective option to achieve this. Their neat rounded shape and low maintenance requirements are a popular choice. 

In botany, an evergreen is a plant which has foliage that remains green and functional through more than one growing season. The Latin binomial term sempervirens, meaning “always green”, refers to the evergreen nature of the plant, for instance

Deciduous plants lose their foliage through the winter.

Things to Consider

When using evergreens there are a number of things to consider:

The leaf size and shape – large leaves look tropical, strap-like leaves give a more Mediterranean feel. 

The colour – Evergreens aren’t just green. You can play with colour for added depth and exoticness.

The size – we will look at how fast it will grow and how big it will ultimately get. A few large plants will look dramatic in a small garden.

Under-planting – we will take advantage of the space under your trees and taller shrubs to maximise your growing space. It will also help to suppress weeds.

Extras – you may be planting for year-round foliage, but there are bonuses to be had, such as flowers or a decorative. appeal.

Hard working Plants

Evergreens are hard working plants, they will provide strong form and shape through the year. The winter can be flat and brown in the garden, but these stalwarts ensure interest is maintained through height and shape. Whether used for clothing walls, providing a green carpet under trees and border edges or in pots, they are tireless and diligent. 

Appointing a Garden Designer

Appointing a garden designer for the first time can be rather daunting. Mostly, our new enquiries are from recommendation, which to us, is the best form of introduction. 

Clients are impressed with our work and are happy to pass on our details to family, friends and neighbours. 

The design process can often be quite a lengthly practise from initial meeting to completion of planting. We offer an after care service and this means that our visits to the garden and to see you continue long beyond the implementation of the design. This means we get to know each other pretty well!  

Project Progression

It certainly needs to work both ways, that we both feel that we will forge a good professional client/designer relationship so that the project progression is as smooth as possible. 

You have contacted us in the first place, to allow us to support you in achieving a fantastic, creative outdoor space. Whatever size that may be, you would like to collaborate with us and take advantage of our creative, professional experience.

Working Alongside your Architect

If you are having house re-modelling, we always recommend working alongside your architect from the outset. Your home and garden should work as one. Steps out, driveways in, paths and views from the house amongst many other elements should all be considered as one. We are very experienced in this and strive to work together to achieve a wonderful, cohesive space. 

Appointing a Garden Designer? at what stage?

Clients often ask themselves when should I appoint a garden designer? The answer being, from the outset of you making your new home plans.

Don’t wait until the building work is complete. Even if you do not plan to implement the garden plans straight away, it will mean that you have a firm plan in place. Your architects can see what our intention is, for the landscaping around the building. The dull stuff like the drains and the siting of manhole covers for example, will have an impact on the garden design.

Guidance and Experience

We offer much guidance and experience to ensure that you feel supported and guided through the whole process by way of our professional yet approachable ethos. 

We would be delighted to discuss your requirements with no obligation. 

Winter Gardens Stand Strong

In the Depths of Winter the Winter Gardens Stand Strong

As the season changes and the colder weather wraps its chilly breath around us, winter gardens stand strong. Offering sharp silhouettes and crisp outlines, the trees cast stunning, long shadows in the low, winter sunshine. It always reminds me how important they are in our landscape. Even in small gardens, they offer shelter and nesting spots for birds as well as berries and seeds providing crucial food for our feathered friends. The mesmerising movement in their branches remind us of the icy winds outside as we spend more time inside the warmth of our homes.


A great website listing the best British winter gardens to visit is https://www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk/seasonal/winter-gardens.html 

Natural Blanket 

Layers of leaves left on borders will protect your precious plants through the freezing temperatures, acting as a natural blanket. More tender plants, such as agapanthus and dahlias in particular will benefit from an additional mulch. In the South-East, I never lift anything and it copes well with being left in the cold ground. as you start your garden tidy in spring the leaf fall can be cleared. Leave your perennials to stand tall so they also will protect the new growth below. 

Winters Decay

When we design new planting schemes, we always think about how the plant will look during the winters decay. This is as important to us as the other three seasons. Such beautiful, sculptural forms can be achieved by so many plants. The white dusting of the morning’s frosts can be truly spectacular. Yet it is the evergreens that hold their own through the winter months. Standing proud in the space that they share with spent flower heads, their smug beauty creates a strong backbone to the garden. 

Visiting a Garden in Winter

True inspiration can be achieved by visiting a garden in winter, wrap up warm and feel energised by the shape, outline and contours of the landscape around you. 

Some beautiful winter gardens I have visited are:-


Seeking Shade

Seeking shade in the garden. The comforting warmth and feel goodness of the sun can’t be under estimated, but seeking shade in the garden during these hot spells seems a necessity at times. As we are more conscious of the ill effects too much sun can have on our skin in particular, a shady refuge offers a welcome cool place to retreat.

Seating Spots

We will consider strategically placed seating spots around the garden that will take advantage of tree canopies or a cooler aspect in your outdoor space. A pergola can provide a sense of shelter and a fantastic point to gather for meals with friends and family. Designed with your garden and needs in mind, we can incorporate a whole new space for you to enjoy, not only suggesting the structure itself, but how it will sit within the whole garden. We will consider the surrounding planting and access to the area as well as the material that will form the ground level.

Shade Planting

Often thought of as a tricky consideration, shade planting can be achieved with thought and meticulous choices. Popular selections are woodland plants that thrive in dappled shade such as Digitalis (foxgloves), Euphorbia robbiae (wood spurge) and Aquilegia . Then following article also has some good suggestions : https://www.theenglishgarden.co.uk/plants/10-shade-loving-plants/

We always recommend irrigation through all planted areas.
These plants can be beautiful and lush, as well as strong in their individual form, creating a stunning scheme in a spot less bright from the sun.

Living Parasol

Seasonally, the sun shifts its duration, strength and height. In March a tree offers scant shade, whilst in June it is a large, living parasol. In the space of five years, a carefully chosen tree can become provide natural shade from an area that was once before in baking sun.

Dappled shade is produced by trees with fine foliage or elevated canopies. A heavenly place with lots of light but without searing sunbeams.

A shade garden will be a brilliant and welcome asset to your outside space. A sheltered, “cocooning” place that not only offers lower temperatures but a sense of calm and peace.

Summer Garden Party Preparations

Summer garden party preparations under way. It may be difficult to envisage a summer garden party after such a deluge of rain, but we are confident that the weather WILL improve and memories of last summer’s heatwave are not so distant. 

It is the time of year when you may be having a big birthday party, wedding or similar celebration in the garden and it really needs to look its best. Such an event is often a good excuse for the garden to take priority as it can sometimes get overlooked. 

Planning is key

Usually, we are given plenty of notice so that we can prepare and plan the garden so that it may look its absolute best. Planning is key!

Budget, client brief and date of the event is priority. Who will be attending, will there be any children and what time of day are important considerations. Once the date is set we can consider, amongst other things, what plants in particular will look their best at that time of year, and work out a schedule so that we can work together with a methodical and practical approach. 

Hard Landscaping Tweaks

It may be that you are not considering a whole new design, you may just need some hard landscaping tweaks. The terrace may need re-pointing, that bit of wobbly wall may need re-building or you may be considering adding a pergola for shade. All these smaller improvements enhance the garden in a practical and visual way. We can help  guide you to get the best out of your garden so it look smart and tidy within your budget. 

Lighting the Garden

Depending on the time of day, you may wish to include lighting the garden. This enhances the garden dramatically, offering an added dimension and there are many options and styles to choose from. Festoon lights simply hung in trees and groups of tea lights or lanterns on tables offer a stylish, thoughtful, relaxed atmosphere. You may already have garden lighting but wish to improve or add to it. We can again guide you and recommend our garden lighting expert to assist you. 


Improving the planted areas in your garden will transform the overall feel of the space. Using existing planting and just adding to it or creating new borders are really beneficial. We can offer guidance and planting plans for you following detailed discussion of the look and colour scheme you may wish to achieve. It is important for us to think about what will look best on the day of the event but also the longevity of the design. 

Carefully placed pots and planters grouped together will completely transform a dull terrace and offer not only colour but height and fragrance. 


We can help you to consider the furniture for the garden. It may be that you need additional seating or more formal table and chairs. However, we sometimes suggest using cushions on a raised bed as a perching spot, bringing indoor furniture temporarily outside, hammocks, beanbags, throws and cushions on the lawn. Obviously, it depends on the occasion and the guests but we can inspire you to use what you may already have at home. Simple benches in maybe a spot you had not considered before, offers new views across the garden and also a quiet spot for those guests that may want to take five minutes away from the crowd. 

We are working on some very special events through the summer and relish in each one as they are so individual. Happy, family events that are memorable for all deserve some extra input to make them so. 

We always enjoy working on such wonderful projects, hearing the de-brief feedback post-event and the fantastic pictures makes all the hard work worthwhile.